Revolution in refereeing by Ernest Blenkinsop

December 22, 1934
Last word can only be said by the players,
by Ernest Blenkinsop (Liverpool and England)

Ernie Blenkinsop

The control of our big football games is without doubt the topic of the moment. I can well imagine it being subject for discussion over many Christmas dinner; it will certainly be talked about by the players and officials as they make their extra journeys during the coming holiday season.

All this, of course, arises from the suggestion that we are heading towards what might be called a revolution in this connection. Will there be two referees in charge of every match —one in each half of the field – by the time we start on next season’s programme ?

It is impossible to answer that question at the moment. What we do know is that the experiment of a referee in each half of the field is to be tried in the near future. There will be two referees in the amateur trial early next month and later on the same idea will be carried on in the “pros’ ” trial which prefaces the match between England and Scotland. In addition to these things, it is well known that several clubs have tried the two referees experiment in mid-week practice games.

In passing, 1 may say that I was very interested to learn the other day that many years ago the late Mr. John Lewis, whom old-time players talk about as one of the best referees they ever saw, was in favour of two officials on the field of play. So in this connection the truth of the old saying that, there is nothing new under the sun is illustrated once more.

It is not for me to pour cold water on the experiment which is to be tried. General opinion seems to be in favour of some sort change in the method of control of our big matches, and there is only one place where a real test can be made of any proposed change – that is on the field play.
I would like to point out, however, that private practice games in which the idea has already been tried out. and the trial games in which the idea is to be given a further “show,” are very different from the real thing, and that there is a danger of jumping to conclusions should the experiments made these games deemed a success.

I have played in many of these trial games myself. Believe me that they are very far removed from the real football – that is, far removed from Cup-ties or league matches. It is the general form of individual players, or the team as a whole, which matters in trial games, not the result.
The spectators at a trial match don’t get wildly excited or upset if, in their opinion, a mistake is made concerning a goal or an offside decision in a trial match. Neither do the players feel so terribly upset about what they may think is a mistake in a trial game; not sufficiently upset, anyway, to get so excited that they forget their instructions that they must not argue with the referee.

Many people who are keen on the idea of two referees seem to imagine that something like the millennium will be here when have a referee in each half of the field. I am afraid these people are going to sorely disappointed.
If there were half-a-dozen referees for every match there would still be spectators who would think they saw things which escaped the officials’ eyes. And there would still be things seen by the eyes of the whistlemen which are not obvious to all the people round the rails.

A big league match or an important Cup-tie will never have the Sunday School picnic atmosphere. It wouldn’t be good for football if it were so.

We shall always have spectators who are so excited that their views what has happened will be at least a little warped. We shall always have players who are keen – so naturally anxious – to see their side come through on top that they will be quite convinced the referee has made mistakes against their side. In other words, no matter the number of referees, spectators and players will remain human.

I do not share the view that the standard of refereeing at the present time is low. But it is in the nature of things that there should be some officials who are better than others. Let us  imagine for a moment, however, that there are not quite sufficient good ones to go round the league programme on a Saturday afternoon.
If and when the decision to appoint two referees for each big game is made, the change will demand twice as many referees as are employed in those matches at the present time.

Can this number of efficient ones be produced as if by the wave of a magic hand? I think the question answers itself. There are many more qualities demanded of a referee than mere knowledge of the rules of the game.

Because this is so, I wonder whether at least a part of the solution of the problem will not be found in goal-judges. It is the incidents near to goal which give rise to the greatest amount of argument.
It would not be necessary for goal-judges to possess those extra and almost indefinable qualities which are demanded in a wholly satisfactory referee for them to be efficient as goal-judges. But even goal-judges wouldn’t put an end to all argument as to whether the ball has been over the line. There are linesmen at work in every match. Yet haven’t we all known occasion when the spectators have been cross because a linesman – right on the spot – has said that the ball has been over the line? Of course have.

So we could carry on the argument at length. It is good that we should argue, of course; good that we should think about the problem, and even good that experiments should be made.

Amid it all, however, I have a very definite feeling that the players, to a very large extent, and the officials of clubs to lesser extent, can do much towards solving the problem.

What about some New Year resolutions on the part of the players? Wouldn’t the burden of the referee be eased considerably if we made up our minds not to argue? Wouldn’t the spectators be less inclined to be demonstrative if we accepted all the decisions as given?

I write quite frankly and feelingly when I state that the players have not yet reached the ideal. Would there be so much grumbling about referees if players, as a whole, so conducted themselves that the referee had nothing else to do other than watch for technical breaches the rules?
(Gloucestershire Echo: December 22, 1934)

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