Ken Gambles: let’s hear it for – and against – the men with the whistles

Monsieur Salut writes: ‘you’re not fit to referee’, ‘you don’t know what you’re doing’, ‘the referee’s a w*****’. How often have we heard and/or joined in such chants? I even recall my brother piping up once in the Sunderland away end and he’s a qualified ref (albeit in rugby). It hardly seems to matter that even the most incompetent match officials tend to make fewer mistakes than players; a blatantly wrong penalty, sending-off or offside decision can feel a lot more cruel than a missed sitter or goalkeeping howler.

Yet Ken Gambles, in common with many SAFC supporters coming to terms with life in the third tier, has been appalled at the low standards and rank inconsistency of match officials. He suggests a regular Salut! Sunderland vote to rate each of the refs we encounter as the season continues. While we work out how and whether such an exercise could work, let Ken set the scene with some highly positive comments about the man in charge of our games, Andy Madley …


First of all, just to be clear, I am not a ref, never have been one and never wanted to be. I fully appreciate what a difficult job they have in making instant decisions without the benefit of endless replays.

However, it is obvious that some refereeing performances are so much better than others, of which I was acutely aware in my playing days (long ago sadly).

And it’s fair to say that the quality of refereeing in the third tier has so far been pretty poor, abysmal in some cases. So it was refreshing to watch Andy Madley in action during Tuesday night’s game against Barnsley. He controlled the match excellently.

It’s possibly a “chicken and egg” situation in that both sets of players showed more honesty and
integrity than is always the case at the SoL thus far (Peterborough or Oxford anyone?) which made life easier for him. But his reluctance to blow for any old tackle allowed the game to become a great contest, never spoilt by over-fussiness.

He played advantages well, spoke individually to players, used his assistants
effectively and at all times was in complete control. He didn’t brandish cards as if there was no tomorrow and he treated both teams as men playing a man’s contact sport. As a result the game profited hugely.

I’ve watched a gif of the penalty and I would say he even got that right, but if not it’s ridiculous to expect perfection, it doesn’t exist,especially in sport.

I wondered therefore whether after each game visitors to Salut! Sunderland might give the ref a mark out of 10 which could then be averaged out and subsequently become a mini-table with a prize for the best (or worst perhaps) performance. It shouldn’t be unduly serious; perhaps the criteria could be set something like this.

10 Absolute perfection. Class throughout

9 Not perfect, but difficult to expect more of an official

8 Generally very good. In control, let the game flow

7 Good. Would be satisfied with this standard for every game.

6 Decent. Nothing hugely wrong though guilty of some dubious decision-making

5 Barely adequate. Obvious weaknesses

4 Disappointing. Got more wrong than right

3 Poor decisions at important moments that affected the game’s outcome

2 Incompetent, lost control, ruined game

1 Coote-like (the ref for the Peterborough game). Enough said. Abysmal

* Salut! Sunderland welcomes suggestions on how such a running series might work and an idea of how many readers would wish, or feel qualified, to take part. You can even have a bit of fun in the Comments, applying Ken’s criteria to individual refs we’ve had so far this season

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Salut! Sunderland is written, illustrated and edited by - and principally for - supporters of Sunderland AFC. The site aims to be sufficiently literate and entertaining to appeal to people who do not follow SAFC but enjoy good football writing.

4 Responses to “League One referees: ‘they don’t all know what they’re doing’” Subscribe

  1. David Gladstone November 29, 2018 at 10:49 am #

    Excellent idea though difficult to be objective and not to be influenced by the result as I bet refs generally will get less marks if we lose.
    Difficult for many as the feeling is that they have been generally poor with some standouts in both directions.
    Mr Madley gets 8 or 9. I am not sure about the penalty and he got a corner badly wrong early in the 2nd half overruling his linesman who had a much better view and it nearly cost us, but otherwise I can’t think of anything he did where I noticed him, which is as good as it gets. Way better than his brother (at least I thought they were brothers but the spelling seems different).
    The first couple of home games I would give 7 each as I started the season encouraged by the standard.
    Bradford away, I think he got most things right, including the sendings off and penalty and was very sensible with Cattermole rather than taking the chance to send him off which many others would have done 7
    The ref at Coventry gets 6, some weird decisions but not motivated by either supporting the big club or proving he doesn’t!
    Home to Wycombe 5. Did ok for most of the game but horribly conned by their time wasting and fake head injury when we were threatening
    Oxford at home 2. Conned at all times by a horrible side.
    Finally, Mr Coote can only get 1 as that is he is the definition of Coote-like

  2. George November 29, 2018 at 11:29 am #

    I agree with the bulk of your comments David and of course we’ll be influenced to some extent by the result. It’s meant to be fairly light-hearted though. For me it’s Coote 1 Abysmal. Heywood (Oxford) 2 Agree that he lost control through being conned. Hicks (Walsall) 3 Got game-changing decisions wrong. The Bradford ref I thought 5 as there were too many weaknesses. and Mr Madley ( Barnsley) 9 I thought he was really effective and fair to both sides

  3. Bill November 29, 2018 at 3:01 pm #

    I would volunteer to take part. Maybe, if your Away fan who provides the pre-game comments is actually going to the match, they could also be asked to participate.

  4. wrinkly pete November 29, 2018 at 3:24 pm #

    Why not? And Ken’s suggested marking system looks good too.

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