Norwich City given demonstration of how NOT to referee at the highest level
- Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd
I am tempted to start this column in hushed tones...
My own football past includes a refereeing qualification at the age of 14, followed by a decade in which my preferred form of weekend entertainment was to don the all black kit, slip a pencil down the side of my string-tightened socks and officiate at football games.
There, I've said it, and the saying is right, it does feel better to get it out in the open.
And that experience, which ended upon deciding to instead concentrate on a 'career' as an enthusiastic but technically ungifted Sunday league centre back, has always contributed towards a desire not to use these column inches to berate referees.
It's a hard enough job at the bottom rungs of the football ladder, let alone when the game is much faster and there are thousands in the crowd baying for your blood.
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Over the years following Norwich City, I've tried to temper any ill-feeling towards poorly performing officials by reminding myself that even the best players in the world make spur of the moment mistakes.
It seems unfair to expect those in charge not to show the same human frailties. But, even several days on from City's opening day defeat to Crystal Palace, the performance of referee Simon Hooper continues to grate to such an extent the rule book has been thrown out for the next few hundred words.
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It wasn't just the errors themselves that got under my skin on Saturday – but the failure to achieve even the most basic of refereeing standards.
At the very early stages of training, there are a number of golden rules officials-to-be are given about being a referee.
They're basically the equivalent of a striker being told to score goals and a defender to stop them.
I'm sorry to say that Hooper broke several of these and while his performance wasn't directly responsible for defeat – it certainly didn't help matters.
The first focuses on how to act in the opening minutes of a game if the tackles are flying in. Dish out a yellow too soon and you've potentially set the game up to include too many needless bookings, act too late and it could potentially stop an official from getting proper control of the match.
Hooper acted too late and missed an opportunity to stamp his authority on the game when Glenn Murray should have been booked for a nasty foul on Graham Dorrans.
In the 90 minutes Palace committed 20 fouls without a booking. They knew the referee wasn't going to clampdown on their foul play and used it to their advantage.
The best referees, or so they are told, should go relatively unnoticed, appreciating the fact their main aim is to help facilitate an entertaining game of football. Nothing rankles with players, managers and fans more than needless fussing.
Hooper, and his officials, did just that, repeatedly slowing up play by insisting free-kicks were taken again or the ball moved back a yard or two when it didn't really need to be. It was a fantastically entertaining game in spite of their actions.
I'm sure he even made up his own rule at one point, when Wes Hoolahan went to take a quick free kick, a Palace player stuck his leg out and stopped it from two yards away.
The referee insisted it was the Irishman's fault for taking it too quickly. Granted Hoolahan has a frustrating habit of wasting free-kicks by hurrying them, but I'm not aware that anywhere does it state a quickly taken one means the 10-yard rule no longer applies.
There's one other golden rule Hooper spectacularly failed to adhere to; do not go chasing decisions, causing a controversy when there just doesn't need to be one.
But that's exactly what Hooper did in the ludicrous decision to disallow Cameron Jerome's, inset, wonderful goal. Not even Alan Pardew, with all his touchline emotion, was disputing it in the aftermath.
But still Hooper insisted action should be taken. I've also been wondering if his failure to award City a penalty was borne out by the fact he didn't want to be seen to be redressing the balance for his earlier error.
If so, Saturday would have been a good time to remind Mr Hooper of that old saying two wrongs don't make a right.