Pickford blunder shows Prem needs MAJOR changes in refereeing… let us old boys be VARs

THE standard of officiating in the Premier League this season is way below what we expect.

Wholesale changes are needed to right the way to the very top of the refereeing hierarchy to end this decline.

We’ve had yet another weekend of poor decisions, topped off by Jordan Pickford escaping any punishment for that shocking challenge on Virgil van Dijk — with VAR not even looking at it.

Michael Oliver will be disappointed he didn’t see the challenge but there were players blocking his view.

I know exactly how he feels, because I missed Wigan winger Callum McManaman’s infamous lunge on Newcastle’s Massadio Haidara seven years ago.

This is when you want VAR to come and help you — when a clear and obvious error has been made.

It’s evident things aren’t right with the leadership and direction of management within the refereeing fraternity.

We have got some really good referees and you don’t become a bad ref overnight.

Just like players don’t become bad players overnight.

It’s the severe lack of coaching, leadership and direction of our refs that is responsible for indifferent performances.

Like with managers — the best coaches turn average players into good players and good players into excellent players.

That’s no different with referees and we have got people now that are coaching at the top level that have never refereed at the top level — or even been referees.

Take, for instance, Adam Watts, who manages the referees. He is a nice guy but has never refereed. He was an assistant ref, who is now a Select Group manager.

He is telling the referees what he wants from them. But you need to have been involved at the top level to know how to handle different personalities and get them onside.

Say, for argument’s sake, it was someone like me. At least I have refereed at the top level, managed games and made mistakes. It is how you move on from those mistakes.

It’s evident things aren’t right with the leadership and direction of management within the refereeing fraternity.

Referees are like players — we both thrive on our confidence. And some referees, like players, need a kick up the backside.

Some need a little bit of loving with an arm around them now and again.

But you make a mistake nowadays and you could be put out to grass for three or four weeks, depending who you are.

You have the likes of  Oliver, Andy Taylor, Martin Atkinson and, love him or hate him, Mike Dean  — they are all very good referees.

They are the referees they trust, the guys they don’t trust just pick up the pieces.

So you have now got three divisions within the refereeing group — the top order, middle order and lower order.

I don’t blame our referees, I think they are confused. You cannot be an active referee one day and then go into the bunker and do VAR the next day.

Leave the active referees to referee and bring in your ex-referees, who have officiated at the highest level and know the game, to do VAR.

We have got the likes of myself, Chris Foy, Phil Dowd, Lee Probert and Roger East who have all recently retired. We could be brought back as VAR operatives because the workload on the current group is too much.

I am not questioning the current referees’ integrity — but you could sometimes suggest they are looking after their mates.

They are all familiar with each other, whereas if you had active officials and non-active officials, then there wouldn’t be that problem.

VAR is there for one reason and one reason alone — has the match official made a clear and obvious error?

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