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Beat around the Bush

PUBLISHED: 15:57 29 October 2009 | UPDATED: 14:45 24 August 2010

By Adam Boxer REFEREES; love them or loathe them they continue to be one of the major talking points in the modern game. From Sir Alex Ferguson downwards, everyone has their gripes about the man in the middle, some more justified than others. Some may con

By Adam Boxer

REFEREES; love them or loathe them they continue to be one of the major talking points in the modern game. From Sir Alex Ferguson downwards, everyone has their gripes about the man in the middle, some more justified than others.

Some may consider it surprisingly primitive that a multi-million pound industry is at the behest of a man with a whistle and two with flags, but this is where the English game finds itself.

Tune into any phone-in on the way back from a match and you're bound to find a set of supporters unhappy with the way their game has been officiated, with words such as 'cheat' and 'liar' bandied about all too easily.

What the problem seems to boil down to, far from being the laws themselves, is the vastly different interpretations that are witnessed by supporters week in, week out.

QPR saw a relatively unremarkable display by official Russell Booth against Preston, maintaining virtual anonymity throughout the game and letting the creative football flow.

Contrast this with card-merchant Andy Hall, who viewed similar instances very differently, handing out cards like confetti, and continually stifling play with his brand of officious, aggressive refereeing.

The red cards for both Rangers and Reading indicated that there was an official on a one-foul - one booking policy, interpreting the laws of the game so differently to Mr Booth and dishing out two red cards when there was scarcely a challenge in anger.

Hall, of course, has a history with QPR, with the famous debacle at home to Crewe, sending off two Rs players in farcical circumstances, Clarke Carlisle for a foul on the goalkeeper, and Stephen Kelly for having the ball booted at his backside from point-blank range!

Leaving that aside for a moment, and looking at Mark Haywood's performance at Pride Park, the crowd were dissecting his night's work on the backdrop of the Reading game, with phrases like; 'Hall would have had him there,' in reference to a couple of tackles.

The fact of the matter is that we have several different displays of refereeing, one anonymous, one overtly strict and one lenient, all working within the same framework.

We have learned in recent weeks that the interpretation of the referee can make or break a game depending on their temperament.

If it's a case of interpretation and understanding of the game, it's a wonder as to why the FA aren't actively encouraging those who have played it.

The refereeing career of Steve Baines was successful but brief, having to commence his refereeing education once retired from playing.

Every game he presided over was refereed with common sense - and with only four red cards in his six years on the list, statistics the ilk of Mr Hall could dream about.

Whether it's a case of tolerance, understanding or interpretation, referees will continue to be a major talking point for years to come.

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