Football referees are still trying to catch up

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PROFESSIONAL football referees are the ‘poor relations’ in the game and have spent more than 100 years trying to play catch-up with players, according to new research.

Tom Webb, of the University of Portsmouth, has charted the history of referees’ move from the sidelines to the centre of the pitch over more than 100 years and found that refereeing was an afterthought in the development of the game.

His research is published in the International Journal of the History of Sport.

He said: ‘Refereeing has never been central to the thinking of rule makers and those developing the game.

‘They have been forced to play catch-up ever since the game started and in many ways, they still are. They are the poor relations.

‘Given referees’ decisions affect matches and therefore club and player incomes and careers, there is a strong argument to suggest that their pay should reflect their importance.’

Mr Webb is an expert in the history and training of football referees in England, Spain and Italy.

A watershed moment for football refereeing came in 1958 with the first professional training courses for referees.