Soccer: Refereeing showing improvement

By Terry Maddaford

Peter O'Leary. Photo / APN
Peter O'Leary. Photo / APN

Former top soccer referee John Cameron agrees that the standard of officiating in ASB Premiership matches is a clear step up on some recent seasons. And, he argues, the standard here is now some way ahead of Hyundai A-League matches.

The reason, he insists, is two-fold.

"First and foremost, the games this season have been easy to referee," says Cameron. "There have been few issues and generally, games have flowed. Secondly, the (referees) association has cut back the number of referees on the panel from 12 plus three reserves to eight in total."

Quality rather than quantity has given the top referees more games.

Since Mike Hester's more-or-less enforced retirement after the 2010 World Cup because of his commitments to the New Zealand Navy, New Zealand has had only Peter O'Leary on the Fifa referees panel. He will be joined next month by Nick Waldron and Matt Conger. Chris Kerr was on the Fifa panel but is under suspension until April.

Below the top trio are another group who Cameron says "are heading in the right direction".

They include Campbell-Kirk Waugh, who Cameron says has excellent management skills, John Rowbury, German-born Mirko Benischke, Isaac Terris and Mark Hester.

Referees have recently been criticised for the number of cards dished out and their lack of management skills - something Cameron, Gary Fleet, Bruce Grimshaw and Brian Precious, among others, prided themselves on.

"To have good referees you have to have good football," said Cameron, who these days, despite battling health problems, keeps himself involved as a coach of the referees on the panel.

Top referees are certainly not in it for the money. Referees in the Northern League are still paid $35 a match - unchanged in years - and $125 (up from $85) for ASB Premiership matches.

Many of the referees from the early days of the old National League (1970-80) are being sought for a reunion next year. Organiser Alan Boniface (aljoy@paradise.net.nz) is attempting to contact as many referees for the occasion which is likely to be early in the 2013 season.

- NZ Herald

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