The ref's blind - the linesmen are blind drunk

by BARRY COLLINS, Mail online

Last updated at 15:46 17 December 2004

New research says professional referees and linesmen can't possibly see the offside decisions they are paid to give. Former amateur whistleblower Barry Collins says they are still much better off than the poor park refs.

A Spanish doctor claims that it's physically impossible for professional football linesmen to make a correct offside decision, because they cannot see all the players involved at the same time.

If he's right, God help the poor souls who pick up the whistle and referee park football of a Sunday morning. I was one of those unfortunates for years, and you don't just need to see two things at once - you need eyes in the back of your head.

Unlike the well-paid officials in the Premiership, park football referees venture out on to the pitch without the aid of trained linesmen.

The flag wavers are usually the substitutes from each side, and more often than not, they are subs because they are still too drunk from the night before to kick a ball. Ironically, they CAN see two things at once - but only because they're seeing double thanks to alcohol poisoning.

Impartiality? What's that?

Another problem with the beer-fuelled linesmen is that they are about as reliable as Arsene Wenger's eyesight. Should the opposing striker even dip his toe over the halfway line, he's guaranteed to be flagged offside. All eleven of his team-mates could be holding a vigil on their goal line, and the flag will still go up the second the ball lands at the striker's feet.

This leaves the hapless referee with an unenviable choice: Side with the biased linesman and incur the wrath of the opposition. Or overrule the flagrant cheat and prepare for a volley of abuse from his disgruntled back four. Either way, you'll add a few new swear words to your vocabulary.

The really brave park referees take the nuclear option and dispense with linesmen altogether. The problem with this approach is it's impossible for one man to be in the right place at the right time to make all the right decisions. Before long, you've upset all 22 players, the bloke with the magic sponge and the Archbishop of Canterbury.

Amateur refereeing is a thankless task. So now our Spanish friend has effectively excused professional officials from making the odd mistake, perhaps park players will give the man in black a break.

It's about as likely as Peter Stringfellow dating a woman old enough to vote, but for whistleblowers everywhere, I live in hope.