Premier League referees: Time to mic up officials, says Chris Sutton

Referee Stuart Attwell
Referee Stuart Attwell stuck by his decision not to award a penalty to Manchester United after VAR referred him to the pitchside monitor

The current Premier League referees are the “best around” but it is time to mic them up, according to former striker Chris Sutton.

It follows criticism of Lee Mason and Stuart Attwell this weekend, with some left in the dark as to why they made certain decisions during their games.

Sutton told BBC Radio 5 Live: “If they explain what they are seeing in real time then they’ll get more sympathy.

“It’ll clear things up – the viewers will see things through their eyes.”

Mason took charge of Brighton’s 1-0 defeat at West Brom and was accused of losing control of the game by Brighton captain Lewis Dunk following a series of decisions which eventually resulted in a disallowed goal for the visitors.

Mason pulled out of fourth official duties at Sunday’s Premier League game between Sheffield United and Liverpool because of an injury and has also withdrawn from Wednesday’s match between Burnley and Leicester.

Attwell came under fire from Manchester United manager Ole Gunnar Solskjaer for not awarding a penalty after checking the pitchside monitor and ruling Chelsea’s Callum Hudson-Odoi was not guilty of an illegal handball during Sunday’s 0-0 draw.

Ex-Norwich and Blackburn striker Sutton added: “They have trained years to get to this level. These are the best around, the referees we have in the Premier League at the moment.

“If they were mic’d up and explained why they made the call then there would be a far better understanding. It will be a good thing and transform the game.”

BBC’s Monday Night Club presenter Mark Chapman asked why, if TV commentators can hear the conversations between the referee and VAR team, that audio is not made available to the public. Former Manchester City defender Micah Richards responded by stating he disagreed with having decisions explained in real time.

“If everyone can hear what they’re saying it’ll put them under more pressure,” he said. “I don’t think we’ll get more correct decisions.

“If we have to go down mic’ing up referees, our game has officially gone. We just need to give them more confidence that VAR is there to help you. It won’t intervene in every single scenario.”

This is not the first time this issue has been debated, with some suggesting football should follow rugby’s example. In 2019, Australian referee Jarred Gillett, who now officiates in the English Championship, wore a microphone during an A-League game.external-link

The International Football Association Board (Ifab), who determine the laws of the game, have made no suggestion of allowing referees’ decisions made publicly audible, it has previously saidexternal-link doing might “harm the credibility and integrity of match officials”. And in 2018, Premier League referee chief Mike Riley said he “not too keen”.external-link

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