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banner Tuesday, 15 January, 2002, 14:26 GMT
Nonsense rules at FA
Referee Brian Savill
Brian Savill was suspended for scoring a goal
BBC Sport's Rob Bonnet speaks out against the FA's ridiculous decision to ban goal-scoring referee Brian Savill.

Over the last few years, I had come to believe that the Football Association had been successfully modernising itself into an organisation of common sense.

No longer a retirement refuge for blazered buffoons but a modern, forward-thinking body where bright minds helped shape decisions of substance behind the style.

Seems I was wrong.

The FA has just come out with a decision of such crass and pompous insensitivity that it suggests a return to the bureaucratic dark ages of before.

This concerns the story of lower league referee Brian Savill, who famously scored a goal for Wimpole 2000 last September in their Great Bromley Cup tie against Earls Colne Reserves.

This intervention might have been regarded as stupid or even malicious had the game been of a more senior level or more evenly balanced.

It is not as if the FA has got referees to spare
Rob Bonnet

But this was not even the great Bromley Cup Final, let alone a match at the Millennium Stadium.

In fact, by the time Mr Savill had lashed the ball into the net, it wasn't even a match any more. It was a turkey shoot.

Wimpole were 18-1 down at the time and Mr Savill's goal - which he allowed despite his own handball! - was nothing more than a humorous gesture of sympathy towards a side that was on its knees.

Naturally enough, the spectators present were helpless with mirth and the players congratulated Mr Savill afterwards on a job well done.

The Earls Colne President later described the moment as "absolutely wonderful" in a game "played in the right spirit".

But what did the FA do this week? They suspended him for seven weeks, following an action brought by the Essex County FA.

And what did Mr Savill do? He resigned, quite understandably exasperated by the rule-book mentality that had found him guilty of "bringing the game into disrepute".

Players surround Graham Poll
Referees are under attack at every level

He remarked afterwards that the FA had "no sense of humour".

Neither, it seems to me, does the FA have any sense, given that its own action clearly shows the game in a far worse light than Mr Savill's instinctive moment.

And it is not as if the FA has got referees to spare.

Especially not at the grass roots of the game, where the reward for turning out on the local common is invariably 90 minutes of abuse - some of it physical - from players and spectators.

And that is followed by a tepid shower at best and more gauntlet-running in the car park afterwards.

Financial reward? Do not make me laugh! Hardly enough to buy a round of drinks.

Referees are under attack at every level at the moment, so much so that their Premier League representative body is considering legal action against managers and players who make slanderous comments against them.

The FA must support the referees by imposing stricter limits on mouthy managers and players
Rob Bonnet

Ranting radio phone-ins up the ante too, where ignorance and prejudice form the basis of much opinion, somehow dignifying the view that anyone who takes up the whistle is a frustrated little Hitler.

There are good and bad referees, just like players.

But if we are comparing the general ability and honesty of referees against those who play and manage in the modern professional game, then I know whom I would mark higher for integrity and consistency.

Which is why the FA must support the referees by imposing stricter limits on mouthy managers and players.

And why Soho Square must lean on the Essex FA and get them to invite Mr Savill back into the game.

He and his kind are too valuable to lose.

See also:

14 Jan 02 |  England
Ref scored own goal
27 Sep 01 |  Funny Old Game
Referee's sympathy strike
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