I think one of the most demotivating jobs in football must be being the fourth official on the touchline. In the modern-day game managers and coaches spend most of their time appealing for almost everything on the touchline, from throw-ins to penalties, and relaying tactical team adjustments seems secondary to that. It often seems that the respective dugouts take it in turns to harangue the fourth official and I particularly dislike them calling on the fourth official for red and yellow cards to be issued as that works both ways for the team you support. Continuously pressurising officials rarely if ever achieves any reversal of decisions made and when it leads to red and yellow cards for those on the touchline it just wastes time and is counterproductive if your team is losing. There is also an irony in the fact that managers more often than not have a fine structure for players where they must pay up if they receive a red or yellow card for dissent in particular. Just a few weeks into the season and we have had the high-profile sending offs of Antonio Conte and Thomas Tuchel and then at the weekend we had the sustained outburst from Jesse Marsch of Leeds United that led to him being dismissed. The bigger issue is the damage the TV pictures does to grassroots football. When I played football, we had a referee every week but if you go to any grassroots match these days in most games you will see parents refereeing because the abuse from managers and parents means it is just not worth it. There is no doubt that coaches, players and parents are influenced by the behaviour of those in the professional game and the League Managers Association, the Professional Footballers Association, the Premier League, the FA and the EFL need to put the issue of the image of the game on their agenda. Officials are treated with real respect in other sports, and it is about time football made an effort to do the same.


The increase in players diving and rolling around is another issue that should be incorporated into the discussion as it is mostly to try and con the officials into issuing cards. If a player or manager puts his hand up to ask for a fellow player to be booked, then in my view that player or manager should be booked. So many people have said to me that they enjoyed taking their family to the Women’s Euros because we had none of these antics and the matches were played in a friendly and non-aggressive atmosphere. Football needs to sit up and address this issue as there is no doubt it is causing reputational damage to the beautiful game.






The football transfer window closes next week and doubtless there will be a number of multi-million-pound signings, by Premier League clubs in particular. Chelsea and Manchester United are likely to be the biggest spenders as they strive to reach the standard set in recent seasons by Manchester City and Liverpool.

 

I know a lot of managers are critical of the fact that four to six games into the season the window remains open and that as a result they could lose key players with no time to secure replacements, and I have sympathy for the view that the transfer window should close before the start of the season.


Many fans will be hoping that the deficiencies they see in their team will be addressed this week but in the lower leagues most fans will be disappointed due to the financial constraints in place at so many clubs.

 

The cost-of-living crisis and the impending 80% increase in energy bills is going to impact significantly on attendances at matches this season and match day sales will be particularly badly hit. So many football fans are going to have to cut back their spending to pay for energy in the winter months and going to football will be an expense many will sadly be able either to justify or afford. Urgent action is clearly needed by the Government but whatever they do the reality is that these increases are going to be unaffordable by so many people.

 

Football cannot be expected to solve all of society’s problems and through their community trusts football clubs already do so much for the local communities from which they draw their support, but doubtless we can all expect some cheap shots aimed at football (because of the level of spending and wages in the Premier League in particular) from politicians in the coming months as they look to cloak their own inadequacies.

 

Having said that, I know most clubs will want to help their fans to still be able to attend matches and a progressive and supportive approach to ticket pricing for at least the remainder of this season should be high on the agenda.




I thought all the controversy surrounding VAR had settled down last season and that those responsible for administering it were achieving a good level of consistency in decision making, and that the widespread criticism from managers and players of previous seasons was subsiding.

 

Well, if the first few weeks of the season are anything to go by, the VAR system has taken a massive step backwards. Nobody watching the Chelsea v Spurs match could have failed to see Chelsea left-back Marc Cucurella having his hair pulled at a corner by Cristian Romero. Referee Anthony Taylor had a clear view of the incident but decided to take no action. Mike Dean as the VAR official then decided not to ask Taylor to view the incident on the pitch side monitor. To make matters worse, a few days later Dean confirmed he had made a mistake.

 

In the Crystal Palace v Aston Villa match, the ball hit the hand of Villa player Lucas Digne when he went up for an aerial challenge. There was no intent involved and it was completely accidental. Nothing was given by the referee and rightly so, but VAR got involved and a penalty was awarded, which was a wrong decision in my view. Doubtless an apology will follow from the Premier League this week.

 

I also fail to understand the decision making around the sending offs in the Chelsea v Spurs match of the two managers. If a player is sent off, he misses the next match, and the same should apply to managers. Why on earth is it necessary to wait for the reasons to be written out by the FA. That doesn’t happen with a player so managers should be dealt with in the same way. The television pictures give you all the evidence and detail you need.

 

Both should serve a touchline ban. Having said that, even the most partisan of Chelsea fans would have to admit that Thomas Tuchel was the aggressor and deserved the heavier fine. After Chelsea scored, he raced down the touchline celebrating past Conte which in itself is a yellow card offence and then at the end of the match as Conte went to shake Tuchel’s hand Tuchel clearly pulled Conte around and provoked the confrontation. Doubtless he was frustrated that Chelsea had not won a match they deserved to but that is not Conte’s fault. It is not a good example to set for kids watching on TV.


In the coming weeks, VAR needs to prove it is a credible solution to mistakes made in open playand managers need to stop acting like prima donnas and behave on the touchline.