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.