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Friday, Feb. 16, 2007

PREMIER REPORT

Wigan's Jewell out of line with attack on referee Dowd


LONDON -- Last Sunday referee Phil Dowd made a human error when he failed to award Wigan a penalty after Emile Heskey was manhandled by Arsenal's Mathieu Flamini.

Christopher Davies

After the game an angry, to put it mildly, Wigan manager Paul Jewell said Dowd's decision could cost his club £50 million.

There are many candidates of similar balderdash from losing managers, but Jewell's assertion that Dowd made a £50 million mistake will take some beating for the most ridiculous statement of the season.

The implication is that no Wigan player has made a costly error over the past six months.

Wigan is in 17th place, having lost 17 of its 28 Premiership matches, including a club record eight successive defeats, which seems to indicate that perhaps there has been the occasional blunder from Jewell's side.

If Jewell's players could pass the ball as well as their manager passes the buck his team would not be 17th.

The visitors, who lost 2-1, were leading 1-0 at the time, though a penalty is no guarantee of a goal.

"Dowd cost our team the points -- he could cost us £50 million," said Jewell, a reference to the potential price of relegation.

Jewell didn't stop there.

"A leading Premiership manager told me that Dowd was the worst referee in the league -- I am not saying that, but it was there for all to see today."

According to the marks given from reports by the independent match delegate (an ex-player or manager), and the referee's assessor, Dowd is far from being the worst referee in the League.

In fact, Dowd is considerably higher in the referees' league than Wigan is in the Premiership -- does that make him a better referee than Jewell is a manager?

There was more from Jewell: "He denied us a stone-wall penalty and did not give us two penalties at Arsenal last season, so there must be something in his Premier League contract about not giving us decisions against Arsenal."

A remark like that questions the integrity of a referee.

Dowd made an honest error and the Football Association has rightly charged Jewell with improper conduct.

One more gem from Jewell: "Referees just do not realize the significance of football matches. I think some of them consider it to be more of a hobby and they do not take it as seriously as we do as managers and players."

Jewell's arrogance is matched only by his ignorance.

The referees in the select group are full-time professionals and anyone who has taken the trouble to study their preparation would realize how seriously they take their job.

Yes, they make mistakes. So do players and -- whisper it -- even managers.

When a referee's display does not come up to the required standard he is dropped from the appointment list for a game or two, losing his £270 match fee.

When a Premiership player is left out he still collects his full wage and the win bonus if the team wins without him.

If, at the end of the season, a referee is not deemed good enough to be retained he loses his basic pay of between £40,000 and £53,000 depending on experience, with no massive payoff that a sacked Premiership manager can expect.

Maybe Jewell does not realize the significance of refereeing.

THE MOLEHILL OF a human error became a mountain of controversy as the week progressed.

Apart from potentially costing Wigan £50 million the club also wrote an official letter of complaint about Phil Dowd to the English football authorities alleging that "a number of their players were verbally abused in an aggressive and menacing manner by Mr. Dowd," according to a club statement.

Jewell said: "He is telling our players to f-off and stuff, which I do not mind because it is a man's game. But then he is telling me that I will be sent into the stands for having a go at him. It cannot all be one way."

Six Wigan players are named in the letter outlining how they were "verbally abused."

As all four match officials are miked up, evidence will be sought from the two assistant referees and fourth official who would have heard everything Dowd said during the game.

A referee who uses industrial language to a player is leaving himself open to criticism, but despite popular belief very few players are sent off just for swearing.

If every player who swore at a Premiership referee was shown the red card few matches would finish. Referees generally ignore such heat-of-the-moment expletives.

A referee tends to act only if the f-word is followed by "cheat" or unless the player is so aggressive and clearly attempting to undermine the official's authority.

The law says using "insulting, offensive or abusive language" is a sending-off offense but that is subjective.

A referee is hardly likely to find "what the f*** was that?" or "that decision was f****** awful" insulting or offensive.

Graham Barber, a former Premiership referee, agreed that it is hard to justify an official swearing, as a player could be sent off for the same offense.

He said: "It would be very difficult for a referee to carry that through if he is guilty of the same behavior. I think most of the referees at the top level are careful at how they speak to players."

It is difficult not to think that had Wigan won at Arsenal Jewell would have said little of his vitriol of defeat.

It remains to be seen whether Dowd is found guilty of Wigan's accusations, but there has been a witch hunt of a referee who made a human error in not awarding a penalty at Emirates Stadium.

Christopher Davies was a longtime soccer correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph.


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