Don't Pension off Top Refs Too Early

Article excerpt

Byline: PHIL OSBORN

PREMIERSHIP and Football League match control standards could be improved if soccer followed the example of rugby union and scrapped the rules forcing referees to retire at 47.

That advice comes from one of rugby's top officials, Fred Howard, who at 50 is still handling games involving the Welsh rebels Cardiff and Swansea.

'It is nonsense to take someone out of the system simply because they have reached a certain age,' he said.

'Experience is a very valuable commodity and should be used for as long as possible.

There is no age limit in rugby and you need to be much fitter to control one of our games.

'In soccer, referees spend most of the time in a steady lope. You never see them sprinting, as we have to do in rugby.' Howard, who earned the nickname 'Fearless Fred' after dismissing four players from an international match in 1990, believes that soccer could also learn from rugby in two other areas.

'Our players know that there is no future in arguing,' he said.

'If it gets out of hand, we can just award a penalty kick. If they persist in arguing, we move the kick 10 metres closer to their line. This could work just as well in soccer.' Howard also feels communication between referees and players needs developing. He said: 'We are encouraged to talk and mix with players, and when I went on a tour of Australia with Wales, I stayed in the same hotel. …