The Swindon verdict: Officiating not to blame, but more could be done to clamp down on time-wasting


Although defensive failings were the chief reason for Bradford City’s home defeat to Swindon Town, referee Richard Clark – and his failure to clamp down on the visitors’ time-wasting antics – was another big talking point. WOAP pundit team members Mahesh Johal, Damien Wilkinson, Phil Abbott and Nick Beanland share their verdict on the Swindon refereeing, and who should partner James Hanson.

What did you make of the referee’s performance and do you think football should do more to curb time-wasting?

Mahesh: I thought the referee was average at best. Speaking to some Swindon fans on the train home and they were adamant that our penalty shouldn’t have been given. Chasing the game, the ref was becoming a target due to his allowance of the time wasting. However, to play Devil’s Advocate, would we have been as outraged if City were in Swindon’s position?

Whilst I was frustrated by the constant theatrics, he was right to send off Alan Sheehan.

Damien: I certainly think I’ve seen much, much worse refereeing performances over the years. Many referees wouldn’t have given us that penalty so early on in the game, for example, and I can’t recall many gripes until the last part of the match.

However, the last 20 minutes or so of the game were certainly peppered by a substantial amount of ‘head’ injuries – I can’t readily recall that many from one team in a match at that stage.

In such circumstances, the referee is in a no-win situation – safest option/laws of the game with any threat of a head injury is to stop play. However, with common sense/understanding of the game, it must have been fairly obvious that we weren’t dealing with serious injuries and players were clearly conning the ref.

This obviously incensed both City fans and players, and didn’t help the last few minutes of the match. At the time I didn’t think Sheehan had done much wrong other than a shove to get the ball, but I stand corrected given it seems to have been more than this and clearly this cannot be condoned at all.

If the ref had clamped down on the play acting early on though, we might not be facing the loss of a key player. Not that it would have changed the outcome of the game, and even more so, after the event, increasingly it sounds like sour grapes. Perhaps there needs to be some consequence of ‘play acting’, but in practice this becomes difficult to monitor – the further problem being that all teams, including ourselves, in such a situation would have at least adopted some time-wasting antics doesn’t help whatsoever.

Unfortunately the focus on the ref, coupled with the late sending off, has diverted attention away from the performance, team formation and future options regarding players. I don’t think the performance was a bad as has been painted, but the defensive weaknesses are becoming a recurrent problem that needs urgent rectification!

Phil: Rarely are games truly won or lost by a referee and certainly I didn’t feel that was the case on Saturday. Yes, he made some poor calls, but our slack defending cost us ultimately, once again.

We pay good money to watch football and I think the powers that be have a responsibility to ensure that we get to see as much of it as possible in the 90 minutes. Unfortunately, until the game’s administrators’ start taking action against the farcical, fake injuries and desperately unsporting time wasting antics, this will not come to pass.

I have two radical suggestions: 1 – Allow physios to attend to injured players without play stopping (unless the injury us clearly serious). 2 – Introduce a sin-bin to replace yellow cards for time wasting, thus penalising the team at the time.

Each of these suggestions will make players think twice about conning their paymasters out of the entertainment they deserve.

Nick: First things first – the referee was poor but Swindon deserved to win.

The behaviour of a number of Swindon players was frustrating and the play acting in particular was embarrassing. The referee could’ve stopped it by moving players off the pitch to be treated, shifting them straight back at free kicks (their players all stood immediately in front of the dead ball and only moved once they were told to) or even just issuing yellow cards for any of the persistent offences.

I think the game is poorly served when a team can so blatantly wastes time and it made for an ugly, dispiriting spectacle. I disliked the way Swindon conducted themselves; but until referees clamp down teams will use all the tricks they can.

Picture by Thomas Gadd

Picture by Thomas Gadd

From what you have seen so far this season, who do you think should partner James Hanson?

Phil: Billy Clarke is the most ideal for me, although this is dependent on finding the right man for the top of the diamond. The thing I like about Clarke is the way that he finds width and with his clever footwork, he is able to create space for Jason Kennedy and Stephen Darby to work around.

I’m afraid that whilst ever some fans continue to judge City strikers solely by the number of goals they score, rather than the many other important facets of their role, Clarke will soon become a scapegoat like others before him.

Nick: I would go with Mason Bennett. Clarke is a clever player but I think he provides more danger from deep. Oli McBurnie isn’t ready to start regularly but will benefit from regular substitute appearances. Aaron Mclean is the man City need to step up, but so far he’s done very little to justify his purchase.

Bennett looks an accomplished player and, whilst he’s not lightning quick, he has more pace than the other options – play him for a run of games and get him close to Hanson in the hope they build up an understanding.

Phil: Bennett has been a huge disappointment for me so far, but agree with Nick that there is huge potential for the partnership. 

Damien: I’d agree that Bennett hasn’t fulfilled the initial promise shown, but at the age of 18 we have to avoid putting massive expectations on his shoulders. For this reason I suspect Phil Parkinson will continue to rotate the front pairing.

As disappointing as Mclean currently looks, it may well be a case of persevering with him – some sort of run of games may well help him play his way into form.

Mahesh: Full house, I’d go with Bennett at the moment. Whilst I was impressed with McBurnie’s cameo against Leeds, I think we need some pace up front and  in our team. For that reason Bennett gets the nod. 

As mentioned by Nick, McLean is the one we need/want to step up. But quite frankly it’s been painful watching him at times. 

“Working hard to ensure that his writing spectacles are not always of the rose-tinted variety” – meet the WOAP pundit team.

Categories: The Verdict

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8 replies

  1. RE: time wasting, the obvious solution is to bring in independent timekeeping, making the fourth official responsible for stopping the clock every time the ball is out of play. Obviously under that system timewasting would still present an advantage to a tired team holding off fitter opponents, so they would need to bring in additional sanctions. Fining both clubs and potentially the officials if it takes more than 110 minutes to play the 90 would be a start, requiring any player who goes down for more than 10 seconds to leave the pitch for treatment would be another, and giving referees the power to give a free kick to the other team if they take too long about it (like a foul throw).

    I think the fact is the standard of refereeing is dismal in League One, not surprising given how poor it frequently is at much higher levels. Other teams accept that as part of the conditions they play in and find ways to use it to their advantage or limit how much it damages them. City have been startlingly naive in this regard for several years.

  2. I commented on Claret and Banter about Swindon players not moving back until being told, then started shuffling forward as soon as the ref wasn’t looking, which leads me to say why on earth don’t we use the vanishing spray? Is anything outside the Premier League irrelevant?

    And yes, its seems the feigning of head injuries is something we’ve seen a few times already – Peterborough employed it a few times when they lost the ball in our attacking third. The ref did start to ignore it and told them to get up. It is beyond ridiculous to see grown men collapse to the floor with a head injury then sprint onto the pitch again a few seconds later. Its a huge insult to everyone who has had one.

    Its not a case of sour grapes. I will stop going if games descent into how much you can gain by conning the officials. And there is a difference between time-wasting (which everyone does) and blatant cheating, which is what feigning injury to gain an advantage is.

    • “why on earth don’t we use the vanishing spray?”

      We were saying the same thing on the way home. It is ridiculous that the Football League has brought it in for the JPT this season (to trial it) but not the league. Why did they feel the need to trial it? Everyone saw how well it worked in the World Cup.

      A real own goal by the Football League.

  3. Wasn’t there an initiative a few years ago whereby players were meant to leave the pitch for treatment? Why has this stopped?

    Bennett has offered no more than McLean for me in terms of a partnership with Hanson. Id like to see him tried in some of the other positions that he is supposed to be able to play in. I think we should persevere with McLean as Hansons partner in the hope that he finds some form. Id also like to see a McBurnie-Hanson partnership given a go as it is one that we have seen very little of as yet – maybe the cup game at MK Dons could provide an opportunity to try this out?

    • I believe the rule is that, if the physio comes on, the player must leave the field. I noticed in a couple of games last season – where the opposition were time-wasting – that a player would go down injured and the physio was reluctant to come on. So they could waste time with the player down injured, but not have to have them leave the field.

      I also think that the referee lets the injured player back on too quickly sometimes. I appreciate that, if it is an honest injury, they shouldn’t be held back from coming on, but when an opposition player is clearly putting it on I would love to see a referee force them to stay off the pitch for a few minutes. “You acted like you were shot, so you can’t be possibly be ready to come back on yet.”

  4. I personally cant wait to see Hanson and Clarkson together. Clarkson clearly knows where the goal is and I just hope they can strike a good understanding together.

    Im not putting pressure on him but he’s 21/22 so he should be ready for this level if Championship clubs were looking at him when we signed him

  5. I reckon if a player generally needs treatment he goes off for an average of 5 minutes. So the simple solution for me is if you require the physio to come on you need to leave the field of play and you can’t returnn for a minimum of 5 minutes. This wouldn’t affect genuinely injured players but would stop players going down only to make a miraculous recovery and return to the field immediately after the restart.

  6. The other tactic that is often used to waste time is by virtue of the goalkeeper taking his time with goalkicks but this is easily handled if referees use common sense.
    There were two classic examples of this last season, although I cant remember the opposition.
    In one instance the referee booked the keeper early on, and totally prevented him from repeating the tactic.
    In the next instance the keeper repeatedly wasted time until the 80th minute when the ref ran over and warned him. This effectively gave the keeper one more chance which he took and was booked, but as it was late in the game the tactic had been used effectively.
    We saw a version of the same tactic used recently when a visiting substitute took his time walking off, and the ref ran the width of the pitch to book him, rather dramatically in front of the bench.
    Was it Yeovil who made two substitutions within seconds of each other?
    It sounds like sour grapes as we have lost three consecutive home games and I know we are biased BUT i cant think/believe City would use such gamemanaship.
    Swindon were by far the worst example of this on Saturday particularly Branco, which I why I think Sheehan reacted (Stupidly) like he did. Frustration.
    The Officials can do a lot to stamp this kind of thing out, but dont.

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