Arsene Wenger says referees have a responsibility to ensure players don’t waste time when they are on the pitch, claiming supporters crave ‘crisp, sharp action’ not referees from the ‘dark ages’ who want to be the star.
The Frenchman, who was charged by the FA this afternoon for allegedly questioning Mike Dean’s integrity after the referee decided to award a penalty to West Brom on Sunday, was in no mood to tread lightly when quizzed on the state of officiating at his pre-Chelsea press conference on Tuesday morning.
Having already rallied against the Premier League’s questionable fixture scheduling and the ‘quality’ of England’s professional referees in recent days, he also took aim at another of his pet peeves, time wasting, as well as the potential for the game’s authorities to mess up the proposed introduction of Video Assistant Referees.
On how referees have a responsibility to look after the game, he began: “Sometimes I say to the fourth official, when after five minutes the goalkeeper starts to waste time, ‘Look up there, there are people who pay a lot of money to watch football. You are responsible to make sure that football happens on the pitch’.
“For me, they have to serve the game like we have to serve the game, and to try to give positive emotions to people who love football in the stand. That’s what they have to do. They have not to be the star. We have to respect the game as people want it to be played. That’s our responsibility.
“It’s not [appropriate] any more, in 2018, that the guy calls a player, speaks half a minute, or a minute to him, to say, ‘Look, you have to behave properly’. That is gone. That is not the rhythm of a modern society.
“People want crisp, sharp action, and the referee has to make sure that that happens. This is the 1950s, where the guy talks to him… ’If you’re not nice, I might punish you’. Come on, let’s not waste time. What does it help for the game? Nothing. Nothing happens.
“People who sit in the stand don’t want to see that. They want to see, ‘Come on, let’s get on with it and play’. That’s our responsibility. We don’t live in the dark ages.”
Wenger has long been an advocate of referees getting help from video assistants, however, the prospect of the match referee consulting a screen on the side of the pitch in order to clarify each of his decisions is not something that appeals. Predominantly because the boss thinks it’ll upset the rhythm of games.
“It’s inevitable [VAR being introduced] because the referee can get help and become more efficient – and he can gain time, contrary to what people say.
“Of course, if we go the way where the referee walks down the side of the pitch and watches a screen, I say, ‘Leave it at home’. That means, ‘I just want to make every single decision. I want to be the boss’. [In that case] let’s forget it because that is not serious, and not the way we want to see the game going.
“If somebody upstairs quicker than he does tells him, ‘Go, let it go,’ that’s what we want. It’s not that he walks down the side of the pitch and watches a screen, and the people in the stand freeze up there until he has made a decision. That’s not what we want. If it’s [like] that, I personally am against it.”
It remains to be seen whether these comments will influence any punishment the FA might choose to inflict on the boss if he doesn’t respond to today’s charge.