The curse of the English referee strikes again

The “ghost goal” at the Watford-Reading game was, for many, proof that the declining standard of British referees had hit new lows. If the officials cannot be trusted to know whether the ball crossed the line or not, then what hope can the beautiful game have.

Yet, just when it was felt that standard had nowhere more south to fall, the goalposts have been shifted even further downwards, with the story of the bungling referee at the FA Cup match between Cullompton Rangers and Willand Rovers.

According to news on the underground, non-league wire, the difference between the two situations was that while referee Stuart Attwell erred on a matter of fact (i.e. whether the ball had crossed the goalline), the events at the FA Cup Devon derby saw referee Simon Mann committed a sacrilegious error based on the laws of the game.

The facts (according to the Cullompton’s website).

“With five minutes remaining the Match Referee awarded a penalty after deciding that the ball had been handled by Rovers defender Shaun Goff. After much argument during which time three or four Rovers players picked up yellow cards, Mark Simic spotted the ball and tucked away a superb penalty. The ‘scorer’ and team mates peeled off to celebrate what was surely a match winning moment only for the Referee then to loudly announce: ‘Encroachment – no goal, restart the game with a goal kick,’ and so the contest continued.”

Referee Mann has also been charged with allegedly telling the Cullompton management that the rules over penalty kicks had been changed two years ago before admitting his mistake a day later and asking the FA for help. The FA declared the match ‘null and void’, cancelled the replay at Willand and rescheduled for last night.

In typecast Sunday league responses, joint manager Lee Annunziata admitted “I still have nightmares about this one”, while club secretary Marcus Scott complained that his “first day as an OAP” was ruined.

This is a story with no happy ending. In last night’s replay, in front of 472 thankless souls, Willand beat Cullompton 1-0 in extra time.