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Sunderland v Middlesbrough - Sky Bet Championship

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Fan Letters: “After so many bad performances, who referees the referees themselves?”

A look at the system of officiating in English football and praise for Sunderland’s youthful enthusiasm are in the RR mailbox today! Got something to say? Email us:

Photo by Robert Smith/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I actually complained to the EFL last year about the poor standards from officials.

I did get a positive response, they explained the process and I asked them to give my feedback to the refereeing department, which they did. However, after Jarred Gillett’s performance at the weekend, I wrote to them once again.

My complaint was about so many biased decisions from an incompetent referee who couldn’t even look Dan Neil in the face when dismissing him.

I’m not concerned about decisions going against us, as long as it’s the same for the other side, but the game on Saturday was ruined by the referee and I still can’t believe how Matt Crooks stayed on the pitch, as did Josh Coburn after his challenge on Dan Ballard.

I’ll forward the email response I received because at the end of the day, we want fairness in the game for both sides.

Rob Hall

Hello, Rob. Thank you for your email.

Whilst we appreciate you getting in touch, I can see we have previously advised that we are not able to comment on specific match officials’ performances or decisions.

The responsibility of selection and development of professional match officials is for the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL).

All officials at SG1, SG2 and within the national list have undergone many years of training and development to reach these levels, at all times being subject to PGMOL requirements relating to integrity and transparency.

Of course, in addition to match-by-match assessment and feedback from referee coaches, they are also subject to review by club managers who submit a report on their performances. All of this data helps to produce a ‘merit list’ of match officials on which appointments, retention or reclassification are based.

Of course, we understand that as a fan it can be frustrating when a decision goes against your team. However, as you will know, match officials in the EFL do not have the benefit of watching replays or being able to freeze frame in order to make a decision.

They have to make split second decisions in real time, making the task a sometimes difficult one.

Due to the human element of officiating, they can of course make mistakes and it would be for the assessors and referees’ manager to discuss any mistakes and provide constructive advice on how to develop.

Clubs are encouraged to provide constructive feedback on match officials and dialogue is encouraged with PGMOL.

The EFL Referees’ Manager works with their group in a bid to constantly improve standards and support the development of match officials and they are subject to a range of training measures to encourage continuous development and improvement.

We can confirm that we will pass your feedback onto the referees’ department.

Thank you for contacting the EFL.

Kind regards,


Supporter Services Department,


Ed’s Note [Phil]: Hi, Rob. Thanks for your letter.

Judging by the tone of the correspondence you received, it sounded like the kind of standard reply that fans of Sunderland or any other club would receive regarding this issue.

I suspect they have a template that they can utilise when replying to emails such as yours and can therefore avoid actually addressing the issues themselves whilst hiding behind the facade of ‘your feedback being important to us’.

The bottom line is that there’s a real lack of transparency and accountability when it comes to officiating within English football. Bad decisions are rarely met with any real sanctions (apart from the demotion of officials such as Jarred Gillett into the Championship), and this is the main source of frustration, I feel.

They can hide behind ‘procedures’ and protocols, whereas coaches and players are the ones who have to deal with the fallout. That’s not a fair way of running the system, in my opinion.

Sunderland v Middlesbrough - Sky Bet Championship Photo by Robert Smith/MI News/NurPhoto via Getty Images

Dear Roker Report,

I’m sixty four years old and I’ve supported the Black Cats all my life, as has my mother, who is eighty seven!

I can obviously go back a long way and in 1973 we were the only people in the street to have a colour television.

We had so many people from the street there that we were practically standing on each other’s shoulders and even if Sunderland had lost that day, the same number of loyal fans would’ve turned out to greet them. Win or lose, that’s what loyalty is all about.

Everyone has to start somewhere, and I think it’s great that these lads are getting such a fantastic start in life.

Mary Southern

Ed’s Note [Phil]: Hi, Mary. Thanks for getting in touch!

I agree that our squad of young and very talented footballers are making their way in the game in impressive fashion- not just on the pitch, but off it as well- and I think Tony Mowbray deserves a lot of credit for that.

He’s often spoken about the importance of helping them to develop as individuals as well as footballers, and the way they conduct themselves with the supporters and when they’re involved in community work on behalf of the club is always wonderful to see.

This really is a squad to admire, and they’ve genuinely made supporting Sunderland enjoyable again after some rough years in League One.

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