Mark Saggers | Failing to get tough is no longer an option

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I’ve got another couple of suggestions for you today, but they don’t stand a chance until referees get on board and embrace the way that the correct use of VARs can transform the current climate.

I can’t help but get the sense of resistance when it comes to the technology we are crying out for, from the very top right down to your average official, there seems to be this fear that somehow their authority is about to be irreversibly undermined.

Whether it’s subconscious or not I’m not really sure, but the fear of assessment also seems to inhibit some decisions and certainly with assistants this season the right call can increasingly be characterised as a case of luck over judgement. It can’t be right, and we should all admit that it’s impossible to keep up physically now, which really is OK when you consider we have the tools we need, ready to go.

I can’t make it any clearer when I say that falling back on footage from multiple angles is not a reflection on the competence of our current crop of officials, it’s simply a necessity.

I actually think it’s the perfect time for us to be showing leadership as we approach a World Cup Finals in the summer that will not feature a single ref from England, which tells me that UEFA and FIFA are not serious.

Look at the levels our refs are asked to reach and look at the popularity of the league at the top of our game, and don’t tell me those international bodies will not be missing out on the best officials around, with the whole world watching.

The cheats are in the process of taking over as far as I’m concerned, and you have plenty of evidence on a weekly basis, be that in the form of Peterborough’s Marcus Maddison or the so-called superstars who regularly shame our top flight with their antics aimed at getting a fellow professional dismissed.

They have the money, they have the profile and they have the lifestyle, so I am asking players AND their managers: we need more from you in return, namely more honesty and more respect for your colleagues and rivals.

Right, I promised you a suggestion or three, so here they are: firstly a straight red card for the kind of cheating I have just described.

Next I would insist on five-match bans when you are caught diving, not two, and with no exceptions.

Thirdly, and I would do this at a stroke, the moment we introduce VARs in the Premier League: treble the wages of referees and their assistants overnight.

Stoke’s Bojan Krkic goes down after receiving a challenge from Manchester United’s Juan Mata and is later shown a yellow card for diving by referee Kevin Friend.

The enforcement of the above will require the wholehearted embrace of technology, and when the man in the truck cannot clarify an incident, go with the original decision of the man or woman out there in the middle.

Starting with the PGMO’s Mike Riley, we must be brave, both on and off the pitch in order to reclaim the game from the sly and clever merchants who are in danger of ruling the roost. If we keep up the current level of tolerance and merely move from analysis of one shocking example to the next, things can only get worse, believe me.

Once we take such bold forward steps, not only do we show everyone else what is possible, we are unequivocally telling all those involved that the whole point of this wonderful game of ours is the fans, and we have high expectations of you all.

Until next time, take care, Saggs.

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