The manager of one of the top Maccabi League clubs is urging referees to adopt a more commonsense approach in protecting players from rash challenges to avoid a repeat of the ‘Eduardo’ injury.
Ben Winston, joint-boss of London Maccabi Lions A, has made the plea after the Rowley Lane club’s silverware challenge was disrupted by injuries to key players. He fears that the top Jewish league could witness an injury similar to the double leg break suffered by Arsenal’s Croatian striker in a Premier League game against Birmingham City on February 23.
Winston, who is also assistant-manager at Wingate & Finchley and coach of the 2009 Team GB open squad, told JC Sport: “On the whole I think that referees do a great job. I know they have a thankless task and believe that the abuse they get on and off the pitch in the Maccabi League is disgraceful. But I believe that the better footballing teams including Hendon, Neasden and Lions are subjected to late challenges that go unpunished.”
The Lions picked up a string of injuries to key players in the recent Peter Morrison Trophy quarter-final against Leeds Maccabi in a fiery affair.
“My point is not to moan and grumble at my injury list, but to ask the referees to get in line with Saturday football standards to save us all from more broken bones this year,” he said. “Otherwise, I have no doubt an Eduardo situation will occur in the MSFL soon.
“In Saturday football at Wingate I see players sent off for lesser challenges, at least booked, but in the MSFL, a stern word is all one gets. It is as if a referee appreciates the underdog and puts it down to wrongly placed enthusiasm. Bookings for dissent are common, but I rarely see an official protecting players. As soon as a challenge goes in, the ref needs to card the player and send a message to the teams that such tackles are unacceptable.”
Jon Smith, referee’s secretary of the JC MSFL, said: “If Ben thinks that this is the case then he is on another planet. I think it is unfair that he is criticising our referees and suggest that he takes charge of a match on a Sunday morning to see what it is all about.
“The majority of our officials are Level 7. Many of our top referees are only capable of doing high-profile matches as they know the players. But it would not be fair to the rest of the league to keep giving the top teams the best referees every week.
“I believe that in some instances, Maccabi League teams do not play by the rules so I suggest they get their ship in order before they criticise us. At this level, we just do not have the quality of referees.
“I would love to have a seminar with my panel of referees or meet with league managers but the time and resources are not there. We contacted all league clubs to discuss the rules of the game but only 12 out of 56 responded. The majority of clubs do not seem to be interested in the nitty, gritty of the game.
“I suggest that if Ben wants better quality referees then he takes his team into a better league. I also believe that the Lions have some players who are not whiter than white.”
Leading Jewish referee Richard Jaye, a Level 3 official, said: “I have to agree with Ben. I have seen some shocking tackles go unpunished this season in the Maccabi League.” A whistle-blower for 13 years, Jaye, 28, who officiates in the contributory leagues including Ryman, Southern and Blue Square South and runs a line in the Premier League reserves league and Blue Square Premier Division, added: “To put it into perspective, I have had 14 red cards this season in the contributory leagues of which seven have been straight red tackles. We are being told to clamp down hard.”
North West Neasden, who have three teams in the league, do not share Winston’s concerns. A team manager Jamie Cole said: “The majority MSFL players play within the laws of the game and thankfully poor challenges are an extreme rarity in this league
“I do not believe that any players set out to injure an opponent on a Sunday morning. Although a poor challenge by (Martin) Taylor on Eduardo, I, along with the majority, believe that such an incident was as a result of bad timing and bad luck and not due to malicious intent. If any serious injuries are suffered on a Sunday morning, it is usually as a result of the former rather than the latter.
“Every player should receive the same level of protection no matter what division they are in and in my experience, the referees in the MSFL are extremely competent. The responsibility lies with the players rather than the referees who can only deal with a situation after the event.”
Neasden B joint-manager Sammy Carr said: “I think we should count ourselves lucky that we have a full panel of referees. I commend the refs we have on a Sunday. I think Lions are just looking for someone to blame for an awful season.”