Keith Stroud – Little Man, Big Mistake

Football always manages to throw up something new. So it was tonight at St James’ Park. In fifty years of watching the game I have seen many bad decisions by referees. That’s inevitable – it’s a tough job refereeing at any level. At the top level decisions are a split second business and the margins of error are tiny. The further up the greasy poll a referee climbs, the harder it is for them to get it right and the higher the stakes when they get it wrong.

To err is, of course, human. In many cases there is nothing a referee can do about a poor decision – they couldn’t see what happened so they couldn’t give a penalty that clearly was, they rely on their assistant and judgement to call offside in a rule that leaves far to much to interpretation. Knowing the rules of the game, however, is a basic requirement. The overwhelming majority of the 48,814 in St James’ Park know the rules and knew that Keith Stroud had got it wrong.

Mr Stroud got it wrong, which PGMOL, the body that supervises referees has confirmed (see their statement below). Mr Stroud misapplied the rules – he ‘forgot’ that in the circumstances where an attacking player encroaches into the penalty area before the kick is taken the rules say that the penalty Newcastle’s Matt Richie had scored should have been retaken. Even forgetting something as basic as this – and there is no grey area here – is just a mistake and to err, as I’ve said, is human.

What is inexcusable was Mr Stroud’s pigheadedness after the event. Mr Stroud is part of a team of four officials. Did all four officials also ‘forget’? Did they say nothing? Did he overrule them? All three of them? To press on regardless when it was quite permissible to change one’s mind is a monstrous act of ego.

It is just as well for little Keith Stroud – and for the game – that the decision did not in the end affect the result. I can remember a time when such a decision would have caused a riot. It certainly changed the game though, having at first understandably rattled Newcastle, it inspired a spell of relentless second half pressure that culminated in a fittingly spectacular winner from, appropriately, Matt Richie.

Bad Company

Mr Stroud was demoted from the Premier League list some years back with the notoriously bad Uriah Rennie (to be re-instated temporarily on some technicality). The standard in the Championship is noticeably poorer. Even the conspiracy theorist who used to tell me that referees are all “in the pay of the big clubs” would struggle to justify how this season’s refereeing has help the biggest club in the Championship. We thought Steve Martin’s TWO incorrect red cards (both overturned by the FA within days) undoubtedly cost Newcastle at least a point against Nottingham Forest.

What’s behind this situation? The historic position in Football of the referee as the ‘sole authority’ is an antiquated concept. The referee should be leading a team, not acting as a dictator. Why, because dictators are rubbish – they don’t work in a team, they don’t take advice, and they stick to bad decisions because their ego won’t let them change. If you want proof that it don’t have to be this way look at American sport, where refereeing is very much a team business.

Mr Stroud is apparently “upset”. I’ll bet he is. As the song goes, he’s “getting sacked in the morning”.

 

The Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) statement in full:

“In this evening’s EFL Championship game between Newcastle United and Burton Albion, referee Keith Stroud awarded Newcastle a penalty in the 29th minute.

“As Matt Ritchie took the kick, Dwight Gayle encroached in the penalty area.

“An indirect free kick was awarded to Burton, but the Laws of the Game state that the penalty kick should have been retaken.

“Unfortunately the referee has misapplied the Law.

“Keith and his team are understandably upset at the lapse in concentration and apologise for the mistake.”