Should on-pitch referee mics be broadcast and recorded?
A former chief executive of the English Football Association (FA) has called for the output of the on-pitch referees’ microphone to be broadcast and recorded as part of the television and radio coverage of matches. Mark Palios’ comments on BBC sports radio station 5 Live follow Sunday’s Chelsea-Manchester United game, during which referee Mark Clattenburg is alleged to have used “inappropriate language.”
The encounter between Chelsea and Man United, which are first and second respectively in the Premier League, was already a controversial affair, with two Chelsea players sent off and United’s winning goal shown in TV replays to be scored from an off-side position. Chelsea later lodged a complaint that Callenburg had made “inappropriate remarks,” including using racial words, to players Jon Obi Mikel and Juan Mata.
Palios commented that “If we had the recordings we would have the answer” as to whether the claims against Clattenburg were true. He feels that if the referee’s mic were part of the broadcast in same way it is in coverage of rugby union matches the FA’s Respect campaign, set up to stamp out abuse of football officials, would benefit.
Football referees wear mic-earpiece headsets to communicate with the off-pitch fourth official. This is similar to rugby but in the oval ball game the match official’s mic feed is also fed to the TV outside broadcast van and mixed into the broadcast output, allowing viewers to hear decisions, instructions and conversations with players. Spectators at the ground are able to buy Ref Link earpieces to hear this as well.
Sound supervisors working on football coverage have commented to SVG Europe in the past that because football players are more prone to swearing than their rugby counterparts the ref mic feed is not broadcast and the effects mics round the pitch positioned so they do not pick up too much speech.
The referees’ union, Prospect, said it would not be making any changes or recommendations concerning recording or broadcasting officials’ microphones until the investigations into the Clattenburg incident had been completed. Another possible factor in whether the referee mic arrangements would be changed is that world football governing body FIFA has the final say on any decisions regarding the use of technology in the sport.
The FA said it did not have any comment on Palios’ observations at this time.