It is doubtful whether there are many people still active today who were involved in refereeing or any part of the game back in the 1970s.
I mention this because referees have this season been involved in a get-tough clamp down, as some have called it, on offences by players and also on abuse to referees. This has upset many managers and players.
It’s not always remembered that a similar clamp down happened back in the 1970s. Referees were told to take action against the breaches of conduct that had seeped into the game.
It was the era for instance when the ‘professional foul’ appeared in the game. Many felt that due to the amount of money being injected into the game, it had become win at any cost. Referees had become loath to caution players even when they should have done so.
In the first 11 weeks, 700 players were cautioned. Everyone was against it, managers, coaches, players and the press.
The real eruption came for a different reason. George Best was at his best but in a Chelsea v Manchester United game, the referee allowed a goal to stand which the United players disputed.
Best said to the referee, ‘You’re a f*****g disgrace’ for which he was sent off. At the disciplinary hearing, Best admitted to using the words but claimed he had said them to another player. The disciplinary committee dismissed the charge against him.
Since then we have been through what I call Laissez-faire refereeing, when we were told that before making a decision, we should think first what the game would expect.
But at the beginning of this season, Howard Webb, the new head of refereeing revealed a new get-tough plan to reduce the number of offences and insults to referees.
Mikel Arteta, the Arsenal manager, was reported for misconduct by calling the referee embarrassing and a disgrace after several controversial officiating decisions in their match with Newcastle.
At the disciplinary hearing Arteta admitted saying the words, but said the word embarrassing was aimed at the deficient VAR and not the referee.
Also he misinterpreted the word disgrace. In his national Spanish, desgracia, doesn’t mean the same as disgrace in English, and was not an insult. The independent committee dismissed the charge against him.
Let’s hope that is as far as history will be repeated.