An Open Letter To The FA

Courtesy Graham Burrell

Dear The FA,

Hope you’re well.

I’d like to raise a couple of points from this afternoon’s match at Lincoln City against Cambridge United. I appreciate that you won’t read this because it is on a fan’s blog but still, I’ve got some points to make and I wanted to ensure they got directly to you.

I’m a normal bloke, a typical football fan if you like. I work all week to put bread on the table and then at a weekend I like to follow my football team. I go away, as I did last week against Port Vale and obviously, I watch at Sincil Bank too. I pay for this privilege via a season ticket or tickets when I go away. Factor in that I live thirty or so miles away from the ground, it becomes something of a day out. Maybe a tenner’s worth of petrol, car parking, food, a programme, you know the drill. It’s not a cheap day out but I love it.

I like a good, fair competition, an honest battle of skill between two good sides. Despite their lowly position, it seemed that this afternoon I was going to get exactly that. After Lincoln opened the scoring, a slick Cambridge side got themselves level quite quickly. It all pointed to a great contest, well worth a week of graft and endeavour.

The stumbling block was your so-called match official, Lee Collins. I’ve got a few points to raise, but I’d like to draw attention to what he did in the 21st minute of the game. You’ll see for yourself soon enough, there will be an appeal coming across your desks. It’ll be backed by the Cambridge management too, by video evidence and, unless your assessors are complete and utter clowns like Collins, they’ll be in agreement to.

Let me tell you about Ellis Chapman. He’s a 17-year old kid, ‘one of our own’ you might say. He’s emerged this season as a real talent, a humble and focused young boy without a vicious bone in his body. He committed to a challenge with Gary Deegan which at first glance didn’t look all that bad. With the benefit of video analysis it was barely a foul, but Collins has sent the lad off.

He didn’t consult his linesman, nor his fourth official, but as it transpired they may as well not have been there because he failed to pay any attention to them at all throughout the game. He later overruled throw-ins and corners too, but that is another story.

What Collins has done is ruin a great game of football for over 9,000 fans. You lot want people to come to games, to pay into clubs and to support the game at every level don’t you? Then why send a melt like Collins to referee games? All week Lincoln and Cambridge have prepared for that game, watching video analysis, training, plotting tactics and working on fitness. They’ve assessed each other’s strengths and weaknesses and spent vast amounts of money on their players and back room staff. Then, just 21 minutes into the game, some bloke who posts letters or sells insurance in the week ignores any of the advice offered to him about ‘taking time’ before making a decision and puts paid to the event as a contest.

Maybe it gives him a little buzz, butterflies in his stomach or makes his John Thomas tingle. Who knows?

What would be said if 21 minutes into an Elton John concert, one of the lighting guys wrapped Elton’s hand in tape so he could only play one side of his piano? Or if someone at the cinema muted the sound on the latest blockbuster? Both of those scenarios sound ridiculous but both are examples of a situation where one person’s utter incompetence ruins an event for a lot of people. That is what Lee Collins did.

Last weekend another of your army of clowns tried to do the same against Port Vale. Huxtable is quite a good name for a clown and if I ever try to write a children’s book it might feature such a character in a circus. He may as well have been in a circus last weekend, failing to punish a blatant foul and relishing in awarding a last-minute penalty with all the excitement of a six-year old at Christmas. He looked like he’d enjoyed Christmas too, spare tire around his gut and all. Collins was no better today, wheezing and huffing as he ambled around the middle of the park completely clueless.

Roll up, roll up. Huxtable’s just getting his make-up on. Courtesy Graham Burrell

Our manager, Danny Cowley, couldn’t say what he wanted to after the game because the FA (you) would sanction him. You can’t sanction me. Lee Collins is not Football league standard. His decision today was wrong, all afternoon he was rubbish and he’s ruined a perfectly good spectacle for 9,000 hard-working football fans who still want to get off their armchairs and watch proper football. He should be forced to undergo a full fitness test and demoted to a level of football that suits him, maybe Subbuteo?

Danny wanted to say he despairs for the game when all of a side’s hard work, professionalism and commitment to the game is thrown away by one muppet who found a whistle in a Cornflake packet one morning. Huxtable was just as bad but we won 6-2 and so there wasn’t as much to moan about, but enough is enough. They’re not the only ones either, there’s Stockbridge who loves the roar of a home crowd so much he’ll always give something to get his little rush.

You have good referees, Stuart Atwell was excellent the other week and we like Tom Neild to. Attwell is, of course, one of the full-time refs and because of that he benefits from being an actual ref, not a police man who fancies himself on a Saturday or a car salesman with a chip on his shoulder because he didn’t make it for the Dog and Duck Second XI.

I also notice Collins has only reffed four games this season, is he part-time? Why did he only do 15 last season and 10 the season before that? Why, for the biggest game in League Two today, did you send a referee who has officiated just three other games?

There’s some developmental points for you to take away and although I know you’re so involved in not giving a tiny rat’s ass about me, Lincoln City or lower league football in general, you’re far too worried about selling Wembley and pretending to care, but I’m going to offer some advice.

  • Please try to ensure your referees do as they say. Our players were told they’d wait before making big decisions, but Collins had his hand on his arse reaching for the red card before Gary Deegan’s shin pad made a noise. If they say they’re going to take their time, make sure they do.
  • Please try to ensure they’re consistent. If Ellis deserved to be sent off today (which he didn’t) then last week’s foul on Lee Frecklington, a challenge that injured the player, surely deserved a free kick. How can anyone plan for a match when referees are so wildly inconsistent.
  • Comment on the incident. For heaven’s sake if the appeal is upheld then at least apologise to the 9,000 fans whom Collins robbed of an afternoon’s sport. Better still, get him to apologise. Directly. My email address can be found on this site, although don’t ask Collins to find it because he’s clearly blind.
  • Make all referees professional. it can’t be too hard, surely? There’s lots of money for people in suits and failed bids for World Cups and things, why not pay a few blokes to be proper referees, trained, schooled and of course developed when they make a mistake.
  • Pay me back for my time today. I paid for a product which your failure of a human being ruined, so I’d like a refund. So would 8,999 other fans.

I hope my feedback has been constructive and I look forward to you ignoring my points and sending us complete morons week in, week out until eventually we all give up and stay at home at which point you can send you Premier League ‘B’ teams into League Two and we can all sit at home and watch them on iFollow because I’m sure that is what you want to happen.



PS – Seriously, can you thank Collins for trying to even it up by denying Cambridge a blatant penalty too. It might have saved us a point, but we’d all much rather have a fair contest, 11 v 11 without the ref making it all about him. Thanks.

PPS Having reviewed the evidence, it doesn’t look good. Which means Collins will likely get away with his terrible afternoon’s work. I stand by these comments, the slow motion looks far worse than it was. Please do compare the Scott Brown challenge last week and explain why one is a red and the other not even a foul. Cheers.


  1. The poorest and most childish rant you could have written. The match official was poor but this over the top reaction does nothing to improve the game.

  2. I sit in lower four, and was appalled at the sending off. But I would swear the linesman screamed into his intercom Mike,”what the fuck are you doing” or words to that effect. How to kill a game.

  3. Well said Gary.
    This went beyond routine refereeing incompetence and seriously does need to be brought to the attention of the FA.
    I wasn’t at Port Vale but the idiot in the middle there appears to have been equally inept.
    The current standard of refereeing is a major threat to the credibility of football.

  4. I’ve spent the best part of 7 hours in the car today, coming up from Essex especially for the fsme, only to have the game ruined as a spectacle just as it was starting to get tasty. Thanks ref…And I’m not even home yet…:-(

  5. Absolutely spot on Gary.

    I did like your description of the referee huffing and puffing. Maybe that is why he had to make use of an inhaler at least three times in the second half. I thought that referees had to undergo rigorous fitness tests at the start of each season.

  6. I saw videos and it did not appear a RED card tackle. I hope the replay before the FA proves the REF was not of the level for this match and move him back to the National League.

  7. Ok the red card may gave been poor. But the echo gut reaction was bad challenge even if they were surprised it was red. Maybe you should sleep before writing, some inappropriate words there.
    My biggest by bear though…
    When fans bemoan referees for not being consistent. Impossible to expect. Players aren’t, managers aren’t, bloggers aren’t. Decisions are opinion, and that can change. Frecks would have been given sometimes but mostly not. It is never ever black and white.

    Making referees professional is spot on though.

  8. Couldnt really tell from next to the TV gantry but if he is innocent lets hope there is an appeal and it is recinded.

  9. I have to agree to all the points raised by Gary. I watched the whole match controlled by Mr Huxstable and was very concerned naïve approach to football. Obviously he thought he was the star of the show, anything he could do to make a point, he did ( right or wrong).The same could be said for todays ref!
    Apart from a selection of very dubious decisions he completely fouled up the sending off.The socalled offence took place 3metres in front of the 4th official and the linesman,we were about 6 mtrs behind them, so had an excellent view. At no time did the ref consult either of his colleagues, who had a much better view,but rather concentrated on pulling out his red card.Apart from spoiling a football match for ALL supporters, can you imagine the effect this is having on a 17 year old footballer in his first league start? I AM DISGUSTED.

  10. Good letter, but wasted on people who don’t care. The FA are not interested in any lower league football. The grass roots of the game. Referees have hell of a job with no support, a weeks course in the summer holidays probably amounts to the sum total of their qualifications and training. Until the arrogant pricks in the FA acknowledges there is a problem nothing will be done and we will continually have our games across the lower league ruined by incompetence.

  11. Did not think it was a red card at the time of the tackle from my position in lower 4, but now I’ve seen the footage and the refs position to the tackle I can see why he produced the red card.

  12. I had a great view from the Selenity stand, and it all seemed a bit strange. There was clearly no intent to foul, but the ball was on the ground and Ellis’s foot caught the opponent halfway up his shin. It also made a heck of a noise (presumably the shin pad) – I wonder if this influenced the ref? Irrespective of that he was clearly too quick to make his mind up (particularly given what Danny said about refs warning that they would delay key decisions on the pitch), and went to pieces after in my view. Fully agree about making refs fully professional. There will still be controversy of course but the overall standard and consistency would surely improve.

  13. Agreed 100%, the game was totally ruined.

    Like others, I have to sit in the car for three hours on match day on top of the cost of a season ticket, program, dodgy pie … the last thing we need is an inept part-time moron taking centre stage.

    As football moves on, even at this level, the league have to start looking at a much higher entry level for referees. There is too much at stake, think Notts County last year, Billy Knott never recovered from that dreadful decision. I’m not too sure about professional referees, however, as mentioned, the big games need good refs.

    Controversially, having seen the video, that was a dangerous, albeit a mistimed, challenge. Red card 9 times out of 10 in the modern game I’m afraid.

    Great ‘from the heart’ writing again Gary.

  14. Gary, I stopped reading your articles a while ago but someone shared it on there timeline. Firstly I suggest you learn how to referee a game and actually do one before writing this sort of stuff, when you make a decision such as a red card like Saturday you act on it immediately, otherwise players from both teams get over excited. Secondly if you are the referee and in the best position to make the decision you do just that, you don’t go asking your officials unless you need to, the ref whether he got it right or wrong had a side on view 10 yards away. In a nutshell you ‘nip things in the bud’ before they escalate.
    As for the Port Vale ref, the foul on Freck was a penalty and a red card all day for me, but the ref was not up with play, I’m confident the assessor will tell him so. He has of course passed a fitness test which I dare say me or you would of struggled with even in our prime (a long long time ago in my case).
    As for the third point, all refs get very good training and are continuously assessed before they get anuwhere near a football league game but like me and you have good and bad days and like professional footballers make mistakes.

    Gary, I would stick to writing about things you know about, Lincoln City is one of them, refereeing is not.

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