Weekly football conversation since 2009, with Graham Sibley, Jan Bilton and Terry Duffelen. Listen on Apple, Google, Spotify, Stitcher, TuneIn or your podcatcher of choice.

When The Referee's Word Was Law

Johnny P recalls the firm discipline of the 1950s

Johnny Pundit: married to the mob
Johnny Pundit: married to the mob
Referees\' convention, late 1950s
Referees\' convention, late 1950s
Shorts: frightening
Shorts: frightening
Funny old thing, Football. For instance, referees: they can make or break a game. Worse, they can make or break a player. Or, in the 1950s, actually kill them.
Sheer terror in close-fitting shorts
Referees in the decade before The Beatles were sheer terror in close-fitting shorts. They were real disciplinarians back then — in the same way that say, the Mafia are real disciplinarians. If you stepped out of line - for instance, if you wondered aloud whether you could possibly have a free kick, Sir - they poked you in the eye with their whistle and told you to bally well get on with it. Well, there were no action replays in those days. Referees were the football equivalent of teachers; and we all know what psychotic gangsters teachers were in the 1950s. I mean, old 'Ginger' Rogers, who taught my two lads, bought himself a Jag with the protection money he raked in from Class 5B. You can't tell me that's from a Geography teacher's wages.
Death squads
Funny how we worry now about bungs given to referees to alter the course of the game. Back then, people gladly bribed referees — but mainly to keep their families safe. By the 1958-59 season, whole death squads dressed in black kits with a white trim were roaming the land, dealing out instant destruction to anyone they suspected of mild dissent or say, an illegally-taken throw-in. Of the various mobs which dealt out the ultimate 'red card', the most notorious were Wafty Blenkinsop's gang who ruled East Lancashire throughout the late fifties. But like all the various rule book-toting mobsters, they were affected by the changes rippling through modern football. Most importantly, players got fitter. Which was handy, because they could finally run faster than the referees, who could no longer catch them. And with that, the power of the sinister Men in Black was broken.

Till next time,

Keep your heads down,
Johnny Pundit

Get in touch with us


Email *

Message *

Latest podcast

Never miss a podcast