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Referee criticism

Each week the Pompey History Society takes a delve into the club’s archive and pulls out a document or artefact and tells the story behind it. This week, we turn to that perennial favourite: criticism of the referee and some correspondence between Pompey and The Football League in the late 1960s...


Good job VAR has sorted out that issue, eh?

Very droll. Like the poor, criticism of referees has always been with us and on October 11, 1969 when Bristol City came to Fratton Park in the old second division, poor old BH Daniels of Brentwood found himself on the receiving end. 

BH Daniels

Difficult game was it? Bookings? Sendings off? Controversy?

That’s the funny thing. When we dredged the report from the Evening News of the game from the archive it was all so innocuous. Nothing much happened in a tame 0-0 draw in front of a crowd of 14,900. However, on the following Tuesday the club received a letter from league secretary Alan Hardaker asking for the reasons for the ‘low marking’ of Mr Daniels’ performance. He’d been given 1 [one] out of ten...


Cripes! I thought you got at least four, provided you were wearing the right kit and everything!

‘One’ does seem a tad harsh for sure.  A couple of days later the club’s General Manager George Smith - who would have been in charge of the team that day - replied and we have the carbon copy in the archive.

EFL Letter 1969

What did it say?

Smith felt Mr Daniels was ‘prone to do too much whistling’ although, to be fair, that’s an occupational hazard for referees. He also came in for criticism about his ‘interpretations of the laws [of the game]’ which ‘left a lot to be desired’ and ‘failed’ in terms of ‘confidence and efficiency, personality etc’. Smith concluded that it was only the ‘correct attitude’ of the players which ‘saved the situation’. 

Read the reply here - 

G Smith letter to FL

That ‘etc’ sounds like it’s doing some heavy lifting...

Quite. Tall and thin, Brian, to give him his name, was a regular official of Pompey games from the late 1960s until the 1980s. ‘A married man, with two sons’, according to his pen picture, he also had hobbies of ‘ballroom dancing’ and ‘coarse fishing’ and took an interest in ‘local junior football and organises charity games’. Sounds like an all-round good guy. Given the absence of any other evidence, we’re going to put Smith’s tetchiness down to the fact Pompey had started the season with three home defeats in five games and this goalless draw was their second at home on the trot...


This article was included in the match programme for Hull City in January 2021.

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