Two leading Maccabi referees have called on league officials to scrap the controversial change to Jewish football’s national cup competition, which allows north and south sides to be drawn against each other from the first round.
Following on from last week’s Jewish News article which reported how several managers had called the Peter Morrison Cup ‘a farce’ over the change, Martin Fox, the league’s head referee, and Martin Lavender, the longest serving referee in the league, have both said they believe the competition should revert back to its previous format.
Speaking in a frank, wide-ranging interview about refereeing in the MGBSFL and Jewish football in general, to be published in soon in Jewish News, both men reveal how they think introducing the change was a mistake.
Fox said: “I understand the logic. They wanted to revamp it, to get a bit more excitement into it, but it’s backfired big time. I wasn’t there at the meeting [to vote it in], I wish I was. I don’t know how the vote went, but I definitely wouldn’t have voted for it and I think it will change back next season.”
Lavender said: “My view is the Peter Morrison was always the one big tournament and there was an excitement when you got to the quarter, semi or final. When you thought you were going to play one of the sides up north, a team would make a big day of it going up there, or them coming down here, but they’ve taken that away.
“One of the managers made the point in saying, ‘it’s a second or third round game, you’re asking all my players to schlep up to Leeds or Manchester, a game that effectively doesn’t mean much to them.’ They’re probably not going to win it, so they need to go all the way there for a third round game, where’s the excitement in that?
“The other thing to consider is you go up there, beat whoever you play, and then realise you’re only in the fourth round. If you did it in the quarters, you think ‘great, we’re in the semi’s’.
“If I was playing now, there’d be no incentive for me to play a third round game up north. They say ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it, and I think they’ve broken it quite badly.’”
Critical of last week’s Jewish News report was the chairman of the National Football Committee, Laurence Thorne. He said: “The article didn’t help morale at all. When read by the general public, will paint a sad picture of national Jewish football.
“I hope this article doesn’t cause the Morrison Foundation to withdraw its most generous annual sponsorship. That would decimate this competition and I have to say, the way the press have got their teeth into this, sensationalising a very small entry percentage of disgruntled team’s issues and how you as a newspaper spread it over two editions, I find very disheartening.”
Believing the tournament remains in a strong position, he said “My committee work tirelessly hard, on a voluntary basis, to plan the competition. Apart from the omission of the four teams, the competition has again been welcomed by well over 30 teams this year and as far as I am concerned, is thriving.
“Of course teams have the right to vote with their feet before entering a competition but not once it’s started because it doesn’t fit in with their expectations, especially as they were fully aware they could have an away fixture in the north from the first round.
“Teams were aware of the change, had time to withdraw, to which there were very few who didn’t enter. I can’t understand how they’re surprised now when it was a fair expectation it could happen.”
Also saying how northern teams weren’t happy with southern sides pulling out of ties, he said: “I know the north were very angry about all the forfeits, but I expect 100 percent support from the north with them travelling down south in the next round.”
• The MGBSFL has announced that a minute’s silence will be held before each game on Sunday morning as a moment of respect, remembrance and reflection following the terrorist attack in Jerusalem on