May 03, 2004


Today was the day. The home leg of the Nationwide Conference semi-final. We drew 1-1 at Aldershot and now it was time to show the what the team with the most goals and the longest winning streak in the Conference could do on their home pitch.

Most teams play against 11 men. Seems fair. 11 vs. 11. Aldershot played with 12. That 12th man was Andy Woolmer. I have never seen one person contribute so much to a team's performance. He was so special he even wore a different uniform. Whilst the rest of the Aldershot team wore red, Woolmer wore all black. He was clearly the man of the match. They couldn't have done it without him, and he didn't even touch the ball.

From the 21st minute Hereford were clearly outnumbered 10 to 12. That was when Andy Tretton was sent off as a result of an Oscar-worthy acting performance by Aaron McLean. Had McLean's acting been believable, Tretton should have gotten nothing more than a yellow card. Even Aldershot's manager commented, "A lot of referees would not have given that. If that had been one of my boys sent off like that then I would have been screaming and shouting."

From then on, it was clear that Andy Woolmer was playing for Aldershot. For the rest of the half, the crowd that had been loudly singing was loudly booing. It was like a black cloud came over the Edgar Street stadium. From that moment many people in the crown realised that 91 points, the most consecutive wins, and tying the Conference record for the number of goals in a season was all for nothing.

We had three more players booked for the tiniest of fouls and another for expressing his disbelief at one of these bookings. Aldershot clearly handled the ball three times. Remember, this is the kind of football where using your hands is a no-no. Aldershot would seem to be exempt from this rule. One of these handballs was in the penalty box, which should have given us a penalty kick. To quote the official Nationwide Conference website match report, "Referee Woolmer also infuriated Hereford fans by his failure to award a late spot-kick when Tim Sills clearly handled a cross from Tony James."

I did not agree with the comments of those in the stands who suggested that Mr Woolmer had invested a large sum with the bookmakers contingent on the outcome. Yet is does seem incomprehensible that one man could be so incompetent.

We held off their 12 with our 10 for 100 minutes. 90 minutes of scoreless regulation were followed by two 15-minute overtime period. Eventually it had to be decided by penalties. Aldershot won those 4-2.

If this was a one-off occurrance of a ref completely losing the plot, it would be one thing. But when I got home, I decided to do a little research. I have to say that Andy Woolmer has quite a reputation.

In March, Shrewbury Town beat Woking 1-0. However in both the Shrewsbury and Woking newspapers, the articles about the game were really articles about Andy Woolmer. The hometown rag of the winners, the Shropshire Star begins with: "It was very kind of referee Andy Woolmer to try and brighten up a mundane midweek match at the Meadow with his one-man comedy show." It goes on to use the terms muppet, wacky, pedantic, fussy, ropy, and "the man in the muddle". And that was what the winners had to say.

It's not his only poor performance at Edgar Street this year. Hereford only lost 4 home matches all season. Who refereed one of them? You guessed it. Andy Woolmer. Again, as the official Conference website match report states: "And referee Andy Woolmer also left an unwanted impression on the game," though it cites 2 red cards and 5 yellows, when the stats note a total of 10 yellow cards (two of which were second bookable offenses and resulted in the 2 reds).

He's bad enough that club managers, who face fines and other penalties for saying anything disparaging about referee, have been speaking out all season. This includes everyone from the manager of champions Chester City to another opponent of Aldershot Town that lost two points (in other words, a win became a draw) on the award of a dodgy penalty.

You may be thinking "what's the big deal - it's only a game". No, really, it's not. People's livelihoods are at stake. Not just the the folks that work for the club. Football brings money into the local economy. The bigger the club and the higher the division, the bigger the economic stake.

Andy Woolmer cost Hereford United and the local economy many, many thousands of pounds. Possibly millions of pounds. You'd think he'd understand this, because the crowd indicated he was involved in the financial services industry. They kept chanting in unison, "The referee's a banker!" Or at least it rhymed with that. I can't be sure.

I can be sure that Andy Woolmer needs to take off his whistle and little black outfit and sit at home and watch football from the comfort of his easy chair. We can't afford for him to do anything else.

Posted by david at May 3, 2004 11:06 PM | TrackBack