The Respect Programme, - the FA's programme of activities to combat unacceptable behaviour in football at every level - on the pitch and from the sidelines - is this morning in tatters, after a ridiculous blunder by the linesman in last weekend's Championship fixture between Watford and Reading.
Nigel Bannister, the buffoon in question, told ref Stuart Atwell that Reading had scored, when in fact the ball had innocuously crossed the dead-ball line four yards from the goal, and the correct decision should have been a corner.
The decision left everyone inside the ground mystified. Players, managers, coaching staff, fans, hooligans, stewards, birds watching on the stadium roof and the man in the hot dog van outside all looked on in bemusement as the Nutcase Linesman made his suspicious suspicions known.
The main aim of Respect is to promote better relations within the game by tackling abuse towards match officials, and to reduce the stream of referees leaving the game through that abuse. (Source: FA website)
The debacle at Watford has rendered it as flimsy as the paper it is written on though, and clubs are thought to be seeking a postponement of Respect, in favour of a return to the 'good old days', when referees were routinely baracked and swore at, and a plethora of traditional songs were sung, which centred around the officials' background, parentage (or lack of it), and his personal life activities, and particularly ones that might take place in a bathroom when he was on his own and feeling a bit randy.
Paul Rejer, the Assistant Referee's Manager, speaking after Saturday's shambolic incident at Vicarage Road had gone global, said:
"Nigel Bannister made an error. We acknowledge that, and will endeavour to prevent this kind of thing in the future. In Nigel's defence, he says it was an optical illusion brought on by the different colours of the pl;ayers shirts. It was like a Kaleidoscope!"
Watford boss Aidy Boothroyd, ever the respectful, consummate professional, said:
"What a knobhead!"