By Chris Harris
Arsène Wenger has a novel idea to keep referees out of pre-match discussions - keep their identity a secret until the day of the game.
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson has been charged with improper conduct by the Football Association after making comments about Howard Webb ahead of his team's 2-1 win over Chelsea last weekend.
Ferguson was complimentary about the World Cup referee but he broke FA rules which state that no manager can speak about an official prior to a match.
The irony of the situation made Wenger chuckle at his pre-match press conference on Friday. "They are not used to him [Ferguson] being complimentary - it was a shock to the FA!" he remarked, adding that the charge was misjudged. But the Frenchman went on to propose a radical overhaul of the way referees are selected.
"I personally believe that you should not know the name of the referee before the game anyway," said Wenger. "It should be a draw 48 hours before the game for anybody and nobody should know who is refereeing what game.
"That would keep everybody out of any problems before the game. In the professional game it should be systematically a draw two days before the game.
"Before the game I don't like comments about the referee, personally. You have never heard me saying anything about a referee before the game.
"After, I can understand that a manager should have a bit of freedom to express his opinions because the frustration is sometimes so big. But before the game you have to give the referee every chance to go with clear ideas and without any pressure to any game."
It was put to Wenger that his proposal would be difficult to adopt for geographical reasons and because some officials might support certain clubs. But the Frenchman had an answer to that.
"England is not a massive country where you have a problem to move," he said.
"If the referees are identified to support a certain club you can keep them out of the draw but I believe it would be the best way to take any suspicion away and to give some power to people who name the referees for each game.
"It should be exactly the same in Europe because there were problems before Barcelona played Real Madrid with the nomination of the referee.
"If it was a draw, you rule out maybe some referees, and then they appear on the day of the game and you don't know who they are. Because history is full of controversial situations, especially in Europe."Copyright 2017 The Arsenal Football Club plc. Permission to use quotations from this article is granted subject to appropriate credit being given to www.arsenal.com as the source