Seven top-flight referees and one fourth official have become Catholic bishops in protest at the admission of female linesman to the English Premier League. They will continue to officiate at football matches, but will now be dressed in the vestments of the Church of Rome rather than the traditional black shirt and shorts.
The controversial debate centres on a fundamental tenet of faith that at the moment of communion the priest becomes the living spirit of Jesus Christ who was a man, and who therefore would have definitely understood the off-side law. ‘It states clearly in the Bible, And lo, let no man pass the ball to an attacking player lest there be at least one defender between him and the goal,’ said Bishop Mike Dean. ‘Oh unless he is deemed to be inactive in the first phase of play or something, something. Amen. Anyway, the Bible is very clear on this.’
The referee bishops say that the switch will not affect their ability to officiate at matches, except that they won’t be able to run quite as fast wearing cassocks and a mitre. There may also be slight adjustments to the sanctions; for a two footed tackle; a player will no longer get a red card but will be asked to say ten ‘hail Marys’ and be told to go in peace. ‘Also if we have a quiet word with a team captain, it will be done in the confession box through a lattice screen and we won’t actually know who it is we are talking to.’
The female linesman at the centre of the storm said in a brief statement that she hopes that the controversy will soon blow over and that she will ultimately be judged on how she performs on the touchline; prompting Andy Gray to say ‘All right love, don’t go on about it, bloody hell, it must be her time of the month or something…’