It is his first season in League One, and ex-Premier League and Championship star Joey Barton has dubbed the standard of refereeing in the third tier “abysmal”.
Barton, in his first managerial role at Fleetwood, has been so concerned by the refereeing that he is considering reaching out to the head of referees.
Barton feels the officials missed an offside in the build-up to AFC Wimbledon’s winner on the opening day and a foul ahead of Rochdale’s last-gasp leveller.
And following Wes Burns’ red card against Bradford and the failure to show Sunderland’s Adam Matthews a second yellow card when he brought down James Husband to concede a penalty, Barton has become more concerned with the decision-making.
And now centre-half Cian Bolger’s red card against Leicester U21s on Tuesday has left the Town boss feeling the need to speak out.
Starting with this weekend’s visit of Accrington Stanley, Barton says he will be joining his captain in speaking to the referee before the game.
He said: “I have to say I have been concerned with the standard of refereeing to the point where I’m going to start going in with my capain before the game.
“The standard of refereeing on the whole in our games has been abysmal. I know they are not full- time but they know the rules of the game.”
Of the Matthews incident, he said: “I spoke to the referee. You are trying to do it in the most civil manner you possibly can but you cannot get big calls like that wrong.
“The ref should send their player off for the pen. They should be down to 10. They are the rules of the game.”
However, Bolger was sent off in Tuesday’s Checkatrade Trophy draw when conceding a penalty for a foul on Ryan Loft.
Barton said: “The ref said to me he would not have sent Cian off if he’d tried to make a slide tackle. I said: ‘He did not even try to make a tackle!’ He tried to get goalside of the player to clear the ball. You can’t give a pen and send him off.”
Barton felt play should have been stopped anyway because of Harrison Biggins’ head injury.
He added: “Harrison was down with a head injury and he would have been in the middle of the park to intercept the ball.
“Their player has not maliciously struck him but has hit him in the face with an elbow.
“He goes down holding his face. The linesman is two yards away, the referee is 12 yards away. It’s wrong to allow the game to flow when you know a player is down with a head injury.
“I thought the referee in the Bradford game was poor. The (Burns) sending-off was a poor sending-off.
“I thought he was poor in general play and I need to seriously consider speaking to the head of the referees about it.
“The law of averages says at some point you will get a good referee who referees the game fairly.
“We aren’t asking for advantages, just to referee the game within the laws.
“In the League Cup tie at Leicester, they tell us they were going to use VAR in a certain way. When we get to the ground it is not used in that way. It just adds to the confusion.
“If there is a responsibility on us to conduct ourselves in a certain way in the technical area, then there is a responsibility for the referees to do their job properly.
“We have had better ones but on the whole I’ve found the standard of refereeing so far very, very poor.”
Barton’s men are second-bottom of the fair play league table with that Burns red card and 22 yellows from their opening seven games.
Only Charlton have a worse disciplinary record and Barton said: “We need to tighten up. We have spoken to a couple of players about bookings.
“Ash Hunter is on about four bookings. He has taken a couple for the team but we have to be mindful. Cairnsy (goalkeeper Alex Cairns) has a couple.
“You do not want to be down to 10 men because it gives sides a huge advantage.
“We got lucky in the Bradford game in terms of how we dealt with the sending-off but you do not want to be doing that every game.
“But I think Cian is very unfortunate to be sent off. He does not make a mistake and tries to get goal-side, but unfortunately it looks like he has just nipped the lad and he goes down.
“I think it is just the lads being competitive. Maybe the refs are being a little bit trigger happy because they have all watched the World Cup. They all come back and decide everything is a yellow card.
“How can Sunderland not have Matthews sent off on Saturday but then they can’t wait to get a red card out for Bolger?”