SWINDON Town head coach Ben Garner said the officiating during Saturday’s 2-1 win over Newport County was so bad that both he and opposite number James Rowberry were laughing at points.

In a game that was eventually won by Jack Payne’s powerful effort from outside the box, Town could have been awarded three penalties throughout the 90 minutes while Newport’s goal may have been ruled out for a handball in the build-up.

A series of bemusing decisions by referee James Bell littered the contest and left both head coaches scratching their heads at the end of a fascinating affair.

Asked to comment on the standard of refereeing against Newport, Garner said: “That was bad. If you asked James (Rowberry), we were actually having a little chuckle on the side at points because it was so bad, it was comical. And that’s frustrating in many ways because you just want the game refereed well.

“I thought the way [Newport] played was excellent, it was a good League Two game, but the officiating didn’t help that.

“It needs to improve for the sake of the paying supporters and for the standard of the league. It needs to be assessed and improved so that the game is as good as it can be.”

The poor performance of the officiating team against Newport was not a one-off in Garner’s eyes – the Town boss has commented on referees more than once so far this season.

But Swindon’s head coach feels there is a fairly simple answer to questions surrounding how to upgrade the standard of officiating in the EFL.

Garner said: “I think putting more money into refereeing would help.

“I don’t know if there’s been a knock-on effect from the introduction of VAR because more officials have had to go up due to having the referee on the match day as well as the VAR pair in the studio.

“Whether that’s had a knock-on effect with more going up to the Premier League and watering down the EFL referees, I don’t know.

“But ultimately, it’s about money. These referees are part-time – they’re working a full-time job during the week, and you don’t know what kind of stress they’re under at work. So the more full-time professionals we can get into the game, the better.

“They need support and help, and we need to put systems in place to do that – ultimately, I think there is enough money in the game in this country to do that.”