Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Referee Correct to Disallow Goal by Bournemouth

Much has been said about the injustice, and the appearance of injustice, to Bournemouth in their match against Liverpool on Monday 17th August 2015. However, the injustice of Christian Benteke's winning goal—which should have been called offside and wasn't—does not mean that there was also an injustice to Tommy Elphick's goal, which referee Craig Pawson correctly disallowed.

The media and Bournemouth wrongly believe that Bournemouth had two major decisions go against them ... when in fact it was only one.

Here are the freeze frames of the Cherries' disallowed goal:

Bournemouth's Tommy Elphick (black 5) fouls Liverpool's Dejan Lovren (red 6) to head the ball

Elphick clearly does not believe he did anything wrong as he headed the ball into the Liverpool net in the 11th minute, saying:
"It is really frustrating. I wouldn't like to be doing the referee's job. I got up ahead of him (Dejan Lovren), obviously you have to use your arms as leverage."
Is it obvious that players have to use their arms as leverage? No!

Referees know that if a player uses his arms against an opponent to prevent him from jumping, then it is an offence. Elphick effectively pushed his opponent down, which is a foul.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Are ex-Referee Graham Poll's Views Relevant Anymore?

With the start of the 2015-16 EPL season referee Michael Oliver, who officiated Chelsea's 2-2 draw with Swansea, demonstrated why he is possibly the best referee currently in the premiership. Ex-EPL referee Graham Poll praised Oliver but then said something that seriously jarred against modern-day refereeing principles.

Referee Michael Oliver sends off Chelsea's Thibaut Courtois for DOGSO. Pic AP.

In his column Poll said: "Michael Oliver was right to award Swansea a penalty against Chelsea... but Thibaut Courtois did not deserve a straight red card".
He based his reasoning by insisting that "For DOGSO, the ball must be heading towards goal and, as replays show, it was not."

This is a very traditional, rigid and non-progressive take on DOGSO and I do not know of any referee instructors who still stick to this, especially at the highest levels. The problem is perhaps because Graham Poll no longer teaches in refereeing circles, and therefore is no longer up to date with the best current refereeing practices. Therefore, are Poll's views about referees relevant anymore?

Thankfully, the FA review panel rejected Chelsea's ill-advised and frivolous appeal against Courtois' red card and upheld the one-match ban.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Whose Blunder Is It Anyway?

Media reports have accused a Chinese goalkeeper of making a serious mistake. Sui Weijie's club Lifan has also fined him 50,000 yuan (about US$8,000) and faces a suspension. However, a bigger mistake was made by the match officials ... what was it?

Liaoning players (red) take a quick free kick against Lifan (white) in the Chinese Super League

You can see the video here (or watch below)

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 May, 2015

Quenching his thirst while on duty proved costly for Chongqing Lifan goalkeeper Sui Weijie, who has been fined for sipping water as their opponents equalised in a Chinese Super League match.
Relegation-threatened Lifan were leading 1-0 seven minutes from time in Sunday’s match when hosts Liaoning took a quick free-kick and midfielder Ding Haifeng darted past a group of static defenders before slotting the ball into an empty net, with Sui stood motionless drinking next to the goal post.

Lifan have since slapped Sui with a 50,000 yuan fine and he faces suspension.

Alternative angle

"I made a terrible mistake in Sunday’s game and let go a full three points," Sui, who was confronted by Lifan supporters at Liaoning’s Shenyang Airport on Monday, was quoted as saying.

"I won’t repeat the same mistake and will never lose concentration."

And Sui is unlikely to be a popular man in the dressing room - management had promised players a 1 million yuan bonus for a win, which was reduced to 400,000 since they only drew.

Sui was questioned by the ICAC in 2010 while playing in Hong Kong for Happy Valley in a match-fixing scandal, but never charged. 

Monday, 18 May 2015

Rational Ref: Colourful shirts undermine a match official's authority, or do they?

Colourful shirts undermine a match official's authority, or do they?

Colourful shirts undermine a match official's authority, or do they?

 Australia's NRL referees will no longer wear pink jerseys. Photo: Getty Images

The term "Men in Black" is more likely to conjure up images of Will Smith blasting aliens into outer space rather than referees carding players off the soccer pitch. That's because the game's leading law enforcers are mostly kitted out in lemon yellow, lipstick red, sherbet blue and even fuchsia pink.

Over in the rugby world, Australia's NRL referees have ditched their colourful shirts claiming their "Pretty In Pink" tops undermine their authority. Even though rugby referees command far better respect from players, there could be some truth to their feelings of insecurity based on the colour of their shirts.

Rugby referees will now wear dark blue or black uniforms that, according to Tom Heenan from the National Centre for Australian Studies, are more likely to encourage discipline.

"One of the arguments is a stronger colour denotes a more disciplined culture, so therefore a navy blue would promote more discipline than a pink," Heenan said.

But psychologist Chris Pomfret of Condor Performance said there was no evidence the colour of a referee's uniform made any difference to how he was perceived. "I'm not aware of any evidence the colour pink would make any difference to how an official is perceived by the people they are officiating over, the crowd, coaches or any other observers," said Pomfret.

He said by agreeing to scrap the pink jersey this suggested the NRL was too concerned with what players, coaches and supporters thought of referees.

Arsenal's Alexis Sanchez (right) tries to place the ball past Crystal Palace goalkeeper Julian Speroni. Keepers who wear bright shirts increase their chances of putting off opponents. Photo: EPA  
"The colour of a uniform is irrelevant to the skill execution of referees, just the same as the colour of a jersey worn by players is irrelevant to their skill execution," he said. "In short, the colour of a uniform shouldn't matter as it doesn't directly impact on the performance of a referee, which ultimately has the most influence on their perceived credibility."

Scientific evidence suggests otherwise. Rugby referees are on to something and soccer referees can benefit from this kind of knowledge, too.

The science of colour psychology reveals that goalkeepers who wear bright flamboyant shirts may be better off than those wearing boring duller tops.

By heightening their opponents' perception levels, goalkeepers make themselves appear bigger than they really are. Goalkeepers wearing outlandish kits thus increase their chances of putting off their opponents who have only a split second to squeeze the ball past them and into the goal.

Liverpool's Daniel Sturridge (left) controls the ball as Blackburn's Adam Henley looks on. Photo: AP 
There is another a study that showed teams taking penalty kicks performed worst when the winning team's goalkeeper wore red, which appears to be a powerful colour for players.

In England, records since the second world war reveal teams wearing red have averaged higher league positions and have won more league championships than teams wearing other colours.
Also in cities with more than one team, the teams wearing red outperformed their rivals wearing other colours. Manchester United and Liverpool spring immediately to mind. In Hong Kong, South China are the most successful local club side ever.

New York Cosmos' forward Raul Gonzalez (centre) vies with South China Football Club's Chak Ting-fung and Bojan Malisic during the Lunar New Year Cup. Photo: EPA 
In 1996, Alex Ferguson famously changed his team's grey away kit at half-time following a humiliating 3-0 onslaught by Southampton. Wearing blue in the second half, they lost 3-1. Of five games ever played in their grey kit, United lost four and drew one.

Would the public (and criminals) take police and prison guards seriously if their uniforms were bright pink or fluorescent green? Of course not.

Referees should be known again as the Men in Black. Instead of referees having to change their shirt colours due to kit clashes with teams, organisers should insist all teams including their keepers do not wear black kits. Ultimately, whatever colour they wear, referees in the modern era still need all the help they can get to become more commanding and effective on the pitch.

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 12 March, 2015

UPDATE: Men dressed in red perceived as being more aggressive, study finds

Sunday, 10 May 2015

Rational Ref: Chelsea's masters of the dark arts highlight a win-at-all-costs mentality

Chelsea's masters of the dark arts highlight a win-at-all-costs mentality

Chelsea's siege on Kuipers shows intimidation and bullying are acceptable in quest for glory
In sport what is more important: playing the game or playing games? Nowhere else but in soccer is this distinction more apparent, with plenty of cheating and gamesmanship instead of genuine sportsmanship and model behaviour.

Chelsea's siege on Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers during their Champions League exit to Paris Saint-Germain last week comes as no huge surprise. It is simply the logical consequence of the ugly, unethical and underhanded approach that has been allowed to fester and flourish to alarming levels.
The dark arts—comprising cheating, provocation, intimidation, faking injury and childish behaviour—is now so endemic it is considered the main source of entertainment, with media reports barely touching on the final score and team performances.

In one camp, John Terry, Jose Mourinho, Gary Neville and others believe the dark arts are entirely acceptable, whereas the likes of Graeme Souness, Jamie Carragher and most referees prefer a cleaner, honest and straightforward approach. Spectators will probably support whichever camp so long as it benefits their favourite team.

 Zlatan Ibrahimovic gestures to the referee after a tackle on Chelsea midfielder Oscar, who appeared badly hurt, but was on his feet moments after a red card was issued. Photo: AFP   

Chelsea captain Terry defended his hounding of referees, saying: "Every other side is as bad as each other."

"It's part of the game. Once they're charging the ref, the only thing we can do is respond. You can't as a group of players let them surround the ref, trying to get our players booked. Once I go [to influence the referee], four or five go with me. It doesn't look good, but that's part of the game."

Mourinho, obviously, backs his captain since he instils this kind of attitude in all the teams he has coached. As a manager, he upholds his reputation as the master of dark arts, with eye gouging a particular speciality.

In contrast, Souness labelled Chelsea players "pathetic" for their antics. Souness, who cemented his reputation at Liverpool as a tough but honest player, harks back to the old-fashioned era when sportsmanship and camaraderie took priority over rivalry and winning at all costs.

However, in the modern era of professional athletes and ludicrous salaries, the game's values have become ridiculously warped.

When Oscar was apparently seriously injured in his clash with Zlatan Ibrahimovic, notice how none of the Chelsea players showed any genuine concern to the well-being of their Brazilian teammate.

Not one of them went to see how Oscar was because they were all focused on pressuring the referee. Oscar was exaggerating the seriousness of his injury and as soon as Ibrahimovic was sent off, he was back on his feet as if nothing had happened.

Suppose you and a friend are involved in a car crash with another driver, what would be the natural reaction? Would you be jumping and screaming at the traffic policeman to reprimand the driver causing the accident or would you be more concerned about your friend?
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho, a 'master of the dark arts'? Photo: AP

Chelsea's behaviour reveals the sad, twisted values that have taken over the game, where gaining a favourable decision is more important than the safety of teammates and fellow professionals.

In a match I refereed recently, two players jumped up for the ball and collided in a fair challenge, with one player apparently coming off worse for wear. Because he screamed loudly and made a big fuss about having an injury to his face, I whistled to stop play so he could be checked.

When I told him there was no foul, he became even more animated and miraculously forgot about his so-called "injury".

As a referee, I was more concerned about his safety. However, this player was all about getting a free kick for himself and a card for his opponent.
Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard summed up the game's warped value systems by saying: "I think it's normal when you play games at that level. Players and managers want to win so much - players will try every trick in the book to try to get over the line and win matches.

"We've all been guilty of it throughout our careers by not always abiding by the rules."

The only way to appreciate this sentiment is that if we have all been taught to value only the destination and not to care about the journey in the "beautiful" game.

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 19 March, 2015

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Rational Ref: McManaman tackle exposes flaws in retrospective action

McManaman tackle exposes flaws in retrospective action

FA's mishandling of Wigan player's challenge puts safety at risk, shows system needs review

Wigan's Callum McManaman horror tackle on Massadio Haidara. Pic Focus Images

The most horrible factor about the 2012-2013 season's worst challenge, by Callum McManaman of Wigan, is not the tackle itself, but the fact it has been surpassed by an even worse scenario: the FA's pathetic, retrospective review of the incident.

In incidents where a major injustice has occurred on the pitch and where match officials have, for whatever reasons, shown they have not properly dealt with the offence, taking retrospective action is a sensible process. It protects players, supports referees and safeguards the image of the game. It allows justice to be, and seen to be, done.

Unfortunately, the FA's challenge turned out to be a feeble sidestepping of the issue. The FA used a technicality to excuse itself from not taking retrospective action against 21-year-old McManaman for his awful tackle on Newcastle's 20-year-old defender Massadio Haidara.

It exposes serious flaws in the system and is not limited to England since all around the world, including Hong Kong, the retrospective review system is often ineffective. It doesn't successfully protect players, match officials or the image of the game. In hindsight, the retrospective review process needs to be reviewed itself, for justice's sake.

Here is the FA's statement on the McManaman incident: "Where one of the officials has seen a coming together of players, no retrospective action should be taken, regardless of whether he or she witnessed the full or particular nature of the challenge. This is to avoid the re-refereeing of incidents."

Referee Mark Halsey was honest enough to admit that he did not see the incident. Due to 51-year-old Halsey's poor positioning, his view of McManaman's challenge was blocked by another player. However, assistant referee Matthew Wilkes admitted seeing the "coming together" of the players and the FA has shamelessly used this as an excuse for not taking retrospective action against McManaman.

First, the claim that the FA wishes to avoid re-refereeing incidents is hypocritical. They do it often and they do it to undermine the credibility of match officials. For instance earlier this year, the FA rescinded referee Mike Dean's red card for Manchester City's Vincent Kompany. That is the very definition of re-refereeing.

Second, the FA's ignorance regarding the poor accuracy and credibility of the witness' view is embarrassing. Just because a linesman saw the incident does not mean he had a "good, near and clear view" to make a competent decision. In fact, the distance between the linesman and McManaman's challenge was at least 32 metres coupled to the reality that his main priorities lie elsewhere on the field. We know the linesman made a poor decision in assisting Halsey, so why not allow a retrospective review? If the FA is so willing to re-referee, say, Dean's perfectly clear and competent decision to send off Kompany, then why is it less enthused about re-refereeing the poor decision not to send off McManaman on the basis that the linesman vaguely saw the "coming together" of two players from a distance of over 35 yards?

Justice has not prevailed and the FA is seen to be hiding behind excuses. Newcastle, clearly outraged, officially announced the FA's disciplinary process to be "not fit for purpose" and have demanded a change in the rule that allowed McManaman to escape sanction.

If there is no perceived justice, then fans will be angry and jump at the chance to form their own kangaroo courts. Players, too, will sense the injustice and may take matters on themselves on the pitch.

In McManaman's case, he will be jeered in future matches particularly by Newcastle supporters and, as is the nature of the game, when he eventually falls victim to a nasty tackle, there inevitably will be those who will cheer and claim that it is "justice" served. No one deserves an injury or to be put at risk of danger, but because the public perception is that McManaman has escaped a previous sanction then these very real human feelings may come to the fore among some fans. Therefore, the FA urgently needs to demonstrate that its retrospective review system is "fit for purpose". As it stands, the FA's mishandling of McManaman's challenge has endangered player safety, left match officials out to dry and tarnished the image of the game.

In the modern professional era, on the pitch there are 22 millionaire mercenaries all trying to harass, hound and hoodwink a standard salaryman referee trying his utmost to be correct, impartial and consistent. Since video replays are unacceptable in a game, the post-match retrospective review is the second-best means available to sanction players, act as a deterrent to unsavoury behaviour and ultimately protect the image of the game.

However, competition organisers around the world are failing the game with their pathetic process of retrospective reviews.

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 March, 2013

POST ARTICLE: Have things changed at the FA?

Sunday, 12 April 2015

Rational Ref: Professionals must remember only the ref can stop a match

Professionals must remember only the ref can stop a match

Professionals need to remember that only the referee can stop a match, even when a player goes down injured

Whatever happened to "play to the whistle"? By taking matters into their own hands and stopping play, players are only putting themselves in the dock, on the block, and up the proverbial garden path.

When a player apparently suffers an injury during play, referees are the only ones who have the authority to decide whether or not to stop a match. Players ignore this at their peril.

Tuesday's (20 November 2012) controversial goal by Shakhtar Donetsk against Nordsjaelland in the Champions League is a prime example. When a Nordsjaelland player went down injured, players voluntarily stopped play in the middle of the park. After the player had been taken off the pitch to receive treatment, the referee restarted play with a drop ball. It was uncontested and Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Willian gently booted the ball back to his opponents' half. However, Willian's teammate, Brazilian Luiz Adriano, apparently did not realise a sporting gesture was being played out, and so ran on to the "pass" to the amazement of the static Nordsjaelland defenders, rounded the dismayed goalkeeper, and promptly scored.

Uefa has now charged Adriano with unsporting behaviour and he has been suspended for their next Champions League match (for "violation of the principles of conduct").

There are many levels of inquiry here, and one easy solution. First, in return for what most people perceive to be an unsporting goal, why did the Shakhtar Donetsk defenders refuse to allow their opponents a walk-in goal immediately after that misunderstanding?

"Half their team seemed to think [it would be fair], but the other half didn't," Nordsjaelland captain Nicolai Stokholm said. At that moment, Shakhtar Donetsk had no leader to tell the whole team what they should do. This would explain the team's mixed stance.

It also explains how seriously some players take their profession, with many having differing interpretations of how sporting behaviour fits into the game, if at all.

Second, why was Adriano seemingly unrepentant about his actions? "It was instinct, I see the ball and I dribbled and I scored a goal," he said. Adriano is basically saying a professional soccer player is supposed to win matches. Does this mindset override sporting gestures such as stopping play for an injured opponent?

Third, why did players stop play in first place? How did they know the player was injured and not faking injury? Are players trained in medical triage? With all these risks, why would professional players compromise themselves by taking up the referee's responsibility? It's not simply a matter of being sporting, since stopping play can also be trying to gain "brownie points" in the public eye.

And, why did the players not kick the ball out of play? They just stopped and looked around aimlessly, which reveals they really did not know what to do and were probably seeking guidance. Therefore, they should always "play to the whistle".

Players stopping play first came to prominence at the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, when Belgium played Spain in the quarter-finals. Even in the baking summer heat, and having to play extra time, whenever a player from any team went down his opponents would refuse to take advantage, and instead opted to kick the ball out of play. This was genuine and sincere "fair play".

But things have moved on since then, most notably professionalism and monetary rewards have brought increased cynicism and gamesmanship to the modern game.

This is why it is important to let one person, the match referee, decide whether or not to call a halt when a player is apparently injured. Referees will stop play only if, in their opinion, a player is seriously injured. A serious injury is something of the magnitude of a broken limb. However, judging by many players' reactions, it would seem a little knock or slap is plenty enough to stop a match.

At the amateur and parks level, stopping the game works beautifully for almost any injury, either real or apparent. But at the competitive and professional level, it is best left to the man in the middle to decide whether or not to stop play. This prevents players from duping opponents.

Remember the 2010 World Cup final between the Netherlands and Spain? No love was lost in this ultimately competitive match. With Spain eventually taking a 1-0 lead during extra-time, the Netherlands were frantically trying to find the equalizer. In the 120th minute, Spain's Fernando Torres pulled up apparently with a hamstring injury. The sporting thing to do would have been to kick the ball out of play. History shows the Netherlands did not give a fig about sportsmanship, as they continued to attack Spain's goal.

This week's lesson: At the professional level, sportsmanship is for suckers.

PUBLISHED : Friday, 23 November, 2012