Friday 2 September 2011

Passing on the Backpass Rule

The following incidents occurred during the EPL match between Liverpool and Bolton on Saturday 27 August 2011. The match finished 3—1.

Incident One: Handball outside Penalty Area

In the 44th minute, with Liverpool leading 1—0, Bolton's Gretar Rafn Steinsson (white #2) deliberately handled the ball.

Obviously, Liverpool players claimed it was inside the penalty area and wanted a penalty. Referee Probert had a clear and unobstructed view to make his call. It was a great call.

Incident Two: Foul inside Penalty Area

In the 47th minute with Liverpool leading 1—0, Bolton's Zat Knight used his hand to bring down Liverpool's Luis Suarez in the penalty area.

If Referee Lee Probert did not believe it was a penalty, should he have cautioned Suarez for simulation?

Zat Knight gives a cheeky smile when he realizes he got away with his sneaky swipe on Luis Suarez

The fact that Referee Probert did nothing, especially since Suarez was claiming a penalty, demonstrates poor officiating.

Incident Three: Backpass

In the 74th minute with Liverpool leading 3—0, Bolton's Paul Robinson kicks the ball back to his goalkeeper Jussi Jaaskelainen, who handles the ball.

Bolton defender Robinson (white) deliberately kicks the ball back to his goalkeeper (orange)

Again, the fact that Referee Probert did nothing demonstrates poor officiating.


If a Referee sees an incident and incorrectly interprets the Law (e.g. Mike Jones and the Beach Ball incident), then that is considered a major blunder.

Lee Probert saw a Bolton defender kick the ball, deliberately, to his goalkeeper, who then handled the ball (Incident Three). But Lee Probert did not consider this to be a backpass. It will be interesting to know what Probert's response is to the match assessor about this incident (just as it would be interesting to know what Mike Jones' response was to the Beach Ball incident). Unfortunately, it is unlikely these responses will ever be made public.

In addition, Referee Probert saw an incident in the penalty area (Incident Two) but did not do anything. This again shows an incorrect interpretation of the Law.

So, did Lee Probert have a good game?

According to ex-EPL Referee Graham Poll:
"Probert was excellent in refereeing Liverpool’s win over Bolton. There was a borderline handball by Steinsson right on the edge of the penalty area. Probert was perfectly positioned to see that the offence was just outside – a great call."

In isolation, yes Incident One was a great call. But in the context of the match, did Probert get the big calls right? Did Probert interpret the Laws correctly? Incidents Two and Three showed that Probert performed unsatisfactory, particularly because he is a professional referee who sets the benchmark for the rest of us.

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