Monday 31 August 2009

Indecisive Referee in Israel's Premier League

This bizarre incident happened on the evening of 22 August 2009 in the Israel Premier League between Maccabi Tel Aviv and Bnei Sakhnin.

The incident here shows that the assistant referee (AR) did not signal for offside. It is very tight but with the benefit of video replays it appears that one of the players (the yellow player who received and passed the ball on to the goalscorer) was offside. However normally in these situations, the Referee cannot do anything but trust his AR. How can the Referee do otherwise? The Referee should only be concerned with his AR’s view of things (unless the Referee does not feel comfortable with his AR, in which case the Referee can ask for a replacement AR). In addition, at the top levels of football, referees associations will always perform post-match analysis to see whether decisions were correct or not. Post-match analysis is always done with the objective of maintaining and improving the performance of match officials, and to help minimize potential errors in future matches.

Hence in this case, the Referee was justified to signal that a goal has been scored. Then, from what can be gathered from the video, strange things happened. First, even though the AR did not raise his flag for offside, the Referee changes his initial decision and indicates offside. Then, the Referee asked the 4th Official to consult with him and the AR. But rather than give his view to the Referee, the 4th Official is more concerned with signaling for a substitution. So the referee changes his mind again and indicates that he is awarding a goal. The Referee goes promptly to the centre circle. Despite the Referee requesting for the ball to be placed in the centre circle, no ball appears. Mayhem ensues. The Referee walks back to the touch line and again consults his AR and the 4th Official. This time, the 4th Official appears to tell the referee that it was offside (but how does the 4th Official know this?), so the Referee once again changes his mind and indicates offside. Not once did the AR raise his flag to indicate offside (from the video clip). It therefore appears that the Referee inexplicably took the 4th Official’s assessment and disregarded the AR’s. What are the factors that contributed to the Referee's indecisiveness?

We must remember that with the benefit of video replays it is always easier and less stressful to assess incidents. It is always more difficult and extra stressful to decide in the heat of the moment. Referees do not have the benefit of video replays; they only have one take of the incident in real time and then have to make a quick assessment and be decisive. If a Referee shows repeated indecisiveness, then credibility is likely to be lost.

Note: Did anyone notice, at the beginning and end of the clip, when the ball is in play at the far end (left) of the pitch, that there are no fans at that section of the stadium? All the fans seem to be concentrated at only one end of the stadium.

Reference: (Hebrew) Incident Keinan, Maccabi Tel Aviv 3:1 Bnei Sakhnin Israel Premier League (YouTube)

Saturday 29 August 2009

UEFA Enforces “Deceiving the Referee” Charge

Following a Champions League qualifying game between Arsenal and Celtic on Wednesday 26 August 2009 where Arsenal striker Eduardo da Silva appeared to dive to win a penalty, UEFA decided to use video evidence to examine the incident. Subsequently, UEFA has charged Eduardo for "deceiving the referee" (i.e. simulation). He faces a two-match ban when the UEFA control and disciplinary body meets on 1 September 2009.

The charge is based on Article 10, paragraph 1c of the UEFA disciplinary regulations (misconduct of players) which states:
"Players may be suspended for two competition matches, or for a specified period, for acting with the obvious intent to cause any match official to make an incorrect decision or supporting his error of judgment and thereby causing him to make an incorrect decision."

This case has highlighted again the debate about whether video evidence and technology should be used (at least at the highest levels of professional football), or whether human fallibility should be embraced by the professional game. Does anyone have any comments?

There is also the delicate matter of consistency. We have seen that there are regulations that do not allow Match Review Panels to review incidents that have already been addressed by the referee (as in the recent case involving Robbie Fowler), and then there are regulations that do allow incidents to be reviewed even though the referee has decided on the incident (Eduardo's case).

Related Posts
Violent Conduct by Nemanja Vidic?
Violent Conduct by Robbie Fowler
New Europa League will Trial "Five" Match Officials

Wenger angry at Eduardo charge (BBC Sport)
Arsenal VS Celtic 3-1 (YouTube)
UEFA President hails UEFA Europa League

Wednesday 26 August 2009

Violent Conduct by Nemanja Vidic?

In contrast to Robbie Fowler's violent conduct that was acknowledged during the match by the referee and therefore prevented any official match review, here's a recent incident of violent conduct that did escape the referee's attention and therefore may be reviewed. The incident happened during the match between Wigan Athletic and Manchester United on Saturday 22 August 2009.

[Referee Howard Webb's physical man management skills]

It was reported 23 August 2009 (a day after the match) that:

Manchester United centre back Nemanja Vidic is facing trial by TV after appearing to slap Wigan centre forward Hugo Rodallega. Tempers flared when the striker clattered into United keeper Ben Foster in an attempt to win the ball.

Last night the FA confirmed that they will look at the incident and Vidic could face a three-match ban.

As a result, Howard Webb the match referee was asked by the FA to give his view. After reviewing the replay of the incident, Webb has given Vidic the benefit of the doubt (innocent until proven guilty).

Webb reported that he had been following the play and had not noticed the two players come together but he also felt the television pictures were inconclusive and could not say he was certain it was a deliberate offence.

Referees like to be as certain as they can when giving decisions. Even a non-decision is a decision!

Vidic is left facing trial by television over Rodallega slap (Daily Mail)
Nemanja Vidic escapes punishment over Hugo Rodallega clash (Guardian)

Monday 24 August 2009

Violent Conduct by Robbie Fowler

Former Liverpool favourite Robbie Fowler, who is just two games into his first season in Australia's A-League, has escaped punishment after he retaliated by acrobatically placing his boot onto an opponent's neck and upper body. Fowler is captain of North Queensland Fury, who were beaten 5-0 by home side Gold Coast United on 15 August 2009. In the 85th minute, Fowler was charged down but managed to use his agility, guile and spatial awareness (his hallmark of scoring wonderful goals for Liverpool) to "exact revenge" on his opponent.

Referee Chris Beath probably did not clearly see the off-the-ball incident (nor apparently did his assistant referees), but nevertheless dealt with the incident by talking with Fowler. No card was issued. Because of the referee's acknowledgement of the incident and according to FIFA and FFA Regulations, the Match Review Panel cannot issue punishment based on video evidence since the referee is deemed to have seen and dealt with the matter.

What can referees do to minimize such incidents? It is important for all match officials to stay alert and watch for any signs of potential trouble. Assistant referees play an important role in being an "extra pair of eyes" for the referee.

Fowler escapes FFA's fury (ABC news)
Robbie Fowler Escapes Punishment After Anderson Kick In North Queensland Fury's Loss To Gold Coast United
NINJA KICK! by Robbie Fowler (original)

Saturday 22 August 2009

English FA Condemns Referee Intimidation

It's good to know that the English FA appear to be serious about their new rules governing pre-match comments. They will be asking Roy Keane, manager of Ipswich Town in the Championship, to explain his comments about match officials when his team played host to Crystal Palace a few days after Crystal Palace were disallowed a goal. On 16 August 2009, Crystal Palace were denied a goal when referee Rob Shoebridge inexplicably did not see the ball cross the goal line between the goalposts and under the crossbar.

[Roy Keane may be charged with improper conduct]

Here's what Keane said:
"We might have to remind the officials before the game that it is a new game. I usually go in an hour before with the team-sheet. Hopefully I won't need to remind them because they are professional and weren't involved in that [Bristol City v Crystal Palace match] over the weekend. It shouldn't be an issue."

Having captained teams for Sir Alex Ferguson, Keane will know the value of giving officials a psychological nudge. Ferguson would regularly call for a 'strong ref ' ahead of big games. Others have done it too and David Moyes even suggested referee Mike Riley might be a Manchester United fan.

Intimidation of referees, be they psychological, physical or otherwise, is to be condemned. This is why referees are highly skeptical in believing what anyone (managers, coaches, players, football fans, etc) says to them.

Related Links:
Alex Ferguson on Michael Ballack: Revisited
Alex Ferguson on Michael Ballack

FA cracks down on referee intimidation as managers banned from talking about officials before games
Roy Keane in trouble for remarks about referee ahead of Palace clash
Blunder ref Rob Shoebridge gets a few weeks off after Crystal Palace 'goal' fiasco

Friday 21 August 2009

Serious Foul Play by David Beckham

David Beckham of Los Angeles Galaxy appears to be having a "wild" time in the MLS lately. He made a wild, rash and studs-up challenge against a Seattle Sounders player on Saturday 15 August 2009, and the referee correctly sent him off for serious foul play.

[Los Angeles Galaxy's David Beckham connects "studs up" with Seattle Sounders' Peter Vagenas that saw him receive a red card in the 16th minute]Afterward, Beckham was quoted as saying: "Pete is one of my best friends … I think it's a hard tackle but not with means for a red card. I've never gone in one tackle wanting to hurt someone. The referee saw it differently."

I'm glad the referee saw the seriousness of the tackle differently to Beckham! And that is why Beckham is not a referee.

The speed, intent, and aggression of the tackle, plus the position of the tackler can be assessed from the following videoclip:

David Beckham set to pay the price for MLS red card... £150 that is! (Daily Mail)
Video: Beckham's Red Card (Washington Post)
David Beckham's red card against Seattle Sounders (YouTube)

Wednesday 19 August 2009

MLS Referee Down But Recovers Well

At 3:55, an LA Galaxy player inadvertently knocks the referee Jorge Gonzalez down. However, the referee’s focus is still on the game and he recovers well and in time to clearly see the foul in the goal area. The referee points theatrically to the penalty spot, although there is no doubt that the message is decisive, positive and clear. Penalty.

Note: At 1:25, Landon Donovan of LA Galaxy scores probably the MLS goal of the season. David Beckham is already acknowledging the goal (he raises his hand) even though the ball is still some 6 yards away from the goal line. It was a peach of a volley.

Match: MLS New England Revolution v Los Angeles Galaxy
Date: 8 August 2009
Reference: 08/08/2009 LA Galaxy at New England Revolutions

Monday 17 August 2009

Alex Ferguson on Michael Ballack: Revisited

Having re-thought his criticism of referee Chris Foy during the Community Shield last week, Sir Alex Ferguson now says that: "referees are being put under pressure by what he regards as cheating."

[Sir Alex Ferguson tells Chris Foy that Man Utd were cheated. Should referees listen to him?]

Specifically, Ferguson focused on Michael Ballack's gamesmanship last week (which, as he said: "we've seen before"); and generally, Ferguson blames the growing tendency of players feigning injury so they can disrupt an opposition attack.
Related Post: Alex Ferguson on Michael Ballack

Related Links:
Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson claims 'cheats' are killing the game (Daily Mail)

Sir Alex Ferguson, the manager of champions Manchester United, has warned that the growing tactic of players feigning injury so they can disrupt an opposition attack is 'killing the game'.

Ferguson is furious that referees are being put under pressure by what he regards as cheating. And he has ordered his own players not to kick the ball out of play when an opponent appears to be injured because the game's etiquette is being abused.

Ferguson's outburst follows last week's Community Shield game against Chelsea, when United felt they were 'conned' by Michael Ballack. Referee Chris Foy stopped a United attack to allow Ballack treatment, but did not do so when Patrice Evra was elbowed by the German and Chelsea went on to score.

Wenger admits to 'selective vision' (BBC Sport)

Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger has confirmed what many fans have always suspected - his view of controversial incidents is not always obstructed.

Wenger is notorious for claiming not to have seen certain incidents, often when one of his players is accused of committing a foul.

"At times I saw it, and I said I didn't to protect the player," said the 59-year-old Frenchman. "It's because I could not find any rational explanation to defend him."

Saturday 15 August 2009

Alex Ferguson on Michael Ballack

The Premiership has barely started, and Sir Alex Ferguson has already had a go at the referee. To be fair, looking at the replays of the Community Shield (the traditional season opener of the English Premier League) Ferguson has a point. However, the referee does not have the benefit of replays, and therefore is not 100% infallible.

So, given the fact that referees do not have the benefit of video replays, what can referees do to help optimize their officiating?

Well, Pierluigi Collina is well known for being thorough and extremely well-prepared for his matches. He has demonstrated that, at the highest levels of the game, referees should be well aware of the characteristics and the way teams and individual players play.

Therefore, what should be recognized is that Michael Ballack is a fantastic football player but also his gamesmanship and tactical fouls need to be curbed. Ferguson already knows this and has been quoted:

"The referee stopped play twice, once when Nani was tackled, then on the second occasion Ballack went down, which we've seen before. "The referee said it was a serious incident when Ballack went down but he was up straight away."

Match: Community Shield, EPL Manchester United v Chelsea
Date: 9 August 2009
Reference: Ferguson fumes at ref after loss (BBC Sport)

And here's an example of Michael Ballack's gamesmanship (as reported on Chelsea's official website), for which he correctly received a caution from referee Phil Dowd.

On 67 minutes there was relief when Drogba won a free-kick deep in the home side's half but the only result was another Chelsea yellow card, this time to Ballack for asking the ref to pace out the wall which, unfortunately, was bang on the 10 yards.

Match: EPL Everton v Chelsea
Date: 22 December 2008
Reference: Match Reports (

Phil Dowd cautioned Michael Ballack because as usual Ballack was regularly on the referee's case. In the 67th minute at a ceremonial free kick Ballack was trying to gain advantage by claiming that the Everton players were not 10 yards away, even though referee Phil Dowd had already paced out the 10 yards. To appease Ballack, who was not interested in restarting the game because Chelsea were a man down (in the first half John Terry had been sent off for serious foul play), the referee paced out the 10 yards again and confirmed that Ballack was just being unsporting. Dowd did a great job and cautioned Ballack. Even manager Phil Scolari managed to laugh at that incident.

Saturday 1 August 2009

Drogba and Chelsea appeal over European bans

Is there no integrity left?
What I mean is, "Is there no integrity left in football players and football clubs?"

Didier Drogba of Chelsea FC had previously stated that he would accept any punishment given to him by UEFA. This was after he publicly apologised for his unsporting behaviour and abuse of Norway referee Tom Henning Ovrebo during and after the 2nd leg semi-final match between Chelsea and Barcelona.

Now Chelsea state that they will appeal against his ban (which is a six-match ban, with two games suspended for two years).

[Drogba abuses Ovrebo. BBC News]

I strongly suspect (and of course I have no proof) that Chelsea, being a rich club, obtained sound legal advice which led to a strategy of attempting to limit and minimize the impending punishment to their players. Viewed in this way, it is not unreasonable to see why Drogba publicly apologised and stated that he would accept any punishment from UEFA. UEFA's Disciplinary Committee may therefore have been "influenced" by this information and may perhaps had decided not to give their harshest punishment because they might have falsely believed that Chelsea and Drogba would not appeal. So, UEFA's Disciplinary Committee may have been duped and outsmarted!!

By not keeping his word, Drogba should feel ashamed. If Drogba knew about this strategy, he should feel doubly ashamed.
Is there no integrity left in football players and football clubs?

Related Link: Life Ban for Chinese Player Who Attacked Referee

Reference: Chelsea appeal over European bans (BBC News)
Saturday, 20 June 2009

Chelsea have confirmed they will appeal against bans handed to Didier Drogba and Jose Bosingwa by Uefa after May's Champions League match with Barcelona. Drogba was given a six-match ban, with two games suspended for two years, for his row with referee Tom Henning Ovrebo. Bosingwa called Ovrebo a "thief" and serves a four-match ban, one suspended. Chelsea now have six more days to formally lodge their appeal, and are also set to contest a £85,000 for improper conduct by players and fans.

Before the bans were announced, Drogba had stated that he would accept any punishment given to him by Uefa.
"My behaviour was not what Uefa and everyone wants to see in a football stadium," he said ahead of the governing body's verdict.

The Blues were stunned by the severity of the suspensions following a bitter 1-1 draw at Stamford Bridge in the second leg of their semi-final, which saw them eliminated on the away goals rule. They felt referee Ovrebo should have awarded several penalties in the second half, and blamed him for their exit. Drogba swore into live TV cameras in front of millions of people, later apologising for his behaviour, while he and several other players surrounded the Norwegian official after the final whistle.

Andres Iniesta's late away goal gave Barca a place in the final where they beat Manchester United to win the prestigious trophy.