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)

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