Thursday 24 September 2009

First Round of Europa League Matches: Five or Six Match Officials?

Despite the negativity from Everton manager David Moyes, it will take more than one match or one round of Europa League matches to assess the benefits, if any, of UEFA’s experiment with goal-line referees.

[Extra AR on the goal line in a Europa League match on 17 September 2009]

Even the naming and numbering of this experiment has yet to stabilize or reach some consensus. For instance, UEFA and various media organizations are currently using terms like “extra assistant referees”, “goal-line referees”, “extra officials” and “five match officials”. And we all know that there are six match officials in the experiment.

So, let’s Wait-and-See!

Moyes critical of extra officials (BBC Sport)
Goalline referees to make debut in Europa League matches tomorrow
More Details About Europa League's Additional Referees Experiment
New Europa League will Trial "Five" Match Officials
Two extra pairs of eyes for referee teams
UEFA President hails UEFA Europa League

Tuesday 22 September 2009

Referee Busacca Banned for Three Matches

Referees make mistakes but even news that Massimo Busacca, Switzerland’s top referee, gave the “middle finger” gesture to fans came as a complete surprise.

Subsequently, the Swiss Football Association (SFA) has banned Busacca for 3 matches for his unsporting gesture at fans during a first-round Swiss Cup match between FC Baden and Young Boys on Saturday 19 September 2009.

There is no excuse for such behaviour, particularly for match officials. But at the same time, we should also acknowledge that 'to err is human'. Busacca has said he regretted his unsporting gesture and accepts his punishment.

[Note: The BBC story’s photo caption: “Mr Busacca is more used to giving red cards than receiving them” is wrong. He did not receive a red card, only a three-match suspension.]

Massimo Busacca officiated the 2009 Champions League final between Barcelona and Manchester United in Rome and, as Switzerland’s best referee, is set to referee World Cup matches in South Africa in 2010.

Saturday 19 September 2009

FA Hands Adebayor Three-match Ban For Stamp on van Persie

The hot-tempered high-profile match between Manchester City and Arsenal on Saturday 12 September 2009 included some unsavoury incidents. One of these (see videoclip below) was a stamping incident where Manchester City's Emmanuel Adebayor put his boot on to the face of his ex-teammate Robin van Persie of Arsenal.

Emmanuel Adebayor Stamped And Kicked Robin Van Persie's Head HD

The act was clearly intentional. Referee Mark Clattenburg did not see the incident (you can see from the video that Clattenburg's focus is still on the ball as Adebayor rakes his right boot across van Persie). During the FA’s misconduct review, Clattenburg told the FA he did not see the incident. However, he confirmed that had he done so he would have sent Adebayor off for violent conduct.

Despite Adebayor's claims of innocence, referees have a method to help them decide whether there is intent to injure an opponent in a challenge. The "trick" is to consider what the offending player would have done if faced with his own teammate. Would the offending player have performed the same action or would he have, in a fraction of a second, slowed down or changed direction?

Stamp Out Stamping

Adebayor handed three-match ban
Adebayor hit with two FA charges
Man City 4 - 2 Arsenal

Emmanuel Adebayor Stamped And Kicked Robin Van Persie's Head
Belgian Player Gets 11-Match Ban For Shocking Horror Tackle

Tuesday 15 September 2009

UEFA Rescinds Eduardo’s Two-Match Ban

Following Arsenal's appeal against UEFA’s control and disciplinary body to ban Eduardo da Silva for two European matches, UEFA has decided to overturn its decision.

Initially, UEFA found Eduardo to be guilty of deceiving the referee and banned him for two matches in the Champions League. Then on Monday 14 September, UEFA said:
"Following examination of all the evidence, notably the declarations of both the referee and the referees' assessor, as well as the various video footage, it was not established to our satisfaction that the referee had been deceived in taking his decision on the penalty."

In the videoclip (above), there is evidence that there is some contact made between Celtic goalkeeper Boruc and Arsenal striker Eduardo. Eduardo’s right foot is slightly whipped towards the left, but was it enough to bring him down? Given Eduardo’s much publicized leg injury in 2008 (see videoclip below) and, hence, understandable aversion to bad challenges, UEFA has finally deliberated that there is no conclusive evidence to show that Eduardo intentionally deceived the referee.

Nevertheless, we must remember that these panel deliberations in the cool calm light of hindsight (i.e. more than two weeks after the incident) are always much much easier to make compared to what referees have to quickly decide in the heat and atmosphere of the moment.

Uefa overturns Eduardo diving ban (BBC Sport)
Arsenal VS Celtic 3-1 (YouTube)
eduardo injury best view (YouTube)

Saturday 12 September 2009

Belgian Player Gets 11-Match Ban For Shocking Horror Tackle

Stamp Out Stamping. I’ll say it again … Stamp Out Stamping.

Players who prefer to go “over the ball” when challenging for the ball must be sent off for serious foul play. No question. The aggressive nature of this kind of misconduct on the pitch is excessive and should be eliminated from the game. Players who do this always plead innocent and that they meant no malice,* but it should be obvious that there is intent to injure an opponent. If the situation were reversed, would the same player (now the victim) complain if the referee does not send off his assailant?

The following video shows a frightening challenge in a Belgian First Division league match between Standard Liege and Anderlecht.
DO NOT WATCH if you are faint of heart!
Suffice it to say, Standard Liege midfielder Axel Witsel (red shirt) goes over the ball and stamps down on the right leg of Anderlecht’s Polish defender Marcin Wasilewski (blue shirt). It is a nasty tackle and the resultant double fracture is gruesome to watch.

Perhaps all players, coaches and managers should be made to watch this kind of tackle (plus other nasty challenges and misconduct) as a preventive measure? I would certainly advocate this.

* At the 2002 World Cup match between Brazil and England, Ronaldhino did the same to Danny Murphy. Stamp Out Stamping. Ronaldhino received a straight red but what was reprehensible was that Ronaldhino was still pleading innocent when it was clear that a player of his wonderful talent went “over the ball” with the intent of injuring an opponent. The misconduct occurs at 2:17 of the videoclip.

Horrible Tackle On Marcin Wasilewski - Anderlecht vs Standard Liège - 30th august 2009 (YouTube)
Ronaldinho vs England WC 2002 (YouTube)

Phew! Arsenal's Eduardo can sleep easy as Standard Liege brute Axel Witsel gets 11 game ban for horror tackle and misses Champions League clash

Friday 11 September 2009

Chinese Football Association Awards More Suspensions and Fines

Referees in the Chinese Super League are still being physically abused (e.g. by being spat on) and verbally abused. And this is despite the Chinese Football Association (CFA) declaring to reduce unsporting behaviour after the serious incident where a referee was hounded, chased and pushed in July 2009.

In what should be seen as a "major loss of face", the CFA handed out severe punishments between September 5 and 9; dates that coincided with FIFA's international Fair Play Days.

During those five Fair Play Days,
the CFA meted out harsh penalties to seven players and club officials for offenses in CSL matches. Details are:

Eight-match ban and 40,000 yuan (US$5,500) fine to Shandong Luneng's Serbian striker Aleksandar ivkovic for spitting at the referee during a derby match in Qingdao.

Four-match ban and 20,000 yaun (US$2,750) fine to Hangzhou Greentown substitute Wang Hongyou for throwing his boot at the referee from the bench during a match against Shenzhen.

Three-match ban and 20,000 yaun (US$2,750) fine to Changchun's Liu Cheng for a "flagrant foul" (i.e. serious foul play) on Shanghai's Tao Jin. The incident sparked brawls during and after the match with Shanghai.

Three-match ban and 20,000 yaun (US$2,750) fine to Shanghai head coach Jia Xiuquan for surrounding and verbally abusing the referee on the pitch. Shanghai FC's translator Xie Hui, doctor Zhang Peng and player Chen Tao all received fines and bans too. Incidentally the referee involved was He Zhibiao, who had previously been chased across the pitch and then pushed to the ground by a Tianjin provincial player, who was banned for life in July.
[Referee He Zhibiao was involved in another high-profile abuse case, just 6 weeks after he was hounded, chased and pushed to the ground.]

Unfair play day! (Reuters)

Friday 4 September 2009

FA Charge Liverpool's No 1 and No 2 with Improper Conduct

By charging Liverpool's Rafa Benitez and Sammy Lee, the English FA show that they are serious about eliminating (or reducing) any inflammatory remarks from managers or players that intimidate or disrespect referees. The FA warned managers at the start of the season that any inflammatory remarks about officials in the build-up to games would lead to disciplinary measures.

Thursday 3 September 2009

More Details About Europa League's Additional Referees Experiment

UEFA has acknowledged that their trial of using two additional Assistant Referees in the Europa League will in fact make it a six-man team of match officials (and not five).

Therefore, all 144 Europa League group games will be officiated by six match officials. Two additional ARs, who will take up positions alongside each goal behind the goal line, will join the usual four-man team of match officials.

According to FIFA and UEFA:
The additional ARs will be positioned on the opposite side of the goal from the AR – to the left when viewed from the centre circle. Using a radio communication system to relay their recommendations to the Referee but without flags, additional ARs will generally remain behind the goalline but may enter the penalty area when play moves towards the other end of the pitch so as to keep up with the action.

[Additional AR standing behind the goal line]

Here are some of my thoughts:

1) Will this trial of using additional ARs only be applied to Europa League group games? What about the knockout stages starting from the round of 32 teams leading to the final? It is not made clear.

2) FIFA and UEFA have stated: "Technical experts appointed by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) will monitor developments throughout in order to assess the impact the two additional ARs have on the game and to determine whether they enhance the officials' control of the match. The conclusions will later be presented to the IFAB for consideration."

How is this trial assessed? How will "technical experts" assess the impact of the additional ARs? If at the end of the season the methods and results of the trial are not made transparent and publicly available, then there will be questions and much doubt about the trial.

3) I assume that there will be meaningful comparisons made, so that there is a reference point and justification for using or not using the new refereeing system of additional ARs (at the highest levels). What meaningful comparisons will be made? Will it be between Europa League group matches and the previous seasons' UEFA Cup group matches? Will it be between Europa League group matches and the Champions League group matches? Will it be a comparision of the number of cautions and red cards issued in matches with and without additional ARs?

4) It is clear that the higher echelons of FIFA and UEFA are hesitant (afraid almost) to use technology. Regardless of what everyone thinks about video and goal-line technology, a more definitive trial would have been to simultaneously assess the current system of four match officials with using addtional ARs and also with using technology.

Wouldn't the following hypothetical statement by FIFA and UEFA be an improvement?
"Technical experts appointed by the International Football Association Board (IFAB) will monitor developments throughout to assess the impact the two additional ARs [and also the impact of video technology including Hawk-Eye] have on the game and to determine whether they enhance the officials' control of the match. The conclusions [comparing three different refereeing systems] will later be presented to the IFAB for consideration [and released to the public]."

5) Finally, how will all this help the grass-roots level of the game? In most countries, there is a shortage of referees so it is obvious that implementing additional ARs will not be practical (and is limited only to the highest levels). Relatively speaking, ARs do not get much physical activity on the touch lines (high-tempo matches with fit players aside), so imagine what standing behind the goal line would mean. Therefore, referees involved in the amateur game need better assistance not additional assistant refereees.

Related Posts
UEFA Enforces “Deceiving the Referee” Charge
New Europa League will Trial "Five" Match Officials
Do Referees Need Additional Help to Catch Divers?

Two extra pairs of eyes for referee teams
UEFA President hails UEFA Europa League

Wednesday 2 September 2009

2009 is Asian Referees' Year

In recognising the importance of referees, the Asian Football Confederation has designated 2009 as Asian Referees' Year. In addition, Tuesday 1 September 2009 was also the first-ever Asian Referees Day. A Green Card, issued on September 1, promotes fair play and care for the environment.

Yousuf Al-Serkal, Chairman of the AFC Referees Committee, said: “AFC is the only confederation to recognise the efforts of referees in such a way and I urge all Member Associations to organise relevant activities.

He acknowledged Asia’s glorious refereeing history and said: “The referees’ scene in Asia today has completed transformed and the referees now can inspire the next generation of referees.

AFC celebrates Asian Referees Day
Asia’s glorious refereeing saga

UEFA Bans Eduardo for Two Matches

UEFA's control and disciplinary body met on 1 September and subsequently decided to ban Eduardo da Silva of Arsenal FC for two matches in the Champions League competition. Eduardo is charged with "deceiving the referee" (i.e. simulation).

Arsenal have three days to appeal against UEFA's decision.

Related Post
UEFA Enforces “Deceiving the Referee” Charge

Uefa bans Eduardo for two matches

Tuesday 1 September 2009

Do Referees Need Additional Help to Catch Divers?

"The time is now" for some kind of additional assistance to be given to referees ... at least at the highest levels of football and in the professional game. This is according to Sir Alex Ferguson, manager of Manchester United, who has weighed in on Arsenal striker Eduardo da Silva's dive that is regarded as "deceiving the referee".

The long-time debate about helping referees – whether through technology or extra officials – will not go away. Ferguson said:
"For the last decade there has just been talk. Nothing has been done. The time is now. Michel Platini [President of UEFA] has his own views about bringing in extra human assistance with additional referees and assistants but most people in the game think technology should be used."

"Whatever the debate it should lead to something more positive in terms of helping referees in situations like Wednesday night [Arsenal vs Celtic, Champions League group qualifier]. There is no question that the speed of the game means technology or additional assistance should be used."

I have often wondered what are Referees' views on this debate? Referees are either not asked for their opinions, or are not quoted by the media, or are simply too diplomatic to say anything either way!

Related Post
UEFA Enforces “Deceiving the Referee” Charge

Sir Alex Ferguson says referees need additional help to catch divers (Guardian)