Thursday 26 August 2010

World Cup Final 2010: Webb’s Reflection

It’s taken about six weeks for Howard Webb to begin publicly discussing his thoughts about his performance in the World Cup Final (see full article here).

[Webb limbering up with his assistants Cann(L) and Mullarkey. Is the 4th Official doing something else? Pic courtesy Action Images]

On the Nigel de Jong incident on Xabi Alonso, Webb said this:
"Having seen it again from my armchair, I would red-card him. The trouble in the actual game was that I had a poor view of that particular incident. I was looking through the back of Alonso and though I could see the foot was high, I could not be certain of the extent of the contact. It wasn't that I didn't want to send anyone off because it was a World Cup final, though I was mindful of the fact that the game was the pinnacle of the players' careers as well as of mine. I just wasn't prepared to take a guess 25 minutes into the game."

This is a revealing insight since previously it was not known whether:
1) Webb actually saw the incident,
2) his nearside AR Darren Cann saw and gave advice, and
3) his 4th Official Yuichi Nishimura saw and gave advice.

From Webb’s comments, it appears that the most important thing for him is that he himself had to have seen the incident. His excuse is that he did not want to guess in the 25th minute of the match. It also appears that Webb did not or could not take advice from his AR or 4th Official.

Let’s put this into some context and reference this to a related incident involving teamwork and a send-off incident [Teamwork is important for match officials]. In that 2009 incident, when Webb missed a crucial incident he took advice from another match official (it is not known whether it was his AR or 4th Official). However, with the introduction of new responsibilities to the 4th Official in time for the 2010 World Cup, the 4th Official may (like the ARs) advise the referee on incidents that he believes the referee has missed. So in 2009, instead of guessing, Webb took advice from his assistant (allegedly his AR) by sending off Egypt's Ahmed El Mohamady for handling the ball on the line and awarding a match-winning penalty to Brazil. Therefore, is Howard Webb being consistent? Is he being clear about what information he received, if any, from his assistants?

Furthermore, HKRef has previously speculated that there might have been cultural and language communication problems between Webb and the 4th Official from Japan. Nishimura has to understand Webb’s Yorkshire accent and Webb has to understand Nishimura’s English through their two-way earpieces. Was Nishimura really a part of Webb’s team? [World Cup Final 2010: Mixed Signals and Expected Teamwork]

Howard Webb also briefly mentioned his preparation for the biggest match of his refereeing career. He is quoted:
"On the day of the final we had several briefings from Fifa technical and psychological staff, and I don't think anyone foresaw the game being the physical encounter it turned out to be. We talked about the emotion, the styles of play, but no one said anything about it being so physical. Yet within 20 minutes we knew how it was going to turn out. I knew quite a lot of the players from the Premier League, the Champions League and from refereeing the national teams, and all I can say is that the emotions in that World Cup final were quite raw. The Dutch were devastated, disappointed and in some cases angry, but there was nothing about being familiar with the players involved that would have helped."

Question: Was Webb not aware of Mark van Bommel’s typical style of play?

With more revelations about Webb’s preparations, it is hoped that we can all learn from Webb’s experiences and improve our all-round officiating skills.

Note: Here's a BBC interview with Howard Webb.

Wednesday 25 August 2010

Not Optimum Officiating

The following incidents occurred during a second-leg play-off round UEFA Champions League match between FK Partizan and RSC Anderlecht on Tuesday 24 August 2010. The match finished 2—2.

Anderlecht may rue the fact that an incorrect offside call cost them a crucial goal to make the scoreline 3—2, and possibly a subsequent place in the UEFA Champions League. TV replays show (pic below) that the two Anderlecht attackers were not in front of the second-last defender, and therefore the goal that was scored was legitimate. This is not optimum officiating.

[As the Anderlecht player (white player in front of the referee) plays the ball across the goal area, his team-mates are onside]

The 2—2 draw (the same result from the first-leg match) meant that the aggregate score was 4—4 and the match would be decided by a penalty shoot-out.

As bad as Anderlecht players were at taking penalties (the ball was skied over the crossbar, not once, not twice but thrice!), their goalkeeper was just as undisciplined because he was consistently jumping off the goal line before the ball had been kicked. Here are five freeze frames of the Anderlecht goalkeeper making a “save”. It is the seventh PK, after both teams have taken three PKs each with the penalty shoot-out score being Anderlecht 1—2 Partizan.

[The Anderlecht GK moves off the goal line before the ball has been kicked. Note: look at the stance and body language of the AR]

[Reverse angle showing that the Anderlecht GK has come off the goal line before the ball has been kicked]

The Anderlecht goalkeeper was never penalized for this "save" (which gave his team a brief lifeline), despite the fact that the AR was making a great show of deep concentration and of being fully focused. The AR’s body language is slightly awkward (i.e. bending at the waist to see a distance of between 6 and 14 yards) but nevertheless gives the message that he is taking his duties very seriously. However, the AR’s inaction clearly reveal that he did not take his duties seriously! In fact, with his awkwardly-adopted stance is he really paying attention to when the ball is actually kicked? The Referee must assume responsibility for this also. This is not optimum officiating.

Despite the strange displays of officiating during the match, Partizan went on to win 3-2 on penalties.

The match officials, all from Scotland, are Craig Thomson (R), Tom Murphy (AR), William Conquer (AR), Iain Robertson Brines (4th), Calum Murray (EAR), and Alan Muir (EAR).

Note: Perhaps in relation to the stamping incident 6 days previously, Partizan’s Almami Moreira (#10) was not in the squad whereas Anderlecht’s Mbark Boussoufa (#11) started the match. If Moreira's exlusion (which is further exacerbated by Boussoufa's inclusion) was indeed related to the stamping incident, then this serves to illustrate that strong disciplinary action must be meted out consistently during such cynical, cowardly and unsporting acts. A reiteration: we must stamp out stamping.

Since we are reiterating; here are further freeze frames to highlight the fact that the Anderlecht GK (Silvio Proto) was consistently jumping off his goal line before the ball was kicked. It is the first of two "saved" penalty kicks (i.e. the third PK of the shoot-out) made by the Anderlecht keeper.

[The third penalty kick of the shoot-out, which is "saved" by the Anderlecht GK]

[Reverse angle of the third penalty kick "saved" by the Anderlecht GK, who is clearly off his goal line]

Related Posts

Europa League Penalty Kicks and Encroachment

Unpleasant Incidents During Hong Kong Division Three Playoff Match

Stamping incident

Emmanuel Adebayor Stamped And Kicked Robin Van Persie's Head

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

Belgian Player Gets 11-Match Ban For Shocking Horror Tackle

Stamping Incidents at AFC Champions League Match in Adelaide

Sunday 22 August 2010

Studs Alert: Stamp Out Stamping

The following incident occurred during a first-leg play-off round UEFA Champions League match between FK Partizan and RSC Anderlecht on Wednesday 18 August 2010. The match finished 2—2.

The five freeze frames show a cowardly act by Anderlecht player Mbark Boussoufa (dark blue #11). Unfortunately, this cynical, cowardly, and unsporting act appears to be occurring in matches with alarming frequency. Even more disturbing is the fact that referees do not appear to be taking the correct disciplinary action to curb this act. Do we want more legs to be broken before competition authorities, match officials, coaches, players, fans, commentators and the media take action to eliminate this cynical, cowardly, and unsporting act? For the good of the game, we must stamp out stamping.

In this 50-50 challenge, what is the difference between the approaches adopted by the two players? Hint: simply look at their left feet.

[Players showing or exposing their studs against opponents in challenges are cynical, cowardly, and unsporting. Note: in this instance, Partizan’s Almami Moreira (white#10) did not suffer a broken leg although his effectiveness in the match was hampered and he was duly substituted in the 53rd minute.]

Incredibly, a red card was not shown. A caution was not shown. A public talking to was probably not given. The only thing the referee gave was a direct free kick. How did the referee Claus Bo Larsen (Denmark) miss this? He was clearly in an optimum position (i.e. a position that gave him a clear, near and uninterrupted view).

[The referee has a clear, near and uninterrupted view of the challenge]

There used to be a time when challenges—although “meaty” and “fully committed”—were never cynical and cowardly. Back in those times, players going for a 50-50 ball (like the one pictured above) would always use either the front or side of their boot to challenge for the ball. It is only in recent times—which also rose to prominence during the 2010 World Cup … mainly because the referees in South Africa did not mete out the correct disciplinary action to send out the correct message—that players cynically expose their studs. Contrast this to the 2002 World Cup, when Brazil's Ronaldinho was correctly sent off for his cynical "over the top" challenge on England's Danny Murphy. For some reason, in the period between the 2002 and 2010 World Cups, this cynical, cowardly and unsporting act seems to have crept back into the game.

Referees should regard players who expose their studs or cleats at opponents as cynical, cowardly, and unsporting. We must stamp out stamping.

This culture of exposing studs as a way to intimidate and potentially inflict serious injury to an opponent needs to be eliminated from the game. In HKRef’s view, it is much more serious than the culture of diving (simulation) which has received a disproportionate amount of media attention. Let’s get our priorities in order. A player using studs in a challenge against an opponent should be sent-off for serious foul play; and a player guilty of simulation should be cautioned for unsporting behaviour. Both are cynical and unsporting acts, but the former also has the risk of ruining an opponent's career or livelihood. It is cowardly and it is a coward's challenge.

Related Posts (search: stamp)

Unpleasant Incidents During Hong Kong Division Three Playoff Match

Stamping incident

Emmanuel Adebayor Stamped And Kicked Robin Van Persie's Head

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

Belgian Player Gets 11-Match Ban For Shocking Horror Tackle

Stamping Incidents at AFC Champions League Match in Adelaide

Saturday 21 August 2010

Referees Must Show Cards Calmly, Clearly and Correctly Part 2

The following incident occurred during a first-leg play-off round UEFA Champions League match between Hapoel Tel-Aviv and FC Salzburg on Wednesday 18 August 2010. The match finished 2—3.

In the 66th minute, Hapoel Tel-Aviv’s Omri Kende (red#23) fouls a Salzburg player (white) in the penalty area. However, the referee calmly, clearly but incorrectly awards a yellow card to Hapoel Tel-Aviv’s Eran Zahavi (red#16) who was running in from behind during the foul. Here are three freeze frames of the incident.

[Hapoel Tel-Aviv’s Omri Kende (red#23) fouls a Salzburg player (white) in the penalty area]

[Inexplicably, the referee cautions red#16 for the foul in the penalty area]

The post-match report correctly states the caution is assigned to Kende (red#23) and not to Zahavi (red#16), so sometime during or after the match (??) the referee was made aware of his mistake.

The referee is Pedro Proença (Portugal).

Related Post

Referees Must Show Cards Calmly, Clearly and Correctly

Friday 20 August 2010

EARs Introduced to UCL Starting with 2010-2011 Play-offs

Isn’t it great that European football competitions have started again? At the moment, the UEFA Champions League (UCL) and Europa League are in their Play-offs round. Before that, both competitions had three qualifying rounds.

This season (2010-2011), UEFA has decided to use extra assistant referees (EARs) for UCL. That, however, is as far as the consistency goes! They have decided to use EARs during the play-offs for UCL only (and not for Europa League play-offs).

[An EAR with his “magic wand” in a UCL play-off round match. Note: the new 2010/2011 UCL referee kits, which come in three colours: indigo-blue; white; and dark-orange.]

Last season (2009-2010), when UEFA decided to use EARs for the Europa League, they insisted EARs would only be used from the Group stage.

So why the difference between UCL and Europa League? One can only assume that it is related to the fallout from the 2010 World Cup, where calls were again made to introduce a system to help referees minimize any significant errors (whether it be goal-line technology or EARs). UEFA (or FIFA) clearly want to be seen to be doing something, even if it smacks of insincerity, reluctance and being rather late.

Perhaps another reason is because of the number of teams in the respective play-offs round. The UCL has 20 teams, and the Europa League has a whopping 74 teams. UEFA probably does not want to waste money and resources in getting EARs for all these matches so early in the season.

However from last season’s trial of EARs in the Europa League, what are the statistics to show whether or not EARs are useful? HKRef has previously predicted that UEFA or IFAB will be reluctant to openly share their report of the trial. In fact, the IFAB has simply said that they will trial EARs in the UCL this season without mentioning whether the use of EARs in the Europa League last season was significantly beneficial or not.

As a result, HKRef may publish preliminary statistics of UEFA’s trial of using EARs. It is difficult because UEFA has (whether intentionally or not) made it tricky to collect statistics consistently from their website.

Does anyone else have any statistics related to the EARs experiment? If anyone would like to collaborate on this, please contact HKRef.

Saturday 14 August 2010

Two Missed Offsides in 2010 Chinese Super League

The following [missed] offside occurred during a 2010 Chinese Super League match (round 16) between Liaoning and Changchun on Sunday 1 August 2010. The match finished 5—1.

[Two Liaoning players (red) are clearly offside, and one of them benefited from being in an offside position by scoring a goal]

Even from this camera angle, it is obvious that two Liaoning players (red) are in an offside position when their teammate plays the ball forward. Subsequently, one of the two players scored. Liaoning were already leading 3—1 when this offside incident occurred.

The following [missed] offside occurred during a Chinese Super League match (round 16) between Dalian and Shaanxi on Sunday 1 August 2010. The match finished 2—2.

[The Shaanxi player (yellow) passes the ball down the left side to another Shaanxi player (yellow) who is standing in an offside position just outside the penalty area ]

At 0—1, a Shaanxi player (yellow) benefited from being in an offside position by receiving the ball and then crossing it for his teammate to score and make it 0—2.

Thursday 12 August 2010

Life Ban For Player Found Guilty of Match-Fixing in Hong Kong

Towards the end of the 2009-2010 HKFA season, the ICAC (Hong Kong’s Independent Commission Against Corruption) investigated players from the mainland playing for Hong Kong First Division clubs who were believed to be involved in bribery and match-fixing.

The case revolved around proceedings that occurred just before the First Division league match between Fourway Rangers and Happy Valley on Saturday 3 October 2009. The match ended 2—0. At the end of the season, Happy Valley was relegated from the First Division.

The night before that particular match, Fourway Rangers defender Jean Jacques Kilama received a phone call from a mainland player playing for Happy Valley, suggesting that his team should lose the match. Kilama, a 27-year-old Cameroon-born player who has been a professional player for eight years in Cameroon, Romania and Indonesia (including the past three years in Hong Kong), declined.

Despite clearly saying “no”, Kilama was again approached, this time in person by the Happy Valley player, at 6am the next day. He asked Kilama how much he wanted in return for throwing the match. He again declined and later told his club superiors. Kilama’s club director advised him to go to the ICAC.

In May 2010, the ICAC arrested mainlander Yu Yang, 27 and charged Yu with one count of offering an advantage to an agent, contrary to the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance. The ICAC also arrested four other players who were released on bail pending further inquiries.

In June 2010, HKFA’s Disciplinary Task Force followed up on the bribery case. At their meeting held on 21 June 2010, they suspended Yu Yang for life (see below) and released their findings on 16 July 2010.

2009/10 21st Disciplinary Task Force Meeting (21 June 2010)
According to the Certificate of Trial of Kowloon City Magistrates’ Courts and Press Release of ICAC on 20th May 2010, Mr. YU Yang, the player of Happy Valley Football club, earlier pleaded guilty to one count of offering an advantage to an agent, contrary to Section 9(2) of the Prevention of Bribery Ordinance. He was sentenced to 10 months' imprisonment at Kowloon City Magistracy for offering a bribe to another footballer for his assistance in fixing a match. He was subsequently also disciplinary charged by HKFA.

The Disciplinary Hearing was convened on 21 June 2010 where Happy Valley Football Club declined to send representative on behalf of Mr. YU Yang. Basing on the aforesaid information and after full consideration, the HKFA Disciplinary Task delivered the decision as follows:

1. The player, YU Yang of Happy Valley was found guilty of having violated provisions of HKFA Disciplinary Code 2009/10 (in breach of Chapter 4, Clause 3.1.22).

2. The accused, YU Yang was ordered to be suspended for life. YU Yang is not allowed to participate (including as a role of players or officials) in any matches or activities organized by HKFA.

3. The suspension would be made known to FIFA & AFC.

4. The above suspension would be effective at 12 noon, on 16 July 2010.

From time to time cases of [alleged] match-fixing have arisen in Hong Kong. For example in March 2009 during the 2008-2009 HKFA season, Hong Kong first division club Tuen Mun Progoal were leading Happy Valley 1—0 at half-time only to lose 1—5. Allegations of match-fixing arose after a Progoal player blogged that his mainland teammates had thrown the match for money.

Back in
1998, the ICAC arrested six players representing the Hong Kong team for taking bribes and fixing matches during qualification games for the 1998 World Cup.

From the perspective of match officials, there is nothing referees can do
if players from one or both teams are involved in match-fixing—other than to perform their duties to the best of their abilities and apply the LOTG appropriately. All match officials must focus on their match at hand and perform their duties to the best of their abilities.

Thursday 5 August 2010

Referees Must Show Cards Calmly, Clearly and Correctly

The following incident occurred during a SuperLiga group match between Puebla and Houston Dynamo on 21 July 2010. The match finished 0—1.

Towards the end of the match, Mexican team Puebla is a goal down and battling for top position of the group with Houston Dynamo. They are pushing for an equalizer. However, Houston Dynamo are pressing hard and disrupting play. The referee needs to keep his wits about him because tensions are beginning to rise. For instance, in the 77th minute, Danny Cruz (Houston #5) deliberately fouls a Puebla forward (#8) and the referee correctly shows him a second caution. Seven minutes later, the referee sends-off Puebla’s Melvin Brown (#31) for violent conduct.

Later in the 88th minute, a Houston player again disrupts play by fouling a Puebla player in possession of the ball. The fouled Puebla player, Álvaro González (white#13), retaliates by kicking out at the Houston player Obodai (who remains on the floor). The referee does well to get to the incident quickly, but the following nine freeze frames also show the referee’s rather ineffective actions:

[Sometimes an incorrect sanction by the match referee may induce players to take matters into their own hands]

Is it clear what the referee has done?

Here is a Match Report excerpt of the incident, which appears to be inconsistent with the match facts.
[In the 88th minute] As a desperate Puebla looked for the goal, the game eventually – and inevitably – turned a ugly. Obodai fouled Puebla’s Álvaro González near the midfield, and González upkicked Obodai. Serioux, who was nearby, bumped Gónzalez and a series shoves and slaps ensued, causing the ref to show a slew of yellow and red cards to several players.

By the end of the scuffle, two Puebla players had been ejected, leaving the Mexican club down a man, as Houston’s Danny Cruz had been sent off earlier after receiving his second yellow.

Another ejection followed soon after. Oduro was also sent off after receiving two consecutive yellows for diving and then arguing the call.

The SuperLiga match facts show that during the 88th minute incident, only two cards were shown. The referee had cautioned Houston player Adrian Serioux (#51) and sent-off Puebla player Álvaro González (#13).
[This is different from the Match Report that stated: a series shoves and slaps ensued, causing the ref to show a slew of yellow and red cards to several players.] A slew? Several players?

And this is also different from what actually happened during the melee. From the freeze frames, we actually see that the referee first shows a YC to white#13, then as the mass confrontation ensues, the referee responds by showing a RC to white#13. Presumably, the referee also cautioned orange#51.

But were the referee’s actions calm, clear and correct? Did the players accept his actions?

Obviously, the referee is within his rights to change his decision (i.e. to rescind the caution and then award a RC to white #13) before the restart of play. But would the players have reacted differently had the referee first shown a RC?

HKRef reckons these are all interesting points to ponder.

[The referee is Oscar Reyna from Guatemala]

In the end, there was a total of 8 yellow and 4 red cards (the most cards amongst all twelve of the 2010 SuperLiga group matches).