Wednesday 29 September 2010

Leading With Elbows Is Serious Foul Play

The following incident occurred during the Liverpool and Sunderland premiership league match on Saturday 25 September 2010. The match finished 2—2.

Nevermind the controversial and comical free kick that led to Liverpool's first goal (some claim this is "beach ball karma"), the following four freeze frames show an important refereeing decision that needed courage to convict the offender. This was when Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard jumped up and into Sunderland’s Danny Welbeck (and clearly led with his elbow).

[Steven Gerrard (red #8) leads with his elbow and makes contact with Danny Welbeck's face (white #17). Gerrard also missed the ball.]

[Referee Stuart Attwell is well positioned for this incident]

From the above freeze frames, 27-year-old referee Stuart Attwell is well positioned to see Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard jump up and into Sunderland’s Danny Welbeck. Gerrard's forearm and elbow make contact with Welbeck's face , and any contact between hard, bony objects (i.e. elbows, forearms) and soft, fleshy surfaces (i.e. face and neck regions) is dangerous. Also, Gerrard doesn’t make contact with the ball.

Referees are taught, trained and advised to give red cards for these offences, so it was surprising that Attwell only cautioned Gerrard.

Wednesday 22 September 2010

Not Optimum Officiating in the AFC Cup Part 2

The following incident occurred during a second-leg quarterfinal AFC Cup match between Muangthong United of Thailand and Al Karamah from Syria on Tuesday 21 September 2010. The match finished 2—0.

Football can be a controversial game, particularly if important decisions by match officials have an impact on the outcome. Last week, following the first-leg encounter between these two Asian football teams, HKRef mentioned the possibility that Al Karamah’s disallowed goal which was incorrectly ruled offside would prove significant. Well, it has.

Here are the highlights of the second-leg quarterfinal match:

AFC Cup Quarterfinals: Muang Thong United FC 2-0 Al Karamah 21/09/2010

The first goal for Muangthong United was a nicely-worked goal. There is no controversy here, and from the referee’s perspective it is always nice to be a nearby witness to a well-crafted football move that results in a goal.

However, the second goal is controversial for two main points.
First, it appears that the Muangthong United attacker (red) is guilty of simulation. Watch closely, as he intentionally drags his right foot as if “trawling” for a foul. However, this is the match referee's decision to give the penalty; the referee calls it as he sees it.
Second, the penalty kick should have been disallowed (and retaken) because it did not meet the requirements of Law 14.

Can you spot the breach in Law 14 from the following three pictures?

[The decisive spot kick; but should it have been allowed?]

The placement of the ball is clearly NOT on the penalty mark. Again, this is not optimum officiating.

The Match Officials were:

Match Commissioner
Lai Boon Teck (Sin)

Referee Assessor
Edward Lennie (Aus)

Choi Myung Yong (Kor)

Assistant Referee 1
Eun Jong Bok (Kor)

Assistant Referee 2
Choi Minbyoung (Kor)

Fourth Official
Kim Sang Woo (Kor)

Match reports can be found here and here.

Friday 17 September 2010

Now We See More. Yes, But Do Referees Perform Better?

Check out UEFA’s video explaining the experiment with additional assistant referees (or extra assistant referees, EARs).
5 Referees
More Vision
More Communication
More Information

Now We See More

Respect the Referees
Respect the Game

Despite this glitzy publicity spot, aired on giant screens at stadiums throughout Europe, HKRef wonders whether:
1) there are 5 or 6 match officials?
2) “more vision, communication and information” is having the desired effect.
3) this campaign for more respect will be undermined by missed incidents (example given below)

Are EARs the extra eyes needed in football?

As a match official, HKRef understands that any official appointment bestowed at the highest level is an honour and a privilege. Referees are human too and take great pride and encouragement when they are appointed and given responsibilities to officiate the best matches. This is why HKRef is mindful of the dilemma in criticizing the usefulness of extra assistant referees (EARs). It will be difficult to get unbiased feedback from match officials about the usefulness of EARs.

As match officials, we want to receive as many appointments as possible at the highest level (it is somewhat akin to players receiving “caps” when selected to play for their national teams). But as neutral observers, we want to know that the system works and that EARs are not just there for decorative purposes or to help UEFA, FIFA and IFAB fend off supporters of goal-line technology and video refereeing.

The question then is: “Are EARs effective?”
Are additional assistant referees fulfilling the aims that they were designed for? What are these aims? Well, UEFA, FIFA and IFAB told the world that:
Having an extra pair of eyes monitoring play in each area had a preventive effect and promoted better decision making on suspected fouls. Players were less prone to shirt-pulling at corners and free kicks, diving in the area and dissent.

This message was recently reiterated by UEFA:
Their [additional assistant referees] particular brief is to focus on incidents that take place in the penalty area, such as holding or pushing at set-piece situations. The deployment of additional assistant referees is also seen to have a deterrent effect, as players will be aware that they are being closely watched.

HKRef has previously questioned how this “preventive effect” can actually be measured. And measured as objectively and as scientifically as possible. So far, the authorities have not disclosed any details of how they assess the effectiveness of using EARs. Until details and data are fully disclosed, HKRef does NOT consider the use of EARs or additional assistant referees to be a proper trial or experiment that will yield valid results.

Here is an example, one of many, illustrating that EARs do not have a “preventive or deterrent effect” on players. The following incident occurred during the AC Milan and Auxerre Champions League group match on Wednesday 15 September 2010. The match ended 2—0.

[AC Milan’s Gianluca Zambrotta (red#19) pushes Auxerre’s Steeven Langil (blue#21) in the back and right in front of the extra assistant referee (EAR). But nothing was given by the Romanian match officials.]

Q: Did the presence of an extra assistant referee (EAR) positioned at the goal line have a deterrent effect? NO.

Q: Did the “extra pair of eyes” assist the match referee in deciding that there was a foul (i.e. push in the back) or that there was simulation? NO.

In UEFA’s publicity campaign, UEFA chief refereeing officer Pierluigi Collina, says: “Now we see more”

Really? Is that so? AC Milan’s Zambrotta is clearly laughing at that statement.

As mentioned previously, HKRef may publish preliminary statistics of UEFA’s trial of using EARs. If anyone would like to collaborate on this, please contact HKRef.

Thursday 16 September 2010

Not Optimum Officiating in the AFC Cup

The following incident occurred during a first-leg quarterfinal AFC Cup match between Al Karamah of Syria and Muangthong United from Thailand on Tuesday 14 September 2010. The match finished 1—0.

Watch the incident beginning from 0:30

Al Karamah 1-0 MTU_News

This incident occurred in the 14th minute when Al Karamah’s midfielder Mahmoud Al Mawas shot from distance and the ball cannoned off the crossbar. The rebound fell to Mohamad Al Hamwi who headed the loose ball into the net. The following four freeze frames show this.

[The ball is struck from a distance of over 30 yards. The ball's flight can be seen all the way to the crossbar.]

From the time the ball is struck from over 30 yards to the time it hits the crossbar, it is clear that Al Karamah players (blue) are all onside. However, the goal was incorrectly ruled out for offside. This means the AR was probably not fully focused or was poorly positioned.

Whether this disallowed goal proves significant or not may depend on the result of the second-leg quarterfinal AFC Cup match. Nevertheless, this is not optimum officiating.

The Match Officials were:

Match Commissioner
Abdulrazaq Mohamed Abbas Kamal (Bahrain)

Referee Assessor

Ali Tareq Ahmed Ali (Iraq)


Tan Hai (China)

Assistant Referees

Huo Weiming (China)

Su Jige (China)

Fourth Official

Muokhtar Saleh Ali Al-Yarimi (Yemen)

Match reports can be found here and here.

Tuesday 14 September 2010

When Is A Penalty Kick Completed?

The following incident illustrates why it is important for the referee to take time to declare the outcome of a penalty kick. Always wait and see.

Khalid Askri - Funny Penalty 09.09.10

A penalty kick is completed only when the referee declares it. The referee should not declare the kick to be completed if there is any possibility that the ball is still in play.

Sunday 5 September 2010

CFA Chief says China Referees to Blame for Bad Reputation

Comments from Wei Di, chief of the Chinese Football Association, raised eyebrows prior to the friendly international match between China and Iran on Friday 2 September 2010 at the Tianhe Stadium in China.

First, the denial of Iran’s request for a “non-Chinese” match official appears strange. This is because international matches, even friendlies, are usually officiated by referees who do not come from the same countries as the two teams.

Second, Wei’s insistence that the referee be Chinese (i.e. from the host country) also appears strange. Perhaps Wei is “giving face” to Chinese referees but this action puts the appointed Chinese referee in an unfortunate and awkward position (also, see point 3). No matter what, the Chinese referee will be criticized for either favouring the home team, or favouring the visiting team. It will be rare for everyone to acknowledge that the referee is officiating according to the Laws of the Game, without fear or favour to any team.

Third, Wei has specifically asked Chinese referees to: “deliberately make calls against Chinese players in matches against other countries. In international games, the Chinese referees should be more strict to China, which could improve the team's mentality in a negative situations”. This does not encourage any impartiality, neutrality or objectivity and therefore puts the Chinese referee in an awkward situation.

The elimination of corruption, untoward practices, suspect ethics—call it what you will—in China and in Chinese soccer will hardly succeed if the head of the CFA makes highly dubious comments like those reported by the Xinhua news agency and by Reuters.

Chinese officials deserve Iran snub: soccer chief
Sep 03, 2010

Iran's demand for a neutral referee for their friendly against China this week is disrespectful but officials have only themselves to blame, according to soccer chief Wei Di.

Three top referees were arrested for their involvement in a match-fixing scandal earlier this year and Wei said he thought that was behind Iran's request for a non-Chinese to officiate in Zhengzhou tonight.

"It is not too odd in principle, but objectively it shows their lack of respect for Chinese referees," Wei told a training camp for referees in Hebei. His speech was reported by Xinhua.

Wei was brought in to clean up national soccer after his predecessor Nan Yong and several other top Chinese Football Association (CFA) officials were arrested in connection with allegations of corruption.

One of the referees arrested in March was 2002 World Cup official Lu Jun, who had been known as the "golden whistle" in contrast to the corrupt "black whistles" who had been suspected of fixing matches over the past decade.

Wei conceded that many referees had fixed matches at the behest of CFA officials and so earned the nickname "official whistles" but said that must now stop if they were to gain credibility with fans and players.

"The CFA must start within itself to eliminate the `official whistle'," he said. "And the referees must resist the pressure of `official whistle'. A referee must immediately report to the CFA as soon as any CFA official makes such a request."

Wei, who has declined Iran's request, then called on referees to deliberately make calls against Chinese players in internationals.

"In international games, the Chinese referees should be more strict to China, which could improve the team's mentality in negative situations," he said.

Post Script: The match result between China and Iran was 0-2.

For the good of the game, it would have been better for all parties had the match officials come from different countries to the two teams (i.e. Iran was happy to have a South Korean referee, but China rejected that request).

Iran beats China 2-0 in friendly
Fri Sep 3, 2010 4:49PM
Iran's Andranik Teymourian scored the first goal (from PressTV)

Iran's national soccer team has defeated China 2-0 in an international friendly match at the Tianhe Stadium in China.

Iran had the upper hand in almost every minute of the game and performed well as the players were in harmony and well-coordinated, Fars News Agency reported on Friday.

Andranik Teymourian and Mohammad Gholami scored the goals for Iran while the referee disallowed a goal by China as offside.

The appointed referee from the host country served Iranian players Hadi Aghili, Mohammad-Reza Khalatbari, Karim Ansari Fard and Masoud Shojaee with yellow cards.

Iran had demanded that the match be judged by a South Korean referee , but China rejected the plea out of what it cited as respect for Chinese referees.

Iran's national soccer team will play against South Korea in another friendly game [on Tuesday 7 September].