Tuesday 14 December 2010

Self-Censorship at UEFA

It is notable that UEFA, from its official match reports and video highlights, does not mention any controversial decisions like the two missed penalty decisions (as posted here) in the Marseille and Chelsea Champions League final group match on Wednesday 8 December 2010.

This is perhaps a reason NOT to watch official highlights or read official match reports from competition organisers (to avoid being exposed to self-censorship and inherent conflicts of interest).

In contrast, the BBC News Sport report mentioned the two missed PK decisions and shows a dynamic photo (below, courtesy of Getty Images) of Chelsea's Florent Malouda being sent flying by Marseille's Souleymane Diawara in the 16th minute.

Note: Some people (like Martin Rødvand) believe Malouda exaggerated his fall; which is a fair comment.

Other sports pages also commented on the controversial non-penalty decisions such as:

Brandão leaves Carlo Ancelotti feeling blue as Marseille beat Chelsea (Guardian)

Marseille 1 Chelsea 0: Brandao strikes as problems pile up for Blues boss Carlo Ancelotti (Daily Mail)

Caption from Daily Mail: Not guilty: Souleymane Diawara holds his hands up as he is let off the hook again as Solomon Kalou takes a tumble inside the box

Generally, competition organisers such as FIFA, UEFA, AFC, EPL, etc, will provide non-controversial content on their official websites. But when it comes to reading and commenting on significant incidents, and reviewing performances of players and officials, it is better to go to dedicated sports sites that have a proven and reliable track record.

Related Post

More about Extra Assistant Referees or EARs

Friday 10 December 2010

More about Extra Assistant Referees or EARs

This is yet another follow up to UEFA’s experiment with additional assistant referees, which this blog prefers to call extra assistant referees … mostly because the acronym EAR can be used in the half-humorous semi-serious phrase:

“Are EARs the extra eyes needed in football?”

To illustrate the ineffectiveness of EARs, two controversial penalty incidents occurred during the Marseille and Chelsea Champions League final group match on Wednesday 8 December 2010. The match ended 1—0.

Both penalty incidents—in the 16th and 43rd minutes—occurred inside the penalty area and questions are asked of the Russian match officials. In particular the referee, Vladislav Bezborodov, was officiating his first Champions League match, so his courage, confidence and conviction come into focus, as well as the interaction with his team of match officials.

Note: Apologies for the long string of freeze frames in this post. Please skip to the end of this post for the summary.

Ultimately, the issue of whether EARs are effective comes to the fore … yet again. Here are the two penalty incidents that were not given to Chelsea.


In the 16th minute, Florent Malouda of Chelsea (green) heads towards the goal line and Souleymane Diawara of Marseille (black) trips him. The referee is right up with play and initially awards a penalty. [Note: this decision appears to be correct because the path of the ball does not change, suggesting that Diawara did not get the ball … and instead got the man]. However, the AR uses the intercom and indicates that Diawara did make contact with the ball and therefore says it is a corner kick. Questions to ask here are: Did the AR have the better angle of view than the R? Was the AR 100% sure that there was contact with the ball? What was the R's pre-match brief to his AR regarding fouls in the penalty area?

This turn of events gives a poor impression on the match officials, and in particular cuts down the credibility and authority of the match referee.

[Note: does the EAR have an optimum angle of view? Should the EAR assist?]

[Malouda (green) can not believe he is going to take a corner instead of a penalty kick!]

[This camera angle shows a good view of the incident]

[Referee Bezborodov instantly strikes a pose and confidently points to the penalty spot!]

[But wait ... the AR is saying that there was no foul and that it's a corner kick ...]

[As is expected, Chelsea captain John Terry (#26) questions the referee's judgement]


In the 43rd minute, Solomon Kalou of Chelsea (green) heads towards the goal line and Souleymane Diawara of Marseille (black) trips him. Both the EAR and R are close to play. But do they have the best angle of view? [Note: the path of the ball does not change, again suggesting that Diawara did not get the ball … and instead got the man]. So, was the presence of the EAR helpful? If the R did not think it was a penalty, then why not caution Kalou for simulation? In either scenario, the EAR did not (or perhaps could not) assist.

[Both the R and EAR are near to the incident. Between them, they should be able to decide whether it was a penalty or simulation. Or are they in the best positions to see clearly?]

[Kalou can not believe he did not get a penalty!]

[This camera view provides an optimum angle of view between the players. Clear foul.]


It would be interesting to know what the R’s pre-match instructions were to his ARs and EARs. However, in usual practice, any decision inside the penalty area should be the match referee’s priority or first call unless he absolutely has no angle and the AR has the better view. It would appear that the teamwork between the Russian match officials was not optimal.

For the first penalty, the AR undermined the R’s penalty decision. In fact the R, from about 12 yards behind play (see pic below), had a good view of the incident inside the penalty area, and subsequently made an immediate and decisive call. Unfortunately, the AR took matters into his own hands and subsequently eroded the R’s credibility and authority. Furthermore, the EAR most likely had the best view compared with the R and AR. So why didn't the EAR help out? From the relative positions of the R, AR & EAR, it certainly seems the EAR had a better view than the AR.

For the second penalty (see pic below), the EAR is close to the incident but perhaps does not have the correct angle to see contact between the players. This may be a reason why the EAR did not assist the R in making a penalty decision. The R, with his confidence unsettled by the first penalty call 27 minutes earlier, probably did not have the courage to make this penalty call.

These incidents add weight to the ineffectiveness of EARs. In particular, the wide camera angle (see pic below) for the second penalty gives the best angle of view. Neither the R or EAR had particularly great views. This also brings up the altered positioning and limited narrow runs of the R, when EARs are used in matches. Referees no longer feel the need to run wide, and hence can no longer obtain an optimal angle of view such as that seen by the camera angle (below).

[From this optimal angle, it is a definite penalty]

“Are EARs the extra eyes needed in football?”
No. It would appear not.

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

However so far, EARs do not appear to assist refereeing decisions or have a preventive effect on players’ conduct. EARs do not significantly enhance or help the game.

The question now is how long will UEFA stick with their calamitous experiment, and will UEFA release proper data and results of their experiment?

Related Posts

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

Self-Censorship at UEFA

Wednesday 8 December 2010

South China Get Their Man Butt

Following a successful guest appearance for South China last week, Nicky Butt will return to action in Hong Kong in late January 2011.

Nicky Butt with South China (Pic courtesy BBC sport)

Butt is expected to play until May, with the main goals to help the reigning Hong Kong league holders retain the First Division title and to progress significantly better than ever in the AFC Cup. Along the way, Butt is expected to help nurture and guide his new team-mates.

South China chairman Steven Lo Kit-sing said the club would pay Butt similarly to an English Premier League player, which means the 35-year-old former England player could be earning between £25,000 and £30,000 per week.

Following his Hong Kong and Asian adventure, Butt has plans to start his coaching career in Europe in May.


Record Signing (The Standard)

Caroliners get their man as Butt signs (SCMP; subscription required)

Sunday 5 December 2010

Nicky Butt Gives Hong Kong Two Lessons

Hong Kong’s oldest club South China Athletics Association is in the midst of enticing Nicky Butt out of football retirement. The former Manchester United, Newcastle United and England player hung up his boots last season, after helping the Magpies secure promotion from England’s Championship to the Premiership.

However, Hong Kong has clearly embraced Nicky Butt and relevant parties are currently negotiating a short-term contract so that Butt can primarily help South China in its quest to win the AFC Cup.

As a tantalizing prelude, on Tuesday 30 November 2010 Nicky Butt made his South China debut in front of 8,253 fans, the largest crowd this season in Hong Kong. The 1st Division league match between South China and TSW Pegasus was played at the Hong Kong Stadium, and the match finished 2—1. Butt scored South China's equalizer from a free kick in the 65th minute, missed a penalty in the 70th minute, and helped set up the winning goal in the 90th minute. [Match highlights can be viewed here]

At least two little lessons were picked up from Nicky Butt’s debut

Lesson ONE

To quote a cliché, Nicky Butt was head and shoulders above everyone else on the pitch. He was composed, always made himself available to his team-mates, read play well, and perhaps unexpectedly spread the ball around the pitch as if he was a clone of Paul Scholes or David Beckham. The surprising thing (because this is expected of him) was that he did not appear to want to tackle and when he did attempt to tackle, his timing was way off, as could be seen for instance in the 85th minute when he made a late lunge at an opponent about to counterattack. Butt did not make contact with the ball or the player and fortunately, as he stretched despairingly at his opponent, did not injure himself.

He also scored from a direct free kick. Here is a clip of Nicky Butt’s debut goal in Hong Kong.

Nicky Butt Debut Goal South China Hong Kong

Take home message: Six months after hanging up his boots, this performance says a lot about Butt’s quality … and also says something about the quality of Hong Kong football.

Lesson TWO

In the 70th minute, a penalty kick was awarded to South China. [Question: Was it a penalty? The incident occurs from 1:26 here]

Here is a clip immediately after the referee awarded a penalty to South China, with the score level at 1—1. The TSW Pegasus players (yellow) are incensed at the decision and attempted to crowd and exert pressure on the referee. This is why the nearside AR has run over to support his colleague.

Nicky Butt Penalty Kick on Debut South China Hong Kong

Nicky Butt shoots from the penalty spot and hits the crossbar. The ball rebounds towards Butt, who cannot resist the urge to have another crack at goal. Unfortunately for Butt—for all his experience as a professional player at the highest levels of football—his second attempt at goal automatically became void as soon as he touched the ball. The nearside AR instantly spots this and flags for an indirect free kick to the defending team.

Take home message: The nearside AR did an excellent job in assisting the match referee prior to and during the penalty kick.