Friday 25 February 2011

Two EAR Incidents: Lyon v Real Madrid

The following incidents occurred during the Round of 16 first leg clash between Lyon and Real Madrid on Tuesday 22 February 2011. The match finished 1—1.

This post once again raises concerns about the usefulness of having extra assistant referees or EARs (see related post about EARs)
“Are EARs the extra eyes needed in football?”

Incident One

Lyon had two men standing in a wall directly in front of a Real Madrid DFK. As the free kick is taken, one Lyon player jumps up, raises his arms and blocks the ball. The EAR and Referee did nothing and play continued.

Note the positions of the EAR and R. By raising his arms, the Lyon player has made himself bigger and therefore blocks the ball.

The presence of the EAR has affected the way the R operates. During such restarts (e.g. corners, DFKs, IFKs) from the attacking team's left side, the R now stands on the other side of the penalty area arc (more toward the AR), leaving the EAR with the responsibility to cover the immediate area in the left side of the penalty area. But is the EAR performing, and seen to be performing, his duties?

All this left Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho questioning the effectiveness of EARs too. He is quoted on BBC news saying:
There are four eyes [between the referee and his goal-line assistant]. It could be decisive. Let's hope it does not cost Real Madrid qualification.

Here's another related news article:
Fuming Mourinho slams referee over 'missed penalty' (Reuters, Agence France-Presse, Feb 24, 2011)

Incident Two

This corner kick incident involves the same EAR mentioned above (again). This time, let's assess how the EAR is positioned and what he is focused on.

The EAR did not anticipate any action to happen behind him, and therefore missed seeing who kicked the ball out over the goal-line

As the ball from the corner kick approaches the near post, players from both teams are challenging for the ball. It is played out over the goal-line, behind the static EAR, by the attacking player (Real Madrid's Carvalho). However, the ball never passes the EAR's plane of sight because the EAR had positioned himself to anticipate watching the action inside the 6-yard box. His peripheral position to his right (i.e. plane of sight) appears to be parallel along the 6-yard line running from near his feet perpendicular from the goal-line. He certainly did not anticipate any action to occur behind him and clearly did not see who played the ball out.

Therefore, who made the call for a "goal kick"? Where was the R? The R's position for the corner kick meant that he would have had to see past many players and also through the back of players to see the ball!! It appears that the call was made by simply reading the action of the players!!


Will the incidents seen in this first leg match come back to haunt Real Madrid in the second leg at the Bernabeu?

And once again, what kind of evidence do UEFA, FIFA and IFAB need to persuade them that EARs are ineffective, and can even have a detrimental effect on the performance of the Referee?

If anyone out there supports the use of EARs, I would appreciate hearing the reasons for using EARs.

Thursday 17 February 2011

Seven Significant Incidents: AC Milan v Tottenham Hotspur

Following a two-month break, the knockout stage of the 2010-2011 UEFA Champions League has begun giving us another taste of high-level football and high-level officiating ... supposedly. Lol.

The following incidents occurred during the Round of 16 first leg clash between AC Milan and Tottenham Hotspur on Tuesday 15 February 2011. The match finished 0—1.

This post picks up on seven important incidents. Skip ahead to the SUMMARY (if you wish to avoid the many freeze frames in this post).

Incident One in 1st minute

AC Milan defender Alessandro Nesta (red #13) moved his body towards the ball as it was crossed into the penalty area by Spurs midfielder Rafael van der Vaart (white #11). The ball touched Nesta's arm in a manner reminiscent of Harry Kewell's deliberate handball movement during the 2010 World Cup match between Australia and Ghana. In that incident, referee Roberto Rosetti sent off Kewell for denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity with his hand. Here are the freeze frames of Incident One:

Nesta clearly moved towards the ball and made contact with his arm, which recoils back. The R had a clear unobstructed view. The question to ask is whether the R or the EAR saw this. Again, is the EAR useful here? (see related post about EARs)
“Are EARs the extra eyes needed in football?”

Incident Two in 2nd minute

An incorrect offside was given against Spurs, which denied them an attacking opportunity. The freeze frame (below) shows that Peter Crouch (white player #15 standing just off the 6-yard line and nearest to the AR) is not offside as the ball is headed forward.

However, the AR signalled offside against Spurs as soon as Crouch headed the ball.

Incident Three in 55th minute

AC Milan midfielder Mathieu Flamini (red #16) makes a two-footed tackle on Spurs defender Vedran Corluka (white #22). Referee Stephane Lannoy (France) had a clear unobstructed view of the tackle that used excessive force. Here are the freeze frames of Incident Three:

Lannoy immediately cautioned Flamini, leaving everyone puzzled including Flamini who expressed a relieved wry smile as soon as he saw the yellow card.

Incident Four in 59th minute

AC Milan captain Gennaro Gattuso (red #8) gets to grips (literally) with Spurs assistant manager Joe Jordan by grabbing his throat. Here are the freeze frames of Incident Four:

The AR clearly saw this act of violent conduct, and yet Referee Lannoy took no action.

Incident Five in 69th minute

After Referee Lannoy whistled for offside against Spurs, Gattuso tussled with Crouch and used both his hands to push the 6'7" striker in the chest.

Note, if Gattuso had picked on someone his own size (i.e. considerably shorter than 6'7"), then Gattuso's push would have been in his opponent's face and neck.

Incident Six in 94th minute

Ibrahimovic scores what AC Milan believe to be the equalizer but the goal is not awarded because of a foul immediately prior to the ball crossing the goal-line. Here is the freeze frame of Incident Six, showing the position of the R and the EAR:

It is obvious that Ibrahimovic pushed Michael Dawson in the back to create space for himself to strike the ball. In this crowd of players, the question to ask is who saw this foul? Was it the R, AR or EAR? Again, what is the use of the EAR?
“Are EARs the extra eyes needed in football?”

Here is the EAR. Did he see it? From this view, it appears the EAR had the angle to see the offence.

Here is the R. Did he see it? From this view, it seems unlikely that the R had the angle to see the offence. He would have had to see past at least three players to spot Ibrahimovic's push.

Here is the probable AR view. Depending on how focused the AR is (remember, he wasn't focused in the first two minutes of the match when he made an incorrect offside call), he may have been able to spot the push. In anycase, he raised his flag (Did he see the offence himself, or did he receive signals or messages from the EAR or R?). These are important questions that can tell us how useful the EAR really is.

Is the EAR merely an onlooker, or did the EAR play a role in assisting the R and AR in spotting the offence by Ibrahimovic?
This pic shows the EAR and Ibrahimovic looking over to the AR, who has raised his flag. Did the EAR help? The EAR does not appear to be using his "magic wand" or talking through his earpiece. Certainly, the presence of the EAR did not prevent Ibrahimovic from pushing his opponent to gain an advantage (which is one of the virtues of using EARs, as alleged by UEFA, FIFA and the IFAB).

Hey, look who's running this way ...

AC Milan player Antonini (red #77) clearly displays dissent to the AR. As Antonini approaches the AR, the AR raises his flag and probably tells the R that something is happening. But again, Referee Lannoy took no action. Antonini was not cautioned.

Incident Seven After Final Whistle

Given that the match officials may have been busy getting together and then shaking everyone's hands, they may not have witnessed the kerfuffle kicked up between Gattuso and Joe Jordan.
We can safely leave this one to the UEFA disciplinary committee.


Referee Stephane Lannoy had a poor game, and his assistants (Eric Dansault, Laurent Ugo, Antony Gautier and Ruddy Buquet) were not much better.

Will the poor decisions made in this first leg match come back to haunt Tottenham Hotspur in the second leg at White Hart Lane?

Wednesday 9 February 2011

Positive Signals From Sian Massey

A positive outcome from the generally negative fallout of the Sky Sports presenters’ sexist comments about Sian Massey is the increased media attention towards ARs and their duties.

Sian Massey displaying great form, focus and running technique as an AR in the English Premier League (pic from EMPICS)

The achievements of Massey, and her anticipated continued development, is to be applauded. Although unexpected, she has perhaps become a role model for budding match officials. Therefore, not all media attention is bad or detrimental.

Throw-in flag signal (pic from PA)

This second photo looks slightly awkward (although allowance must be given to whether the timing of the photo capture was actually at the optimal end point of Massey’s flag signal). This gives HKRef a convenient reason to state that the flag should be like as an extension of the arm.

Go Sian!