Monday 7 March 2011

Optimum Officiating: Liverpool v Manchester United

The following incident occurred during the Premiership league match between Liverpool and Manchester United on Sunday 6 March 2011. The match finished 3—1.

A mass confrontation broke out following a rash challenge by Manchester United defender Rafael on Liverpool midfielder Lucas. Referee Phil Dowd managed the situation really well ... and typically in his own particular style.

"What a bunch of ??? ... I am not amused"

Excellent triangle of control by the match officials

Phil Dowd has particularly effective man-management skills and does not appear to be influenced by the big teams

By not getting physically involved in the mass confrontation, Phil Dowd demonstrated that he was calm, cool, collected and always in control of the match. Although some people may not like Dowd's refereeing style, there is no denying that for many kinds of matches his brash, no-nonsense approach to officiating can be extremely effective. There's no denying that he is a strong referee with a strong character.

In contrast to Phil Dowd, Howard Webb likes to get more "stuck in" and physically involved with players ... even though referees are advised to refrain from getting caught in situations that may result in physical contact with players.

Howard Webb may well be a policeman and have expert martial arts skills, but the question to ask is ... when it comes to mass confrontations, which approach appears to be the most effective? A hands-off or a hands-on approach?

From yesterday's Liverpool v Manchester United match, Phil Dowd's hands-off approach was generally very effective.

Meaty Challenges
Befitting of a huge massive match, there were plenty of "meaty" challenges with decisions that are debatable. Here are the freeze frames of three challenges (all occurring at the end of the first half of the Liverpool v Manchester United match) that are up for debate:

Challenge 1: Liverpool defender Carragher misses the ball, goes over it, and his studs hit Manchester United midfielder Nani in the shin. Nani is stretchered off.
Dowd's decision: Yellow card. [Debate: Yellow or Red?]

Challenges 2 and 3: Liverpool's Maxi lands his studs on the thigh of United's Rafael, causing him to lose control of the ball. Subsequently, in Rafael's attempt to win back the ball, he makes a two-footed lunge into approaching Liverpool midfielder Lucas.

Dowd's decision: No decision. [Debate: Red?]

Dowd's decision: After allowing the mass confrontation to peter out, yellow card. [Debate: Yellow or Red?]

What is interesting is that, compared with some of his other referee colleagues, Phil Dowd does not seem to induce as much media attention about his decisions and performance.


  1. So a good referree keeps his distance and gives yellows not red. I see. This contradicts what you blog ... make decisions, ... safe game ...

  2. Thanks Anon. My reference to optimum officiating was the mass confrontation incident during the match, since there is little point for match officials to get physically involved. Phil Dowd's body language (i.e. standing, watching, crossed arms) said a lot and is a characteristic of his particular style. To emphasize this, I compared his approach with Howard Webb's man-handling approach.

    As for the matter of the meaty challenges, I deliberately left this open for discussion. Were Dowd's decisions correct?

  3. After Challenges 2 and 3 could follow the Dropped ball?


  4. Both challenges, 1 and 2, are worthy of red cards and no other colour is allowed there. Really big mistakes!

    On the other hand, I love such style like Dowd's one. Always calm, relaxed. Referee should, according to instructions, be active in such situations, but I definitely like hands-off approach more!