Wednesday 25 May 2011

Do Referees Ignore EARs?

Here are three incidents during two Champions League matches which all involve extra assistant referees (EARs). Do Referees seek advice from EARs or do Referees ignore them?

Incident One (No Foul, No Penalty)

Simply look at what the players are looking at ... and that will give you the answer

Surely a foul Ref!?

OK, I won't complain this time

EAR nods his head to indicate "No Foul"!

EITHER the Referee actually listened to what the EAR said or indicated, OR the Referee didn't see anything and therefore just played on. How do we know whether the Referee is taking advice from his EAR?

Answer One: Debatable whether the Referee sought advice from the EAR (EAR appears to be ineffective and redundant)

Incident Two (Ball Crosses the Goal-line Between the Posts and Under the Crossbar)

Referee immediately looks to his right at his AR and not to his EAR to confirm whether the ball crossed the goal-line

This is exactly the kind of incident that UEFA had in mind when they introduced EARs to help assist Referees

Look at the Referee looking at the AR for confirmation. Why isn't the Referee similarly looking at the EAR for confirmation? Nevermind that one of the main reasons why UEFA has deployed EARs is because they are deemed to be crucial in assisting the Referee in matters such as whether the ball has crossed the goal-line between the posts and under the crossbar.

Nevermind that in this incident, the EAR clearly had the optimum angle of view and yet the Referee still only looked to his AR for confirmation.

Answer Two: The Referee did NOT seek advice from the EAR (EAR is ineffective and redundant)

Incident Three (Foul in the Goal Area)

Referee immediately whistles for a foul against the attacking team on the goalkeeper

The Referee has instantly decided that a foul has occurred on the goalkeeper. Nevermind that the EAR is perfectly positioned to see the incident. In fact, UEFA has officially stated that EARs would have a preventative affect in the number of infringements occurring in the penalty area, and that they could also assist the Referee in identifying such infringements should they occur. In this incident, did the Referee have any use for the EAR?

Answer Three: The Referee did NOT seek advice from the EAR (EAR is ineffective and redundant)


This blog's central thesis about EARs is ...

Central Thesis

My main argument is not the fact that EARs are ineffective and redundant (which, in many incidents, they are ) or that EARs do not help or enhance the game. It is worse than that and much more serious.

My main argument
is the fact that EARs can have a detrimental effect on the performance of the match Referee and hence can contribute to ruining the game since match officials will be perceived to be making more, instead of less, errors.

This post has shown evidence of the concerns stated in the first paragraph (i.e. EARs are ineffective, redundant and do not enhance the game).

Look out for a future post giving details and evidence of the second paragraph (i.e. instances where referees are negatively affected by EARs).

But first it will be interesting to see how the match officials perform in this season's Champions League Final between Barcelona and Manchester United at Wembley on Saturday 28 May 2011. It will be the first Champions League final that "uses" EARs.

Tuesday 24 May 2011

Now We See More. Well, Not Really

The following incident occurred during the Europa League Round of 16 second-leg match between Glasgow Rangers and PSV Eindhoven on Thursday 17 March 2011. The match finished 0—1, with PSV advancing 1—0 on aggregate to the quarter-final stage.

There was a goal-mouth incident where a Rangers goal-bound shot was stopped by a PSV defender's hand. However, despite the fact that seven out of eight Rangers players in the penalty area and nine PSV players saw the handball, apparently none of the match officials (R, EAR, AR or even the 4th Official) saw the DOGSO offence.

Here are the freeze frame from 5 different camera views.

Camera View A:

Camera View B:

Camera View C (with magnification bubble):

Camera View D:

Camera View E:

Walter Smith, Rangers manager, said on BBC Sport:
"I don't know how many officials we have got on the pitch but they all missed it."

Walter Smith is not the only one who doesn't know how many match officials are present in Europa and Champions League matches!

UEFA appears to pride itself in their experiment using additional assistant referees (or EARs). However, this post will repeat the concerns about the use of EARs and their extra pairs of eyes.

HKRef wonders whether:

1) there are 5 or 6 match officials?
Yes, like Walter Smith, we are confused about how many match officials there are. UEFA continues to call this an experiment using 5 match officials (officially stating "5 Referees") but there are clearly 6 match officials in the team.

2) “more vision, communication and information” is having the desired effect.
What desired effect?
a) If the desired effect is for match officials to identify more incidents occurring in the penalty area as well as to have a deterrent effect on players who may like to foul in the penalty area (as officially stated when EARs were first introduced in the 2009-10 Europa League), then the experiment has failed.
b) Furthermore, if the desired effect is to improve the performance of the match Referee in terms of better decision making and enhanced credibility (as implied by the introduction of EARs to assist the Referee), then that too has failed.

3) the campaign for more respect for Referees will be undermined by missed incidents.
Examples include this post's DOGSO handball that was missed by all match officials plus others elsewhere)
By having a detrimental effect on the performance of the Referee, the EAR experiment provides players, coaches, fans and commentators with more "ammunition" to disrespect match officials.

HKRef does NOT consider the use of EARs or additional assistant referees to be a proper trial or experiment that will yield valid results. This is because UEFA, FIFA and IFAB have not, and in all likelihood will not, provide their methodology, results, and interpretation of results freely and transparently to the public.

Related Post

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

Saturday 21 May 2011

LOTG and Laws of Physics: Part 2

This post adds supplementary content to LOTG and Laws of Physics [in response to comments from PrimeTime and dubhe. Thanks for the comments.]

Howard Webb is a good competent Referee (see The Big Decisions, my previous comments about him in Webb's Weak Woeful Week). And probably a nice bloke from Yorkshire too; a Sheffield lad, I'm told. What concerns me is that he is a full-time professional, and has received excellent training, tools and resources, and yet for the Elite category of Referees he appears to fall short of what is expected.

My take on Howard Webb's foul decision in the Liverpool v Spurs match is that it is a difficult call to make unless the Referee also considers the movement of the colliding bodies after impact. That is, try to use the Laws of Physics to help. Granted, this is difficult to do in real-time but it is reasonable to put full-time professional Referees at a higher standard; also, the intense interest and scrutiny in the professional game demands it. I believe full-time professional Referees set the benchmark for the rest of us.

There was a similar incident in a recent MLS match between Colarado Rapids and DC United on Saturday 14 May 2011 [Week 9]. The match finished 1—1. In that incident, the Referee called the foul, which happened to be inside the penalty area, and therefore a penalty was awarded to DC United. Here are the freeze frames:

In the back!

Before that penalty decision in the 61', DC United were trailing 0—1 and were understandably feeling aggrieved about an earlier penalty appeal that was not given. Here is that earlier incident:

DC United player Joseph Ngwenya (black) is fouled in the box, but the Referee played on

This foul occurred in the 56'. For whatever reason, the Referee missed the penalty decision and subsequently the fouled DC United player, Joseph Ngwenya, ran up to the Referee shouting and seemingly charged the Referee. Because of this, the Referee was perhaps affected and influenced.

DC United player Joseph Ngwenya getting up close and personal

[Note: If needed (and requested by readers), I have yet another example of the importance of using the Laws of Physics when considering body collisions. In that example, two different camera angles give two very different views and highlights the need for everyone to accept the Referee's decision at the time it is made. After all, there is only one Referee of a football match.]

Regarding Emile Heskey

Following up after Heskey's outburst, in the Aston Villa match away at Arsenal, caretaker coach Gary McAllister benched Heskey and subbed him on in the 90+1' to help run down the clock.

News reports have also made noises about Sven Goran Eriksson claiming to move for Heskey, who they say appear to be unsettled. Eriksson is currently manager at Championship side Leiceister City, Heskey's first professional and boyhood club. During his time as England manager, Eriksson was an admirer of Heskey, regularly pairing him with Michael Owen.

Wednesday 18 May 2011

LOTG and Laws of Physics

The following two incidents occurred during the EPL match between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday 15 May 2011. The match finished 0—2.

The Referee was Howard Webb (see Webb Scrutiny, where HKRef mentions hope that Webb can bounce back for the remainder of the season). Of these two incidents, one was a poor decision and the other was a half-good decision. One is concluded directly from the Laws Of The Game and the other is determined from the Laws of Physics.

Luis Suarez's Petulant Kick

Liverpool forward Luis Suarez is a fantastic player. He also has a reputation for sometimes doing stupid things. For example, whilst at Ajax this season he was given a seven-match ban for biting an opponent's shoulder (see Liverpool's fine young cannibal).

On Sunday, Suarez did another stupid act; he kicked an opponent who was down on the ground. This was foolish and completely unnecessary. Credit to Spurs defender Michael Dawson for not reacting in kind to Suarez's petulant kick.

Webb was probably close enough to see Suarez kick Dawson

It is not 100% clear whether Webb saw the incident, but one good thing is that he was helped by the fact that Dawson and other players did not become needlessly involved. Players from both teams allowed the Referee to decide on the sanction, if any. This is the ideal: Allow the Referee space and time to manage and make a decision without any unnecessary interference and pressuring by players. So what did Webb do?

Webb cautioned Suarez. Did Webb in fact see the incident? Was Webb's decision correct in Law?

A famous example of this kind of stupidity and petulance is David Beckham's kick on Diego Simeone during the England and Argentina match in the 1998 World Cup. No one could justly complain when Referee Kim Milton Nielsen sent off David Beckham. These days, it seems we could do with more Referees who have courage to make the correct decisions, no matter how tough it may be at the time.

Instead, many Referees mistakenly believe they have to be touchy-feely and pally-friendly with players.

Notice also Webb's characteristic hands-on approach (or the touchy-feely method). Webb certainly does like to touch and handle players (compared with, say, Phil Dowd who prefers not to get needlessly involved).

John Flannagan's Charge

A fair charge is a shoulder-to-shoulder and side-to-side barge whilst attempting to gain space and control of the ball. Any other kind of charge is unfair and therefore a foul.

In the 55', Webb awarded a penalty against Liverpool right-back Flannagan who challenged with Spurs midfielder Steven Pienaar. Here are the freeze frames:

Was this a fair charge?

Many commentators and news reports said Webb's penalty decision was dubious and questionable (see BBC Sport, Guardian Football and Telegraph Football), with the emphasis that the challenge was a fair shoulder barge. Secondary to that, the challenge is claimed to have occurred outside the box. From the benefit of analyzing the freeze frames post-match (which all match Referees do not have in real time), Webb's decision was only half correct. It was a foul (i.e. an unfair charge) but contact was in fact outside the penalty area.

Take a look at Pienaar's body movement following contact with Flannagan. After the collision, is Pienaar's body moving sideways or is he falling forward? If sideways this would mean he was charged shoulder-to-shoulder and side-to-side. If falling forward this would indicate that he was charged from behind. From the freeze frames, although it may look as if contact between the players was shoulder-to-shoulder, on closer inspection Pienaar is actually just in front of Flannagan and because of this Flannagan's right side is pushing more of Pienaar's back rather than his left side. This is the force that pushes Pienaar's body forward (and also rotates it), indicating that he was pushed from behind. In contrast Flannagan's body continues to go forward (and not sideways), further indicating that there was no equal shoulder-to-shoulder collision.

In many incidents that involve players colliding, Referees should pay attention to the reactions resulting from the collision. Observing the collision of moving bodies can be revealing. The Laws of Physics really can help Referees.

Now, notice where initial contact was made. At the moment of contact, Pienaar's feet are clearly not in the penalty area and since contact was more to his back and left side, it is reasonable to conclude that contact was made outside the area. Contact did not continue in to the area because both players "bounced" off each other immediately after initial contact.

All this is pretty hard for Referee Howard Webb to see, particularly since there is a Liverpool player possibly hindering his view of the incident. Webb however can perhaps see the way Pienaar falls to ground. Therefore, Webb got the foul right and the location of the foul wrong.


As mentioned above: Of these two incidents, one was a poor decision and the other was a half-good decision. The former can be concluded directly from the Laws Of The Game, while the latter can be determined from the Laws of Physics.

Related Post

Sometimes, Referees Have To Rely On Intuition Alone

LOTG and Laws of Physics: Part 2