Friday 13 January 2012

Chris Foy The Courageous

Referee Chris Foy sends off Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany (credit: Reuters)

IMHO, Referee Chris Foy had the courage to make the tough and brave decision to send off Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany in the 12' during the Manchester derby FA Cup Third Round tie on Sunday 8 January 2012. That match finished 2—3.

Opinions from Referees alone—let's forget for the moment all the opinions from football players, coaches, pundits and fans—spanned the full spectrum from No Foul, Quiet Word, IFK, DFK, DFK and Public Warning, DFK and Caution all the way to Serious Foul Play. If there were more options in a Referee's arsenal (such as sin bins and orange cards), I am sure some Referees would have chosen those too!

This incident illustrates just how diverse are the opinions of Referees, specifically as regards to player safety and welfare. It also reveals how some Referees take in to consideration many other aspects of football to help them reach their decisions, whether correctly or misguidedly. For example, at one end some Referees took into consideration their background as coaches or as players and therefore reached the conclusion that Kompany made an excellent and perfectly-executed tackle to cleanly collect the ball, and mistakenly rationalized that Referees who have not played football at the highest level would never understand this aspect of the game. While at the other end some referees just inherently knew that Kompany's tackle endangered the safety of his opponent.

Let's take a look again at the incident:
Manchester United's Nani evades the lunging challenge by Manchester City's Vincent Kompany (credit: AFP/Getty Images)

1) The incident occurred high up the field and therefore posed no immediate danger to an attack toward goal.

2) Vincent Kompany had a covering team-mate.

3) Vincent Kompany would reach the ball before, or at least at the same time as, Nani.

4) Manchester City had just conceded a goal.

Therefore why did Vincent Kompany choose to lunge instead of either making a tough but fair challenge to intercept the ball or even perhaps just jockey?

Although we cannot read his mind and intent, it is reasonable to assume by his actions that Kompany wanted to announce his presence to his opponent. And when a player wishes to announce his presence, this usually involves intimidation. The definition of intimidation is: "to make timid or fearful; to frighten".

Here's another great example of intimidation, this time by a goalkeeper: In Tackles, Goalkeepers Are Usually Reckless.

The Laws state:
Any player who lunges at an opponent in challenging for the ball from the front, from the side or from behind using one or both legs, with excessive force and endangering the safety of an opponent is guilty of serious foul play.

Chris Foy was the match referee, and his opinion and decision is what counts. His was a courageous and correct decision. It is gratifying—as well as a relief—that the FA Disciplinary Commission agreed with Foy's brave decision and upheld it (see Red Cards, Appeals, Frenzy and Uproar). Chris Foy did not take the easy route of soft-option refereeing. He interpreted that Kompany endangered the safety of Nani and so, in the same way that Kompany publicly announced his message, Foy publicly announced his message. Furthermore, from what I saw of the match, Foy performed well and got the major decisions right. Chris Foy should be applauded for taking a firm stand against the expectation of leniency in the Premiership.

Hypothetically, had the match referee been, say, Howard Webb, would it be reasonable to speculate that Webb's decision for this incident would be nearer the other end of the spectrum compared with Chris Foy's serious foul play decision? What would Webb have done?
(background: see Many Missed Red Card Incidents In One Match)

It is my hope that the 'pendulum swing' of the EPL's tendency towards being lenient for the sake of entertainment and viewing figures at the expense of player safety and welfare will begin to swing back towards the central correct application of Law 12. And as sure as Manchester City's Vincent Kompany warns of an increase in red cards, this should be welcomed because as soon as everyone—from Referees to football players, coaches, pundits and fans—understands that Referees are correctly and consistently applying the Laws of the Game without fear or favour, then the number of incidents of dangerous and serious foul play, as well as cynical challenges, will naturally decrease and the beauty of the Game will be enhanced and will be the better for it.

Chris Foy the Courageous. Chris Foy should be applauded for taking a firm stand against the expectation of leniency in the Premiership.


  1. his decision has nothing to do with common sense..who the hell should understand that such a situation, in which the opponent was not touched clearly (the fouled player himself continued playing) is red but making a challenge from behind is often only cautioned with a yellow card. No wonder that supporters do not understand us, the referees.
    One may have different opinions about this specific scene, but in fact, Foy had a very poor perfomance also APART from this situation. Hence, no reason for an applause, one should question the sense to appoint this man for this match.

  2. the tackle was dangerous but i'm sure it doen't fulfil the criteria of a serious faul play. Webb is totally out with his card policy but why do you support another extreme? sorry, but this has nothing to do with courage. it's just another incompetence.
    english FA prefers to support their referees until they aren't ridiculously wrong, but it doesn't mean the decision was correct.