Friday 2 March 2012

Dangerous Play: Rory Delap

The following incident occurred during the FA Cup fifth round match between Crawley Town and Stoke City on 19 February 2012. The match finished 0—2.

In the 17', with the score at 0—0, Stoke's Rory Delap (blue/black) and Crawley's David Hunt (red) challenged for the ball on the pitch side near the technical area. The 4th Official is positioned at the halfway line and possibly helped provide assistance to Referee Mike Jones. The reason for this opinion is because Mike Jones initially indicated a throw-in to Crawley Town but then sent off Delap. Here are the freeze frames:

This next sequence shows another camera angle, probably from the vicinity around the halfway line near where the 4th Official is also standing. Here are the freeze frames:

Referee Mike Jones initially signals for a throw-in, but then sends off Stoke's Rory Delap for serious foul play. Did the 4th Official play a part?

NOTE: The 4th Official is Lee Probert (this blog has already analysed his recent performances (e.g. here and here) and 'unfortunately' there is still more to say about him in a future post).

Stoke City coach Tony Pulis was incensed by the decision and appealed. The Potters' assistant manager Dave Kemp said:
"The fourth official [Lee Probert] said [the sending-off] was for excessive force. That's a very debatable subject. There was no danger to the opponent. It's football and it's been played for years that way."

Also, Tony Pulis previously mentioned:
"We have to clear up what is a sending-off and what isn't? We are watching games at times and we are getting different decisions being made for different teams and different players, but similar incidents."

Follow Up
Stoke City's appeal was successful and the FA Disciplinary Committee has withdrawn Rory Delap's three-match suspension.
Q: What does this say, if anything, about Lee Probert's decision to 'overrule' Mike Jones' initial decision?

From HKRef: Looking at the direction of the challenge, Stoke City's Rory Delap is not lunging directly at his opponent. Compare this with team-mate Robert Huth's direct lunge at an opponent (Serious Foul Play: Robert Huth) and also the analysis associated with Similar Similar Means Different Part 3.

The 4th Official, apparently, had a better view of the incident than the match Referee and probably should have been able to better decide whether Delap's challenge was aimed directly at his opponent (or not, as the case turned out to be).

If EPL Referees are not all on the same page, then it will not help matters. Consistency in getting the big decisions right is key. Apparently, PGMOL chief Mike Riley has given a DVD to all premiership clubs to show them what is and isn't allowed in tackling. It is assumed that all EPL Referees are aware of this DVD too!


  1. I agree that the challenge wasn't "directly" at Hunt. BUT Deloe challenge was "over" the ball and his spikes narrowly missed Hunt's foot. It was a reckless challenge on Deloe's part. In slow motion it sure is easier to dissect.. but full speed I can see where Probert could have communicated "excessive"or
    even "reckless"

    1. Thanks for your comment. Going over the ball can be reckless, and going over the ball directly at a player is excessive. The classic example (in the modern game) of it being excessive is the challenge from Brazil's Ronaldinho against England's Danny Murphy at the 2002 World Cup.

      I agree that looking at replays, and performing post-match analysis, is always relatively easier compared with being on the FOP and making decisions in real time. However, professional Referees (and Elite Group Category Referees) set the benchmark for other Referees. They receive top-notch resources, support and training to help them perform to the best of their abilities and to exacting set standards. Therefore when they fall short, or are perceived to fall short, of those standards, it is perfectly justifiable to ask searching questions and seek satisfactory answers. For instance, why did 4th Official Lee Probert make that call?
      It was considered the wrong call because the FA Disciplinary Commission agreed with Stoke City's appeal.

      Also, consider the context when recently Probert has been the centre Referee and has not made any significant calls (i.e. he has missed several serious foul play incidents). If he cannot perform satisfactorily when he is in the middle, isn't it somewhat ironic that he is making calls during important incidents when he is the 4th Official to overrule the match Referee's decision? And did Probert get that call correct?

  2. I agree that these officials are getting top training and should be held accountable. I didn't see any past games that Probert did in the middle.. but i know from my days during semi-pro that every game is different and unfortunately that even refs that do poorly in the middle can get it "right" sometimes as an AR.. I don't know the thinking of the FA committee on reversing the call...maybe they thought Probert couldn't be right because he was wrong many times as the referee (just kidding). I would find it interesting to see what the FA's reasoning was. Thanks for an excellent Web Site