Sunday 29 April 2012

Mike Dean Masterclass Display Part 2

Continued from Mike Dean Masterclass Display Part 1

Incident Seven: Careless Challenge and Good Advantage

In the 38th minute, a Sunderland (red/white) player carelessly tackles a Newcastle player (black-white). Mike Dean does not unnecessarily stop the match and instead allows advantage (with Newcastle's Ryan Taylor producing a cross from the right wing that results in a corner kick).

 Referee Mike Dean plays a good advantage

Incident Eight: Violent Conduct and Correct Send Off

In the 58th minute, Sunderland's Stephane Sessegnon (red 28) swings an arm into Newcastle's Tiote's face. Mike Dean is right there and sends off Sessegnon.


 Sunderland's Sessegnon can have no complaints about his send off

Incident Nine: Careless Challenge in Penalty Area and Correct Penalty Decision

In the 81st minute, Sunderland's Frazier Campbell clatters into Newcastle's Shola Ameobi in the penalty area. Mike Dean is well positioned and awards a penalty. 

 A clear penalty which Mike Dean clearly sees

Incident Ten: Goal and Good AR1

In the 90+1st minute, Newcastle's Ameobi scores the equalizer. Ameobi is onside when the ball is headed forward by his team-mate.

Newcastle's Ameobi (black/white attacking player closest to the AR) is onside

 Incident Eleven: Red Card for Offinabus

In the 90+5th minute, after the final whistle, Sunderland's Lee Cattermole abuses Referee Mike Dean. Cattermole is given a straight red.

Clap all you like captain Cattermole (red/white 6), you're still carded and suspended


Referee Mike Dean performed admirably, skillfully and professionally. He exuded composure, confidence, credibility, coolness and class.

To correctly issue a caution in the first minute, and a total of six cautions within 24 minutes, without fear or favour speaks volumes about Mike Dean's no-nonsense approach to a feisty derby match between highly-charged players. This is what Referees are meant to do, manage players and allow a fair and competitive match to develop. Referee Assessors are trained to assess Referee performances, and this match is a fine example for everyone—from Assessors down to junior Referees—on how top Referees should perform.

However, speaking of assessment reports, one weakness of assessment reports written by Referee Assessors is that they are always based on the single isolated match without reference to any other relevant match or other relevant Referee. Personally and professionally, this is unhelpful; especially if there is also an arbitrary numerical marking scheme applied. If Referee Assessments are given and taken in isolation (which they usually are), then there is only limited learning opportunities. To improve (and good Referees should always be looking to improve), we should always be looking for a greater learning experience.

For example, Mike Dean's masterclass performance would mean so much more (and be so much more useful to everyone else) if it were sensibly compared with other Referee performances of a similar nature or level. Comparisons are rarely done, if at all, which is why assessment reports offer limited help and learning opportunities. Fortunately, there is a relevant comparison on this Blog that will help reveal just how much quality Mike Dean's masterclass performance was. The comparison is Howard Webb, Dean's fellow PGMOL colleague, who Refereed the corresponding North-East derby earlier this season (see here).

What better comparison of a similar nature or level ...
  then the North-East premier league derby matches between Newcastle United and Sunderland United during the 2011-2012 season?

If we look at Webb's performance in the first derby match and compare it with Dean's performance in the corresponding derby match, the difference is clearly significant and striking.  Who gave the better and more accomplished performance?

Former EPL Referee Graham Poll has consistently given puzzling comments. In the case of this season's North-East derbies, Poll praised both Referees' performances. Briefly, here's what Poll said:

About Howard Webb: Poll said Webb, despite missing 4 straight red card incidents, deserves "great credit" for a performance that allowed an "absorbing Tyne-Wear derby that is a great advert for the Premier League". 

About Mike Dean: Poll said Mike Dean was on "top form"

Such 'opinions' from an ex-EPL Referee are not useful or helpful. Poll's comments cannot be taken seriously. Why praise both performances (and therefore misinterpret and misjudge the true worth of each of the performances)? Should Dean's performance be praised in the same manner as Webb's performance? Of course not. It should be obvious that Mike Dean's performance was so much more polished, proficient and professional particularly when compared with Howard Webb's poor performance.

It doesn't always happen to referees but Mike Dean had a masterclass display in this match and all Referees and Referee Assessors would do well to recognise this and learn from it.

Related Posts

Webb’s Weak Woeful Week

Mike Dean Masterclass Display Part 1

Sunday 22 April 2012

El Clásico April 2012 : Classic Offside Tragically Missed

The following incident occurred during the La Liga match between Barcelona and Real Madrid on Saturday 21 April 2012. The match finished 1—2.

In the 16' with the score level at 0—0, Real Madrid (white) take a corner kick. The ball is headed forward by Real Madrid's Pepe and saved by Barcelona keeper Victor Valdés. The loose ball is not controlled by Barca defender Carles Puyol (blue/purple) and Real Madrid's Sami Khedira sneaks in to jab home. Here are the freeze frames:

 As Pepe (white #3) heads the ball towards the goal, two of his team-mates (white) are standing in offside positions

Again, it is interesting how commentators, pundits, analysts and members of the media make no mention of this offside. For examples of match reports from the English-speaking world, see The Telegraph, The Guardian, The Daily Mail and BBC Sport.

Now look at the frantic action of the AR during this incident. Here are the freeze frames:
From behind the corner flag, the AR is frantically rushing up the touch line to get in line with the second-last defender as soon as Real Madrid's Di Maria takes the corner

IMHO, the AR will be beside himself for having missed this offside. This is because he has demonstrated his care, commitment and effort in attempting to perform his duties well. He is like a human yo-yo, first rushing up the touch line and then instantly rushing down the touch line.

Instead of criticizing, we should ask how to better approach and solve this situation so that all ARs can be better prepared in future when these incidents will inevitably occur again.

First, the guidelines for the standard position of the AR at corner kicks should be updated and improved. FIFA's interpretation is for the AR to stand behind the corner flag in line with the goal line. The diagram used to illustrate the AR's position shows defenders standing on the goal line. There is no diagram to show the AR's position when the defenders are not standing in line with the goal line.

Second, since players cannot be offside directly from a corner kick, the technical reason why the AR is positioned in line with the goal line is ... to be in line with the ball. It is mainly to be in an optimal position to identify whether the whole of the ball has crossed the goal line, and therefore to signal for a goal kick, goal or corner kick.

Third, contrast this with FIFA's interpretation for the AR's position at free kicks. Here the AR must be in line with the second-last defender to check the offside line, which is a priority.

Therefore, let's consider the reason why the AR during yesterday's el clásico positioned himself behind the corner flag during the taking of a corner kick. It was not because he was following the second-last defender. It was not because he could be best positioned to decide whether the corner kick would bend out of and then back into the FOP (since Di Maria is left-footed and therefore was putting in an in-swinging ball). It was probably because the guidelines imply that the AR would be in the best place to see whether the whole of the ball crosses the goal line between the posts and under the crossbar.

So in effect, the AR was frantically rushing to position himself up and then down the touch line to follow the in-swinging flight of the ball, which is quite absurd. He was also simultaneously rushing to position himself with the second-last defender. So what was his state of mind?

The AR was probably feeling rushed, stressed, wide-eyed, and highly-alert. All of which meant nothing (unfortunately) because the outcome was a missed offside.

For discussion
1) we know that attackers cannot be called offside direct from a corner kick; and
2) if defenders choose not to stand on their goal lines; and
3) if the corner-taker is putting in an in-swinger;
then would it not be better for the AR, having checked that the ball is properly placed inside the corner arc, to position himself in line with the second defender during the taking of corner kicks (which is just the same as the recommended position of ARs at free kicks)?

If match officials are familiar with soccer tactics, then they will know that the aim of the typical corner kick is to place the ball on the edge of the goal area (i.e. 6 yards out) where team-mates have a good opportunity to attack the goal. And if it is an in-swinger, then the AR can also naturally follow the flight of the ball by moving down the touch line toward the corner flag, as if it were a direct shot on goal.

This is just a suggestion which may help minimize such incorrect offside decisions where the AR has to frantically rush up the touchline to keep in line with the second-last defender (and/or the flight of the ball). Would it be better if the starting position of the AR was already in line with the second-last defender at in-swinging corner kicks, with the option of following the flight of the ball as it moves towards the goal?

Monday 9 April 2012

Violent Conduct: Branislav Ivanovic 2012 Chelsea v Wigan

The following incident occurred during the EPL match between Chelsea and Wigan Athletic on Saturday 7 April 2012. The match finished 2—1.

In the 90+2' with the score at 1—1, as Wigan (white) are attacking the Chelsea goal, Branislav Ivanovic (blue 2) physically stops Shaun Maloney (white 10) in his tracks, and then proceeds to punch him in the stomach using his left fist. Here are the freeze frames (watch the bottom right corner of the images):
Here, Ivanovic swings his left fist
Chelsea's Ivanovic (blue 2) physically strikes Wigan's Maloney (white 10)

The ball is gathered by Chelsea's keeper Petr Cech, promptly punted forward and Chelsea's Juan Mata controversially scores the winning goal.

The above freeze frames are taken from the BBC's Match of the Day, where pundit Alan Hansen is focused on analysing the excellent performance of Wigan's Gary Caldwell (white 5 ... with a white trail line).

However, Hansen is typical of analysts, fans and members of the media who seem interested only in the performance of players' football skills and therefore totally miss things that other analysts and observers (such as keen Referees!) will spot.


Isn't it strange how no one (commentators, pundits, the media, coaches, etc) noticed and reported Ivanovic's act of violent conduct? This should be a clear-cut case for the FA to take retrospective action against Chelsea's Ivanovic. Let's see if this will happen.

However, given the lack of media attention to this act of violent conduct compared with the more 'entertaining' media attention afforded to Wigan's attack on AR Dave Bryan's 'disgusting performance', it seems likely that Ivanovic will get away with it.

Why didn't the ARs (notably AR1, Dave Bryan) or the 4th Official (hmm, who was he?) assist Referee Mike Jones?

Answers may be found in a highlights review of the EPL match between Chelsea and Wigan Athletic on Saturday 7 April 2012, which will follow in due course on this blog (tentatively titled Disgraceful Not Disgusting Behaviour). Watch this space!

Wednesday 4 April 2012

Able Referee Assistants Must Assist Ably Part 2

The observations here are linked to the previous post about ARs in the MLS, and the impressions raised by some high-profile errors.

The following two incidents occurred during the MLS match between Portland and Real Salt Lake on Saturday 31 March 2012. The match finished 2—3.

Incident One Wait and See Principle Applies Not Just To Offside

In the 18', from a Portland (white) throw-in the ball bounces into RSL's half. Here are the freeze frames:
Yes, there is a push in the back on a Portland defender (white) by an RSL defender (red) but the ball carries on forward

Portland coach obviously not happy with the decision

AR1 is in a great position to spot this foul, but that should not be the only thing he should be focusing on

Because AR1 immediately flagged for a foul—coupled with the simultaneous fact that Referee Jorge Gonzalez was perhaps not in tune with the unfolding situation—the opportunity to play advantage was lost.

Furthermore there was no 'wiggle' so when AR1 raised the flag straight up, on first take, it wasn't immediately clear what was being signalled (i.e. a foul, an offside?).

Incident Two Handball Inside the Penalty Area

In the 38', Portland defender Rodney Wallace (white 22) handles the ball in the penalty area. Here are the freeze frames:
It is handball inside the penalty area and the Referee must also consider whether the situation warrants a red card for DOGSO

Following the Referee's penalty call (who called it, the R or AR2?), RSL midfielder Javier Morales (red 11) approaches the Referee and vehemently demands a send off. This is unsporting behaviour and may actually have an unintended effect in that it distracts the Referee from correctly applying the Laws.

In the end, Referee Gonzales only cautioned Portland's Wallace for deliberate handball, instead of showing a red card for DOGSO. Did AR2 assist the Referee ably?

Incident Three Gaining an Advantage From Being in an Offside Position

The following incident occurred during the MLS match between New York Red Bulls and Montreal Impact on Saturday 31 March 2012. The match finished 5—2.

In the 89', a New York player (white) shoots at goal and the Montreal goalkeeper fumbles the save allowing Red Bull's Thierry Henry to score his hat-trick. Here are the freeze frames:

Just as Incident One in the previous post, an attacker (here, Thierry Henry) gained an advantage from being in an offside position and subsequently scored.


In watching some recent MLS highlights, the initial impression is that ARs need to be trained and encouraged at least as much as Referees. While MLS Referees will benefit from initiatives like PRO in North America (in a similar way as EPL Referees benefit from the setting up of PGMOL), training and development of ARs in the professional leagues of North America should not be overlooked. Initiatives to help ARs must also be set up and be in synch with the demands of the modern game.