Wednesday 18 December 2013

Barton's Comments About Tevez Justify HKRef's Open Suggestion to the FA

Finally after 18 months, Joey Barton has spoken about what happened between him and Carlos Tevez during that fateful match between Manchester City and Queens Park Rangers that resulted in Barton getting a 12-match ban from the FA.

Carlos Tevez provoked Joey Barton, and Barton fell for it hook, line and sinker. Pic Andy Hooper.

At the time, HKRef suggested that Tevez must have done something to provoke Barton to elbow him. The FA did not bother taking retrospective action on Carlos Tevez and therefore sent out the message that it is uninterested in seeking real justice in the game.

IMHO, Barton is a dedicated, talented and committed player. His weakness is his temperament, which many players recognize and therefore exploit. This is because Barton has gained a bad boy reputation due to the consequences stemming from his uncontrollable temperament.

Referees can learn a lot about officiating effectively from this kind of knowledge about players.

Wednesday 7 August 2013

RefCam: A Referee's Perpective

The following incidents occurred from the Referee's Perspective during the MLS All Stars match against Roma on Thursday 1 August 2013. The match finished 1—3, with 2 YCs.

Ref Cam: Sights and Sounds from the 2013 ATT MLS All-Star Game (YouTube)

Here's what Referee Hilario Grajeda looked like rigged up with the RefCam (which appears rather bulky).

From the start, Roma midfielder Miralem Pjanic (red 15) appears to be one of those players who persistently badger the referee to give things in their favour. Experienced Referees can spot these type of players a mile away.
C'mon Ref, what are you doing?

Later, Pjanic (red 15) fouls MLS All Stars captain Thierry Henry (blue 14). Pjanic looks at the Referee apologetically to make sure that he is not booked.
 Nice, clear and firm signal to indicate a direct free kick
 Don't book me Ref! I'm a good boy ... honest ...
Notice also the big screen from the Referee's view. A simultaneous double whammy!

Roma goalkeeper Morgan De Sanctis (grey) catches the ball and Referee Grajeda raises his ams with all fingers splayed out. He waits a second or two and then gives two thumbs up. What is this signal? What message is the Referee trying to communicate and are players paying attention to him?

 Wait ... wait ... goalkeeper has the ball ... wait ... thumbs up ...

In the 54', Pjanic (red 15) fouls Landon Donovan (blue 7) and Referee Grajeda, who appears (at least from the RefCam perspective) to be quite a distance away, cautions Pjanic.
 Is it clear to the players, match officials and spectators who the Referee has given a yellow card to?
Donovan takes exception to Pjanic's unfair challenge.

The RefCam is a great experience that the MLS (or PRO?) is offering to soccer fans. Letting people see what the referee sees … or doesn't see … can only be a good thing if we want to provide a better understanding of the important and fantastic work that Referees do. Let's see more RefCams!

Related Post
Able Referee Assistants Must Assist Referees Ably

Sunday 28 July 2013

Hong Kong Killer Pitch

Hong Kong played host to the Barclays Asia Trophy on Wednesday 24 July and Saturday 27 July. The three EPL teams were Manchester City, Tottenham Hotspur and Sunderland, with reigning local champions South China making up the quartet.

Sunderland coach Paolo Di Canio called the 40,000-seater Hong Kong Stadium a "killer pitch" due to its poor drainage during torrential downpours. Spurs boss Andre Villa-Boas was not happy because his team lost 1—3 to Sunderland plus his Belgian defender Jan Vertonghen twisted ankle ligaments on the sodden surface. Villa-Boas flew in his own head groundsman to help with the pitch conditions at Hong Kong Stadium (see story here).

Here are some photos of Hong Kong Stadium during the BAT pre-season tournament ...

 First day's first match (Sunderland vs Tottenham) and the pitch is getting cut up

 The pitch conditions worsen. Pic courtesy Getty Images.

Hong Kong groundstaff doing their best to keep dry from the rain and mud-free from the pitch. Pic courtesy Getty Images.

Second day's second match (Man City vs Sunderland) and Spurs' head groundsman flew in and advised laying sand in the muddy patches of the pitch

The match Referees for the BAT tournament were EPL referees Anthony Taylor and Neil Swarbrick, who were joined by Hong Kong Referee Liu Kwok Man.

Next up, just two days after the end of the BAT, Manchester United play Kitchee (local league runners-up) on Monday 29 July. United manager David Moyes attended the BAT on Saturday 27 July to inspect the pitch. Understandably, Moyes called off the planned open training session for Sunday 28 July, in the hope that the pitch would be "playable" on Monday (see story here).


Tottenham 6 South China 0

Manchester City 1 Sunderland 0

United Refuse To Train At 'Killer' Hong Kong Stadium

Thursday 25 July 2013

Shinpads and Shinguards Play An Important Role

In the modern era of soccer, with powerful professional athletes playing at terrifying speeds and commitment, it is amazing and alarming to see players wearing close-to-nothing protection. What does it take to get the proper message through to their 'tiny' minds?

Newcastle United's physical and boisterous midfielder Cheick Tiote plays with tiny teeny shinpads. Pic from EPA.


Are you Ferguson in disguise? Echoes of Everton bad boy as Coloccini sees red in 'friendly' match (Daily Mail)

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Wednesday 17 July 2013

Lebanese Referee Jailed in Singapore … Sings

The Lebanese Referee jailed in Singapore has revealed how match-fixers "advise" match officials how to rig games.

"The best way to rig a match [is] to award penalties"

Referees already know this ... and if you look at the example here of Niger Referee Ibrahim Chaibou on 1 June 2011, it is quite obvious that he is fixing the match. So what has FIFA or Interpol done about charging Chaibou?

Singaporean businessman and match fixer Eric Ding Si Yang. Pic from AFP

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Suspect Referee Performance: Nigeria v Argentina

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Lebanese Referees Guilty of Accepting Sexual Bribes For Match Fixing


Referee given match-fixing tips on YouTube, court told (SCMP; paywall)

Jailed official tells court he received links from businessman on how to make 'wrong decisions'
Tuesday, 16 July, 2013, 3:59am

Agence France-Presse in Singapore

A Lebanese referee jailed for accepting sex to rig matches testified yesterday that a Singaporean businessman used YouTube to show him how to fix a game.

Ali Sabbagh, speaking on the first day of the trial of Eric Ding Si Yang, said the businessman sent him "20 to 30" YouTube links by e-mail to "teach me how to make wrong decisions".

"The videos had too many decisions where the decision made by the referee is not the right decision," he said.

Ding is accused of providing Sabbagh, 34, and two other Lebanese officials with women who gave them free sexual services before a match in Singapore in April..

Sabbagh and the other two officials were withdrawn from duty and placed under investigation before the match. He was found guilty in June and sentenced to six months in jail, while his assistants - Ali Eid and Abdallah Taleb - were also convicted and have since been released and deported.

Sabbagh said that in a series of e-mail exchanges late last year, Ding told him that the best way to rig a match was to award penalties. Sabbagh quoted Ding as saying that "nobody will stop you, nobody will do anything ... When the corner comes, just blow and say pushing and pulling ... If there is anything in the penalty area, you can blow your whistle".

He said Ding gave him assurances that he would not be asked to rig matches that would affect his career within the Asian Football Confederation (AFC).

Sabbagh, who is scheduled to be released from jail on August 3, told the court he was the one who first proposed that Ding "arrange for girls" when the three match officials were in Singapore for the AFC Cup tie between Singapore's Tampines Rovers and India's East Bengal in April.

Sabbagh said Ding asked them to choose between Colombian or Asian girls and "we all told him we want Asian girls".

He added that Ding had likely offered the free sexual favours with the expectation that they would help rig unspecified AFC Champions League matches to be held in South Korea, Qatar and Iran. "He [Ding] is very interested in these matches, there is too much spectators, there is too much goals," Sabbagh said in stuttering English.

Ding seemed relaxed but appeared to show disapproval at parts of Sabbagh's testimony.

He faces a maximum of five years in jail and fines of up to S$100,000 (US$80,000) for each of three counts of corruption. He separately faces two charges of stealing evidence and obstructing police after declining to disclose the password to his laptop computer. He denies the charges.

Tuesday 25 June 2013

FIFA Guidelines For Referees: Positioning for a Penalty Kick

The following incident occurred during the FIFA U20 World Cup group match between England and Irag on 23 June 2013. The match finished 2—2, with 5 YCs.

In the 74', with the score at 2—0, Referee Roberto Garcia (Mexico) correctly awards a penalty to Iraq. Here is his correct positioning for the penalty kick.

Some of the comments from readers (who I assume are referees) for the recent post Positioning Guidelines for FIFA Referees reveal a surprising lack of basic knowledge of the LOTG.

Please consider why FIFA recommends Referees to stand approximately in this position for penalty kicks.

Next, consider why FIFA recommends Referees to stand in a different position for Kicks from the Penalty Mark.

FIFA Referees are supposed to have attained a certain standard of competency. Therefore, whenever inconsistencies are observed, the purpose of raising its awareness is so that the rest of us can learn from the mistakes of high-profile Referees (without, hopefully, performing the error ourselves).

We should also be concerned about why FIFA Referees are not consistent in their knowledge of the LOTG.
Who are the ones instructing the Referee instructors and assessing the Referee assessors?

The match officials were:
Referee: Roberto GARCIA (MEX)
Assistant Referee 1: Jose Luis CAMARGO (MEX)
Assistant Referee 2: Alberto MORIN (MEX)
Fourth official: Wilmar ROLDAN (COL)

Friday 21 June 2013

Positioning Guidelines For FIFA Referees

The 2013 UEFA U21 European Championships held in Israel was home to some wonderful matches from players, some solid performances from match officials, and some fantastic entertainment in general for everyone involved.

For informative and insightful analyses, I suggest visiting The Third Team website. It is a great website looking at refereeing from Europe. They also have some dedicated and passionate "blog observers" who produce useful and helpful assessment reports.

My observation here is just a comment on the consistency of knowledge amongst all the upcoming referees from Europe. The natural assumption is that all FIFA referees are familiar with the LOTG—especially with the interpretations—and with special guidelines or directives that arise from time to time.

On this basis, it is puzzling to see the positioning of Referee Matej Jug (Slovenia) during penalty kicks. The following incidents occurred during the 2013 UEFA U21 Final between Italy and Spain on Tuesday 18 June 2013. The match finished 2—4, with 7 YCs.

Penalty One

In the 37', Referee Jug is perfectly positioned to make the correct call. Here are the freeze frames:

Notice the Italian players surrounding and hounding the Referee

Look at Referee Jug's positioning

Penalty Two

In the 64', Referee Jug is far behind from play as an Italy defender trips the Spain attacker. Here are the freeze frames:

A couple of seconds after the foul. Referee Jug comes into the frame. Who made the penalty call? The EAR or AR?

Referee Jug keeps his whistle in his mouth (see similar "whistle in mouth" case here). Something else (not a second whistle) dangles on the other end. What is it? It looks like a dog tag or key fob.

Again, notice the Referee's positioning


Referee Matej Jug (Slovenia) and his colleagues who officiated at these U21 Championships are the next generation of top FIFA referees from Europe. They are currently categorized as Elite Development FIFA referees. The fact that there are still obvious inconsistencies with the interpretation of the LOTG should raise some concern. All match officials at international level should have sufficient training and knowledge to be consistently correct in the basic positioning concepts as described in the LOTG.

I can perhaps excuse the blatant performance of older match officials who stubbornly refuse to change their ways even in the face of the most up-to-date FIFA guidelines. The example here would be the stubborn and slovenly AR Arhar who previously worked with up-and-coming Slovenian Referee Damir Skomina (example here).

However, for Elite Development FIFA Referees, there can be no excuse for any inconsistencies with regard to the standard interpretations of the LOTG. If this basic procedure (i.e. positioning for a penalty kick) cannot be followed consistently amongst all FIFA referees, then what does it say about the referee assessors and instructors of the next generation of top FIFA referees? This blog has previously mentioned consistency problems amongst the next generation of referees (see here).

The match officials for the Final were:
Referee: Matej Jug (SVN)
Assistant Referee 1: Roland Brandner (AUT)
Assistant Referee 2: Vencel Tóth (HUN)
Additional Assistant Referee 1: Halis Özkahya (TUR)
Additional Assistant Referee 2: Ivan Kružliak (SVK)
Fourth Official: Ivan Bebek (CRO)
UEFA Referee Observer: Hugh Dallas (SCO)
UEFA Delegate: Petr Fousek (CZE)

Wednesday 12 June 2013

Lebanese Referees Guilty of Accepting Sexual Bribes For Match Fixing

In April, news surfaced of the arrests of match officials from Lebanon who received sexual bribes in return for fixing matches. They were caught in Singapore prior to an AFC Cup match between Tampines Rovers (Singapore) and East Bengal (India).

Three months later, the match officials have been sentenced in Singapore. The two ARs, Ali Eid, 33, and Abdallah Taleb, 37, were sentenced to three months in jail. The judge deferred sentencing Referee Ali Sabbagh, 34, who is considered the "most culpable".

More must be done to track and hunt down the real perpetrators, such as Eric Ding Si Yang, 31, the Singaporean businessman who allegedly supplied the prostitutes, and his associates.

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China's Golden Whistle Gets Jail Sentence

China's Golden Whistle Admits Accepting US$44,000 Bribe

Suspect Referee Performance: Nigeria v Argentina

Life Ban For Player Found Guilty of Match-Fixing in Hong Kong


Lebanese referees admit agreeing to fix soccer match for sex in Singapore (SCMP; paywall)
Tuesday, 11 June, 2013

Agence France-Presse in Singapore

Three Lebanese referees pleaded guilty yesterday to accepting free sex from a gambling-linked global syndicate in return for agreeing to rig a match.

A Singaporean district court judge jailed assistant referees Ali Eid, 33, and Abdallah Taleb, 37, for three months.

He deferred sentencing until today for referee Ali Sabbagh, whom prosecutors said was the most culpable.

The assistant referees broke down into sobs and repeatedly looked up as if to thank God when Judge Low Wee Ping said they could be freed by today, after remission for good behaviour and due to time already served while awaiting sentencing.

Turning to Sabbagh, 34, the judge said: "I need time to consider your sentence. I don't, for the moment, accept that you should be sentenced to six months."

Deputy public prosecutor Asoka Markandu described Sabbagh as the most culpable as he was the one who was approached by the syndicate and persuaded the two linesmen to accept the sexual bribe.

The three men were arrested and charged on April 4 with corruption for accepting sexual favours in exchange for agreeing to fix an unspecified match.

They had been abruptly pulled out of an Asian Football Confederation Cup match that they were scheduled to officiate on April 3 between the Singapore-based Tampines Rovers and India's East Bengal.

The three match officials were denied bail and have been detained at Singapore's Changi prison since April 4.

Eric Ding Si Yang, 31, a Singaporean businessman who allegedly supplied the prostitutes, has also been charged with corruption and granted bail.

Defence lawyer Gary Low cited his clients' previously unblemished records, their guilty pleas and the fact that their acceptance of the sexual bribe did not ultimately result in any football match being rigged.

"The gratification was arranged by Mr Ding Si Yang with a view to fixing a football match in the future," Low said. "Our clients did not reach an agreement with Ding to fix a particular football match.

"In these circumstances, our clients' conduct did not in any way affect or influence the outcome of any football match," the lawyer added.

Friday 31 May 2013

New 2013 Adidas Referee Shirt

Here's the new 2013-2014 Adidas Referee Shirt which will apparently be used for the new season's UEFA Champions League:

The adidas referee kits used in the 2010 World Cup continue to be used in various domestic leagues as well as for official FIFA tournaments. For example, they are used in Australia's A-League and will no doubt be used for the upcoming Confederations Cup in Brazil.

UEFA appears to have the advantage over FIFA in promoting new adidas referee kits every year, and therefore has better opportunities to make more money.

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Saturday 18 May 2013

Great Assistance From AR

The following incident occurred during the Copa del Rey final between Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid on Friday 17 May 2013. The Spanish Cup Final finished 1—2 aet. There were 6(?)YCs, 2RCs and Real Madrid coach Jose Mourinho was sent from the technical area.

In the 114th minute, Atletico Madrid's Gabi (red 4) fouls Real Madrid's Cristiano Ronaldo (white 7) by kicking him from behind and taking his legs out. Ronaldo reacts by flicking his left leg at the face of his opponent (which we will label the second foul). Initially, the Referee saw the first foul (Gabi's foul on Ronaldo) and played advantage because Real Madrid still had possession of the ball. Here are the freeze frames:

Referee plays advantage following a foul on Ronaldo (white 7)
AR1 looks toward Referee, who did not see Ronaldo kicking his opponent, and therefore flagged

Video can also be seen here:
Red card to Cristiano Ronaldo (Daily Motion)

Notice that the Referee did not know anything about the violent conduct even as he walked up to Ronaldo, and had to get confirmation from AR1 before showing the red card … to Ronaldo's back! Here are the freeze frames:

Never show a card to a player's back

When the Referee played advantage, Atletico Madrid's Adrian (red 7) then immediately fouled Real Madrid's Sergio Ramos (white 4), again from behind. This was Atletico's game plan since they were now winning 1—2, and wanted to wind down the clock and stop their opponents from playing football. Of course Ronaldo had to go for violent conduct, but the match officials should have been acutely aware of the negative tactics from Atletico Madrid, especially in the time after Atletico had taken the lead with their second goal.

However, this third foul was missed by the match officials because AR1 had flagged the second foul after carefully watching the Referee. AR1 was correct in his actions in assisting the Referee. Unfortunately, a side effect of this is that it actually compounded the situation because as the Referee played advantage he was then distracted by his AR1's flag and therefore missed this third foul.

After the third foul, the two players clash heads (Adrian and Ramos headbutt each other) and Ramos falls back theatrically. However, this piece of the action is completely missed by the match officials because of all the commotion coming from the technical areas. Here are the freeze frames:

In the aftermath of Ronaldo's violent conduct, Atletico's Adrian (red 7) fouls Real's Ramos (white 4) from behind. The two players then clash heads.

The funny thing about these incidents is that players and coaches only want to focus on the one incident that they perceive to have gone against them. They ignore everything else … even the major incidents like violent conduct. Players and coaches are so biased toward their own team, that they miss the bigger picture and only want the match officials to see only the foul and misconduct that has gone against their own team. It is funny, laughable and all so very sad when viewed from the armchair.

For example, let's look at the discussion between Ramos and Adrian about the third foul. Ramos simply wanted Adrian to acknowledge that he had fouled him from behind (which is a true fact). Adrian acts all innocent (many guilty players know how to do this) and says he didn't think it was a foul. Ramos insists it was a foul and shows Adrian the back of his foot where Adrian kicked him. Adrian continues to play innocent. Here are the freeze frames:

Players are liars

Notice also during this whole time, Red 8 is hovering next to Ramos to distract him and to support his teammate Adrian. Red 8 then talks about Ronaldo's kick at his captain because, yes, that was an injustice done to his captain Gabi. But that's already been taken care of because the Referee had already shown the red card. It's actually very entertaining watching all this; millionaires acting like children and only wanting things to go their own way without thought about the bigger picture.

In summary, match officials can only do what they can do (which is based on what they can actually see). This means AR1 did a great job in identifying the violent conduct.
Perhaps the 4th Official could have spotted the third foul? Had the 4th Official seen that and assisted the Referee, then that would have been great too. As it is, for this incident, only AR1 comes out looking good.

For all that other stuff (i.e. spotting misconduct in the technical area), it should be the responsibility of the competition organizer to use video footage to identify the players retrospectively and fine them for their unsporting behavior.
From the video, we see Real Madrid's Kaka stopping Atletico coach Diego Simeone. Simeone pushes Kaka back but then Real Madrid's Pepe gets in Simeone's face. Pepe is then pushed away by an Atletico substitute, and another Atletico substitute (red 16, I think) swings a punch at Pepe.

Looking at the positions of the match officials (R, AR1 and 4O) during all the commotion, it is quite impossible for them to see all the incidents that are happening. It is ridiculous to expect match officials to see and record everything. And this is why competition organizers should use video evidence to take retrospective action … and support match officials.

The 4th Official (red jacket) is to the left of the screen and the R & AR1 (blue) are to the right

Do not blame match officials for not being able to see everything that happens in and around the pitch. Instead, competition organizers should be helping and assisting match officials so that correct disciplinary action is awarded correctly to the offenders. By working together (i.e. competition organizers supporting match officials), offenders will not escape punishment and therefore will always think twice about their behaviour if they understand that video evidence will always be used to take retrospective disciplinary action.

Competition organizers should acknowledge that match officials are human and therefore cannot see and report everything that occurs in and around the field of play. They should therefore send a clear message to players and coaches that unsporting behaviour will not be tolerated by supporting match officials and using video evidence to take retrospective action against offenders.