Hanging Judge: When is it right to stop play?

If you’ve been reading my columns each week, you’ll have noticed that I try to, in some ways, follow the BBC’s motto of inform, educate and entertain.

Last week, it was How many officials to control a match? and before that it was Goal or no goal.

I hope you enjoyed them and, of course, the previous columns and, most importantly, learnt something from them.

This week I’m going to deal with a situation that happened during my country’s (Republic of Ireland) Uefa game against Denmark in Dublin a couple of weeks ago.

Let me give you the scenario:

The ball is in play. One of our defenders goes down injured. He’s on the ground, but, because we were in possession, the referee allows play to continue.

The Danish players appeared to stop playing and were waiting for our player to put the ball out of
play so that our injured player could get treatment. The only way that could be done was if our player kicked the ball over the touchline – which he didn’t.

He continued on his way towards the Danish goal with the intention of scoring. The Danish players looked on in bemusement and astonishment.

Perhaps luckily, he didn’t score, although it wasn’t for lack of trying. In many ways, it would have been easier to score, but he missed the target by a country mile.

All hell broke loose. The Danish players were incensed at the lack of “fair play” and couldn’t understand why the Irish player hadn’t put the ball out of play to allow our player to be treated. The Irish player who missed an open goal couldn’t understand what the Danish players were moaning about and couldn’t see anything wrong with what he did. And the Irish players were aghast at not going one up in the tie.

A major scuffle ensued with the referee struggling to control a very heated argument between players from both sides.

Now, to all referees and wannabe referees out there, please pause before continuing and ask yourself what you would do. I’ll give you the answer at the end of the piece.

Remember, no foul was committed so the referee could not award a free kick.

As for fair play – what fair play? The prima donnas dive and look for free kicks all the time when it’s blatantly clear that they have not been fouled.

They also feign injury to get their opponent a yellow or red card. And they constantly and consistently try to hoodwink the referee by insisting that they’ve done nothing wrong when it’s quite clear that they are as guilty as hell.

I had great admiration for this referee. He was consistent and fair throughout the game and applied the laws of the game to the letter. That’s all you can expect from any match official.

The simple and most important piece of advice for any player is to play to the whistle. How many times have we heard that said, and yet players will only do so if it suits them?

In this instance, Denmark almost paid a huge price for their so-called fair play.

The only person with the power to halt play is the referee or a player who puts the ball out of play. Neither did so in this instance.

The answer? The referee was absolutely correct in everything
he did.

To sum up, there was nothing wrong with the actions of the referee or the player.

When interviewed later, the Danish manager said that the Irish team had not played fairly. The depth of knowledge of some coaches regarding the Fifa laws of the game is quite astonishing, yet they shout their mouths off as if they know everything.

Happy whistling!

Follow me on Twitter @dr_errol


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