English Premiership

Referees are damned if they do and damned if they don’t

Errol Sweeney (Supplied)
Errol Sweeney (Supplied)

Cape Town - The Fifa Laws of the Game are the equivalent of the rules of the road, which are meant to keep us safe as we go on our journey. They should be clear and concise, and as easy to understand as is humanly possible.

That doesn’t appear to be the case in soccer. There appears to be more confusion than clarity in the latest edition of the footballing “bible”.

A case in point is the game played between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur at Anfield on Sunday.

All the action happened in the dying moments of the game when Tottenham were awarded two penalties in quick succession.

The first one was, perhaps, the most contentious. The visitors were attacking and a ball was played through to prolific scorer Harry Kane.

The England striker was in an offside position when the ball was kicked, but, because the ball had deflected off the Reds’ Croatian defender Dejan Lovren, he was allowed to proceed. He was then taken down by the home keeper Loris Karius and a penalty was awarded.

The issue here is, why was Kane not flagged for offside, where it was clear he was at the moment the ball was played through to him?

Well, the new Laws of the Game ruling (Law 11 – offside) is as follows:

“A player in an offside position at the moment the ball is played or touched by a team-mate is penalised only on becoming involved in active play by:

. Interfering with play by playing, or touching a ball passed or touched by a team-mate. Or interfering with an opponent by:

. Preventing an opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by clearly obstructing the opponent’s line of vision;

. Challenging an opponent for the ball;

. Clearly attempting to play a ball that is close to him when this action impacts on an opponent; and

. Making an obvious action that clearly affects the ability of an opponent to play the ball.


. Gaining an advantage by playing the ball or interfering with an opponent when it has:

. Rebounded or been deflected off the goalpost, crossbar, match official or an opponent; and

. Been deliberately saved by an opponent.

It’s important that you take note of the three words in bold because that is the crux of this particular matter.

Heretofore, a forward could not be played onside by a deflection – only by a pass back to the keeper by a defender. That has now changed.

There will be those who will argue that it was a deflection, but the interpretation is that the defender attempted to clear the ball and the law does not make allowances as to where the ball might end up as a result of that contact with the defender.

The fact that Kane went on and attempted to score and, in the process, was fouled by the keeper resulting in a penalty is not the issue.

If the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) system had been in operation, I think Kane would not have got his penalty and would, instead, have been cautioned (yellow-carded) for diving. In fairness to referee Jon Moss, he was in a good position to see the deflection.

Moaning managers

Many managers are now bemoaning the introduction of the VAR.

Former England and current Crystal Palace boss Roy Hodgson is one of those: “It feels like there has never been more discussion about refereeing decisions.”

Hodgson, in an interview with the BBC, bemoaned the fact that there is now more discussion about one or two minutes of a game and centring on a couple of incidents rather than what happened during the rest of the game.

As referees, we’re damned if we do and damned if we don’t. The reason for the VAR was to assist referees and bring to an end, if that’s possible, the cynical behaviour and blatant cheating by teams in their endeavour to gain that all-important win.

Football is not a sport any more and hasn’t been for some time.

Independent refereeing body

I have long called for an independent refereeing body to be set up.

This would be similar to the judiciary in most democratic countries, and would see match officials have the ability to go about their job without the fear or apprehension of constantly looking over their collective shoulders at who is about to stab them in the back.

The biggest culprits are the soccer politicians who use referees as scapegoats instead of putting in place proper structures to enable them to do what is a most thankless, financially unrewarding and, at times, downright dangerous job.

Happy whistling!

Follow me on Twitter @dr_errol

Mon 06 Jul 20 21:00 PM (SAST)
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