11 v 11

Should the red card receive its marching orders?

Red Card

So, Sofiane Feghouli’s red card was rescinded and he can now play, if selected, (and I hope he is) against Manchester City in the FA Cup third round game. I was horrified to read some so-called West Ham fans writing on twitter that as it was only Feghouli it wouldn’t have made much difference anyway! So many are quick to judge new signings based upon limited evidence. Unlike some I have high hopes in respect of Feghouli. He had a superb game in one of our early European matches this season, and even in the first 15 minutes of the United game showed some great touches. He has been injured, but now that he has recovered I think that he will prove some doubters wrong in the games to come.

Although it was possibly one of the most ridiculous sending off decisions I have witnessed in over 58 years of watching football, I did wonder about the outcome of the appeal, as we are in the hands of an FA three-person commission, and it is hard to predict what will happen sometimes. However on this occasion, if the appeal had been rejected, then it would have been against the views of around 99% of people who witnessed the incident and those who reported upon it in the media.

But many of you may remember the Swansea Chico Flores incident, when Andy Carroll was dismissed by Howard Webb after Flores gave an amazing display of acting, even worse than that of Jones the other evening. West Ham appealed but the red card stood. The three-man commission had voted 2-1 so it was obviously a close decision, and the fact that it was Howard Webb, reputedly the top referee in the country at the time (debatable in my opinion), may have swung it against Carroll. That same weekend Danny Rose had his red card rescinded.

It’s terrible that a footballer would try to get a fellow professional sent off, and even worse that referees fall for it. But Jones succeeded by the manner of his twisting, arching his back, and rolling over, and Manchester United went on to claim the three points, however unjustly. I’m afraid that I don’t agree with the “these things even themselves out over the season” lobby, as I’m afraid they don’t. It’s quite a co-incidence how the big clubs always seem to be the winners in these situations.

Unlike many people who sit in the stands to watch West Ham, I hate to see it when any player is sent off, whether it is one of ours or one of our opponents. Many fans seem to love it when an opposition player is dismissed, but I don’t. It totally spoils the entertainment and generally makes for a very unbalanced game, usually attack v defence. The team with 11 usually win, though not always, and West Ham have in the past showed that we are not the best team around to exploit a man advantage.

We’ve had a few players sent off in recent seasons and a surprising number have been rescinded, and perhaps even more should have been. A good referee should only dismiss players when he is absolutely certain that it is the correct decision to do so. The entertainment of thousands (and sometimes millions for TV games) can be spoiled by an incorrect action.

But I would like to see a change in the laws, and no players to be sent off. Instead, if a player commits what is considered to be a red card offence, then the referee can hold up a red card but the player stays on the field. The team he plays for will have one point deducted for every red card issued. A player could even receive more than one red card in a match. You could even have a similar deduction if say, three yellow cards are issued against one team in a single match.

If the punishment affects the team’s points then managers will soon instil in their players the need to avoid these situations. I can foresee a big improvement in dissent from players, too. The player can still be punished after the game by fines, and or bans, and appeals can still be heard, although these should be by a bigger committee, and should be openly witnessed, and not held secretly. Anybody who has seen televised stewards’ objections in horse racing disputes will agree that open viewing is an excellent way to show justice being done.

By implementing this change where no player is sent off, but points deducted instead, the teams and players will still be punished where the decision is proved to be a correct one, they will avoid punishment if it is judged to be incorrect on appeal, but the main beneficiaries will be the spectators who will not have their entertainment ruined by inept referees.

Palace Review – Shocking Decision

The Match of The Day pundit has a very different view of the sending off to the commentator.

acress-off

Having just watched a re-run of yesterday’s Match of the Day, and still angry over the performance of the officials, I was equally appalled by the match commentary from Jonathan Pearce. In my opinion he had a very poor grasp of the “mad minute”.

Firstly he reckoned that Cresswell was barely touched and went down too easily. Wrong I reckon. Next he was virtually suggesting that you could tell how easily he went down by Cabaye’s reaction. Surely with all his years of commentating he might have realised that the clever players react in this way to try to get away with it when they know they have done wrong. And then if he was of the opinion that Cresswell went down too easily, how comes he believed that the slight brush on Zaha was worthy of a second booking.

 I like to think I can remain unbiased when watching football. Yes I am a West Ham fan and that must influence me, but I can clearly recall instances where I have been disappointed by poor officiating when opposing players have been sent off in the past too.

At least Alan Shearer, an excellent pundit in my view with a good understanding of the game, got it spot on. It was a penalty and the second booking wasn’t even a foul. But I was very unimpressed with Mr. Pearce.

Offside: Changes Needed? – Part Two

Time to interfere with the offside rule and introduce video technology?

OffsideFollowing on from my previous article where I discussed a radical change to the offside law and why it is necessary, I’ll add further to my reasoning today. The optical problems for the officials that I referred to is not the end of the story. Assistant referees have to remember that it is not an offence in itself for a player to be in an offside position. A player is in an offside position if any part of his head, body or feet is in the opponents’ half, and any part of the head, body or feet is nearer to the opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second-last opponent, but at the same time he has to disregard the hands and arms of all players, including the goalkeepers.

The linesman should only then penalise the player in an offside position at the moment the ball is played or touched by a team-mate when he becomes involved in active play. This could mean interfering with play by playing the ball itself, or interfering with an opponent by preventing the opponent from playing or being able to play the ball by obstructing his line of vision, or challenging the opponent for the ball, or clearly attempting to play a ball which is close to him when this action impacts on his opponent, or making an obvious action which clearly impacts on the ability of the opponent to play the ball.

Are you still with me because there is more to consider yet! This player in the offside position should also be penalised if he is gaining an advantage by playing the ball or interfering with an opponent when it has rebounded, or been deflected off the woodwork, or an opponent. Offside should also be penalised when the ball has been deliberately saved by an opponent. A save is when a player stops a ball which is going into or very close to the goal with any part of the body except the hands (unless the goalkeeper within the penalty area). But, a player in an offside position receiving the ball from an opponent who deliberately plays the ball (except from a deliberate save by any opponent) is not considered to have gained an advantage.

You probably think I am making all this up, but I am doing my best to interpret the rules and governance as provided in the IFAB Laws of the Game relating to offside for 2016-17. And I haven’t even finished yet! There are other considerations relating to both defending and attacking players leaving the field of play deliberately without permission. I won’t go into this in too much detail as I find it extremely hard to follow.

My proposal is simple, though. Firstly, I’d like to see the offside rule confined to the eighteen yards at each end of the pitch. I’m afraid I just cannot see the point of half of the pitch being involved. You cannot be considered to be goal hanging just inside your opponents’ half. I wonder if anybody anywhere has asked the question as to why we have persisted with offside in this great expanse for so many years?

Yes, they continue to tinker with the concept of interference, and active involvement, but it only serves to confuse the issue in a game that is generally very simple to understand. The introduction of this change would also have the benefit of stretching the game over a wider area rather than the players bunching up as they do as a result of the current offside law.

The assistant referees would still have to make the decisions that they do now, but surely it will be far simpler for them to do so if they only have the eighteen yard line to the goal line to worry about. But I then propose to take it further. To improve the accuracy of offside decisions at the higher levels of the game, then we must begin to use video technology.

Perhaps it needs to be introduced a little at a time, with extensive trials to ensure it is helping to improve the accuracy of key decision making in the game. So, for example, as a first step, when a goal is scored and there is a suspicion of offside the technology could be used to check the validity of the goal. Assistant referees must be encouraged not to raise their flag unless they are fairly certain of offside. The benefit of the doubt should always be given to the attacker. Video replays would only be necessary if a goal is subsequently scored.

It won’t be perfect but we will have greater accuracy and consistency than currently exists. Hazard was only slightly offside when he headed the ball in from Ramires cross in the Chelsea game at Upton Park in March 2015, but the replay showed within seconds that he was offside. In this example, at the moment the ball hit the net from Hazard’s header the referee would be asking the video referee “is there any reason to disallow the goal, for example for offside?” As we saw within seconds on Sky, the reply would be “yes he was offside, disallow the goal”. It wouldn’t hold up the game, the Chelsea players would still have been in the celebration process. Even if the referee had not asked the question, the video referee could have told him that the goal was offside.

If you haven’t read enough of my arguments and want to know more, then there are a number of frequently asked questions on the FA website to baffle you even further. But I’d like to think that the change suggested would improve the game. At the very least I’d like to see it tried out. It makes sense to me.  What are the arguments against trying it? But will it be tried? Of course not, because the change is too radical. But should it? Of course it should.

The complexity of the other supplementary situations that I describe in this article must also be addressed. I remember once that it used to be a straightforward question “is the player in an offside position interfering with play?” If you added this to the 18 yard offside rule change, then surely it would be simpler for us all to understand.

Offside: Changes Needed? – Part One

Raising the flag on problems and shortcomings of the current offside rule.

OffsideI recently wrote an article where I posed the question, “what is the point of the penalty area?” In this I suggested the removal of the penalty area as it stands to be replaced by a line, which would stretch right across the pitch. The line would have nothing to do with the issuing of penalty kicks, but would be an instrumental line for a change in the ridiculous offside law (as it stands), which I will outline further starting with this article.

I’ve got a lot of views about offside and I’ve been reading about the law, FIFA guidance, referee guidance etc. One problem I have is that it has been proven in scientific research that human beings (including linesmen!) physically cannot move their eyes fast enough to take in all the necessary action. To make a correct decision they have to assess the positions of the player passing the ball, the player receiving the ball, and the second from last defender at the exact moment a pass is made, bearing in mind that they could be some distance apart, and possibly moving at speed in opposite directions.

I believe we need to look back in history to ascertain why the offside law was introduced in the first place. If you study the development of football in the 1860s, the offside law was probably the biggest bone of contention between the clubs in existence at the time who all had their own version of it.

A compromise was eventually agreed and written into the Laws of the Game in 1866, and was eventually adopted throughout. It was similar to the rule that exists today with the difference being that at a player was offside if he was in the opponents’ half, and he was nearer to the opponents’ goal line than both the ball and at least three opponents when receiving a pass from his team-mate.

The rule changed in 1925 with three opponents becoming two opponents. In 1990 the law was amended so that a player was onside if he was level with the second to last opponent. This change was considered to be part of a movement by the authorities to make the rules more conducive to attacking football and help the game to flow more freely.

But why was it introduced in the very first place? In the very early games of football, players would stand close to the opponents goal, a term known as goal-hanging (as happened a lot in the playground games of football in my day), and the ball could be played to them, where they would be in a good position to score, and obstruct the goalkeeper too. Quite clearly as the game developed it was realised that this was an unsatisfactory state of affairs.

But why do we have the situation where you can be offside in half of the area of the pitch? Can you really be goal-hanging more than fifty yards from goal? Once we’ve dispensed with the nonsensical penalty area that I previously referred to, I believe we should draw a line across the pitch, say 18 yards from the goal line. It doesn’t have to be necessarily 18 yards; it could be 20. Some experimentation would be needed of course. We would then change the rule so that you can only be offside in this final 18 yards of the pitch. This would prevent the current condensing of play in the centre of the field and stretch it out further.

In my view it would also help the assistant referee, whose task with regard to offside can be difficult, as they need to keep up with the flow of the game, consider if players are in an offside position when the ball is played, and then decide if any players that are in an offside position become involved in active play.

As I mentioned before, officiating errors in respect of offside are inevitable from an optical viewpoint, with the eyes and brain of a human being unable to process all of the necessary action to accurately call an offside decision accurately. The risk of errors increases by the foreshortening effect, which can happen when the distances between the attacking player, the defending players, and the assistant referee vary significantly. This is exacerbated if the assistant referee is not directly in line with the defender, and with the speed of the game today, this is virtually impossible.

The assistant referee has to judge if a player is level with an opponent at the moment the ball is kicked. The ball may be kicked from a short distance away or 40 yards away, and the linesman has to be able to see all of this with one set of eyes. It becomes even more difficult if an attacker and a defender are running in opposite directions. Sometimes it is just not possible to keep all necessary players in the field of vision at once.

This article will be continued with further details of the complexity of the offside rule that most of us don’t know about, and ideas for solutions to simplify the law for players and spectators alike, together with a call for video replays that could easily be introduced without any hold up to the game.

Spotlight on the Officials

A quick look at some of the decisions made by the referees this weekend.

RefereeingTraditionally it has always been said that if you don’t notice a referee in a game of football then he’s had a good game. To some extent this is true. Referees and their assistants do have assessors in the stands at every game feeding back on their performance so in theory their decisions (or non-decisions) are scrutinised carefully. But if a referee doesn’t get a mention in a newspaper or media report on a game then he should normally be pleased. Although some do court the attention and believe they are on a par with the players in providing the entertainment.

All officials will continue to make mistakes (as we all do in life), and until some form of video technology is introduced then these errors will continue to be highlighted, and can have a significant outcome on the results of games. The concept of using video referees in the stands is something that is gaining momentum, and something I am wholly in favour of. The technology is there, although we have to be careful how it is used. I will expand upon how it can be introduced at a later date, but I believe it is urgently needed to minimise the errors made by the officials. I have heard that generally they are in favour themselves and would welcome the help it would give them. In the meantime I have noted a few issues that have come up even at this early stage of the season.

Last weekend Jon Moss took charge of the Watford v Chelsea game. Apart from missing one of the most blatant handballs you will ever see when Cathcart handled from a corner, Moss also failed to send off Costa for simulation (diving to most of us) after he had booked him for dissent earlier in the game. This meant he was still on the field when he shouldn’t have been to score the winning goal late in the game. Ring any bells? Oh yes Anthony Taylor failed to send him off for his disgraceful challenge on Adrian, after he had previously booked him for dissent just a few days earlier. The result of all this? Chelsea have got six points this season after two games when some might argue they should only have two. Those points might be very important in the final analysis. I remember Mr. Moss well for what I believe were important decisions against us at Leicester last season and at Tottenham the season before. 95th minute penalties if I recall correctly?

“Perhaps the first on Drinkwater was debatable, but the second was cast-iron, stonewall, nailed-on, or whatever you would like to call it.”

Tony Pulis’ teams have I believe, got away with American Football style blocking in the penalty area at set pieces for some years. Perhaps they aren’t the only ones, but Stoke always stood out for me in this respect, and latterly West Brom are the same. Last weekend from a corner, Berahinho was detailed to “look after” the Everton keeper (Stekelenburg?) and backed him into the net as a corner came across allowing McAuley a free header to score. Not the first time the Albion have used this ploy. It was so obvious to see on TV but did Mr. Swarbrick see it? Apparently not.

I’ve always thought that Mark Clattenburg reminded me of somebody but I didn’t realise who until I saw him shake hands with Koscielny of Arsenal at the end of the game at Leicester. Last season Leicester were awarded a scandalous number of penalties and followed this up with one in their first game of the season at Hull. But I wonder if Mr. Clattenburg has cottoned on to this, as he denied them two fairly clear-cut spot kick awards in the game against the Gunners. Perhaps the first on Drinkwater was debatable, but the second was cast-iron, stonewall, nailed-on, or whatever you would like to call it. He was possibly the only person who saw it who didn’t think so. Perhaps he is single-handedly giving Leicester their comeuppance for some “dubious” penalty awards in the past year.

Well done to Mike Dean who appears to have started a one-man crusade against holding in the penalty area at corners. He awarded two penalties for this infringement in the Stoke v Man. City game and is to be congratulated in his stance to try to eradicate this nonsense from the game. But he doesn’t appear to have been backed up by referees elsewhere even though it was an issue they were going to tackle this season. Unless this is applied consistently then it will continue to spoil games. It will be interesting to see if Mr. Dean keeps it up, or if he gets criticised by the assessors for this.

My award for referee of the week goes to Craig Pawson who refereed our game v Bournemouth. I have been critical of him in the past (Arsenal last season) but felt he was spot on throughout the game and got most decisions right. He tried to let the game flow, but stopped it when he had to. He certainly made fewer mistakes than many of the players on view.