Football Club managers have always grumbled about referees’ decisions, but lately they seem more disgruntled than ever.
Stevenage’s manager, Steve Evans, said after their game with Reading: ‘It’s just that the decisions are baffling’. He recalled an incident when a Reading player was not penalised, but one of his own players had earlier received a yellow card for what he considered a similar tackle. It didn’t help that his team had received five yellow cards whereas Reading players had not received any.
Another manager complained that there was not an even number of cards issued to both clubs’ players. The worst thing a referee could do is to attempt to even up his decisions.
Some of this is I think is the result of the more stringent application of the Laws this season after years of Laissez faire refereeing.
However, I also think that much of this is caused by misunderstanding of the Laws by managers and spectators, especially for those offences where one player may get a yellow card, whilst an opponent committing a similar looking offence gets away Scot free.
Let me take as an example, pulling an opponent’s shirt, which happens quite frequently these days. A player of one team pulls the shirt of an opponent who outpaces him. The referee stops play and awards a direct free kick to the opposing team.
Later a player in the other team pulls the shirt of his opponent and not only gives away a direct free kick but is also shown a yellow card. Again, later in the game another player pulls an opponent’s shirt, but the referee takes no action at all, no free kick, no yellow card.
The referee’s decision in each case can be quite correct. Pulling an opponent’s shirt comes under the heading of holding, and holding in the Laws should be punished by a direct free kick.
In the second case it could depend on the position of the players. If by pulling the opponent’s shirt, it has interfered with, or stopped a promising attack, it comes under the heading ‘unsporting behaviour’ which makes it a yellow card offence.
Of course, if the shirt pull was perhaps nearer to the players own goal, it might even deny an obvious goal scoring opportunity, for which he would receive a red card and be sent off.
In our third incident, referees are told that holding only becomes an offence, if the contact impedes the opponent’s movement. So shirt pulling can be ignored. There is another incident when no cards should be issued for a shirt pull, but that’s for another time.
By Dick Sawdon Smith