Punish the Referee?

Another broken leg in the EPL, this time to Newcastle’s Hatem Ben Arfa, and the FA is — according to more than one press report— likely to take action against the referee!  As Angus would say, Holy Cow, people!!

The perpetrator, Manchester City’s Nigel De Jong, broke the leg of USA’s Stuart Holden in a “friendly” last spring, and infamously stuck his studs into Xabi Alonso’s chest in the World Cup Final in July.  He stayed on the pitch in all three cases, although Howard Webb now claims he’d have sent him off in the Final if he had a better view of the incident.  No retroactive punishment has been forthcoming in these rather obvious cases of maiming,  due to a FIFA rule that the ref on the pitch is …..  God or something:  retroactive punishment apparently requires a court order.  Which means if you get “done” by an obvious but unobserved (by the referee) criminal act, you just have to take your lumps, bruises, and shattered bones.  Perhaps the cops will intervene and prompt the FA to take action, as in the case of Pedro Mendez who is lucky to have a partial set of teeth after an elbow from Man City’s  Ben Thatcher a few years back.  But Ben Arfa’s leg was broken not by an elbow with clear intent, but a reckless tackle which the local magistrate has little or no ability to distinguish from a fair one.

FIFA:  you are fucking nuts.  Same with the FA.  You’ve got an arachic rule here, so get rid of it.  Video technology is perfectly capable of delivering criminal evidence.  Do you not use it to ban unruly fans from attending future matches, for years?  Then use it to keep thugs from wiping out the talent that we want to see on the pitch.

But no.  Since referee Martin Atkinson admits to having seen the tackle, but not deeming it worthy of punishment at the time, he is likely to be demoted from the EPL to the “Championship” (one rung down the league ladder ) for the next set of fixtures.  That’s what the papers say.  England could take a lesson here from MLB and Jim Joyce, I think.  Umpires do miss calls you know, like Webb did in the World Cup Final.  But FIFA has no intention of sitting him down for a match.

Seriously, FA, look at the video again, take action, and tell FIFA to take a hike.  You might get a slap on the wrist, but it would be worth it.

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Author: Skip Sauer

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FIFA, referees

13 thoughts on “Punish the Referee?”

  1. Hi John,

    FIFA & the FA in tandem permit a style of play which is breaking the legs of talented players. This deserves harsh language in my opinion, but feel free to unsubscribe! I wonder though if the CSM will pick up this post….


  2. Skip,

    What has the reaction of the English fans/press been to this incident? Are they calling for video replay to be used to hand out punishment? If there are bad actors on the field that are caught on camera, then video review should be used to hand out suspensions and fines after the match.

  3. Frank,

    I believe that the refs did use video to assess the Red Card, which actually is against the rules of the game at that time if I remember correctly. I’m not entirely sure, but there seems to be a lot of discussion that the refs only saw it when it was replayed on a video board in the stadium.

  4. Tom,

    Video evidence is now used, but pretty much only when the referee misses an incident (that may explain the Zidane case). There’s a fair amount of discussion right now in the papers and blogs about De Jong’s tackle and the fact that he won’t miss any playing time. My daily read (Arseblog) has been calling for retrospective use of video evidence for some time and in the wake of the latest leg break puts it like this:

    “Maybe de Jong’s sly reducer on Ben Arfa wasn’t quite as noticeable in real time but then we have a multitude of cameras at every game. They should be used.”


    More here, from Ian Wright:

  5. It may be a bit early to suggest that FA should take its cue from MLB … Selig gave his usual blah-blah-blah about looking into further use of replay, but nothing’s changed yet.

    More to the point, though, MLB is probably the last league to use as an example for discipline. The NFL does review games to determine suspensions after the fact (which is good considering that NFL officials rarely penalize players for actions similar to De Jong’s, even when it’s obvious the play was dirty).

    Unfortunately, no leagues here seem committed to discouraging dirty play. Even the worst offenders get little more than token suspensions. Maybe it’ll be up to the FA to set the example themselves … and some after-the-fact punishment will be required. A red card is hardly adequate for some of De Jong’s actions.

  6. Rugby seems to manage this without causing any problems for the referees’ on pitch authority: professional games are watched afterwards by a Commissioner. If he sees offences that warranted a red card, then the player is cited for them, and needs to appear before a disciplinary committee in exactly the same way as if he’d been sent off during the match. This can apply even if the referee saw and penalised the offence.

    I don’t see the down-side.

  7. “Which means if you get “done” by an obvious but unobserved (by the referee) criminal act, you just have to take your lumps, bruises, and shattered bones.”

    “Video evidence is now used, but pretty much only when the referee misses an incident (that may explain the Zidane case).”

    There seems to be a contradiction here; as far as I know (I can’t cite any sources), the situation is as follows:

    1. When the ref sees the action in question, his decision is final. For example, if he sees a tackle and waves play on, that’s it, even if recordings later show the offense to be worthy of a red card. Only if the player received a straight red is video evidence used to decide on the harshness of the punishment.

    2. Only when the ref doesn’t see the behaviour in question video evidence can be used after the match to decide whether or not a player should be banned.

    3. Video evidence is not used during matches. If the Zidane decision was reached in the manner the rumours say it was, this was against the rules.

  8. Hi LemmusLemmus,

    On (3), the ref didn’t see it, and my understanding is consistent with yours. My guess is that the card came after consulting with the linesman or 4th official. I was not previously aware of allegations that video evidence had been used there.

    Zlionsfan: point taken. I was using Joyce as an example of an obvious error that had been owned up to. It was deemed to be uncorrectable in the eyes of MLB, in both the present and future sense, so my example is flawed. But I’ve seen some evidence of a push to expand the use of replay in MLB so there is hope.

    Also, FIFA’s “top medical” official has made a clear statement that something should be done and that video should be explored in soccer. “FIFA official concerned by brutality:” http://news.bbc.co.uk/sport2/hi/football/9071151.stm

    So there are signs of intelligence even in that archaic organization.

  9. I wish they’d expand their video footage to penalize players who act as if they’ve had their legs broken by rolling around the pitch only to pop up with a smile on their face and no limp after a brief application of the “magic” sponge. The play acting is spoiling the game as much as the vicious tackling. I won’t name any nations like say Italy, but diving has gotten pretty bad. Video reviews would help here as well.

  10. Skip, let me be the cynic to point out that, right now, “reducing” tackles in support of negative tactics are keeping teams in the Premier League who employee their fair share of Englishmen. The FA will only institute punishments that effectively discourage dangerous tackling when the appropriate price is paid. The “appropriate price,” of course, is the career of a dynamic and exciting England player. Xenophobia so permeates the English game that this is undoubtedly true.

    For example, De Jong is an easy target for universal disapproval because he plays for The Netherlands. However, a player like Ryan Shawcross that has also perpetrated three dangerous tackles that resulted in lengthy injury absences for his unfortunate opponents, but who is English, was defended vigorously by some around the English game despite the damning video evidence available. Had De Jong crippled Andy Carroll, a young English teammate of Hatem Ben Arfa, we’d be seeing the institution of video review at the earliest possible opportunity, I reckon. I am struggling to identify a double standard in American sports that is as obvious.

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