Tag Archives: rules

Penalties, Referees and VAR – A Clean Slate Needed

The hullabaloo surrounding VAR and the correct way to implement the technology has perhaps overshadowed one of the more basic elements of match officiating.

The 2018 World Cup saw referees making basic errors that affected game results. In the biggest knockout competition on the globe, it is quite easy to reach the conclusion that the initial planning for this new method was undercooked a tad.

Still, maybe before the game runs, we should perfect our walking a little.

This is best exhibited by a little incident in our recent win over Watford in the Premiership.

Alexandre Lacazette picked up the ball in Watford’s box and darted forward, aiming to get a better, closer angle to shoot. He evaded his marker, but Christian Kabasele was on his right hand side and made an ugly attempt to stick a leg in. His distance was too far away to win the ball legitimately, unless he was related to Inspector Gadget. His upper leg connected with the side of Lacazette whilst on the move.

Freeze the moment.


Most players go down at the merest sniff of contact in the box. If these players are approached, they have mastered the art of simulation, so much so that referees have been duped on many occasions.

Their duplicitous actions earn a penalty, more often than not it is decisive in terms of result, and cheating is rewarded.

We so often hear the phrase, “there was contact so the striker was entitled to go down.”

This is an infuriating epidemic, and one that must be stymied, but how can this even begin when players know unless they go down and re-enact a Shakespearean tragedy, they won’t get a dime?

Back to the Watford incident. Lacazette was buffered to the side, and his centre of gravity was off. He gamely battled to not only regain his balance, but also fire off a shot – but the chance was gone. Kabasele’s illegal intervention was a timely one, and it meant Watford kept on an even keel.

The referee who failed to blow his whistle was Anthony Taylor – a name that is synonymous with erroneous moments for Gooners. Kabasele, at the moment of impact, threw his hands up in the air as if to signal that he didn’t touch him. It certainly worked, but for a professional referee to miss such contact is staggering.

We shouldn’t be surprised though.


In every single game, on multiple occasions, we see grappling, tugging, pulling – blatant fouls – going on in the seconds before a free-kick or corner. Every team is guilty of it, and yet there is no referee who upholds the rules in this regard.

So, to be objective, can we really hold serial divers up as enemies of the game, when they are fully aware that if they don’t go down in the box like they’ve stepped on a beartrap, then there is little to no chance of a penalty being awarded?

VAR is meant to the be the saviour of the game, one that will absolve all ills. Something that the ref isn’t sure of? He can canter off to check a wee monitor and then install justice.

The problem with this is – as we saw during the World Cup – if the referee hasn’t the firmest grip on the rules, then no matter how many angles or how slow the slo-mo is – then justice will still be a stranger.

So, diving will remain a big part of the game. As with every facet of our beautiful sport, there are a multitude of grey areas. Nothing is black and white.

Even diving has a reason behind it.

And it all stems from bad refereeing.

PGMOL needs to step in and rise to the standard that a multi-billion pound industry demands.

If we were to go into work and make the errors we moan about each week – how long before we’re clearing our desk?

Does contact constitute a penalty?

The recent match between tottenham and Liverpool illuminated an alarming facet of the modern game.

The game ended in a 2-2 draw, but only thanks to some erroneous decision making that was then judged by the majority of authority figures to in fact, be on the correct path.

The game swivelled on two late penalties – both for tottenham – and on close inspection, with the aid of slo-mo technology and a myriad of angles, we can surely all see that both spot-kicks were incorrectly given.

Since when does contact constitute a penalty?

We can forgive the referee, Jon Moss, for giving them. In the speed of the game, some things take on entirely different views and mistakes are commonplace. If VAR was in place though, then neither would’ve been given, right?

Jon Moss was in conversation with his fourth official for the final penalty – when Virgil Van Dijk ‘collided’ with Erik Lamela – and after a lengthy discussion, he judged that the Dutchman had brought down the Argentine winger. Moss even asked the fourth official for the use of VAR – even though the technology wasn’t available for this game.

If Moss was so unsure that he needed the benefit of a TV replay, surely he shouldn’t have given it?

Jurgen Klopp raged after the game, the German coach was obviously convinced his side had bagged the points after Mohamed Salah had scored in extra time to put Liverpool 2-1 up.

Mark Clattenburg was asked in the days afterward regarding the awarding of both spot kicks and said that both were incorrectly awarded – but he was in the minority.

Harry Kane, when asked by BBC Sport about the award of the first penalty, when he went over Lorus Karius’s dive, said “I felt contact so I went down. I’m not going to jump out of the way because it’s football.”

Dejan Lovren was incensed about the penalty, and Van Dijk was quite candid, saying that Kane dived.

The second penalty, Jurgen Klopp said of Lamela;

“The softest touch in the whole game decided the game. Lamela was already on the way down.”

The PGMOL, Jermaine Jenas, former referee Dermot Gallagher and a host of other supposedly respected voices in the game all branded the penalties correct.

What does the actual law state for a penalty though?

‘If a player commits a direct free-kick offence in the penalty area, then a penalty is awarded.’

What constitutes a direct free-kick offence?

‘A direct free-kick is awarded if a player commits any of the following in a careless, reckless manner or using excessive force


jumps at

kicks or attempts to kick


strikes or attempts to strike

tackles or challenges

trips or attempts to trip.

Did either incident involve any of the above? Does any of the above mention that contact constitutes an automatic spot kick?


Raheem Sterling, Ashley Young, Delle Ali, Harry Kane, Ander Herrerra are all serial offenders, using a trailing leg or their forward impetus to sway the referees into a decision. Even our own players aren’t above simulating to earn an advantage – Welbeck vs AC Milan anyone?

Contact is going to be made in the game, and when a corner is swung in, players clamber over each other to gain leverage, yet no spot kicks are given. Harry Kane used Laurent Koscielny to climb and score the winner in the recent North London Derby, yet he wasn’t pulled up for this.

There are instances when players are unfairly penalised for not going down under a tackle, as the referee believes it isn’t a foul as the player hasn’t fallen to the ground like he’s been shot.

It is this that has led to players feeling justified in going to ground when they feel any form of contact. Why should their team lose out?

The game has changed, but it’s on dangerous footing. The current decision making is inconsistent and it can lead to massive errors.

Errors that can hardly have bigger ramifications with the financial rewards in the game.

VAR needs to be the impartial factor we all know it could be, but if match officials believe that contact constitutes a penalty, then what hope is there?

Gridiron Vs Football

Originally posted on Goonersphere.

Football is constantly in battle with itself.

Fans of differing generations put forth their strongest hands, claiming it was better in their day.

What is overlooked often though, is that all generations of the sport have their part to play in creating the behemoth we see today.

So, in essence, we are all correct and wrong simultaneously. The ills that blight the game are simply symptoms of the path the game has walked, set on its way by the elders we all look upon with the highest regard.

There are current factors in the game that are pored over thanks to their nefarious nature. Diving, playacting, pleading for set-plays and the booking of the opposition, the obscene amounts of money. All eating away at the soul of the beautiful game.

Well I’m here to tell you that we could have it far worse.

America embrace sports just as passionately as us. The big games across the pond are treated with such gravitas that they are akin to a public holiday – and none are bigger than the Superbowl.

The buildup to this auspicious day is so gargantuan it has now started to bleed into our day over here. Not only this, but American Football is now big business over here. Fan clubs and games played in the UK means gridiron is now standing alongside our very own sports for attention.

I have recently attempted to dip my proverbial toe into the waters of American Football. I follow pretty much all sports, some more avidly than others, but if it is competitive and has points, I’ll watch it. I have watched some games on the TV and recently, I went to Wembley with my brother and dad to catch a game.

It was an absolutely awful experience, and even though our very own football has its wrongs, they pale into comparison alongside gridiron.

We moan about stoppages in football.

We have NOTHING to moan about.

American Football, in the majority of matches I have seen, have three seconds of play, followed by at least three to five minutes of stoppages. It is so staccato, so regularly peppered with nothing, that the entertainment that takes place in these hiatuses in play is fundamental.

Without it, spectators would just be sitting and watching the players stand in a field. The blow is softened somewhat when watching on TV as pundits and replays fill the voids, but four quarters of fifteen minutes drips by thanks to this awful system.

And we thought we had it bad with players moaning at referees and holding the play up.

My experience with American Football has left me thirstier for actual football. If these two sports were movies, then football would be Die Hard and American Football would be Die Hard 4. With less action. And the guns replaced with balloons.

Gridiron fans wax lyrical about the hard hits these hard men take. Granted, occasionally these men covered in padding receive a really vicious tackle, but compare this to Rugby where players are constantly in the thick of it, not allowed to have a breather after three and a half seconds of action.

Stop, stop, stop, start. There is no rhythm to that American sport. It is frustrating to watch, it isn’t fun like sports are meant to be.

Anyone who disagrees with me, watch a game of football alongside a match of gridiron. Watch how time ticks by in a natural manner on the clock during ‘soccer.’

Then look at the gameclock during a game of American ‘Football.’ Gadzooks! Time stands still as if frozen? What is this sorcery?

Physical sport is meant to be frantic, it is meant to tick by. Even goalless draws have those minutes at the end of the game where chances are made and spurned. In Gridiron, there are exceptions, but it is hard to stay pumped for the duration.

The last two Superbowls are great exhibitions that this sport can thrill, but they are the exceptions.

American Football has the capacity for huge excitement. Of course it does, the audience numbers it generates are testament to this. Look at last season’s Superbowl comeback from the Patriots when they defeated the Falcons. That was a true spectacle.

It is also the exception though.

I think I’ll stick to football.