Season 2015/16

So it’s been a while since I last post, for several reasons but I’m looking forward to the new season being my most productive yet.

I have been asked by a website (www.theref.co.nr) to assess referees in competitions such as the Barclays Premier League, UEFA Champions League, UEFA Europa League as well as English domestic cups. I am extremely looking forward to this as well as my usual articles.

With all the signings that’s been happening it promises to be a great season, and I hope to write as much as I possibly can. I may post more than once a week but possibly shorter blogs. I say possibly because as we know, anything can happen in football.

My job means I am unable to referee regularly in a league but I still hope to referee the odd game here and there and will write-up a match report for each game. I’ve not refereed as much as I’d like but just after last season I was asked to referee at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium for a corporate 5-a-side. Was good fun and I was impressed with the facilities at Arsenal. My day was topped of by meeting a legend of the game, Ian Wright!

With Ian Wright at the Emirates Stadium

With Ian Wright at the Emirates Stadium

I will sign off this pre-season post with a massive thank you to all those who have read, shared and enjoyed what I have written.

Here’s to a good 2015/16!

Chapter 28 – I’m back!

I must apologise for my lack of blogs recently. I’ve not had the time to sit down and write anything although when watching the highlights I’ve had ideas but not the time to get anything written!

As always there was plenty of controversy about but I will focus on 2 incidents that occurred over the last seven days, one from the Premier League and one from the Champions League.

First at Upton Park on Sunday, high flying West Ham met in form Swansea, where the visitors were reduced to 10 men after keeper Fabianski was dismissed after charging out of his area in an attempt to beat hammers forward Sakho to the ball.

The Senegalese striker seemed to knock the ball past Fabianski with his hand as the Polish stopper attempted to impede Sakho. Sakho stayed on his feet, a rare thing in the modern game, carried on to have an attempt at goal which hit the post.

Swans manager Gary Monk said that it wasn’t a read card as it wasn’t a clear goal scoring opportunity as the effort didn’t go in plus there was a handball before the foul. All good points but let me break it down and I’ll explain why the appeal was unsuccessful.

Referee Chris Foy blew his whistle at the point of contact between Fabianski and Sakho so he couldn’t of known that Sakho would miss. I think that with no keeper in the goal everyone expected a goal.

The decision by Mr Foy not give the handball was a great call. As Sakho was sprinting his arm was in a natural position when his hand made contact with the ball so couldn’t have been deliberate. But as a football fan I can understand why Swansea would feel hard done by. If it happened to my team I would be annoyed in the heat of the moment!

The other incident this week happened between Liverpool and Basel. As Lazar Markovic was being closed down he stuck out an arm and it looked like a finger caught the eye of Behrang Safari.

The pundits after the game said that it was a harsh sending off but not really when you look at it properly. The reaction of the player despite looking a little over the top I don’t feel it was that. If you get flicked in the eye it can be quite painful.

The Markovic looked to see where his opponent was before sticking out his arm and had they been closer it could’ve been an elbow that caught the Safari.

Striking an opponent or attempting to strike an opponent is a sending off offence. I believe, as did the referee that this was the case!

Take time to think about what you say about referees decisions as they don’t have all the replays that us viewers have! Put yourself in the referees boots and remember the refs view!

Chapter 27 – Spot on!

A lot of controversial decisions were made by the men in the middle in the recent round of Premier League games.

At Southampton Vs Swansea there were calls for Fraser Forster to be sent off but the referee, Andre Mariner, got this right as it was more of a coming together. The keepers momentum took him into Sunderland’s Fletcher

In the Manchester City Vs Tottenham game we saw a record equalling four penalties awarded!

The first was awarded to City for a push on Lampard by Lamela. The view referee Jonathan Moss had it looked like a nudge in the back. Lampard was very clever to win the penalty. Having seen all the replays I wouldn’t have given it bit if I had the view of Mr Moss then I would have.

IMG_3339.JPGMan City’s Lampard wins the first of 4 penalties in this game

The second City penalty was awarded for a foul on Silva by Kaboul. Not sure how anyone could argue with this decision although it didn’t stop Kaboul protesting his innocence. If you go to ground like the Spurs defender did then you have to take he ball. Very risky to go to ground like that especially in the area!

In amongst all the penalties awarded there was a shout for one which was rightly turned down. Sagna, only being a few yards away from the shot, couldn’t have done much to get out of the way and this was definitely a case of ball to hand.

The next spot kick was awarded to Spurs after Di Michelles had clipped Soldado. Replays show that the contact was outside but to be fair to the referee and the assistant on that side how quickly it happened it would’ve been difficult to know it was outside as it was so clots to the line and Soldado fell a few feet into the area. This was very unfortunate. If the officials had access to video replays it could’ve been correctly awarded as a free kick without any additional delay to the game.

The forth and last penalty of this game involved a red card. As the ball is played across the six yard box Fazio pulls Aguero. Jonathan Moss did very well here as he waited a few seconds before awarding the spot kick because the outcome could’ve been different. If the ball is cleared before it would got to Aguero then Fazio would only receive a yellow card. This has to be the best piece if refereeing I’ve seen this season.

IMG_3340.JPGFazio is told to go for an early shower!

Crystal Palace against Chelsea is a game, despite being a London derby, that you would’ve though would go by without much incident, but there was a few moments of controversy.

John Terry avoided a booking after fouling Frazier Campbell. He slid in to attend win the ball and stop Palace going on the counter attack but Campbell was a little big too quick. The ref was right not to book Terry as the challenge was more careless than reckless.

A few moments later Delaney goes in to tackle Remy, but the Chelsea striker nicked the ball away and the Palace player clattered his opponent. The decision to book Delaney was correct as I would say the challenge was reckless.

Azpilicueta received his marching orders after he slid in to a challenge with Palace’s Jedinak with his studs high. This was clearly a challenge with excessive force and the referee was correct in issuing a straight red.

IMG_3341.JPGPoor challenge from Azpilicueta

Delaney then received a second yellow card, this time for pulling back Remy. Although Remy’s fall seemed a little theatrical the pull was obvious to the ref and a yellow card was correctly shown. After the game the Crystal Palace manager said that the referee was influenced by the Chelsea. I would hope not and will assume that he game himself a few moments after awarding the free kick to decide if further action was needed.

The last game I will look at from last weekend is Stoke Vs Swansea. There was two penalties in this game, one for each side. Both sides felt that the others shouldn’t have been awarded.

The first is for a foul at a corner by Stoke City’s Ryan Shawcross. He was spoken to by the referee before the corner was taken about keeping his arms to himself. The referee takes up a great position and as the corner comes in he clearly sees Shawcross throw Swansea’s Bony to the ground. Does this happen at every set piece that comes into the box? Yes. Are penalties always given? No. Should penalties be given all the time? Well that depends on the referees view and of or was as blatant as this incident. Most of the time both players are pulling each other so it can be difficult to judge who’s at fault! The next was for a foul on Moses by Rangel. The referee was conned here as the replays show that the contact was minimal and not enough to send Moses to the ground the way he did. But the referee doesn’t have those replays. Rangel did put an arm out and at normal speed with the way the Stoke man fell it would’ve looked like a penalty to the referee.

After all that has happened last weekend take a second to think about the views you have access to before saying how poor the referee us and remember the refs view!!

Chapter 26 – You Don’t Know What You’re Doing?

Every referee that does the big games hopes to show what he can do, whether it’s a big derby, a cup final or a game between two fierce rivals, like Chelsea versus Arsenal at the weekend.

Martin Atkinson was the man in charge for this clash at Stamford Bridge. It was always going to be a busy afternoon for him but I don’t think he expected to be as busy as he was.

It was 20 minutes into the game when he had to make the first of many big calls. Arsenal’s Alexis Sanchez had the ball by the touchline, and Chelsea’s Gary Cahill comes across to try to tackle his opponent, but he gets it all wrong and goes over the top of the ball and into Sanchez’s knees. Mr Atkinson shows the Chelsea defender a yellow card. For me this challenge was with excessive force and should’ve been a red card! To defend Mr Atkinson, it looked like at the point of impact his view may have been blocked, so he may not have seen just how bad the challenge was.

Chelsea were rightly awarded a penalty when Koscielny brought down Hazard. The Arsenal defender was showed a yellow card. Had he not brought Hazard down the Chelsea player would’ve had a clear shot so therefore Koscielny should have seen red.

Rosickŷ could also have seen red for a kick at Fabregas. He may have got the ball but it was a wild swing while his opponent was on the floor. Credit to Fabregas for not feigning injury as some players may do!

Another player that was shown a yellow instead of a red card was Danny Welbeck. Immediately after the Rosickŷ/Fabregas incident, Fabregas had the by the touchline. Welbeck came steaming in and both feet left the floor therefore he couldn’t be in control of the tackle and should’ve received his marching orders. Not sure the view Martin Atkinson had but his assistant had a very clear view and should helped the assistant out.

Callum Chambers was lucky not to be shown a second yellow card in this very feisty London derby. So why was the referee so reluctant to give players red cards? You would have to ask the man himself. I know sometimes in the big games especially between rivals the challenges can be a little harder than normal and the referee will want to show common sense to try and keep all 22 players on the pitch but the players safety has to be the priority for the referee and no matter what the game or how long has gone sometimes red cards just have to be issued. Not the best day in the office for Martin Atkinson but he is a good referee and I’m sure he’ll bounce back.

IMG_3298.JPGThe managers felt the referee needed more to deal with!

On social media after the West Ham versus QPR game I read many hammers fans saying how bad Anthony Taylor is for disallowing a 3rd goal the East London side. The Rangers ‘keeper Rob Green took a quick free kick inside his area which Valencia intercepted from a few yards away and slotted the ball home. The referee disallowing the goal had nothing to do with distance. All free kicks as well as goal kicks need to leave the area before another player can touch the ball.

IMG_3299-0.JPGAnthony Taylor making his point to the West Ham players

How many fans feel silly for their outburst and will they be more understanding next time? Probably not a lot because nine times out of ten if a decision goes against a team you will always hear “this refs rubbish!” Or “you don’t know what you’re doing!”

Chapter 25 – A Champion Idea

A few years ago when it was announce that there would be an extra official behind the goal lines I thought this was a great idea. It would help the referee with decision in the penalty area and for goal line decisions too, helping reduce the errors and missed incidents. However Man City will be feeling the extra officials may as well not gave been there, in their Champions League match against Roma.

At the start of the season I wrote about handballs, why some were given and others not. When Roma’s Manolas slid to block a cross by City’s Jesus Navas, he left his arm trailing on the floor, when the the ball strikes it, it bounces up and a chance for Aguero to have a shot gone.

IMG_3270-0.JPGif the extra official had been this side he would’ve had a clear view.

I’ve not seen a replay where I can see what view the referee had, so let’s just assume that his view was blocked. If he can’t see it he can’t give it. I once ignored shouts for a handball because the sun was in my eyes. I was told by both teams that maradona would’ve been proud of it! But I wasn’t 100% sure gave nothing.

I can’t help but think that if the extra official behind the goal was in the right back area instead if the left back, he would’ve seen the handball and been able to advise the referee he should award a penalty. To have assistant referees covering the left back it would make sense to have the extra official the other side to give the officiating team more coverage.

This week I was an assistant referee at a game where a bizarre incident occurred. Team A took a corner and one of their players noticed that Team B’s keeper was changing his gloves and as a sporting gesture caught the ball much like West Ham’s Paolo Di Canio against Everton and alerted the referee to the keeper. Much to everyone’s shock the referee awarded Team B a free kick. The referee actually did everything by the book, but I felt sorry for Team B. I thought the referee could’ve shown common sense and allowed Team A to retake the corner but he was somewhat older than me and I think set in his ways, nothing wrong with that of course.

Chapter 24 – To go down or not to go down!

There’s been a lot said in football recently about players going to ground too easily and getting penalties and players who stay on their feet after being fouled and not being awarded a penalty.

Recently I took charge of a match where I awarded a penalty for the latter.

The attacker ran into the area and went past the defenders outstretched leg. He was knocked off balance but stayed upright but the opportunity for him to shoot was pretty much gone as his stumble meant that other defenders were able to get to the ball.

So what was the reaction to my decision?

When I blew my whistle, the fouled player was already turning around to half heartedly appeal for a spot kick. I didn’t hear or notice any appeals from his teammates. Not that it would effect me either way.

The defending team protested their offending teammates innocence, again this would not affect my decision. I have seen players kick lumps out of someone only to turn to me and say ‘I never touched him!’

They were meant with a stern response from me. “Did he touch the ball? No! Did he touch the player? Yes, penalty!”

This ended their protests and the penalty was taken and scored as I moved back towards the centre circle not one bad word was said to me. I think everyone agreed it was a penalty, you just don’t see them given without the attacking player going down very often.

At half time I spoke with my assistant who was near the incident and I asked him for his opinion. He told me that he felt that it was the right decision, but a brave move to award it. He said that he’s not sure if he would’ve given it because of the potential backlash and because it would be expected not to be given.

I asked him if it had happened near the half way line would he give a free kick? He said that he would. My response was “so what’s the difference?”

On the way home I thought about what I said in previous chapters and that if I was watching Match of the Day and the referee had not given it I would be typing away on here as to how wrong he was!

Of course it’s all about views and opinions. To me that’s one of the greatest things about out beautiful game.

Chapter 23 – Hands up if you love football!

What a busy weekend the premier league referees had as the 2014/15 season kicked off!

At Old Trafford in the early kick Manchester United were pressing to get an equaliser as they trailed Swansea 2-1. In the last few minutes Januzaj tries to play a ball towards goal, the ball hits Rangel on the arm and the majority of the crowd and well as the home team, appeal for a penalty.

Referee Mike Dean promptly waves the appeals away. Rangel’s arm was out but he’s turned his back and wasn’t looking at where the ball was. His arm was in a natural position and Januzaj was only a short distance away.

If it was given against your team you would be screaming at the referee to go to specsavers! If it was to be for your team you would appeal for a spot kick, but Mike Dean has got this one correct.

West Bromwich Albion were awarded a penalty shortly before half time in their opening game against Sunderland. Roberge of Sunderland does make contact with West Brom striker Anichebe’s arm but for me, not enough to send him to the floor in the way he fell. It wasn’t an outright dive but he has overreacted to a touch which, you could say was simulation!

I’m not being harsh on referee Neil Swarbrick, as in the thick of the action you see two players tussling and one goes to ground it can be easy to believe a foul had been committed especially if he sees a slight tug. The refs don’t have the advantage of replays and players will continue to exploit that!

In the London derby at the Boleyn Ground sees the first major controversial decision of the season.

Kevin Nolan turns and shoots around the six yard area, Spurs defender Kyle Naughton anticipates the shot and moves to block it. The ball strikes his hand and after a few seconds ref Chris Foy awards the Hammers a penalty. A correct decision as Naughton’s hands were in an unnatural position above his head.

Now for the controversial bit! Mr Foy speaks with his assistant then shows a red card to the Spurs defender for denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity. The officials had to be 100% sure that the ball was going in to make that call. From their positions I’m not convinced they could be. In my opinion the only way to be 100% sure is if you were to be right behind Nolan in line with the shot. I’m sure that Tottenham will appeal and the red card will be overturned.

IMG_3129.JPGNaughton is shocked to be dismissed

James Collins was booked twice in the second half for two similar fouls. Referee correct on both occasions and Collins only had himself to balm for his stupidity!

Over in West London, QPR see awarded a penalty, as Hull City’s James Chester was penalised for handball. Referee Craig Pawson must’ve thought (obviously) that it hit the defenders arm. Even so his arm was down by his side in a natural position and he made no movement towards the ball. Justice was done as the penalty was missed!

There was the rare appeal for a pass back on Sunday at Anfield. Did the officials miss it? Or did they feel there was no case to answer? For me it’s the latter. Mark Clattenburg is one of the premier leagues best referees and I think he felt that Henderson, under pressure from an opponent, miss hit the ball.

I’m sure the referees of the premier league will be hoping for a quieter time this coming weekend.

Chapter 22 – Pre-season

I would like to start my first blog of the 2014/15 season my apologising for not blogging as much as said I would during the World Cup.

My wife gave birth to a little girl so I had very little spare time to write! Things are settled now and I’m really looking forward to the new season.

It’s going to be a strange season without Howard Webb refereeing in the Premier League. The predictable jokes flew around the internet upon his announcement that he has hung up his whistle and will now be the Technical Director of the PGMO, but he is one of the best referees the premier league has ever had!

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He has been a fantastic referee and is someone I looked up to. I would say he’s the second best referee after the Italian legend Pierluigi Collina.

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From a personal point of view I’m hoping to referee a little more than I did last year with at least one game a week.

I have already been involved in a semi professional pre-season friendly, as an assistant referee. It was a great experience, two very good sides but I wouldn’t say it was a ‘friendly’!

The two teams are fairly local to each other and playing in different leagues one a little higher up the pyramid than the other so a lot of pride was a stake.

The challenges were flying in and the referee tried to let the game flow as much as possible but he had to bring out the cards. Just before halftime he issued two cautions then as he blew the half time whistle be called the skippers over and reminded them that this was a friendly!

This worked as the football was more enjoyable as the second half flew by.

There was even jokes about where the referees vanishing spray was! The game finished 1-1, a fair result.

Good luck to all referees at whatever level for the new season and to all the non referees, think about the ‘refs view’ before slating the man in the middle!

Chapter 21 – Italy Vs Uruguay

There’s only one talking point from the games that took place yesterday, Luis Suarez and biting!

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Something that I thought was a thing of his past, after rebuilding his reputation last season after being banned for biting Ivannovic in 2013.

From the referees point of view if he didn’t see the incident, and neither did his assistants, regardless of any marks that are there, he can’t take action.

FIFA however, can take action.

It’s a well known fact that players will do things off the ball and out of sight of the officials. Usually it’s pushing and pulling not something as serious as biting!

When FIFA look at the footage they will surely have to charge Luis Suarez. There is talk of a two year ban. Harsh? If it was the first time he’d bitten someone then yes. However it’s not the first, it’s not even the second, it’s an incredible third time!

As a fan of football, to not have Suarez playing for two years would make the game a little less exciting, as he has an incredible talent and a great scoring record.

As an official, I would support a lengthy ban. People who constantly get bans for violent conduct should be severely punished.

I’ve seen on social media some people calling for a lifetime ban. For me I wouldn’t go to that extreme……… yet!!

Chapter 20 – Uruguay Vs England

This is the hardest blog I’ve written to date.

As an Englishman I was obviously disappointed with the result, but I’m trying not to be just a fan and say the ref was rubbish and that’s the only reason England lost!

Having said that, and speaking from a referees point of view, Carlos Velasco Carballo was poor.

He correctly cautioned the Uruguayan captain Godin for handball but he should’ve cautioned him again for a foul on Daniel Sturridge. That foul in itself could’ve been a red card, had it been deemed as violent conduct. A forearm to the throat is not something I could give just a free kick for!

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The referee obviously saw it as he gave a free kick but he failed to show a second yellow card. Why? Even ex-premier league referee Mark Halsey tweeted his shock at Godin still being on the pitch!

Some referees, I include myself in this, will not want to issue an early red as it can spoil the game. I tend to be a lot stricter in the second half than I am in the first. Something I was criticised during an assessment from an FA assessor. Sometimes though, you have to if it’s an obvious one.

But it was dissent I was letting go, trying to understand the players frustration.

A little while ago I wrote a chapter titled “A foul is a foul”. In which I stated no matter where the foul takes place it’s a foul, whether it results in a free kick or penalty. The same theory applies to cautions after fouls. Dissent is a little bit different as that’s a personal tolerance level.

There was also a heavy challenge in the second half which went unpunished. Yes the ball was won, but the angle and speed the defender came in at, could’ve caused injury. As players safety is the referees primary concern.

Steven Gerrard was correctly cautioned for a foul. Although at the time I shouted at my tele something along the lines of “get up! That’s never a foul!” Having seen the replays I must give credit where credits due and say that was a good decision.

The game finished with 1 booking for each side. There should’ve been a few more, and not just for Uruguay!

Ref rating 5/10