Start As You Mean To Go On

This weekend sees the opening games of the 2016/17 Barclays Premier League. I recently wrote about the changes made to the laws of the game and as the games kicked off, I was hoping that the referees would be really hot on dealing with dissent as they have been instructed to do.

In Middlesbrough’s first game back in the top flight for 7 years two players were booked for dissent, when last season I believe nothing would have been given to them for these incidents.

First, veteran goalkeeper Shay Given was given a yellow card for running 25 yards or so, out of his area to confront referee Kevin Friend after Boro’s Ramirez had fouled Pieters. Some would say this decision is harsh but it needed to be done to show how referees are going to be dealing with dissent from now on. Lets be honest about this, there was no need for Given to speak to the referee, especially as he isn’t the captain. If the referee feels a yellow card or more is needed, he doesn’t need anyone who isn’t in his officiating team to advise him on what he needs to do.

The second incident of dissent from Middlesbrough Vs Stoke was after Arnautovic was fouled he turned towards the referee and angrily shouted something. I think it’s safe to assume that he would’ve liked the player that fouled him to have been booked or sent off. However, his petulant actions were not necessary. A free kick was awarded so he should’ve got up and got on with the game.

Having only watched highlights of this game I can’t comment on every decision but from what I did see, I have to say Kevin Friend had an excellent game in the middle. He even brought play back for a free kick when there was no advantage.

I hope all referees, not just those in the Premier League, take note of this performance. It’s important to set the marker early so that it can have a positive effect on the game.

Law Changes

With the new season getting ever closer, I thought it would be good to look at some of the changes to the laws of the game (LOTG) that the IFAB have made.

The most notable change is to Law 8, The Start and Restart of Play. The ball now no longer needs to be played forward. When refereeing young children I would sometimes have to tell them that they needed to play it into the oppositions half. Thinking about it I’ve had to tell a few adult teams too! Another change to this law is the restart at corners and free-kicks. “Clearly moves” has been added to the law so teams will no longer be able to do sly touches to catch their opponents off guard, like Wayne Rooney and Ryan Giggs did to Chelsea in 2009.

Another one that stands out is a change to what is being called the ‘triple punishment law’. Previously if a player player committed a foul and it denied a goal scoring opportunity he would’ve automatically been sent off. Now, if the foul is deemed to be accidental as opposed to reckless a yellow card will be enough punishment. I think this is a good change and will keep the games competitive.

When a player goes down injured, if the offending player is cautioned or sent off, the injured player does now not need to leave the field of play for quick treatment.For me this should have been changed to be under the referees control completely. A player could pick up and injury from a challenge that does not warrant a yellow or red card, but he/she may not really need to leave the pitch for treatment.

Players will no longer be booked for a handball stopping an opponent receiving possession of the ball but will be cautioned if it stops a promising attack. I can see this still causing controversy as it will be the referees opinion if the attack was going to be promising or not, and the TV pundits will have looked at 100 different camera angles to prove the referee wrong!

Also being outlawed is the last second stutter before taking a penalty, with those found guilty of the illegal feint will be shown a yellow card and an indirect free-kick awarded to the opposition. This will be interesting to see this one enforced!

 

Hands on, a good decision?

Watford’s first goal against Liverpool, should it have been allowed to stand? WeIl, to us watching on TV it’s easy to say no.

Referee Mark Clattenburg can’t see it in slow motion. If I’m being 100% honest if I was in the same position I would ‘ve given a goal. As Bogdan attemps to claim the original cross he drops it, he gets two hands on the ball after it bounces. As he gets his hands on it, Watford’s Nathan Ake goes to kick the ball but catches the Liverpool keeper’s hands. The ball spiIls out and Ake has a tap in but with the naked eye in real time the referee believes he has spilled it for a second time.

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Ake knocks the ball out Of the Liverpool 'keepers hands

It’s difficult to know for sure if Bogdan would’ve had the ball under complete control if Ake hadn’t knocked the ball out of his hands, but I can only make my observations on what I see.

This isn’t a refereeing error, because it’s almost impossible to realise what happened at normal speed when you’re right there. Would a video referee have helped on this situation? For me, yes it would have, as by the time Liverpool restarted the game the replay could’ve been watched 3/4 times and from most angles too. The game could’ve restarted with a free kick in the same time. But lets not take too much away from referees as I would have nothing to write about!

Using technology has been a top debate since I can remember. How far should we go? What decisions should be made by a video referee? I may go in to more details on my views on this matter at a later date, but I do think referees at the highest level should have all the assistance available to them. Everyones biggest concerns are time.

lt’s easy to say referees are rubbish when you don’t have the refs view!  

A Top Performance From A Top Referee

There’s plenty I could talk about after week three of the Premier League. I will focus on one game and one incident in particular, West Brom Vs Chelsea and the John Terry sending off.

Usually all you here on social media and in the papers is how poor referees are and how they don’t know what they’re doing. Mark Clattenburg was the man in the middle for this Sunday afternoon game and once the final whistle had gone my first thought was that I have just seen the best refereeing performance in a long time

Every decision that he had to make was correct. He had a fair bit to deal with and wasn’t fazed by any of it. The penalty awarded to West Brom was correct. He didn’t blow for it straight away he gave himself a moment to think about it.

John Terry hasn’t had the best starts to the season and it didn’t get any better for him here. Brunt played a good ball up to Rondon and Terry was going shoulder to shoulder with the striker and just as they were about to go in to the penalty area Rondon just started to edge in front and Terry gave a little tug of his opponents arm and down the West Brom man went.

Terry receives his marching orders from Mark Clattenburg

Terry receives his marching orders from Mark Clattenburg

Some would argue that he went down a little to easy but that doesn’t mean there was no foul. Mark Clattenburg blew straight away and indicated a free kick. As he walked towards the area he would’ve been assessing what was in front of him so he could decide, if necessary, what further action was needed. It would’ve been clear to him that had the foul not occurred then Rondon would’ve had a clean shot at goal. There was nothing Clattenburg could do other than show the red card. Although I thought for a second it would only be yellow but it was just his cards sticking together.

Also Mr Clattenburg’s man management skills were superb in this game. There was a coming together between Diego Costa and Yacob, he quickly diffused the situation but calling both players plus their captains. Their heads came together at one point but he was able to deal with it with words. This isn’t always easy as sometimes players will go ‘yeah ok, whatever ref’ then the next time they’d be near each other they would be trying to have a kick, but on this occasion there was no further incidents between the two.

A fine performance by a top referee, and in my honest opinion, the best in England at the moment

Does A Red Card That Was Harsh Mean It Was Wrong?

Upton Park is into its last season before West Ham United’s move to the Olympic Stadium, and the club are trying to make it a memorable one, and this weekends first home fixture of this campaign against Leicester City is one they may want to forget.

Referee Anthony Taylor was one of my assessments from last weekend, and although Stoke Vs Liverpool wasn’t a memorable game, Anthony Taylor had a very good game and did not put a foot wrong. This weekend he found himself at the center of controversy, but did he get the big calls right?

The first time he was called upon to make a decision he got it right. Jamie Vardy chased a lost caused but caught up with the ball as Adrian had come off his line to clears,as the ball bounced up and the keeper clears the ball Leicester striker goes for the ball but catches Adrián. Free kick and a yellow card was exactly what was required.

Vardy attempts to win the ball but catches Adrián

Vardy attempts to win the ball but catches Adrián

With Leicester taking a 2-0 lead in the first half with two quick goals, they looked comfortable as the game headed to halftime. Diafra Sakho chased onto a through ball as Leicester’s ‘keeper Kasper Schmeichel came out to close the angle down. The Hammers’ striker got to the ball first and then a collision occurred, with Anthony Taylor not giving a penalty it is safe to assume he judged it to be a coming together, which was my first reaction. Replays clearly show Schmeichel sticking an arm out and bringing Sakho down. I don’t think the Foxes stopper should have been sent off but possibly a yellow card and a definite penalty. This was a major error by Anthony Taylor, although he doesn’t have access to the replays to help him with the decision, he should’ve been in a position to anticipate something happening. He wasn’t helped by his assistant, who was closer to the incident and should have seen the arm coming up after the ball was past the keeper.

Kasper Schmeichel clearly impeeds West Ham's Sakho

Kasper Schmeichel clearly impeeds West Ham’s Sakho

With the game poised at 2-1 in the dying minutes and West Ham chasing the game Adrián comes up for a corner. The corner is cleared by Leicester and Adrián, with his back to Leicesters goal, attempts to kick the ball over his head up in the air and back in to the area. In doing so he catches Vardy in the stomach. The West Ham ‘keeper and the rest of the players felt that it was a harsh red card, but I think Anthony Taylor got this one right.

Adrián catches Vardy in the stomach

Adrián catches Vardy in the stomach

There’s no question about Adrián not meaning it. The referee wouldn’t have seen where Adrián’s eyes were but i think it was obvious to him that he didn’t deliberately kick his opponent. However that doesn’t mean it wasn’t dangerous, and serious foul play. Going by his post match interview I don’t think Slaven Billic will appeal the red card. It’s certainly not violent conduct but will be considered to be serious foul play which is a red card offence. If I’m wrong and Anthony Taylor has issued a red card for violent conduct then it should be over turned.

Not the best day at the office for the referee, Anthony Taylor

Not the best day at the office for the referee, Anthony Taylor

The Premier League Is Back And So Is The Controversy!

So the Barclays Premier League kicked off this weekend and it gave us the usual controversial incidents!

A lot was made of the goalkeeping situation at Chelsea over the summer, and it should be that a Chelsea ‘keeper is the major talking point of the weekends games.

The officials did well to work as a team, as Chelsea’s Courtois was given a red card. The first decision they got right was keeping the flag down as the Blues defence thought Gomis was offside, but he was played onside by Willian. As Gomis then took the ball towards the area, Courtois came running off his line to challenge him. The Frenchman then looked to knock the ball past him but was caught by the ‘keeper. There’s no question it was a foul but the big question was where did it occur. Michael Oliver was a little bit behind the play due to the quickness of the break by Swansea but got himself into the best possible position to see if there was any infringement, his assistant on the far side was in a fantastic position to see the foul happened just inside the area.

The biggest decision Michael Oliver had to make was the colour of the card he was to give to Courtois. He went for red, for denying a goalscoring opportunity. This has split the masses. I think its 50/50 in whether it was right or wrong. Mr Oliver has felt that the two Chelsea defenders that were trying to get back, wouldn’t have done so in time. My personal view is that the speed of the ball and Gomis plus the angle if he’d shot first time meant it wasn’t a clear opportunity to score. If he had taken a touch I believe that Cahill would’ve closed down enough and John Terry would have reached the goal line, so still not an obvious goalscoring opportunity.

Michael Oliver gives Chelsea's Courtois his marching orders

Michael Oliver gives Chelsea’s Courtois his marching orders

If I had been the referee I think I would have done the same as Michael Oliver, as soon as the foul happened he would have looked towards the goal and seen the space behind Chelsea’s ‘keeper and felt red was his only option. I think Michael Oliver had a good game and controlled the game well.

Another decision by a referee that has caused a bit of controversy was the decision by  Simon Hooper to rule out an effort by Jerome, his acrobatic equaliser was ruled out for a high foot. Yes it was high but was it dangerous? Its hard to argue with the reasoning behind the referees decision but II felt that it wasn’t dangerous play and the goal should have stood. If Jerome had his studs showing towards his opponent then I would say that’s dangerous play.

Simon Hooper signals a high foot after disallowing Jerome's goal

Simon Hooper signals a high foot after disallowing Jerome’s goal

It easy for us watching at home to see all the replays and angles but all that matters is the refs view!

New Season, New Stance From The FA

So the 2015/16 season is upon us and I heard something recently, that, as a referee, has made me very happy!

The English FA are set to fine clubs when their players surround the referee! It’s about time! I remember years ago, what is probably the most famous incident of players rounding up on a referee, players from Manchester United surrounding referee Andy D’Urso after he gave a penalty to Middlesbrough at Old Trafford, and even at the time wondered why the referee didn’t take more action!

D'Urso surrounded my Man Utd players in 2000

D’Urso surrounded my Man Utd players in 2000

It goes on far too much and I’m glad the FA are starting to act. Better late than never I suppose. I’ve always felt that referee at the very top seem to accept dissent when done in groups. Maybe they felt they had no support from the top. Now they do but I still hope for the day that a referee issues a yellow card to each member of the herd that surrounds him hurling abuse at him, then a second yellow followed by a red. If Andy D’Urso had done that Manchester United would have had 4 players sent off!

As I mentioned in my previous post I will be assessing referees for theref.co.nr and the first weekends fixtures I’ll taking a look at Michael Oliver’s game on Saturday evening, Chelsea Vs Swansea and on Sunday Anthony Taylor’s Sunday clash Stoke City Vs Liverpool. I’m looking forward to covering both games!

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 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!