Premier League games this season which have been ruined by poor officiating, with many match officials choosing to rule by the letter of the law rather than taking into account the mitigating factors which had led to the incident.

Having sympathy for the nearly impossible job that referees up and down the country have each and every weekend and slamming them for the poor decisions they make would seem to be a contradictory stance to take, but it’s one that the vast majority of us fall into. Obviously, you get plenty of former players in the studio on TV with an even looser grasp of the laws than most fans, with Jamie Redknapp in particular only believing it counts as a deliberate handball if you happen to be looking at the ball at the exact time of the infringement, which is baffling to say the least.

The benefit of hindsight is often being used as a stick to beat officials with, as if after Graeme Souness has seen a touch and go decision from eight different angles can confidently claim that the referee has ‘had a shocker there’. This retrospective school of thinking has quickly altered and distorted the way we view incidents, but the men in black out on the pitch get just one chance to view an issue and split-seconds to make a judgement call. By its very nature, simply due to the pace of the game, mistakes will be made, and often. Calls of bias or ‘unfair treatment’ are commonplace among the managing fraternity as a tool to distract attention elsewhere rather than focus on their own deficiencies.

Nevertheless, aside from the sort of close calls which it often takes several angles and umpteenth viewings to come to any sort of definitive decision, there are those which are so obvious that even in real time, from a stand a considerable distance away from the pitch, look simple to adjudge, but are given a baffling decision.

For example, Gareth Bale has already been booked three times this season for diving. Of the three incidents, two of them were perhaps fouls on the Tottenham winger, with one just a flat-out poor decision which saw the call go against him simply down to his theatrics. He has a reputation as a diver now, and rightly so after his swan lake impression for a penalty against Arsenal last season, but some officials appear to be letting that influence their judgements.

There are several grey areas with this, because ‘simulation’ does not just take into account diving. For example, during the dull 0-0 draw at Stamford Bridge between Chelsea and Manchester City last month, Mario Balotelli was cautioned for diving by Chris Foy after he grabbed the ball 30 yards from goal and charged towards the edge of the box, before seemingly flinging himself into David Luiz’s elbow to try and earn a free kick in a dangerous position.

What exactly was Luiz supposed to do differently in that situation? Balotelli had already made his mind up to make a deliberate attempt to ‘earn’ the free kick. Nevertheless, the outcry that the Italian was then booked was hysterical to say the last. According to the Laws of the Game: “A player must be cautioned for unsporting behaviour if (he) attempts to deceive the referee by feigning injury or pretending to be fouled.” While a booking may have been harsh, the decision was correct. The context was that the situation was pre-judged, therefore can be considered cheating as such and under the bracket of simulation.

However, turn your attentions back to a different encounter at Stamford Bridge just a few weeks previously, the 3-2 game between the hosts and Manchester United, and Mark Clattenburg came to a very different conclusion. There was contact on Torres, and while the Spaniard went down easily under Jonny Evans’ challenge, the decision to similarly award him a second yellow card for simulation, completely ignoring the pace and tempo at which the match was being played, let alone the context of the scoreline, magnitude of the teams involved and what impact it would have on a huge game and he was clearly wrong. Surely it would have been better to award the free kick but not the yellow for the sake of the rest of the match as a spectacle?

Two broadly similar incidents of a player anticipating contact and using it to their advantage, both players were handed a yellow card, yet for some reason it just feels wrong. It’s contradictory to complain about the inconsistency in refereeing when tribalism and partisanship is at the very heart of the game, leading observers such as myself to complain about the very consistency we so crave.

It’s idealistic to think that games of importance will not be marred by poor decision-making in the future, with Liverpool on the receiving end of some truly terrible calls with concerns to penalties awarded for and against them this season. These things do not balance themselves out over the course of a season, that is little more than a well-worn and quite frankly tired cliche.

The argument often put forward is that ex-professionals need to get more involved with refereeing the game, but for anyone that’s watched Soccer Saturday or Match of the Day will tell you, they rarely ever know the rules themselves (I’m looking at you here, Paul Merson). They confuse experience with knowledge. Plenty of them aren’t fit to be pundits, let alone match officials. The current system has its flaws, and idealists will always crave consistency or cry wolf when it doesn’t benefit them.

Decisions will always go against your side and sometimes the problem is the rule itself rather than the official in question (red card for every last-man offence, yellow card for removing your shirt during a goal celebration, the lack of definition over two-footed challenges). With that in mind, while following the Laws of the Game to the letter is important for the vast majority of incidents, like the two mentioned above, sometimes coming to the same conclusion is not necessarily the right result. It’s a tricky job pleasing us all, eh?

What do you think?

Sign in with Facebook and be
entered for a chance to
Win a pair of Puma evoPOWER football boots

Terms and Conditions

Why?

  • Sign up in 2 seconds
  • Use your FB profile image
  • No need to remember a password
  • See which of your friends would like this

Note: We don't post to your wall

Login

Comment without logging in

You will need to fill this out each time to comment so why not quickly login with Facebook!

*

What do you think?

Sign in with Facebook and be
entered for a chance to
Win a pair of Puma evoPOWER football boots

Terms and Conditions

Why login with Facebook?

  • Sign up in 2 seconds
  • Use your FB profile image
  • No need to remember a password
  • See which of your friends would like this

Note: We don't post to your wall


  • James32
    2 years ago

    “For example, Gareth Bale has already been booked three times this season for diving. Of the three incidents, two of them were perhaps fouls on the Tottenham winger, with one just a flat-out poor decision, while the other saw the call go against him simply down to his theatrics.”

    That’s some interesting maths you’ve got going on there. Bale’s a diver, end of.

    Reply
    • Ryangooner90
      2 years ago

      I think the writer is trying to remain unbiased and give Bale the benefit of the doubt. Perhaps Bale was slightly fouled in two of the incidents and made a meal of it. Sometimes with the multiple angles and the slo-mo you lose touch of the pace of the game and the speed and power of the contact, it becomes very easy to see it as a dive. Especially when the player has a reputation for it. However, in my opinion it is very likely he intentionally threw himself to ground on all 3 occasions.

      Reply
      • SP
        2 years ago

        No, he is actually just stating a fact. Anyone who hasn’t got blinkers on can see that in the last two incidents he has actually been caught. So, the question is: is being fouled and then falling theatrically the same as diving? Because I always took diving to be throwing yourself over when there has been no contact and no foul (i.e. the penalty Carzola was awarded). So Bale is being penalised for diving when he shouldn’t be because he is moving at pace and the referee has looked at the the theatrics rather than the foul. If the referees had got it right, they would have awarded Spurs a free-kick and then had a quiet word with Bale about the theatrics. Instead, Bale (and Spurs) are being penalised, in the final analysis, because Bale has been fouled, and the fouling team, in the final analysis, have been rewarded (being given a free-kick, an opposition player being carded) for committing a foul.
        And that, as the author says, is a reflection of the pressure the refs are under and the very difficult job they have. They are clearly aware that if they award Bale a free-kick (in this instance) and the replays show that he hasn’t been touched, they will be torn apart by the media judges for being ‘duped’. If the FA had any wotsits they wuold anull the last two yellows as Bale was clearly fouled and therefore couldn’t have dived.

        Reply
      • melcyid
        2 years ago

        being a gooner you would say that, praps you should have a word with carzola on the finer points of diving without being touched,

        Reply
  • para
    2 years ago

    <>
    ALL games are huge games to the teams involved so the rules should be followed to keep any fairness across the board.
    Refs should have to stick to the rules and each offence’s punishment should be very clearly defined. It is when refs decide to punish or not punish that will allow manipulation in the game.

    Reply
  • Steve
    2 years ago

    I don’t agree with comment about Chelsea vs united in that Torres should have stayed on for the good of the game. If he tries to trick the ref its cheating – yellow card – simple. Are you saying if it was Chelsea vs Norwich then it would have been ok to book him. Pointing out a player was judged unfairly by being penilised for cheating when others aren’t simply means more refs need to be harsher. Perhaps allow the FA to be able to charge players more freely after games but to allow it to effect that game. So if a player dives, gets a penalty and his team score; the opposition complain and it’s deemed he tricked the ref, then he gets a booking and goal is dis-allowed. This way there’s more punishment for the club.

    Reply
    • daddyblue
      2 years ago

      He did not try to trick the referee it was a foul and Evans should have been sent off.

      Reply
  • Neil
    2 years ago

    Money Incentives or silly wages?
    Lack of control or respect?
    Lack of discipline or “Out of Control”?
    TV Critics and camera replays!
    All of the above apply to make a referees job almost impossible.
    Perhaps its time to remove the ref and give players Shields,Swords and Tridents – it is much more civalised than football anyway!

    Reply
  • Neil
    2 years ago

    And finally – “THE BIG ONE” – a GAME???
    littered with cheats!
    Not many real heroes left in football anymore!

    Reply
  • my mum
    2 years ago

    Being ruined my midday kickoffs

    Reply
    • Neil
      2 years ago

      Only cos it stops en getting more daft tatoos!
      “Im a man Betty” n all that!

      Reply
  • John
    2 years ago

    There are genuine mistakes made by all Refs, however some Refs make continues mistakes throughout a match which blatently favours the other team. I can remember a certain Ref, I will not mention his name,who refereed a certain Spurs game who was so obviously a cheat or totally incompetent that he should have been made to answer to the powers that be, but as usual it was swept under the carpet. His pathetic descision making cost Spurs a third place finish. Until this is sorted out there will never be any respect for he Refs or the system.

    Reply
  • Rich
    2 years ago

    And the refs in the employ of Old Red Nose.

    Reply
  • Les Bullock
    2 years ago

    What a ridiculous question. Referees don’t ruin high profile (or any other)matches. Only players who cheat ruin football matches. But it is good that you defend referees for their very small percentage of mistakes. Anyone who plays football has to accept these rare mistakes, because as the law states in the first paragraph of the first page “Referees will be the arbiter of all matters of fact”
    When I refereed (admittedly only in local football;) the laws of the game stated that a player WILL be sent off if he uses foul or abusive language. It does not even say that the foul or abusive language has to be directed at the referee.Premier league referees should just apply the laws of the game and it will soon stop, when two or three are sent off each game and are then banned for a number of games.
    As for diving, this is nothing more and nothing less than cheating. Video replays should be used and retrospective action should be taken after the game although the result can’t be altered. If the Corzolas, Bales, Ridgewells and Suarezs recieved a three game ban Wenger, Ferguson and the rest would soon stop their players from diving.

    Reply