Gerrard benefits from loophole

I’m not sure how many rabbits’ feet or four leaf clovers Steven Gerrard has in his possession, but he certainly has something helping him get the rub of a green lately.

Twice in as many games Gerrard has found himself in apparent hot water with the authorities, and on both occasions he has been let off.

Last week’s escape I can understand. Rather than a v-sign directed at the referee he could have been indicating that there had been two fouls, though the way he let referee Andre Marriner know, by littering his response with foul mouthed abuse, didn’t help his cause. Harsher referees may have taken a dimmer view.

The incident in Liverpool’s win over Portsmouth however is completely different. Replays clearly show Gerrard aiming his forearm at Michael Brown’s head, who was attempting to block his run.

Under the letter of the law and in an era where even the hint of a raised hand has seen players sent off, Gerrard should have walked. But as it was an off-the ball incident you could have forgiven the referee for not seeing it.
But the ref in question, Stuart Atwell, did see it and chose to give Gerrard a warning.

This means a ridiculous rule comes into force so the FA are unable to take any retrospective action against Gerrard. When a ref sees a decision and acts on it the FA cannot do anything, as it is directly questioning a referee’s authority, apparently.

However if Atwell hadn’t have seen the incident, Gerrard could have been hauled in front of the FA.

To me this sound like they don’t want to admit that referees make mistakes, which Atwell clearly has in this case. If he watched the incident again he must surely have realised the incident warranted a more serious punishment than a ticking off?

The ref has probably seen Brown go to ground, but can’t have seen Gerrard’s elbow. Why? Because the ball was elsewhere on the pitch and he should have been looking in that direction.

This is not a witch hunt against Gerrard, though he has to be careful in the coming weeks as any ban for further indiscretions would father dent his side’s hopes of finishing fourth – the football odds certainly suggest they will struggle. However, the incident highlights a flaw in the disciplinary system that will further alienate referees from the rest of us until the authorities admit they make mistakes.

Meanwhile, Fabio Capello will be hoping Gerrard is able to keep his nose clean.

The Liverpool man is guaranteed to be on the plane for South Africa and with injuries and controversy piling up the manager will need his available key players to keep their heads down and perform well if England are to justify their World Cup 2010 odds.

Written By Betfair blogger Phil Tomlinson