In a recent Barclay’s Premier League derby match between Arsenal and Tottenham Hotspur, Referee Howard Webb sent off Spurs striker Emmanuel Adebayor in the 17th minute for serious foul play. There can be little argument this was the correct decision. But the delay was lengthy and some interesting interactions took place that are worthy of analysis.
As for the send off itself, it appears to be straightforward enough. Adebayor is clearly late with his tackle, leg “locked” and studs showing high. This is a clear cut case of serious foul play for which a send off is warranted.
What remains a mystery is why it takes Referee Webb so long to get Adebayor off of the field? This is not intended to be veiled criticism, simply an honest question. Nearly two minutes tick off of the clock before the ball is finally put back in to play.
It is clear that Webb wants to check on the injured player as a priority. He isn’t able to do that quickly because he is distracted by some pushing and shoving between the two sides. The guidance I have received from higher level referees for dealing with these types of situations is to show red to the offending player quickly to minimize the risk of mass confrontation. Show the player red, point him off, and then attend to the injured player. This lets everyone on the field know that the harshest possible sanction has been issued.
If Webb didn’t have a good look at this foul, taking time to make sure the decision is correct would be understandable. But despite having perfect position, he seems not quite certain. He appears to be checking with AR2 before making the final decision.
After Adebayor is finally dismissed, Webb engages in a rather lengthy discussion with Spurs captain William Gallas. Gallas clearly isn’t happy with the sending off (when are they ever?) and the referee shows quite a bit of patience in listening to the player. Webb also uses a technique not available to those of us in the youth game, namely, touching the player and leaning in very close to make a point. (Any lip readers out there?)
To be clear, no criticism is intended. Perhaps some of the more experienced readers of this space can comment on this case study and enlighten the author, and perhaps others as well.