Case Study: Four Decisions in 10 Seconds

Mark Halsey was the man in the middle in a recent Premier League match between Chelsea FC and Sunderland AFC. Early in the match, a sequence of events occurred that required a series of quick decisions from the referee crew.

Decision #1 occurred when Chelsea midfielder Moses was fouled at midfield while facing his own goal. For many referees and in any many matches, this would have produced an immediate whistle. But this being the Premier League, Halsey saw that the ball fell to a Chelsea defender and allowed play to continue.

Good thing, because the defender played a short pass to midfielder Mata, who quickly spun and played a though-ball to Chelsea attacker Hazard, who was through to goal.

Decision #2, from Assistant Referee #2, was to keep the offside flag down, which was clearly the right decision.

Decision #3 required the officiating crew to determine whether Sunderland defender pulled back on the attacking Hazard’s shoulder in an illegal manner. While Referee Halsey did not whistle for a foul, I think it likely he did was not in position to see the infraction. It appears however, that AR2 was positioned well enough to see the contact. In any event, play continued.

Decision #4 took place when the Sunderland GK challenged Hazard for the ball, reaching it first. The GK successfully cleared the ball, making contact with the oncoming Hazard in the process. Referee Halsey had a good view of this incident and ruled that the challenge was legal.

The key learning points from this sequence are:

  • decisions can come in bunches, so the entire crew must always be alert
  • advantage can be played from anywhere on the field, especially at higher levels of play
  • it’s difficult to run full speed with your arms raised to indicate advantage

11 responses to “Case Study: Four Decisions in 10 Seconds”

  1. Let’s analyze this:

    Decision 1: Correct call by the referee as the advantage was materialized by the counter attack. The advantage in the defensive third can be called at this level because the players have better set of skills and thus can materialize it better versus same foul in a sunday, amateur game.

    Decision 2: Player is simply NOT in an offside position.

    Decision 4: The goalkeeper makes a fair challenge and commits no foul, despite making reasonable contact with the attacker.

    Now, Decision 3….: The referee clearly missed it and little blame can be placed on the AR. The AR, even though being “in line” with lay would have a hard time seeing this and no assessor in my career ever held the AR responsible for a similar “blown” call by the referee. Even the referee at times can NOT be in position to call every foul. The referee shall not be blamed as long as he made a reasonable effort to put himself in the best possible position during that play. I believe he did. That’s why we do our best “anticipating” and studying pro teams’ styles of play so we can anticipate the plays better. We also have to do it during the games and look for patterns of play to “read the plays” better. That always helps but it will not get rid of those times when no matter how well positioned we might be, we still miss something. We do it however to improve our odds.


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