Case Study: Match Management and Broken Noses

In this space, I strive to comment on referees doing the right things: good fundamentals, creative game management and the like. There are times, however, when we can learn from mistakes by referees at the highest level. I don’t undertake this task lightly; the referees I critique in this space (Lee Probert in this case) are far better referees than I shall ever be. Be that as it may, we have the opportunity to learn from the referees we look up to, when they perform well, and when performances are less than stellar.

Case Study # 8-2013
Date 23 Feb 2013
Competition Barclays Premier League
Fixture/Result Fulham 1 – 0 Stoke City
Referee/Badge Lee Probert, FIFA
At Issue A series of questionable decisions leads to a testy match

Such was the case in this fixture, and we’ll review three specific incidents.

Incident #1

In the 15th minute of the match, Fulham striker Dimitar Berbatov and Stoke midfielder Stephen Nzonzi contested a ball in the air. Berbatov won the ball, striking Nzonzi in the face in the process. This has widely been reported as an accident, but the frames below tell a different story. The incident left Nzonzi with a broken nose. Probert’s decision: no foul, play on. The fundamental issue to keep in mind here is that we must keep an eye on the space between players.

Incident #2

In the 22nd minute of the match, Nzonzi set out to have his revenge. He struck Fulham striker Bryan Ruiz in the face with an open hand, in full view of Referee Probert. Probert’s decision: foul and caution. Given Nzonzi’s reputation as a fiery competitor, and what he surely perceived as a lack of justice being served, one could almost see this coming. Not only does Nzonzi get off with only a caution, Referee Probert says nothing to him. Perhaps this might have been a good time to slow things down and have a word.

Incident #3

Several other mini dust-ups occurred during the match, but perhaps none as egregious as a strike to the face of Fulham defender Phillipe Senderos by Stoke defender Robert Huth during a corner kick. This incident goes unpunished, assumedly because it was unseen by the referee. The point is that this incident possibly could have been prevented by dealing with the first two incidents.

Everyone has a bad day at the office, including FIFA Referees. What we can learn from this analysis:

  • Players will seek justice on their own if they believe the referee unable/incapable of administering it
  • Not dealing with problems assertively leads to greater problems later
  • A player that believes he has been wronged needs extra attention from the referee crew

 

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