Let’s get this out of the way first: In my opinion, this isn’t a foul and therefore not a penalty.
That said, I likely would’ve reached the same conclusion as Mike Dean and crew. Here’s why:
- Dean is in perfect position to see this. Another great example of not being a slave to the diagonal. Apart from being on a jetpack and hovering 5 feet above the players, I’m not sure you could get a better look.
- AR2 immediately signals for a foul (and a penalty, with the BPL-specific flag-across-chest signal; in the USA, our mechanic is similar, but at the waist, and with two hands. Think of the substitution signal but at the waist.)
- The defender goes to ground with a somewhat desperate attempt to block the cross he believes is coming.
- The attacker (USA international Jozy Altidore) falls in a way that is clearly not contrived.
This reminds me of the old philosophy riddle: if you went to bed and there was no snow on the ground, woke up the next morning and, while it wasn’t snowing at that time, saw snow on the ground, could you conclude that it had, in fact snowed while you were sleeping?
As referees, we’d love to have incontrovertible proof for every decision, but we know that isn’t realistic.
What is possible, however, is that we can put ourselves in the best possible position and follow all of the training we’ve been given in order to make the best decision possible.
Dean & Co. do just that in this case.