Case Study: AR2 Sends Off Zamora

Case Study # 14-2013
Date 6 Apr 2013
Competition Barclays Premier League
Fixture/Result QPR 2 – 2 Wigan
Referee/Badge Phil Dowd, Select Group
At Issue A send-off of QPR striker Bobby Zamora appears straightforward, but Ref Dowd seeks the advice of his team

OK, I may have taken some liberties with the headline.  But AR2 was, in fact, instrumental in the decision to send off QPR striker Bobby Zamora early in their “relegation six-pointer” at home to Wigan Athletic.  I don’t think many will argue with the decision for a send-off here, but what makes this interesting is that Referee Phil Dowd clearly did not see the challenge and required help from the trail AR, which was AR2 in this instance.  After checking on the injured Wigan player (Gomez, #14), Dowd consulted with AR2.  While I couldn’t lip-read all of the conversation, AR2 can clearly be seen to say “face” and “red card”.  Though Dowd covers his mouth so that we cannot lip read, he clearly asks AR2 if he is sure, because AR2’s next words are “red card”.

It’s interesting to watch Dowd change his demeanor from calm investigator in charge of collecting the facts, to that of a stern judge who must hand out punishment.  The field microphones quite clearly pick him up yelling “BOBBY!” to Zamora.  He points at Zamora and motions him over, then displays the red card and follows with the customary point to the tunnel.

Why Zamora would even bother to protest is a mystery, given that the home fans closest to the incident can be seen sitting dejectedly in their seats.  QPR manager Harry Redknapp simply looks straight down to the ground in disgust.

Key takeaways from this incident:

  • misconduct can pop up anytime; there was absolutely no indication that something like this was brewing
  • the trailing AR must stay attentive at all times
  • referees should consult with the other members of the referee team if they are in any doubt about potential misconduct situations

Click on the image to launch a fullscreen slide show

Case Study: Everyone Was Ball Watching

Referee Cuneyt Cakir found himself embroiled in controversy after his decision to send off Manchester United midfielder Nani for a high boot to the side of Real Madrid defender Alvaro Arbeloa.  In fact, so distraught was Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson that he skipped the required post-match press conference.

I find it quite helpful in these situations to go back to the basics and ask: What do the Laws of the Game say?  We’ll review the incident step-by-step, and then I’ll share my opinion.

Case Study # 9-2013
Date 5 March 2013
Competition UEFA Champions League
Fixture/Result Man Utd 1 – 2 Real Madrid
Referee/Badge Cuneyt Cakir (TUR), FIFA, UEFA Elite Group
At Issue Was the referee’s decision to send off Man Utd’s Nani in the 55th minute correct?

The first decision to be made is whether or not there is a foul.  On this point, surely we can all agree that Nani is guilty of kicking an opponent.

While this match was contested under the authority of UEFA, the USSF publication “Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game” is still instructive.  In section 12.1, “What Is A Foul?”, the publication notes the following:

[box]Except for a handling offense, it is not necessary for the player’s action to be considered “deliberate” in the sense that the player intentionally set out to kick, push, trip, hold or otherwise foul the opponent. If that were so, the referee would have to be capable of reading a player’s mind. Under Law 12, the referee makes a decision based upon what he or she sees a player actually do—the result of the player’s action—not upon what might be in the player’s mind.[/box]

In the media, we’ve heard a lot about how “Nani is clearly watching the ball”.  What bearing should this have on our evaluation of the possibility of misconduct?  Based on the guidelines from USSF referenced above, it is clear that the fact that Nani was “watching the ball” is not a factor that should be considered.  Furthermore, it is clear that Arbeloa is also watching the ball.  Since Arbeloa was watching the ball and Nani was watching the ball, does this mean that the mutual ball-watching cancels each other out?

Keeping this in mind, we must next evaluate whether the player is guilty of any misconduct.  The criteria we use to evaluate whether a foul also includes misconduct are deciding if the foul was careless, reckless, or used excessive force.

[box]“Careless” means that the player has shown a lack of attention or consideration when making a challenge or that he acted without precaution.
• No further disciplinary sanction is needed if a foul is judged to be careless

“Reckless” means that the player has acted with complete disregard to the danger to, or consequences for, his opponent.
• A player who plays in a reckless manner must be cautioned

“Using excessive force” means that the player has far exceeded the necessary use of force and is in danger of injuring his opponent.
• A player who uses excessive force must be sent off

Source: “Interpretation of the Laws of the Game and Guidelines for Referees”, page 111, FIFA, 2012.[/box]

I believe we can safely remove “careless” as a potential option here, leaving us to determine whether the foul was reckless or involved excessive force.  A significant distinction between “reckless” and “using excessive force” is that the latter states that the offender is “in danger of injuring his opponent.”

A studs up challenge at the height and force applied by Nani in this case clearly presents the danger of injury to his opponent.  Damage to internal organs would not have been out of the question in this case.

Based on a clear headed analysis of the facts and the guidelines issued by FIFA, I believe a send off decision is supported by the Laws of the Game.

I understand why so many English fans are upset at the decision.  The English game is well known for being physical (“no blood = no foul”) and I believe that the same incident in a domestic competition could likely have been sanctioned with a caution.  But, the notion that Nani had his eyes on the ball and therefore cannot be guilty of serious foul play has no basis in the LOTG.  Keeping eyes on the ball only speaks to the intent of the player (he was watching the ball, therefore he intended to play it, not to hurt the player), and as we have been instructed, we are not to consider the intent of the player, only what they actually do.

Furthermore, this was not a domestic competition, but a UEFA competition, and so it should surprise no one that “continental” referees are likely to take a much dimmer view of this type of physical contact than their English counterparts.

In summary, I believe a strict interpretation of the LOTG supports the referee’s decision in this incident.

Case Study: A Lengthy Send Off

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.

Case Study: A Deserved Send Off That Shouldn't Have Been

In a recent Premier League match between Swansea City FC and Sunderland AFC, new Premier League Referee Roger East sent off Swansea defender Chico Flores in the 71st minute for serious foul play.

Flores was pursuing an attacking Sunderland player down the left touchline when the ball bounced high. Flores foolishly tried to play the ball with his boot near his opponents’ face. Replays show that the heel of Flores boot grazes the back of his opponents’ shoulder. Not that you would know from the pitiful reaction of the attacker.

Despite this, it was a foolish challenge for which Flores should expect to be sent off. At this level, players know not to put a boot near the head of an opponent, especially when moving towards them.

I only wish the FA would retrospectively punish the Sunderland player for his disgraceful playacting. A man can dream, can’t he?