Tag Archives: red card

The Worst Rule in Football

20 Feb

Ugh! The glare from those floodlights! Let me just shield my eyes with this.

Arsenal Football Club has had to endure some painful red cards in its day, with Robin van Persie’s red against Barcelona surely ranking as one of the most appalling refereeing decisions in the history of the sport.

This week, both Manchester City and Arsenal lost 0-2 at home in the Champion’s League because of ‘last-man’ red cards. The last-man red card is the worst rule in football.

The rule means that if you foul a player who has a clear goal-scoring opportunity, and if you are the last line of defence, you earn yourself a red card (and a suspension) as well as whatever free-kick or penalty the foul incurred. Because you have denied the opposition a clear goal-scoring opportunity, the penalty kick compensates the wronged team with another one, and because you cheated, the red card punishes you. It supposedly also acts as a deterrent in future, because it makes it too risky for players to strategically foul opposition strikers.

Of all the punitive measures they could have chosen, killing the entire football match is the one they came up with? Genius. Each red card this week happened about half way through the game with scores at 0-0. If at this point in the game the ref had said, “Right, I saw that you clipped the striker’s heels there, making him fall theatrically to the ground; we’re abandoning the game here and awarding the opposition a 2-0 victory,” would anyone not say that this was ridiculous overkill? And yet that is effectively what took place.

As Arsene Wenger pointed out, an early injury claimed his one substitution, and having his goalkeeper sent off forced him to use his second, and this in turn made it impossible to use his third one tactically, because he needed to keep it in case of another injury (which would leave him with only 9 men on the field). His hands were tied for the remainder of the game. So the team lost its keeper and its key strategist because of one foul. When you’re playing Bayern or Barcelona, that’s game over.

As with the death penalty, it is questionable whether killing the game ever truly acts as a deterrent. Defenders still have to defend; small errors of judgment are going to happen no matter what the rule.

What are the alternatives to killing a game? Here’s an easy one: award a penalty goal. Not a penalty kick, a penalty goal. The wronged player who had a chance to score gets given the goal he was denied. He is more than compensated. The fact that a possible goal is made into a certain goal acts as the punitive measure, making it a pointless strategic move to foul attackers. And the game continues as a contest.

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Septic Blatter, Stupid Refs and the Football Everyone Else Wants to Watch

11 Mar
van persie

In Robin's dreams on Tuesday night

My last two posts were written from the couch while I was watching Arsenal trying to re-enact the Battle of Blood River against Barcelona.  Having done ever so well, and with their noses still in front with only a half-hour to go, Robin Van Persie took a shot on goal and was sent off for it. This decision — given the high stakes game — may rank as the worst refereeing mistake in all of football.

Of course, something like Maradonna’s ‘Hand of Dog’ incident that won the World Cup was on a far bigger stage, but it was understandable that the ref could have missed the cheat. This one was just so impossible to explain.

Van Persie had got a silly yellow card — even in that case a little harshly — in the first half, but was now through on goal about to take a shot, when the official flagged for offside, and the ref (somewhere behind him) blew his whistle. One second afterwards, van Persie took the shot that he had started taking. Such a deeply offensive action was this that he got a second caution and was sent off. Being the lone striker in front of a midfield barely hanging on, there was no way he could be replaced. Everyone including the ref knew that such a decision would effectively end the team’s season in that moment.

What is impossible to understand is how that could ever be an offence. ‘Kicking the ball away’ is cardable, because it is petulant, wastes time and may even prevent the opposition from using an advantage. But surely one needs to actually kick the ball away in a petulant fashion? In other words, there must be actual evidence of intent. In one second, a player was expected to hear the refs whistle among a crowd of 100,000 screaming fans (many of whom may be blowing whistles), change his plan to avoid shooting on goal, and turn around. Instead, he completed the fluid action in which he was already involved and took a shot on goal. Bear in mind that not taking a scoring chance because you think you hear the refs whistle could also cost you the game. And even if van Persie had heard the whistle and yet still continued with the shot he was busy making, so what? There are fifty balls in the stadium. Let that one go. It wasn’t defiant and it didn’t waste time.

FIFA president Septic Bladder and his yes men seem to be the only one’s who find it a beautiful part of the beautiful game that refs can utterly destroy an entire season of work (and for some a lifelong dream) by having a split second of dire stupidity. They still refuse the help of TV referrals or second opinions of any kind that use technology. There seem to be only a small handful of people in the world who think this, and yet they all somehow ended up on the FIFA board. There are enough great moments in football without having to manufacture controversies at the hands of referees.

If Sepp wants controversy for its own sake, I suggest that he applies it to his salary first: Accounting for normal human error, let his salary fluctuate between 75-105% of its contract value, but every now and then it must also be subject to random acts of absurdity. Perhaps in February his salary should get ‘sent off’ until next season. Perhaps some months he should have to pay FIFA because someone doesn’t like his suspenders that day. And of course the randomness won’t offer the chance of a lottery-sized increase on his already (no doubt) bloated salary, because in the parallel world of officiating mistakes, no ref ever sent on a 12th player.

So, Sepp, we get it. You like soap operas where there is a super-villain whose many injustices get the ‘water-cooler talk’ going at the office the next day. So go and write a soap opera. Just keep it out of football.