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Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Between them, Geiger and VARS cocked it up in Moscow

On the whole, Mark Geiger had a good match in very trying circumstances on Tuesday night in Moscow, where Colombia played a brand of "anti-football" that's not seen that often these days. Colombia, with several stars of international calibre in their side, resorted throughout the match to intimidation of the opposing English players and match officials alike.

So be it. That's no rare occurrence and Geiger, who must be ranked as a contender for a semi-final appointment if not the final (which I'm pretty sure will go to a certain German ref called Felix now that the champions are back home nursing their wounds), was handling the game well, clamping down on Colombian hystrionics with 4 yellows in a 12-minute period to try to bring the game back under control with a burst of severity.
The incident I want to discuss shows the structural weakness of the VARS and portrays just how, between two top referees, they can still manage to get the decision wrong.
The game was still goal-less towards the end of the first half when an England free kick near the edge of the Colombia penalty area erupted into chaos. With pushing and shoving going on everywhere, Geiger cannot be blamed for not seeing a specific incident involving Jordan Henderson and Colombia's Wilmar Barrios. Barrios, amidst the shoving, aimed the back of his head at Henderson's chest and then jerked his hear up towards Henderson's face, catching it a not very damaging glancing blow. Henderson, probably unnecessarily, hit the ground. Geiger hadn't seen the incident but the VARS decided to investigate.
This was a clear case of Violent Conduct and should have resulted in a red card.
And most people thought that, having spotted the incident, the VARS, a seasoned referee, would agree and let Geiger know what he needed to do. Or, he should at least have said something like this...
"Mark, there was violent activity in the wall there. You need to go and  have a look at the pitchside monitor because you may need to give a red card." Geiger, who was in tune with the tempo and heat of the game, would most probably have seen it was a red, but between them, they didn't even bother taking another look.
So, yet another issue that joins the growing list of issues that need to be resolved when it comes to using VARS. And it again raises the question of whether it was wise to jump in to using VARS so quickly, when it's hardly been tried and tested.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Poland referee fails key test: "Don't influence the game's outcome."

Nawaf Shukralla meant well, of course. The Bahraini referee in the middle for the biggest match of his career, wanted to get the injured player back on the pitch as quickly as possible to restore balance between Poland and Senegal.
Waving M'Baye Niang back onto the pitch, Shukralla made an error that nine times out of 10 would not even be noticed. This time, though, his trigger whistle combined with Polish incompetence to present Senegal with a goal that turned out to be the winner.


The ball was deep in the Senegal half - but heading towards the Polish half - when Shukralla waved his arms to allow Niang to re-enter the field of play. As Niang re-entered play, chaos erupted in the Polish defence and a wild hack saw the ball hoofed into the Polish half and left Niang closer to the goal than Poland's defence. He sprinted after the ball, got to it before Poland's goalkeeper, and scored to make the score 2-1 to Senegal.
The referee's mistake was in allowing Niang back on too soon. He heeded the screams and shouts of the Senegal bench - and probably his 4th official - to allow him back on quickly, while the action was in a neutral part of the pitch.
Referees are taught not to allow players back on either until the ball goes out of play or when play is in the player's own half.
Shukralla, in his defence, can argue that play was indeed in Senegal's half when he waved Niang back on. But he didn't anticipate what was going to happen, that play can break so quickly.
Also, he should have resisted pressure on him to allow Niang back on, until play enters a "safe" time when the referee's decision will not result in the threat of a goal - at either end of the field.
It's very sad when a well meaning error comes back and bites a ref. His intention was good, it's just that he jumped a little too quickly.
Another ref who's probably on his way home now.

Tuesday, June 19, 2018

Wrestling at corners - they're all at it

It's hardly surprising that VARS can't cope with the anarchy of corner kicks.
British TV made a huge deal last night of two corners where Harrry Kane was clearly wrestled to the ground. But at the same time, English attackers and their Tunisian markers were indulged in all kinds of nefarious behaviour that makes it virtually impossible to make a clear ruling at a corner.
English pundits screamed for a penalty for their beloved England, but the sad truth is that there were probably three or four separate fouls happening at the same time.
The referee was probably watching the action itself, the drop zone where the challenge for the ball actually takes place. Meanwhile, around the rest of the penalty area, players were pushing, grabbing, holding each other in a perverse ballet that has gradually developed over the years into an anarchic situation that referees simply cannot deal with.
And last night we found out that several dozen TV cameras and expert Video Assistant Referees sitting in Moscow, far from the Volgograd action, were equally incapable of deciding whether a penalty should be awarded.
Presumably, the VARS in Moscow ruled there was not clear evidence for a penalty because there was just too much going on in the penalty area, too many players fouling each other. It would indeed appear that in one of the incidents, England's Stones pushed his Tunisian marker to make space for himself.
So what's the solution? It would appear that the only way to go is for teams to be advised that unfair decisions will be given, that the referee will punish the worst foul he sees, until the players learn to behave themselves.
Far from satisfactory it's true, but a lot more honest than the nonsense spouted by FIFA's refereeing bosses Massimo Busacca and Pierluigi Collina before the World Cup. With 25 cameras, Busacca said, "it will be quite impossible to miss fouls. "
"When it's clear there is an obvious mistake, the VAR intervenes," he said.  Note use of the word "clear". Last night it may have been clear that Kane was fouled, but it was also clear that several other fouls were taking place at the same time, so which one to penalise?

Friday, November 10, 2017

Heart Attack brings a sudden end to refereeing career: Now it's mentoring time

The season started so promisingly as well. A newly-promoted Level 5, I was looking forward to reffing at the top levels of the Kent County League and getting myself some good cup games to run. I had received my fixtures for September and ran the line in my first game in an academy Under 18s game between Millwall and Sheffield United.
But all my plans came to a juddering halt on a Thursday evening in the last week of August when, walking along Camden  High Street in London after a day at work, I suddenly felt seriously poorly, breathless and lacking any strength. I walked very slowly to the tube station and stumbled onto a train for Kent at Charing Cross. A sign of my state of health was that I sent myself an email describing how poorly I felt. I was sure I had a virus, or even pneumonia.

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Going from bad to VARs in Russia

Frankly, the VAR experiment (Video Assistant Referee) has been a bit of a disaster fior FIFA here at the Confederations Cup in Russia.
I'm writing these thoughts after the Germany-Cameroon game, where the referee didn't help matters by getting the wrong Cameroon player to show a red card to. I was in Saint Petersburg yesterday for the game between Portugal and New Zealand, a one-sided affair which Portugal won easily.

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

AP story and other Howard Webb quotes



http://www.seattlepi.com/sports/article/Top-soccer-ref-Howard-Webb-reveals-how-he-endures-9983270.php

So here's my story from today's interview with Howard Webb that I did over the phone this morning. He was absolutely charming and wished me well with my Level 5. Couldn't be further from my last chat with a top English ref, Graham Poll, who couldn't resist taking the mickey out of my weight when I spoke to him at the 2006 World Cup in Germany.

Well Mr Poll, the joke's on you!! You showed three yellows and I'm still reffing!!

Below are some of the quotes from Webb that I didn't use in my AP story. Interesting thoughts on how you make decisions.

"It's really refreshing to hear that some refs suffer from a lack of confidence. You have peaks and troughs of confidence throughout your career. They last less long the more experienced you become.
"Sometimes you see the ball so clearly it's easy to make a decision but sometimes you're going with instinct.
"Some of the very best decisions come from your instinct not from what you see. If you only relied solely on what yousaw you'd miss too many decisions to be a top ref.
"Mark Clattemburg, in his first premier league game, in the first minute, liverpool-arsenal; he made a big decision to penalise Robin van Persie after he lobbed the outrushing Pepe Reyna for handling the ball. He  felt something wasn't right
"Sometimes you have to go with a gut feeling. It's not guessing, it's following your experience and judgment. 
 "The best refs are those who are judged by their gut feeling being accurate


Monday, September 12, 2016

New generation of goalkeepers means times changing for refs' positioning

The day when the referee could run upfield to the half way line in anticipation of a goalkeeper's clearance are coming to an end - and referees need to be aware of it and take action.