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Thursday, October 27, 2005

FA clampdown: A growing concern

"Grimsby Town Football Club have reviewed last night's clash between Justin Whittle and Alan Shearer. We feel that there was no deliberate intent on behalf of Justin to catch Alan with his arm. The referee (Mark Halsey) on the evening was very close to the incident and no action was taken. We hope that this does not overshadow what was a pulsating cup-tie between Grimsby Town and Newcastle United."

The above is a statement on the Grimbsy Town FC web-site. During the game, Shearer went up for a high ball and caught Whittle, Grimsby captain, on the face with his right elbow. Whittle was haf-bowed as a result, Shearer came up to him, placed a hand on his head as if to say 'Sorry, not intentional, it's part of how I challenge for the ball.' Whittle turned away and turned back with a sly smile on his face. Later on they both steadied to challenge another high ball but Whittle caught Shearer on the lip with his right elbow. Shearer was incensed, blood visible from a gash on his lip, as Halsey, who was mere yards away from the incident, considered taking no action.

To Shearer's elbow on Whittle, perhaps a stern word or a caution would have sufficed. To Whittle's elbow, clearly intentional, dangerous play, should have been sent off. Things depend on what Halsey sees and he may not have seen the actual contact in both incidents. Yet the FA have shown they are ready to intervene into decisions, practically contrary to FIFA rules, which dictate that referees' decisions are final and cannot be changed by the respective football association.

Recently Scott Parker appealed his booking during the match on Sunday against Sunderland, which he alleged was a case of mistaken identity where Stephen Carr was the actual offender, regarding an incident with Sunderland's Andy Welsh. Rob Styles' report indicated he booked Parker for unsporting behaviour and considered Carr hadn't committed an offence at all. An independent 3-man FA commission decided in favour of Parker, passing his booking instead to Carr's record, without even calling or consulting with Styles. It has been suggested the commission do not necessarily have officiating experience as a requirement for being a commission member. Former referee Ketih Hackett, head of the Premier League Referees' Association, considered the commission are undermining the referees' authority and are 're-refereeing games'.

When you also consider David Beckham was cautioned for a somewhat innocuous arm across Andreas Ibertsberger, leading up to his dismissal, and Spurs' Ahmed Mido was sent off for an arm across Chelsea's Asier del Horno, Whittle's elbow (and, to a less serious extent, Shearer's)clearly warranted disciplinary action on the field, and, where the FA's inherent powers are concerned, is alternatively open to their disciplinary panel to review. Once you use your arms to elevate yourself up into the air and they make contact with a player's face, then some action has to be taken. Otherwise players like Shearer could have a more serious injury. Don't forget when Mikel Arteta was horrendously barged from behind by Dinamo Bucharest midfielder Mihaita Plesan in the UEFA cup tie at Goodison Park, the Spaniard feared to have swallowed his tongue and suffered a fit on the pitch.

Footage of Whittle exchanging what seemed to be harsh words with Shearer at the end was not sporting to see. Having injured the former England skipper already, he should have left it alone but chose to instead approach Shearer clearly to stir him up. Of course Shearer had the last laugh by scoring the only decisive goal, which is the best way to get back at an annoying opponent.

According to FIFIA rules, the referee's decision is to remain final. A referee can change a booking on the field of play if it was issued to the wrong player, provided play has not yet restarted. Otherwise it is too late, so the FA are in violation of FIFA rules. The emphasis, therefore, that should be emulating from Lancaster Gate is for the officials at a match to spot the discrepancies and clamp on them immediately. Halsey surely could not have missed Whittle's elbow, and clearly Shearer had made contact on Whittle earlier. Had there been a stern word to Shearer, maybe Whittle would not have retaliated. I said 'maybe'. But for the officials to enhance their reputation, there needs to be a complete overhaul and a new look at what is clearly acceptable and what is not. As a beginning, or a catalyst, a number of recent offside decisions have been shown in replay to be wrong, the most recent being Chelsea's Didier Drogba's disallowed goal against Everton on Sunday, where it was actually Drogba's team-mate Eidur Gudjohnsen in an offside position but not interfering with play.



Anonymous Anonymous said...

I dislike the idea of the use of instant replay during a match. The flow of the game is disrupted enough as it is. However, FIFA's new ruling is simply ridiculous. You just need to distract the referee then have at it.

I know it's not the point of your article, but let's not excuse Shearer from blame. He's been using the same tactics his whole career. It doesn't necessarily warrant the kind of retaliation he received, but I can understand the opposing player's frustration when he gets away with his "oh was that my elbow" routine all the time.

10/28/2005 12:02 am

Blogger RedsMan said...

True, Anon. Shearer is well versed in the art of 'nudge and bounce', be it arm or otherwise, though I'd say that is part of the current play of the game here. No, certainly, Shearer is not innocent, though a bit more than Whittle. I'm finding it difficult to accept referees miss such incidents, seems so incredible ref Halsey took no action in both incidents. Another thing is Whittle looks like another version of a frustrated Keith Curle or Kevin Muscat.


10/28/2005 10:15 am

Blogger T said...

Redsman, if I'm reading your article correctly you call on referee's to make better decisions on the field of play because the FA are not allowed by FIFA rules to take action on an incident that the ref has already rules upon?

If this is your overall point I am in full agreement with it. Halsey is an experienced referee who famously sent-off Sol Campbell for an ungainly arm in the face of Solskaer as the forward ran at him from behind. Whittle's elbow was far more blatant: Shearer was in the line of his vision whereas Ole was not even in Sol's peripheral vision.

Yet the red comes out for Sol- after consulation with the linesman- but nothing for Whittle despite being in perfect position to rule on the incident. This is poor refereeing indeed and Halsey should be sanctioned accordingly.

I like Shearer's comments after the match when he said that he wanted to retaliate in the second half but that would have been the cowards way out. Instead, he thought, I'll knock his club out with the winning goal and justice will be done in a far more meaningful way. I agree with that, and it was a beautifully achieved with a firm left-footed strike.

I would like to see Shearer claim his first Newcastle trophy in his final season.

10/28/2005 12:04 pm

Blogger Skippy said...

Shearer has been involed in cowerdly acts in the past. Who can forget his disgraceful kick at Neil Lennon.

As for his comments "I wanted to do him". I don't think he should be saying things like that, it does not set a good example. I know he qualified this statement with a positive note, but even so.

I am not al together keen on video replay, we love the game because of the drama, the errors, the thril, mistakes, the spectacular I could go on.

If we have video replay, we may not have the controversy, which provides for good debate.

10/28/2005 12:13 pm

Blogger RedsMan said...

T, that is exactly my point, summed up well in one sentence. How could I forget the Campbell-Solskjaer moment at Highbury, being one of a number of Halsey decisions? I felt at the moment, and still do, that Campbell was at least reckless with his arm, therefore not intentional, and I'm trying to recall whether recklessness is material to deciding on any action required. I dont think it is, a reckless or intentional arm is an offence once making negative contact on a player.

Sanctioning of Halsey is debatable, and certainly is feasible. The FA punished Dermot Gallagher when he failed to send off Leeds' Robbie Keane when he shoved Man Utd's David Beckham at Elland Road, instead issuing a caution to the Irishman. Gallagher was demoted temporarily to the lower league.

I agree with Skippy, regarding Shearer mentioning about wanting to retaliate physically against Whittle, it came over as a different side to the striker. I perceive Shearer to be tough, rugged, keen and above all professional and mentioning about physical violence on the pitch, particularly in retaliation, goes against the positive image the game is trying to maintain for all. Yes, he stated afterwards that he wanted to score to avenge and said he did just that, but were I in his boots at the time, I would have said:

'Well, I was caught intentionally by the player, received a cut lip requiring three stitches and was not pleased about it at all but the thing is to remain focus on the task, that was to score one goal more than Grimsby to win the game and progress further, and I did exactly that. There's no room on the pitch, as well as off it, for physical violence and if he wishes to engage in such a manner, that is up to him, but my game is about helping the side win games, including tonight's tie and I was part of doing that tonight.'

I understand that it maybe easier to talk now than at the moment, where one's mood is possibly anxious and very annoyed. But it is why professionals are porfessionals, because they are that good at what they do, they know better to let their skills speak louder than words.

Thank you, Skippy, for recalling the incident between shearer and Lennon. That was quite unsavoury and needless in any sense of the game.

The call for officials to increase a tighter control on the games is essential as FIFA dictate the football association must not attempt to intervene and overturn decisions made by officials during the game. The FA know this and I wonder if FIFA are in position to make representation to Lancaster Gate to cease-and-desist on such actions.

If an official does not pick up on an incident, the nearest linesman must bring it to his attention. The final word lies with the main official and this is where and why I hope for a tighter rein on incidents during the game.

The FA commission hearing appeals on bookings and sending-offs should be revised to hear appeals where the official in question considers, on review of an incident, that a commission review is appropriate. This is where the referee would feel that the decision he, or indeed she, made maybe or is definitely erroneous and to overturn any action would need an appeal to the commission for review. The official would then attend to give evidence or submit a written or typed statement, verifying his revised opinion on the incident in question.

This has to be a better step in the right direction. I wouldn't want incidents unseen by an official to go unpunished, particularly where evidence of TV footage clearly depicts what happened. I felt this was the case but it seems to me that the commission wish to go further than it is required to and the FA are none too bothered about it.


10/28/2005 4:53 pm


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