FROM THE MIDDLE: Judging fouls can be subjective

Nick Blackman was fouled - the second yellow for Bauer. Charlton were down to 10 men. Picture: Vivienne Johnson

The FA once invited a number of football correspondents to watch videos of incidents on the football field. They were all given four cards to hold up.

Red, if they felt it was a sending off, yellow for a caution, blue if they felt it was just a foul and green if they would play on.

It was like a rainbow; every colour was shown every time. The idea was of course to show critics of referees that perhaps there was more to it than they thought.

We used to use a similar exercise as part of our basic training courses for prospective referees. Again there was a mixture of cards shown after each video. The instructor would then say what he thought the answer was and explain why.

These two groups perhaps could not be expected to know the Laws, but what about qualified referees, would they all agree? It’s unlikely.

This was illustrated when I attended the meeting of Woking referees last week, Via Zoom. Videos from the VAR viewpoint were shown, and members split up into small groups to decide their action.

They were then shown the referee’s decision, followed by the VAR version and finally, what Dermot Gallagher, the former Premier League referee, thought in his review for Sky Sports. There were I might say, some major differences. The reason is that people look at incidents in different ways.

Take the recent Leeds v Burnley match. The Leeds goalkeeper, jumping to catch a high ball in the penalty area, landed on a Burnley player, knocking him to the ground.

The impact makes him drop the ball to another Burnley player, who lashed it into the Leeds goal. The referee gave a free-kick against the Burnley player the goalkeeper has knocked over. Others feel that it should have been a penalty against the goalkeeper.

Others, including Dermot Gallagher, felt there had been no foul and the goal should have been allowed. One incident, three differing views.

Judging fouls can be subjective, but referees without VAR, only get one view and have to make their decision in seconds.  

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