Arsenal collected important three points in its fight for the spot in the next years Champion’s League by defeating Norwich 3:1 in a dramatic and controversial finish in the Barclays Premier League at the Emirates Stadium. Norwich went ahead of Arsenal on Michael Turner’s goal in the 56th minute of the game. Arsenal could not break Norwich defense until 85th minute of the game when Mike Jones, following signal from the assistant referee Richard West, awarded Arsenal a penalty kick which was converted by Mikel Arteta. Only three minutes later, Oliver Giroud added Arsenal’s second goal sending Arsenal’s fans into wild celebrations. Unfortunately, things got even worse for Norwich when Lukas Podolski scored Arsenal’s third and final goal in the 92nd minute of the game, completing Arsenal’s remarkable comeback.
The remarkable comeback by Arsenal was matched by a highly unusual – and in our opinion – also highly questionable involvement of the assistant referee Richard West in awarding a penalty kick to Arsenal in the 85th minute of the game. As the footage below shows, Norwich’s Kei Kamara ‘s foul on Oliver Giroud was committed inside the far side of Norwich’s penalty area and Mr. West was about 25/30 yards away from the spot of the foul. The referee Mike Jones, on the other hand, was perfectly positioned and had the entire situation directly in front of him merely 10 yards away. When the foul was committed Mr. Jones let play continue and made his decision to point to the spot only after his assistant referee Mr. West raised his flag. As noted above, under these circumstances, Mr. West’s involvement was highly questionable and, perhaps, outright improper. (Video: Arsenal v Norwich City Premier League Highlights 04/13/13 – play starts at 0:40 into the video).
According to Law 6 of the Laws of the Game, subject to the decision of the referee, assistant referees duties include, among others, to indicate “when misconduct or any other incident occurs out of the view of the referee” and “when offenses have been committed whenever the assistant referees have a better view than the referee (this includes, in certain circumstances, offenses committed in the penalty area). (Emphasis added.)
In addition, IFAB interpretations state that “the assistant referee must raise his ﬂag when a foul or misconduct is committed in his immediate vicinity or out of the referee’s vision. In all other situations, he must wait and offer his opinion if it is required. If this is the case, the assistant referee must report what he has seen and heard and which players are involved to the referee.”
Furthermore, “before signaling for an offence, the assistant referee must determine that:
- the offence was out of the view of the referee or the referee’s view was obstructed
- the referee would not have applied the advantage if he had seen the offence”
The USSF Advice to Referees on the Laws of the Game, section 6.3 titled No Signal for Fouls Observed by the Referee, also stated that:
Assistant referees should not signal at all for fouls or misconduct that clearly occur in the sight of the referee, that are doubtful or trifling, or for which the referee would likely have applied advantage. Assistant referees may, however, bring such events to the attention of the referee at a stoppage of play.
As the Laws of the Game and the above-referenced interpretations clearly provide, assistant referees are allowed to indicate fouls inside penalty areas only when fouls are committed in their immediate vicinity or out of the referee’s vision. Here, Mr. Jones was, quite literally, staring at the entire tussle between Kemara and Giroud from merely 10 yards away and determined that no foul was committed. Mr. Jones’ view was unobstructed and under no circumstances could Mr. West believe that the incident occurred out of the view of the referee Jones. Importantly too, the foul was not committed in Mr. West’s immediate vicinity and he did not have a better view than the referee. Simply put, under current interpretations of the Laws of the Game, Mr. West had no authority to signal for penalty here.
We emphasize that assistant referees must not usurp the referee’s authority and call fouls that occur out of their immediate vicinity or in the referee’s view, regardless of how obvious they might be.