Openly hostile dissent always deserves to be punished!

The New York Red Bulls clinched their playoff spot after tying Sporting Kansas City 0:0. The Red Bulls came out energetic and eager to avenge their loss to Kansas City from a couple of weeks before the encounter. The 0:2 loss to Kansas City was also the Red Bulls’ first season loss at home so perhaps, with their high energy and enthusiasm, the Red Bulls wanted to send a message to their potential play-off rivals that “you don’t tread on us at home.” Indeed, the Red Bulls were a better team in just about every category that matters: they outshot their opponents 10:6, their possession was 63.7% to Kansas City’s 36.3% and they had 9 corner kicks to their opponents only 3. Thus, being clearly a much better team in this game, the 0:0 draw had to feel disappointing to the Red Bulls.

The high-octane atmosphere of the game resulted in four yellow cards. The referee, Silviu Petrescu, cautioned three Red Bulls player and one from Sporting KC. The caution that we want to highlight involved the Red Bulls’ designated player Thierry Henry. As seen in the video below, in the 44th minute of the game, Henry’s pass bounced off Sporting KC defender’s hand. Mr. Petrescu allowed the play to continue. Clearly upset, Henry sprinted towards the referee — yelling and gesticulating — expressing his dissent for the no-call decision and arguing that Sporting KC defender Aurelien Colin intentionally handled the ball. Mr. Petrescu stopped the play and immediately showed Henry a yellow card.

Mr. Petrescu was correct in his decision to caution Thierry Henry. Even if you assume that the no-call decision was incorrect (and we think it was the right no-call decision), Henry’s behavior clearly qualified as “unsporting” behavior deserving of a yellow card. The Laws of the Game, and specifically Law 12 Fouls and Misconduct, clearly state that “a player is cautioned and shown the yellow card if he…” is guilty of “dissent by word or action.” In its interpretations, IFAB further stated that a “player who is guilty of dissent by protesting (verbally or non-verbally) against a referee’s decision must be cautioned.” In its guidance to referees, the USSF also reiterated that “dissent is committed by words, actions (including gestures), or a combination of the two.” The USSF further explained that:

The referee should evaluate dissent in terms of content (what exactly is said or done), loudness (the extent to which the dissent can be seen or heard widely), and whether it is clearly directed at an official (including assistant referees and fourth officials). The objective in dealing with dissent is to support the spirit of the game, to maintain the authority of the officials, and to reduce the likelihood of such behavior becoming widespread.

The Red Bulls’ game commentator, Shep Messing stated, while describing the incident, that Thierry Henry “is wearing a captain’s armband so he’s got the right to talk to the referee” implying — we suppose — that Henry’s reaction was wholly appropriate. We disagree.

First, IFAB stated that “the captain has no special status or privileges under the Laws of the Game.” Secondly, even if Henry would have some special privileges (and he doesn’t), his behavior was totally out of line and unacceptable. It’s not as if Henry respectfully approached Mr. Petrescu and politely expressed his disagreement. Rather, Henry aggressively turned towards the referee and openly protested the referee’s decision. Under these circumstances, Mr. Petrescu correctly cautioned Henry for dissent. Let us know what you think.

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