Something rare happened at Craven Cottage yesterday. Fulham won a game in the English Premier League. It is true, however, that their opponent Brighton are no giants of the English football so maybe Fulham fan’s enthusiasm should be somewhat tempered. But, a win is a win – 4:2 no less – and so their joy is understandable. Especially, because the win gives Fulham a glimmer of hope that they just may – yes we know, a long shot – be able to keep themselves afloat and remain in the EPL for next season.
The game was refereed by a long-time and experienced EPL referee Lee Probert. While overall Mr. Probert had a good game, he made a serious misjudgment in the 26th minute of the game when Brighton’s Dale Stephens committed a serious foul play on Fulham’s André Schürrle. In fact, we were quite perplexed how such an experienced referee could caution Stephens for the foul that clearly merited red card.
FIFA Laws of the Game state that:
A tackle or challenge that endangers the safety of an opponent or uses excessive force or brutality must be sanctioned as serious foul play.
Any player who lunges at an opponent in challenging for the ball from the front, from the side or from behind using one or both legs, with excessive force or endangers the safety of an opponent is guilty of serious foul play.
As you watch the play and Stephen’s tackle, he is lounging at Schürrle with his leg outstretched and cleats exposed. It was thus no surprising that after he made contact with André Schürrle, Fulham’s striker was riving in pain and required medical assistance. Ultimately, Schürrle was substituted in the 45th minute of the game.
Although the reason for his substitution at half-time remains unknown, it seems that André Schürrle escaped serious injury as a result of Stephen’s horrible tackle. That’s good news for André Schürrle and Fulham. Still, it is referee’s responsibility to make sure that the Laws of the Game are followed, and when serious foul play is committed, the guilty player is appropriately punished.
We all make mistakes and so let’s be honest say it clearly: Lee Probert made a mistake by letting Stephens escape with only a yellow card. This kind of leniency sends a wrong signal to players and all involved. It also puts players in danger. Referees must have strength to punish it without any equivocation.
We can only hope, for the sake of other players, that this type of misconduct won’t be countenanced by EPL and that the league will punish Stephens’ misconduct with additional suspension.
Let us know what you thought about Lee Probert’s decision.
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