Exemplary referee crew cooperation in Cardiff v Bournemouth game.

This past Saturday, on a day packed full of emotions, AFC Bournemouth was hosted by Cardiff City. Before the game started, Cardiff had a wonderful remembrance ceremony and a moment of reflection for Emiliano Sala whose plane vanished over the English Channel as he was flying to join his new team at Cardiff several days ago. Unfortunately, a few days before the game, the authorities called off the search after their efforts at locating the plane proved unsuccessful. Throughout the entire game, Cardiff fans continuously paid tribute to Sala by signing in unison: “We never saw you play and never saw you score, but Emiliano our beautiful Bluebird, we will love you forever more.” This was a fitting and touching reminder that this game binds us together in many different ways and can heal broken hearts.

Bournemouth was visiting Cardiff after a very impressive 4:0 win against Chelsea FC. As an aside, that is why we love watching English Premier League. It is the type of league where on any given match day an underdog can beat a big team club. Chelsea, after all, is a huge club with enormous financial resources. In fact, according to the published data, Chelsea’s payroll is approximately £124.5 million or three times more than that of Bournemouth’s of approximately £38.9 million. But we digress…

In any event, it seemed that Bournemouth would have a much easier task playing Cardiff. But, in the league full of surprising results, Cardiff – even bigger underdog fighting for survival – beat Bournemouth 2:0.

As Mr. Jonathan Moss whistled for the start of the game, the teams got down to businesses and produced an entertaining game. It did not take long for the first goal to be produced. It was scored in the 5th minute of the game by Cardiff’s Bobby Reid from the penalty mark. While the penalty kick was not a controversial call, we are bringing it to your attention to highlight how critical refereeing crew communication is. 

As you watch the video of the play at issue below, note that Mr. Moss did not immediately call the penalty. It actually took quite some time for him to point to the spot. To the careful observer, it was clear that the delay in calling the penalty was caused by either Mr. Moss not spotting the infringement at all or his uncertainty or disbelief about what he actually witnessed (because handling was so blatant).

FIFA Laws of the Game state that:

A direct free kick is awarded if a player … handles the ball deliberately (except for the goalkeeper within their penalty area). 

Handling the ball involves a deliberate act of player making contact with the ball with the hand or arm. The following must be considered:

  • the movement of the hand towards the ball (not the ball towards the hand)
  • the distance between the opponent and the ball (unexpected ball)
  • the position of the hand does not necessarily mean that there is an offense

Taking these factors into consideration, there is no doubt that (i) the defender deliberately moved his hand towards the ball (not the other way around) and (ii) that the contact with the ball was not accidental/unexpected as the cross came from quite a distance away. The decision to award penalty kick was correct and obvious. 

But, quite frankly, it did not matter that Mr. Moss missed the infringement or was not sure that it occurred because he received timely assistance from his refereeing crew.  And, this is the point we want to make here.  During the ninety minutes on the pitch, the referee can and probably will miss some fouls or infringements. Even those that appear rather obvious. It takes only one second of distraction or bad positioning for it to happen. But the referee is not alone. He/she can rely on the assistance from his entire refereeing crew to alert him/her about infractions that he/she did not spot. In this game, the assistant referee did just that and prevented a horrible, game changing incident, to go unnoticed. This was truly an exemplary cooperation between match officials. 

Our advice: work closely with your entire refereeing crew and don’t be afraid to turn to them for assistance when you need it.  It will make you a better referee and result in better refereed games. 

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Categories: EPL, Laws of the Game

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