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By Walter Broeckx
A rather interesting remark was made after one of the ref reviews and when trying to comment myself I just thought it might be interesting to shed some more light in to this. And so I decided to write an article about it.
It was about the situation where a striker goes on goal and is brought down by the keeper (or a defender) and the ref gives a penalty and a red card against the keeper or the defender. Some people argued that this was wrong because it was double punishment for one foul. As one of our readers said it: “A basic premise of any sensible justice system is that one offence merits only one punishment. A penalty and a sending off is clearly two punishments for the same offence, which is an unjust situation.”
And I could agree with the basic rule of this as it is a very honourable and seemingly justified basic law. So why then will I disagree with this?
First let me start by saying how the lawmakers have been coming to this “double” punishment. It is because of the fact that you have a punishment of the foul and a punishment of the personal behaviour of the player.
Committing a foul results in a free kick. I think nobody will disagree with this. In case the foul is in the penalty area a penalty should be given. So when a player commits a foul in the penalty area the TEAM is punished by a penalty given against them.
But then there is also the fact of the personal behaviour of the player. Just imagine that a player punches a striker in the face would anybody find it acceptable that this player can stay on the field? Because if you ask only one punishment for one foul one has to make a choice: give a foul or send the player off.
It is a foul so a foul should be given. And because of the fact that if a player wants to punch someone it is clear that he should have chosen another sport like boxing. As we don’t want to see boxers on the field he should be send off.
So yes there is double punishment but one is a “team” punishment and the other is a “personal” punishment.
Now I took at rather obvious example of what is unacceptable on a field with punching another player. But according to the rules it is just unacceptable to bring a player down who is on his way to score a goal. If you play the ball clean away then there is no foul, but from the moment a player is on his way to score and you tackle him and make sure that he will not score the double punishment should be given.
I really do think that the lawmakers are correct in this with the double punishment. One going against the team, the other against a player who clearly has shown no respect for the laws of football.
Now we can all debate of course about the fact if the foul was really made on a player that was having a clear goal scoring opportunity or not. And this is not always easy to judge at the moment. Generally one could say that when a player who pushes the ball away from the goal and is brought down, the defender should be given a yellow card and not the red because the striker reduced his own chance by dribbling further away from the goal. When a player goes past the keeper and the keeper (or defender) comes in from behind in a last attempt and brings the player down then it is clear that the striker just had to push the ball past the line for the goal and it should be a red card. But this is not always easy to decide in a fraction of a second.
How much the sanction should be is also something that is very debatable. Now a player who commits a personal foul could receive the same 3 game ban as a player who has punched someone in the face. I do think a one game ban should be enough for a professional foul, unless there is clearly some violence in the attack. If the defenders tries to play the ball but just misses the ball and hits the foot of the player, or a keeper trying to play the ball but not getting to it a one game ban is fine for me.
But if the defender comes in from behind with both feet in the air flying like a suicide pilot on a mission to kill whatever is in front of him a 3 game ban should be given. But as I am only the ref, the ban itself that is given is the decision of the disciplinary committee.
Now going back to the real life and the begin statement of this I do fear that also in real life we have a double punishment for the same offence. I think we all have heard of people being punished with a jail sentence for let us say killing someone when driving under influence. And most of the times the judge will also order the murderer to pay a sum of money to the family of the victim. In fact this is also a double punishment. One against for society (= penalty against the team) by locking up a person who has broken the “don’t drive when drunk” rule. And also the personal punishment (= red card) for the fact that even when money cannot make up for the loss of a live but I think it is justified that the damage that has been caused to the family of the victim is made up for.
So a double punishment does exist in most societies and most justice systems. And I think the football rules are just a copy of the real life justice.
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