Referees in the PL: How are they doing (and time for MOTD commentators to learn the rules)

By Walter Broeckx

If the time allows me to work on this I thought the moment appropriate to give you a small update on a few things I have remarked during the reviewing of the referees this season.

First of all those who are following our reviews on referee decisions and the Arsenal games also over here will have noticed the new format we use since this season.

One of the things that comes from using this new format is that the numbers we had from last season are not really comparable to the numbers we have from this season. For me this is something I partially regret as we now cannot say that refs have done better or worse than last season. We will be able to see a bit at the end of the season when we look at some decisions we also had counted in a separate way last season but not for all the major incidents.

Based on my gut feeling I would say the refs have improved compared to last season. But the most critical part of the season is still in front of us, so things can change a lot. But I do have this feeling that refs do seem to be doing a better job. We all can point at individual errors of course and we do this in the reviews but I really am very curious to see the final numbers when we can have access to them.

But there are a few points that I have noticed this season that still need a lot of work. I will talk about it in this and probably a next article as I fear that when I start writing about such things I can hardly stop on time. So what are the points I have noticed that need a lot of work?

1. Interfering with the keeper at a corner or free kick.

By a coincidence the ref in the game West Ham United – Everton cancelled out a goal because a West Ham player was backing in into the keeper. I remember looking at MOTD and hearing the match commentator uttering words that went something like this: “If this really is a foul on the keeper, then the keepers are untouchable”.

Well dear match commentator (don’t know his name): this was a foul and yes according to the rules keepers are untouchable when there is a corner.
For those who want to check the laws of the game I copy from them below:

Offences committed against goalkeepers:

– It is an offence for a player to prevent a goalkeeper from releasing the ball from his hands
– A player must be penalised for playing in a dangerous manner if he kicks or attempts to kick the ball when the goalkeeper is in the process of releasing it
– It is an offence to restrict the movement of the goalkeeper by unfairly impeding him, e.g. at the taking of a corner kick

Now I don’t know with what part of the English language our dear match commentator is struggling but I think this is a very straightforward sentence. And to add a bit more: an obstruction is unfairly impeding. So when a striker backs in to a keeper he is obstructing and restricting the movement of the keeper.

Is it a coincidence we see this foul where Sam Allardyce is the manager? I don’t think so. But the ref who stood up to this was a brave one and he didn’t deserve the stick from the match commentator.

I would urge the people from MOTD to follow a referee course and let their match commentator become referees before talking about the laws of the game. This would prevent them from talking such rubbish and it would mean that the public would really understand the decisions a bit better.

2. Studs towards the face or chest of an opponent

In the same game we had two red cards offences where the ref sent the players off. Both were rather similar cases. In the highlights they showed in fact 3 incidents where a high foot came close or made contact with a head. And I had the impression the people from MOTD couldn’t understand the difference.

Anyone who really knows the rules does know the difference. In one incident a player tried to flick on a high cross and a defender came from behind and went with his head in and the foot was close to the head.

This is a typical case of what I will call a regular foul. The player with the high foot was entitled to go to the ball as he cannot see behind him if a defender will come in with his head. In fact if the defender doesn’t come in or comes near it is no foul. You can control a ball 2 meters high in the air if you want. As long as nobody is around. So in that case it was a foul but certainly not a deliberate one because the playing going high with his foot couldn’t see the opponent when he started going for the ball. Just a regular foul. Nothing more, nothing less.

The other two incidents were incidents where the player going in with his studs high in the air and this time he had his opponent in front of him. If you see an opponent player coming in with his head to the ball at normal head height you simply cannot go to that ball any more with your studs. If you really hit him with the studs on his head he can have a serious head injury. A manager talked about players dying on the field…well if you kick a player with studs on his head then you can have serious accidents. Don’t know you can die from it but the impact can be terrible: skull fractures, broken eye socket, broken nose, broken chin, head wounds, …. the list can go on.

So when you go in towards an opponent in front of you like that you are playing in an excessive dangerous way. And when you play like that you should receive a red card. The possible impact of your action has to be considered. Not the intention, that is something from the past. Maybe a past in which the MOTD people are still hanging around?

More to follow later…

Recent posts


The books…

The sites…

39 Replies to “Referees in the PL: How are they doing (and time for MOTD commentators to learn the rules)”

  1. Walter, thanks for the piece. Please in your next article on this issue, can you please explain the issue of ‘ball to hand’ e.g carzola against Man Utd, Gibbs against Wigan and Lescott against Arsenal(last season at the Ethiad)

  2. Much as I (like all ttrue football fans) enjoy slating Sam Allardyce for being a big old rubbish, outdated and overrated troglodyte of a manager, the foul you highlight was by an everton player backing into the west ham keeper, and hence not Big Sam’s fault. Though that shouldn’t stop us drawing attention to the terrible football, and anti-football tactics he makes his teams employee.

  3. Excellent piece Walter. Crystal clear.
    Of course the ‘studs’ issue came up with Wilshere’s recent booking. He played the ball away from the opponent, with the sole of his boot, i.e. with studs showing. Presumably he got booked on the grounds that if the other player wasn’t late getting to the ball, he might have been injured?
    I cannot quite put my finger on why the time-line continium is appearing at fault here. No doubt it is quite clear in the ref’s report??

  4. I think, with regards to impeding GK at corners, this is where the rules are set in conflict. A player is entitled to his position on the field of play. Many times we see free kicks given for a goalkeeper climbing all over the back of a player or keepers pushing players in the back.
    For me as long as a player doesn’t move into the path of a GK but only holds his ground as the ball enters play, what’s the problem. Gk have the biggest advantage already and we seem to be giving them more.
    Another point; two officials to oversee 15-20 players in a small area is a joke.

  5. Adam, you are right. He can stand there but from the moment he moves he has to make sure he doesn’t block the path of the goalkeeper. But most of the time you see the attacking players spreading their arms and doing this is in fact enough to call a foul.
    I think it was 3 seasons ago this was one of the real points of attention from Fifa to stop the attacking of keepers and surrounding of keepers. In those days our FA showed us videos of such incidents. And most incidents came from games in the PL and lots of teams with Sam Allardyce as the manager…

  6. Christianjimmy,
    what a mistake to make from my part then. Karma would have been if the ref would have given the goal then… 😉

    But it doesn’t change the fact that it was a foul and the ref did well to rule it out.

    Is it any coincidence that the ref in question Anthony Taylor has just been appointed as a new fifa ref and his performance in the game West Ham – Everton? I think he did that game according to what he has learnt from the Fifa trainings and instructions.
    Now I must admit I haven’t reviewed the whole game and probably will not because I don’t have it in full but would be very interested to see the full game

  7. Walter, what is the terminology used nowadays is it still obstruction or is it impeding or blocking. If the ball drops within 1meter of a player when a corner is taken is he allowed to shield the ball from a goalkeeper or is this obstruction. Plus, surely if this applies to GKs shouldn’t we also be promoting this fair play aspect elsewhere on the pitch. I.E impeding a players progress when the ball is not within a playable distance?

  8. Newcastle manure, i wonder why we don’t get replays when its a foul against the home team. Dea gea have caught a ball which most of the crowd thought was a bit tight or crossed the line. Evra holds the balls of papi sise no replay what do we need robbery of the highest order. Goal offside really nobody anybody sees anything??? Oldtoilet need a penalty they are asking Dean for it can you imagine! A goal and is not a goal but it’s a goal. Manure needs a goal in whatever case.

  9. Garry weaver and Dunn are like commentators from mars. The camera in the goal shows that Evans scored himself but the camera on the sides shows that probably they was a contact but what they do they don’t want to replay the camera from the goal side . So rednose confronts mike dean, what will we hear from the FA asses??

  10. Valencia shocking tackle on that Newcastle player breaks his ankle and coward Dean leaves his cards in his pocket. This is Old Trafford of course…
    Jack Wilshere will have his thoughts about it….

    Dean knows what to do and when to do it.

  11. Red nose terrorizes the liner and dean does nothing, he even have the courtesy to wait for rednose to do the damage before he starts the game and dean does not do anything as a ref! For Christs shake what is happening!Blater, platini is it a new rule let us know morons. Valecia breaks the kids leg in-front of the liner but because rednose have terrorized the liner’s ass he has seen nothing??

  12. Did anyone notice that rednose was talking with the linesman during the match???
    Walter, please clarify because I have never seen a manager talking with the linesman during a match before this game.

  13. I also think that there was a foul in the build up to the manu’s 3rd goal. Coloccini, i think, it was.

  14. There is something quite deviant about the influence Ferguson seems to have over match officials. Is the guy so powerful behind the scene that he is untouchable?
    His outbursts of verbal diarrhoea are becoming bizarre in the extreme, both on the touchline and after the game

  15. Great article Walter. I look forward to the next one.

    I think you should offer your services to the BBC to run a course for the commentators – and the pundits.

  16. Just heard some utter rubbish from a presenter in the Sky studio in the Stoke – Liverpool match. Offer them your services as well Walter.

  17. Walter I think ferguson read your comment about the refs being better this year and hence the ear bashing he gave the refs this game, “whats this about you not doing your job!?”. On what planet that foul from valencia today wouldn’t constitute a red I don’t know. But I did also notice some improvement from the refs this season, apart from some blatantly obvious wrong calls. In fairness, I feel the refs have been nicer to us also, sometimes even a little too nice. For one thing we’ve been getting penalties! I had to pinch myself a few times this season to be honest. Yet there’s still no doubt in my mind that rudolph the ringleader is still pulling the reins. All this good behaviour seems to me like nothing more than an attempt to dust their tracks a bit and they’ll still be getting coal in their stockings this year

  18. Haha that’s a good one Walter

    I completely forgot to mention, I’ve found someone on twitter who posts full matches for arsenal games and you don’t have to download them, just stream them straight from his Daily Motion playlist. This could save some time on reviewing arsenal games and would also be good for anyone interested in just watching a game they’ve missed. He’s usually fairly quick to upload them, but anyway here’s the link to his playlist:

    His twitter handle is @shahriarshah for those interested

  19. Iniez, Kampala
    Just watched MOTD and the Valencia ‘red card’ incident wasn’t shown as far as I could see. Also how is Ferguson allowed to get away with terrorising the match officials like that, especially the linesman. The fools on MOTD seemed to find it amusing though, can you imagine the stick Wenger would have got if he did similar. They would want him banned for 8 weeks.

  20. Mick
    Why am I not surprised they didn’t show it. It’s absolutely untolerable, any manager in his position would have been penalized. Arsene kicked a water bottle and got sent to the stands, but ferguson is somehow allowed to get right up in a refs face and dribble all over them. To me that says one thing, he’s untouchable. Call it favouritism or whatever you like, it sends a clear unequivocal message to everyone that ferguson can do what he wants. Frankly its becoming too obvious too hide. Imagine arsene had made that comment about van persie..I can already see lineker pretending to be hit in the head by a ball and flopping around on the floor, they’d eat it up

  21. I’m actually tempted to believe they will take some sort of retrospective action for the sake of keeping up this ruse, to show that he can be punished. I guess we’ll see

  22. @iniez,walter

    I am not a twitter person. But most of the commentaries one can find for EPL (or other) games, only specify times to the nearest minute. The press association commentary at the BBC has minute and second. If the twitter feed is just a listing of events without any times, or if the times are not specified accurately enough, the best thing is to get source code to something which can pick up those feeds, and generate
    its own internal timestamps to insert into the “log”.


    The Newcastle player has a broken ankle. His manager felt it wasn’t malicious, and hence has no problems with it. I guess their bench strength in that position is fine, otherwise why would he say that?

    A year ago, it was easy to find out what was happening at The FA with respect to discipline. I know they “improved” their site before this season began, never went looking for discipline before today (hoping to see a note about SAF today). Starting from the home page, I couldn’t find anything. Not even using their own search function. When I did find something, I discovered it is no longer just plain HTML, you have to have javascript turned on.

    Rooney is 1 card away from a suspension. Maybe he is injured long enough, that that doesn’t happen?

    The second link is to the suspended players list.

    The format of that URL strikes me as something that only works once. There is nothing in the URL before the question mark which identifies the page as being suspended players list. And having a tilde in that beginning part of the URL also looks funny.

    But, I guess it is an improvement if no fan can find any kind of official disciplinary information about any player or manager, and they have to rely on their local news outlet to publish everything possible (from their unofficial sources).

    Arsenal is in 5th place for fairplay.

  23. Did they really not showed the tackle from Valencia on MOTD???

    Next on my to do list: look at broken limbs and look at who the refs are in those games.
    I know now that Dean has had two broken legs already: Eduardo and Anita. The interesting part will be to find out if some refs attract more broken legs than others?

  24. @Walter that will be very interesting.@Mick, rednose is kind of a godfather you fuck with him you will be dealt with accordingly. Some time on untold i have forgotten who had this story of how long refs who had not tailored his line of how they have been demoted or not given any manure matches for ages,no champions league games’ so you have to put your tail in your legs or else face the godfather of the premier league,simple.

  25. IMO every player knows what he is doing when he makes tackle he can make sure he hits whatever part of the body he wonts it always seems its the late tackles close or launched from a distance that does the most damage . Many years back Ian Wright had a run in with MU’s big Danish keeper the keeper came out feet first the ball was there to be won Wright went in played / made contact with the ball he was red or yellow carded for this tackle he could have just as easily played the keeper and the result would have been the same a 3 match ban

  26. The following simple statistics may cheer up those who feel our Club is in crisis as the year comes to an end:
    We lie 7th in the EPL but have a game in hand over most of our rivals.
    We are 5th highest for Goals For.
    We are 4th in least Goals Against.
    We are 4th best in Goal Difference.
    We lie 6th in least number of losses.
    We lie in 5th place for Fair Play.
    Not fantastic but hardly panic stations.

  27. The refs assistant looked visibly scared when SAF was ranting at him on the touch line yesterday, where was the ref to protect him and move SAF away. The PL, FA & refs association need to crack down on managers(and players) verbally abusing officials. I’m not picking on Man U as all teams do it to some extent but yesterday’s game and the game last week show how bad the attitude is towards officials(watch Rooneys verbal attack after the ball hit RVP’s head).

    MotD and other sports media do not help with their odd views on the laws of the game, their views are taken as true and are then repeated as “the rules” which then lead to more noise inside grounds when incidents happen putting pressure on the officials. This I think leads to what seems like indifferent decisions from the officials. Why are there no goal keepers as pundits on MotD etc why don’t they have ex refs as pundits to explain desisions, why don’t they show major incidents like the Valencia challenge.

    The sports media are a powerful tool and need to be as unbiesd as possible but by not showing tackles like the Valencia foul, by not questioning SAF about his rants at officials, having things like “the daily Arsenal” etc they leave themselves open to questionable motives and put more pressure on officials

  28. Gord,
    It isn’t a feed, unless I’ve misunderstood your comment, the first link is one to a video playlist where you can watch full matches after they’ve been played (including past games), it’s really very nice, especially for someone like me living in canada who can’t watch those 7am matches. I only gave the twitter account to give credit where its due, he doesn’t post on the spot commentary

  29. @ Steve, what rant? Mr Dean didn’t include it in his report, so according to the sweet FA this morning nothing happened.

  30. The thing is that refs know they are only as good for fergie as their last debatable decision. and they know this very very well.
    You can have given 10 dubious penalties in the past but beware of the day you give one against them. Or write a report.

  31. @Robi that is disgusting and just gives SAF a free reign over what he can say to officials.

    Respect should start at the very top and like it or not SAF is the top manager in English football and as such he should lead the way with the respect campaign towards the officials. Like most things it will take a big manager to be pulled up about his attitude and conduct towards officials before anybody takes notice. Being a paranoid Arsenal fan I can imagine the outrage if Wenger did that on the touch line and the line taken with Wenger is now becoming laughable with what has gone on at OT.

    Refs should make all reports open to the public and be accountable to a independent body over seeing what they do on the pitch.

  32. Now surely the FA must have it recorded somewhere? Didn’t they say they would record the conversations between refs and assistants after the Clattenburg incident? And as mics also record other voices such as the one from Ferguson they should know if he said anything bad?

    Of course it might be that the “we will record it from now on” was just utterly bullshit ….

  33. They showed the Valencia challenge on Sky sports, Valencia was apparently already on a booking. for me it was a reckless and uncontrolled challenge and deserved a straight red. not sure if Anita had his ankle broken, Nothing mentioned other than he is being looked at.
    The challenge came from the players blind side so he could not get out of the way let alone see it coming. There was no way for Valencia to win the ball without making contact with the player first.
    For me this is a clear example of reckless play resulting in a player maybe being out of the game for a little while.
    Should Valencia be banned for the duration of the injury he inflicted?
    I believe these situations are favourable for this kind of punishment as it is obvious that the challenge caused the injury. At no point could Valencia withdraw his challenge. Poor decision making and he should be made to pay.

  34. HA HA HA HA HA HA @Adam dean shit and his liner never reported that even the camera’s where off according to the F.A (f… …..s)Otherwise if it was any-other team they would have studied the videos as they always do. MAGWAMPA’S

  35. funny that the MOTD dummies saw the wrath of ferguson and intimidating actions on the refree as a ‘sign of passion’ at a tender age of 70. had it been some other coach, these dummies would be talking about possible disciplinary action from FA. MOTD and FA added to the list of things run by Neanderthals.

  36. All the fuss about Ferguson has diverted attention away from the Valencia foul. There should be no reason why FA do not take retrospective action, but I don’t expect it to happen.

    MOTD “experts” are a disgrace.

Comments are closed.