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August 2021

Kill the referee: who has blood on their hands? The implications of RVPs push of a ref.

By Walter Broeckx

I was planning to write an article about the death of the referee in the US but then I saw that Don McMahon had already written a great article about this. I then was starting to write a comment but found out that it was something that was both involving the un-red card run of Manchester United and my article on that subject and the death of a referee all in once.

The comment turned out so long I took it back and wrote an article about where both things come together.

Because in a way there is a link between the death of this referee and some things that happened during the no-red card run in favour of  United players in the PL.

I will ask you to go back in time with me and relive the game Swansea – MU.

During the game between Swansea-MU we all remember the near-death experience as SAF called it when a Swansea defender kicked the ball against the head of RVP. Much was made about that incident. Images were analysed and specialists came from left, right, front and back to give their view. For me this was just a kick of the ball in the whistle incident.

But what nobody noticed (except me and a few others) was what happened when RVP came back from the death a split second later. Because in the heat of things he went up to the referee and punched him hard on his shoulder and shouted things at him. You could see that it was an aggressive push.

When I saw it first my first reaction was: surely the ref will send him off with a red card and the FA will ban him for months.

But nothing was done. NOTHING! Despite this being an aggression towards the ref. A clear aggression.

I then wrote in a comment about this incident that such “bad example” in many ways was bad for referees all over the world.

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If RVP can attack a referee unpunished then why couldn’t John Smith or Jack Jones do the same? RVP got away without red card without a ban, so it is fine to attack. And what is the difference between a punch and a push? In the heat of the moment it is just a small difference.

Of course it was weak from the ref on the field in Swansea to let it go. He should have done the right thing and give RVP a red card. But you know refs don’t do it like that.  In this past season they have not done anything that might have made SAF angry.

And the FA and PL well in the hands of people who are linked with MU or are openly supporters of MU did nothing of course.

The sad thing is letting such incidents go leads to more aggression towards referees on each field all over the world. And then things get out of hand. And all wash their hands in innocence.

But in a way there is blood on the hands of RVP for his aggression on the referee like he did.  And in a way there is blood on the hands of the ref who allowed it to happen unpunished.

And in a way there is blood on the hands of the FA and the PL and the PGMOL (who should have reacted in public and demand punishment and protection for their ref) for doing nothing.

At the end of the day it all comes to this: does the FA, the PL and the PGMOL really do all they can to not only make sure that the game is done in a fair way?  And are they doing all they can to make sure that referees are respected and protected during the game?  Because protecting the referee in the PL on the field by all means is protecting the referees all over the world.

The PL likes to portray itself as the world wide league that is followed more than any other.  Which will be near to the truth. So they must realise that their responsibility is far bigger than those of all the other leagues. If the PL would act strongly when a ref is attacked or suffers from aggression from a player then it will give a signal to the whole world.

And maybe players all over the world will think before they try to copycat the wrong behaviour of players in the PL and in this case from one of the biggest stars in the PL.

That is a responsibility the FA, the PL and the PGMOL is carrying and should be aware of. You cannot claim and want to be the biggest in the world and not take on the extra responsibility it brings.

Finally for those who might say that we attack the referees on this site: yes we do. But we never allow aggression towards the ref. We even agree with yellow cards for dissent even when the ref was wrong in his decision on the field and one could even feel sympathy for the player who tells the ref he is wrong.

What we do is judge the ref on their decision: was it right or was it wrong. And refs can be pointed at their mistakes. And we are all in favour of refs being punished for making too many mistakes. But that is a process that contined off the field. On the field the ref is untouchable. Outside we can analyse his performance just as we do with players.

But never have we done anything that could lead to aggression towards a ref. In fact if the FA, the PL and PGMOL would do as we have suggested on many occasions in the past there would be no need to attack a referee in the PL at all. Things could be settled in a professional way with immediate video replay  and other things we have suggested. No need to attack the ref then.

But well maybe for FIFA, UEFA, the FA, the PL, the PGMOL the chance of people having an argument in the pub after the game has more value than the life of this poor ref. The ref who also is someone’s child, the ref who is also someone’s partner, the ref who is also someone’s father. But let that not be a reason to lose one second of sleep for the big officials who ru(i)n the game.

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37 comments to Kill the referee: who has blood on their hands? The implications of RVPs push of a ref.

  • Sav from Australia

    Good article, Walter. I did not know that RVP actually punched a referee in that match. Wow!…will that go into the end of season review, in terms of how his subsequent goals affected the title race or the relegation battles?

  • Anaekwe patrick

    The ref. was wise not to react to the RVP’s punch. Why? The ref. was officiating a match involving the ‘touch not’. The no red card situation for a team in a whole season is a pointer to the fact that the ‘touch not’. does exist in the EPL.

  • weedonald

    Great stuff Walter. the only thing I would say is that officials should not just be disciplined for their continued errors but educated so that they eventually learn how to avoid such mistakes in the future. That, among many other elements, is what makes a good referee become a great one

  • A. Stewart

    “Because in a way there is a link between the death of this referee and some things that happened during the no-red card run in favour of United players in the PL.”


    To me, there is in no-way, any link between the two incidents.

    “If RVP can attack a referee unpunished then why couldn’t John Smith or Jack Jones do the same?”

    The mere inferrence that RvP “attacking” a referee just perhaps gives a kid (yes John Smith/ Jack Jones, sure) in Utah the feeling of empowerment to punch a ref eventually leading to his death, is pretty bold and borderline offensive.

    “Because in the heat of things he went up to the referee and punched him hard on his shoulder and shouted things at him. You could see that it was an aggressive push.
    And what is the difference between a punch and a push? In the heat of the moment it is just a small difference.”

    push? punch? hard punch on shoulder? small punch? attacking?

    Quite some difference really.

    Look I get it, as Gooners we’re supposed to hate RvP, United, and their favour from the refs…but using this tragic and very unprecidented incident half the world away, to make a partisan point against our domestic “enemies” is pretty low in my opinion. The title of the article is pretty is pretty offensive too.

    Though I’m sure you’ll get much congratulations on here for linking this all together.


  • mick

    I wonder has there been a case where a player from one of the top clubs was ever sent off for pushing a ref? Somewhere in the back of my mind i think i can recall this happening, I have a feeling the player concerned wore a red shirt with white sleeves, (which i think pretty much explains why the red card.)

  • A. Stewart

    “Good article, Walter. I did not know that RVP actually punched a referee in that match. Wow!…”

    You didn’t know that RVP actually punched a ref Sav, because he didn’t punch the ref, nor even push him, he put his hand on his shoulder. Yes he was angry/agressive, and could/should have been disciplined for making contact with the ref, but in NO-WAY is the portrayal in this article of what RvP did in that incident reflected in the reality of what actually happened.

    Just youtube the incident for yourself and see. (“manchester united swansea, RVP search” will yield loads of videos of it)

    I just don’t understand the need mischaracterize what happened and then to link it to the tragic violent death of someone a world away, and use sensational headlines like blood on hands etc.


  • Sav from Australia

    A Steward, your existence is offensive. I gather you intend to insult by continuous use of the word ‘wow’.

    Silly man/woman. Its lucky the internet is anonymous, eh? Or is it, or is it?

  • A. Stewart

    “But in a way there is blood on the hands of RVP for his aggression on the referee like he did. And in a way there is blood on the hands of the ref who allowed it to happen unpunished.”

    Seemed to have missed this line.

    Wow, if RVP/Oliver knew or cared enough about this utterance, perhaps a good libel lawyer could make something out of this.

    Just a little friendly advice.

  • A. Stewart

    Sav, insult me all you want…

    Go watch the video for yourself and re-read the description and then decide if it is accurate.

    Or is it easier, more comforting, justifiable to be spoonfed a sensational mischaracterization of an incident on a football field and accept the claims that this can be linked to the tragic death of a human being elsehwere..just because you may dislike RVP/Manu/PL Refs..?

    Watch the video of the incident and think for yourself, it’s really not that difficult.

  • A. Stewart


    1 – It’s Stewart not Steward

    2 – “Wow” is not intended by me to be used as insulting. It’s actually used for my genuine shock at this article and its claims. Insulting is actually would you attempted by saying my “existence is offensive”

    3 – I’m a man

    4 – I’m not sure what you’re getting at with it being lucky or not about the internet being annonymous. Not sure what your point is really but do carry on.

    5 – not really sure why you are so angry at me, when all I pointed in in response to you not knowing that RVP actually punched the ref, is that he didn’t actually punch the ref.

    6 – Have a good day friend.

  • El tel

    Forget the killing of Rsf accusation as it is a bit OTT.

    The thing is if Robin Van s..t c… Had done this while at Arsenal he would have been punished.

    The Manc fans I have the misfortune to talk to hate it when I discredit almost all their titles with comments about incidents that happen in almost all their games.

    They have just lost their Gangster and I am told Gill is off too. This smells to me and I wonder if they are close to being exposed therefore jumping ship to save that terrible Clubs fate.

  • A. Stewart

    “The thing is if Robin Van s..t c… Had done this while at Arsenal he would have been punished. ”

    Fine, no disagreement from me here..and having an honest discussion (which doesn’t include saying he punched the ref hard etc) about the merits of if he would have been punished, how severely he should have been punished etc., is an entirely different conversation from mischaracterizing what he did, and then gratuitously implying he (and Michael Oliver) has blood on his hands and a possible/theoretical link to the tragic and unfortunate death of a man in an unrelated incident in Utah.

    I find it disturbing that people are willing to accept this and justify it based on partisan feelings as football fans.

    If people want to get angry with me (or UA wants to take issue with me) because of my take on it so be it.

    In my view I’m no less of a gooner because I think this post, its sensational mischaracterizations and its implications/accusations towards RvP/Oliver are offensive..personally I put humanity before football partisanship.

  • Sam

    kinda gotta agree with a lot of what A. Stewart says.

  • Sam

    kinda like what Sav is about, also.

  • Rufusstan

    Walter. while I usually agree with you on most things, I cannot here. Having no memory of the incident, I went to find it (clip above).

    You know the rules way better than I ever will, so if laying hands on the ref in any way is a red; then he should have gone.

    On the other hand, I see no punch, or any aggression towards the ref at all. He does put his hand on the ref’s shoulder and turn him a bit as the ref moves, but he isn’t violent; just trying to get the ref’s attention.

    To say it again, if that level of contact on a ref is enough, then fair enough. He should have gone for raising hands to Williams anyway so it is kinda mood 🙂

  • nicky

    Van Persie and others at United would do well to revise their conduct next season. No longer will they have the protection of the bully behind them.
    This may well be the start of impartial refereeing at long last.

  • sperez

    It seems Ferguson will retire. See the difference. Ferguson retires at the top. Wenger wants to stay at Arsenal beyond 2014 despite being a complete failure for years…
    As a club Arsenal has to change its mentality.
    I hope the club doesn’t persist with this serial loser by giving him a new contract. Enough is enough!

  • A. Stewart

    Rufusstan, thank you…

    That’s all I was saying..the incident is grossly mischaracterized in the article, and then that mischaracterization is directly (and imo libelously) linked (the accusations of RvP/Oliver having blood on hands) to the tragic death of a man in an unrelated incident.

    I have a problem with that, and I don’t think that being a gooner and thus disliking RvP/ManU/PL Refs makes it justifiable, and I can’t understand the abuse from people like Sav for my stance on that.

    Is a forum like this not for discussion including alternate view points, or do we expect everyone to agree with everything just because we support the same football club?

  • WalterBroeckx

    You don’t touch a referee. Any player doing that to me walks with a red card.
    And so say most refs I know.

  • A. Stewart

    Rufusstan, again great post…

    And discussing the merits of if and how much RvP should have been punished and any subsequent effect of that decision/non-decision on that particular game and beyond, is a good discussion to have and an entirely different conversation.

    However, even if the Author wanted to discuss it like that (with all the hyperbole and links to the Utah death), and how United benefitted, then one also has to have an equally open discussion about the Williams kick of the ball to RvP’s head (forgetting all of Ferguson’s equally hyperbolic stuff about killing him) and how that decision/non-decision could have affected the particular incident, particular game and beyond.

    Some people think it wasn’t accidental and that Williams should have gotten a red (I think it’s fair to say we’ve seen players sent off for kicking/throwing the ball towards an opponent and striking him with much less force than that before) perhaps if Oliver shows Williams a red there, RvP doesn’t react as bad, never lays a hand on Oliver, and United with a man advantage and a quarter of the game left goes on to win the game…?

    Therefore someone else can make the argument that this was an incident that United actually didn’t benefit from like the should have, as opposed to how it’s presented here as a non-decision that they benefitted from.

    That’s the problem about playing these hypothetical cause and effect scenarios, one has to think and discuss with fairness all the possibilities and resultant scenarios. And it’s very difficult to remove bias from the process.

    Lastly, before Walter chimes in, it hasn’t gone unnoticed that there may have been a clever and deliberate attempt to use hyperbole in the article as Ferguson did with “they could have killed him” with regards to the incident, :)..

    But my points stand.

  • Saketh

    nice read walter 🙂

  • A. Stewart

    “You don’t touch a referee. Any player doing that to me walks with a red card.
    And so say most refs I know.

    Fair enough, I tend to agree

    (that’s one thing I like about watching US sports, they don’t stand for any contact or in most cases bad language with the officials)..

    However, it like many other things is not uniformly applied, I see players almost every week in the prem touching the ref when pleading their case and trying to get their attention, about something they disagree with..

    Heck just this weekend past the very same Michael Oliver was involved in an incident with Victor Anichebe (the one where Distin’s goal was disallowed), where he ran up angirly to Oliver and touched him when pleading his case that he didn’t foul the keeper in the box…. And he got a yellow card, was it for the “foul” on the keeper, was it for the touch on Oliver (as it seems to me), no-one seems to know or more importantly care, unfortunately that’s how common place contact of this manner with refs has become. Not excusing it at all, but to single out RvP’s is a little rich.

    Perhaps somewhat ironically, my initial reaction to the yellow on Anichebe was I bet if that was Rooney (thus ManU), John Terry, Lampard, A. Cole, Gerrard etc then they wouldn’t have been carded. Who time and again have approached refs very aggressively and touched them when pleading a case.

    And again regardless of Ferguson’s OTT nonsense about Williams could have killed him, what about the kick of the ball that started the whole thing?..the whistle had already clearly gone for a foul on RvP..The merits of that decision/non-decision also has to be discussed in the context of this RvP thing. Again, players have walked for much less, and much more clearly accidental ball strikes on their opponents than what Williams did to van Persie.

    Anyway, that’s it for me on this…

  • Rufusstan

    Mick — the only one I can remember is the current Sunderland manager.

    Walter, I hope the idea still holds in practice, as that is exactly how things should be. It just is not the impression you get watching games every week.

    I think previous comment have hinted that my playing background is based on Rugby and the sorts of things you see every weekend in the PL just did not happen. — I pointed out on Don’s thread that punching a ref can lead to a lifetime ban from the RFU.

    Its a funny thing, the FA call for respect for refs, but often respect comes from fear. Without consequences, there is no fear, and no respect.

  • WalterBroeckx

    In my country pushing a ref results in a usual ban of 3 years. Unless you are a professional football player 🙁

  • Florian

    Thank you Rufusstan for providing the link. It was a push alright, but if I was the ref I’d have been even more concerned with the way RVWhatever gesticulated just prior to almost manhandling the ref. Those gestures alone would have made the player imho bookable for dissent.

  • bjtgooner

    While respect for the ref should be shown on all occasions, I do hope Dean pulls a hamstring tonight!

    Good article Walter.

  • bob

    Interestingly, would RVP ever have touched a referee that way when he was playing for Arsenal? That too, methinks, is the Fergie effect. The same reptile-king whose minions can bum-rush the referee with impunity; just as he could mostly flay any ref with his lizard tongue and never (well almost) ever see a card. There’s an atmosphere of entitlement that Don Fungus enforced and the ref’s who played along got rewarded and those who didn’t got “touched.”

  • bob

    I hope you consider getting out in front of it from a quantifiable refshite standpoint: the Moyes-Fungus connection. Can you break out some database results of Moyes vs. AFC and Moyes vs. ManUre. The Guardian is assuring the world that Moyes is definitely the new one. Is this not some kind of demonstrable reward for services rendered? You’ve got the data there; surely where there’s smoke there is fire. 🙂

  • bob

    Indeed, there is still karmic justice, even as human justice falls short…

  • bob

    Sorry to do this, but 2-2, Spuds/Chelski. And there’s massive talk about a certain flag-person’s massive impact on the outcome. I’ll leave it there for a soonish time, in respect to this topic; but some of the miscreants who micro-control or are controled to control crucial outcomes will sorely test anyone’s patience with the refshite that itself is a form of institutional coercive activity.

  • Shard


    strangely enough, I thought the game was refereed very fairly throughout, although Dean seemed to have forgotten his cards till late in the second half. Adebayor was offside in the build up to the second, but it was the sort of call that is ‘acceptable’ I feel. Provided the Sky network drew the line across the pitch fairly, Adebayor was less offside than Walcott was against ManU.

    Can’t complain about the refereeing today, and while that doesn’t mean Dean has reformed upon hearing of whisky breath calling it a day, we should take it as a good thing. It’s back in our hands now, and we better not let Dean, Wigan, Newcastle or anyone else snatch it away from us now.

  • bjtgooner

    My concern before the match(apart from Dean) was that Chelski would run out of steam towards the end of the match – and they did look a bit tired towards the end.

    As Shard pointed out 4th place is now back in our own hands (assuming we avoid being shafted by Dean) – and there is a chance a tired Chelski will drop some points in the last two matches.

  • Stuart

    A. Stewart

    “The mere inferrence that RvP “attacking” a referee just perhaps gives a kid (yes John Smith/ Jack Jones, sure) in Utah the feeling of empowerment to punch a ref eventually leading to his death, is pretty bold and borderline offensive.”

    I have a feeling you don’t have kids. This is exactly the type of thing kids will copy because their idol does it, they then grow up with it seeming OK to do.

  • Rufusstan

    Walter, you are right about the PL. Back to fear again. With the money and power the big clubs have, the authorities seem afraid to impose the sort of sanctions their actions often deserve.

    Back to my broken record, the RFU seem perfectly happy to throw huge bans at international players if deserved. Then again, the clubs have nowhere the power of Pl ones, and they have always had that sort of authority, so everyone just accepts it (usually — there is probably a case somewhere where a club has gone to law over a ban).

  • Mike

    I read most of the comments but stopped once I reached the conclusion that it wasn’t a punch and the “blood on the hands” comment is a bit OTT. The fact is that RVP actually committed 3 or 4 sending off offences and didn’t get a card for any of them. We all know that playing for Arsenal he would have got a red and a 3 match ban at the very least. It is quite absurd that such bias can exist among “neutral” match officials which are allowed to persist by the governing bodies.

    As I explained to Man U colleague (not from Manchester, no relations from Manchester etc etc) it is still unclear whether Man U have actually WON the title this year yet. My personal judgement is that they must win by at least 20 points to prove that they have not just been handed it by referees. Whether Man U have to rebuild Old Trafford this summer so as to incorporate a level playing field is unknown. My belief is that, much like the Freemasons, Man U have managed to create a self-perpetuating group of supporters within the footballing authorities which will stand them in good stead for many years to come as long as the sychophants in the media allow the sitaution to continue.

  • A. Stewart

    @ Stuart,

    A 3 year old daughter actually.. And no, I still think that RvP touching of the ref’s shoulder, doesn’t influence kids to violently punch a ref in his head, and didn’t in that case in Utah.They’re simply not the same.

  • Stuart

    Of course RVP touching the shoulder of a ref doesn’t influence kids to violently punch a ref, I completely agree. Your statement however referred to ‘attacking’ a ref not being copied by kids. I was merely pointing out that it would cause such influence which I’m sure you would agree with.