By Walter Broeckx
This week Howard Webb has taken away the last doubts. He will be the English ref that will go to the World cup in South Africa. This week he has done everything to deserve this but before I go to details I will tell you how FAs over the world hand the tickets to the refs to go to the World Cup.
How the teams qualify is easy to see. The one with the most points at the end can go to the world cup. But how do you give points to the ref ? That is a bit difficult. You might still be a bit naive and think that the FA gives this place to the ref that does it the best on the field and has the best performances. Every ref will tell you that a ref who give the least controversy would be the ref that has followed the rules the best. But we refs also know that this is not the way the FA works.
No the appointment of the ref is based on other criteria. Criteria that are talked upon in dark backrooms. It is based upon personal friendships, personal relations and other things that most of us do not realise. To get your plane ticket to South Africa you have to be in the good books of the big guns in the FA.
Who are those big and influential people in the FA ? Do you really think Wenger is one of them ? No, those big and influential people are managers who for some reason do seem to have a big influence and when they speak out the FA follows them some 99 of the 100 times. The first name that springs to my mind… yes Sir FA. All this is going on behind the scenes as you can imagine. No one is coming in the open with those kind of things. But I know how it works in my country and it is like I tell you.
So the battle between the refs has been going on for some while now. For a ref it is vital to know where your allies can be found. So when Webb at April 25 last year, is the ref of the game MIOU- Tottenham and Tottenham are 2-0 in front you have to do something to make the big person on the touchline a happy man. So when the Tottenham keepers comes out and punches the ball away from the MIOU striker you give a penalty for the big man at the touchline. And because of this injustice the Tottenham players lose their head and get so annoyed they lose the game at the end. Oh yes, I hated to bring this up you can be sure of this. Just to show you that even I can see when things are wrong and when Tottenham is on the receiving end of an injustice.
This is one way of helping the persons who could have a say in who will go to South Africa. The direct help line was also evident last week. When Liverpool were 1-0 up he came to the rescue once again. When a foul was outside the area he gives it inside and gives a penalty. When later a MIOU player kicks a Liverpool player after the ball is long gone, you don’t give the obvious red card, no you just give two players a lecture and give nothing, not even a yellow card. When Neville jumps with his 2 feet some 1,80m high right into a Liverpool player you wave play on. It doesn’t matter that he caught the Liverpool player at the back of his head. So once again you have done a great job in helping the big man.
But you can also help him when you do other games. So when I saw Webb as a ref at Birmingham I immediately told my son that we would be in trouble. And it proved so. The helping was obvious. I can hear the instructions from Sir FA. Try to give them as many early yellow cards as possible as this could hold them back in the game and they could even get banned in a few weeks time. So Webb did just that. He gave Song a yellow card for his first foul and also Clichy got a booking for being on the field. Must say the worst offence you can make as an Arsenal player.
The help was also rather clear in another way. If a Birmingham player goes down, it is always a foul. Even if there is no one around, just give the foul and if possible a yellow card. On the other hand Arsenal players are never fouled. No, only when they can show a broken leg or so, than you can give a foul. But you have to be sure the leg really is broken.
So once again it was frustrating to see how the ref let go a lot of things from Birmingham and he only gave a foul when it was so clear and obvious even a blind man would see how biased he was doing his job. After the two yellow cards against Arsenal I saw some very rough tackles like from Carr on Rosicky who was first held by the shirt and then kicked to the ground because Rosicky tried to stay on his feet. Holding the shirt is a yellow, than kicking him with the ball a few meters out is also a yellow but Webb did nothing.
Or when we were 1-0 up and Arshavin was going on goal with only Hart to beat with a lob. Hart was in no man’s land. And just when Arshavin tried to shoot he was pulled over by Carr. You know the guy that should have had a yellow for the foul on Rosicky. In fact as the pundits told us last week denying a clear cut chance is a red card. Webb chose the easy way and just gave a yellow card. Birmingham kept with 11 players on the field and got the lucky break.
Another thing about the Birmingham equaliser. When the ball was played in the ball went to a Birmingham player who was in an offside position. The linesman did not lift his arm for offside and I can agree with him. BUT on the other side of the field we had a free kick and Bendtner was offside but some 4 meters before the ball would reach Bendtner a Birmingham defender headed it in to a corner. But this the time the assistant did lift his arm and gave the positional offside decision. My only question is: is this assistant also going to South Africa or has he just earned his place today ?
So I think that Sir FA will be happy man tonight. Webb has done everything right to prevent us from playing our football. And with his performances the last weekend and this week, and the previous years, he knows he has his place in South Africa “really deserved” by making the right persons happy.
But remember, like Graham Poll made English referees really look stupid at the last world cup, it could well be that Webb does the trick again when he has to face a real game at the world cup. But then again, the way the refs are given games in the world cup is the same way but with other big and influential persons in high places who you have to keep happy.
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