The curious lack of knowledge of the laws of football of the Stoke manager and a Guardian journalist.

By Tony Attwood

Driving back from the match today I heard the Stoke City manager, a Mr P. Lambert, state on BBC radio that the first Arsenal penalty should not have been given because his Stoke player had got the ball.  The radio interviewer did not challenge or question this interpretation and his silence on the issue seemed to acknowledge that this was a fair point.  The player got the ball, so no penalty.

The Guardian in its after match report by a Mr Dave Hynter, backed up the notion of the dubiousness of the penalty claiming

Bruno Martins Indi stretched into a penalty box challenge on Mesut Özil in the 74th minute.

It looked clumsy and a little risky as the Arsenal midfielder had worked the position on him but TV replays confirmed that Martins Indi had got a toe to the ball. Craig Pawson’s penalty award felt like a kick to the guts.

Now as I drove home I pondered this.  Does “getting the ball” actually make a difference?   To my simplistic thinking, a foul is a foul and whether a player “gets the ball” it is still a foul.  If not, players could commit the most appalling assaults on each other in order to get the ball, and then get away with these actions because they had “got the ball.”

And yet the manager of Stoke, the Radio 5 interviewer and the Guardian writer all seem to suggest that “getting the ball” is important in deciding if a penalty is given.

The law of the game say, that direct free kick (or penalty if in the area) is awarded if a player commits any of the following offences:

  • handles the ball deliberately (except for the goalkeeper within their penalty area)
  • holds an opponent
  • impedes an opponent with contact
  • spits at an opponent

So we can see from that simple list, there is absolutely no mention of whether the player got the ball or not.  It is irrelevant.   If one player impedes another player with contact in the process of “getting the ball” it is a foul.

Now I am not sure if the manager of Stoke City, the Mr Lambert, actually knows  the rules of the game or not.  Either he does and he was being deliberately mischievous, or he does not, which is quite a sorry state for Stoke City and certainly explains why they are likely to go down.

But the interviewer on Radio 5, and a correspondent of the Guardian most certainly should know the rules of the game in order to hold down their positions.  If they don’t know the rules, how on earth can they give any sort of commentary on what is going on?  How can we take any of their commentaries seriously?

And yet neither of them raised the issue with the Stoke manager that getting the ball was utterly and totally irrelevant.

Whether this is a total lack of fundamental and basic knowledge that qualifies one to do the job, or a deliberate attempt to collude in doing Arsenal down, I can’t say. I would suggest the latter since surely we must expect both managers and “expert commentators” of whom the media love to boast, to know what they are talking about.

Actually though, I can’t believe I wrote that last sentence.

53 Replies to “The curious lack of knowledge of the laws of football of the Stoke manager and a Guardian journalist.”

  1. It is unfortunate that articles like this must be written, but good that you and the others on this site write them so well.

  2. Glen Hoddle is one of the chief culprits for ignorantly asserting that ‘he got the ball’ when giving us the benefit of his supposedly superior knowledge of the game. He comes out with it time and time again. Just listen to his ramblings when used as the ‘expert’ co-commentator on televised games, and yet he was England manager at one time as well as manager of Chelsea and a well capped international player. Surely a manager of the national team should be aware of the correct interpretation of the laws of the game.

  3. I go along with the he got the ball to a degree, but in this instance it was still in the path of Özil and he still had the chance to reach it before his leg was stopped as he tried to kick it.

    Anyway come on Ian Poulter he needs to win tonight to qualify for the Masters and he is three shots clear.
    It will be good to have a Gooner at the Masters especially if he wears the golf shoes with the cannon on.

  4. Tony,

    I just read the story on the Guardian and was coming to UA to write a comment….you were quicker.

    It just amazes me how

    1) the Kommentariat is incapable of understanding the laws of the game
    2) said Kommentariat is able to refute a penalty for Arsenal when they all agree any penalty against Arsenal is legit and justified whatever the reason for it.

    Thus they keep their bias acgive whatever the game situation is.

    Just deplorable.

  5. Any penalty Arsenal get is always seen as contentious by the media and opposing managers and players.

    Probably because they know how difficult it is for referees to award us any penalties!

    The media are on Arsenals and Wengers case big time as they sense blood.

    Winning the Europa league will be all the more sweeter. Fingers crossed.

  6. The foul was replayed 3 times during the match, and once more after, by NBC. They couldn’t stop rambling about how it was (allegedly) not a foul. I can’t remember them doing the same thing for the countless offside and diving penalty goals $ity and the tottenbums scored. Double standards is their name.

  7. it seems to me that it has been perceived for a long time that where the defender touches the ball before the foul, it is not a foul, yet in recent years there have been occasions when a penalty has still been given even though the defender has touched the ball.

    Yet, how many time have we been a defender, in a seemingly last-ditch effort, diving in to kick the ball away from the feet of the attacker and, although the attacker falls over the defender’s feet, it is not a penalty.

    So, when does getting the ball make a difference and when does it not?

    Can any of our referee colleagues help out with some criteria?

    As today was the 2nd day of Passover, I could not watch the match but am delighted we have continued our unbeaten run, even if the team seem not to have been at their best.

    Bearing in mind how often we play badly after an international break, is anyone surprised?

  8. It seems the BBC are in step with the Guardian and Mr P Lambert saying the Stoke defender got the ball first .
    Watching the game on TV with no sound I thought it was a definite penalty and once they showed a slow motion replay it confirmed it for me , if we get anything like a penalty it is highly scrutinised to a point that it shouldn’t have been given
    Look at the Hull cup final how we didn’t get 1 penalty let alone the 3 we should have had but not a word in the media how we were hard done by let alone the dubious penalties given against us

  9. Don’t take a borderline case.

    If a striker is dribbling the ball towards goal, and a defender catches up to the striker. and is not yet ready to move to tackle the ball. The striker takes his fist and punches the defender in the kidney. Did the striker commit a foul?

    Striker is dribbling the ball towards goal, and a defender catches up to the striker. The defender proceeds to move the ball with his foot, and then the follow through breaks the leg of the striker. Did the defender commit a foul?

    The _ONLY_ thing on the field that is actually allowed to trip a player, is the ball. A defender can stop the ball and the striker can then trip over the ball. That is legal. But the defender’s body is not allowed to trip the striker in a strict reading of the laws.

    Now if you as a referee want to interpret things so as to not impose on play too much, you can do so. But, you are not following the laws as written.

  10. There’s ‘he got the ball’ & ‘he got a bit of the ball’ used by these dopes called pundits. The Laws do not refer to the ‘bits of the ball’ but it sounds so good for the idiot. Laws state that contact with an opponent before contact with the ball is a foul. In reality contact with an opponent with undue force is a foul irrelevant of contact with the ball.

    The penalty decision on Ozil was absolutely correct. The one on Lacazette was for undue force as decided by the assistant. It wasn’t in line with the PGMOL Laws for Arsenal nor for that matter for thick Danny the Dope on BBC’s MOTD. I was surprised by both being given by Pawson as it is against corrupt Mikes instructions.

    I enjoyed the fact that Arsenal were actually given 2 penalties when selective blindness could so easily have not seen either.

    Incidentally there were 2 very nasty tackles by spuds on Chelsea players. The one by Vertongen on Hazard was a Red card all day long & a definite candidate for the FA review.

  11. I’ve read reports on this match from The Guardian, Mail, Telegraph, BBC, Independent & Standard and all bar The Indy refer to the “played ball first” scenario, so IMO it’s a bit churlish to single out David Hynter.
    Is it possible that they’re all correct and we’re not? I still stand by my earlier comment, but would admit to being wrong if somebody proved beyond doubt that it was not a penalty.

  12. IMO, it is not that the Guardian questioned whether there was a penalty or not but rather they…again…through the entire tenor of the article, slated the Arsenal performance. Stoke had chances and in the first half we were not particularly good but we took over and out played them. Are we world beaters? IMO, no, but on this day, we outplayed Stoke and deserved to win. So, the Guardian and its stable of donkeys can go to grass and eat hay.

  13. Let’s be clear here:

    1) Intent has no bearing on the decision of the referees or assistants, only actual outcome does,
    2) The Law does NOT say anything about first touching the ball when it comes to fouls and misconduct,they do say a lot about contact,
    3) The manner in which a player tries to play the ball is important and whether by accident or act, if he or she has contact and fouls an opponent while trying to play the ball or attempts to play the ball in a manner punishable by a direct free kick, it is ALWAYS a foul and IF in the penalty area, against an opponent, a penalty.
    4) A sliding tackle from behind is a risky affair and even if the defending player touched the ball in the process, it is a foul if there is contact as there was with Ozil, regardless of when it occurred, before during or after touching the ball.

    The general knowledge of the Laws that pundits possess is equivalent to our aaa moaners knowledge of nuclear physics, pretty scanty for the most part and certainly very sketchy overall.

  14. PTO… my answer and that is all you need to use in order to understand the application of the Law.

  15. Let’s watch out for PGMO retribution against Pawson. Most likely not officiating a premier league again this season.

  16. Did Pundit of the day show the Vertonghen leg breaker? Ref didn’t even call a foul. Straight red all day.

  17. I wonder how many repeats we would have seen by now if that challenge was made by one of ours

  18. So basically anyone winning a ball from an arsenal player, with follow up contact is a foul! Get that into all the referres and they would win the premership evey year! Perhaps they should also include when defenders are Shepparding the ball out of play! Definitely impediment!

  19. Two points M Smith. One is you win the prize for the craziest and indeed stupidist thing that has been said today in comments on this site. The other is that the email address from which you wrote is fake. If you can’t even be bothered to give us your real email address, do you think we should take you seriously?
    Oh, there is a third point. We do have your IP address.

  20. Not that I debate your interpretation, and indeed I agree with the referee that it was a foul charge and therefore a penalty. However, it seems to me that whenever the penalty is for arsenal, yours, Walters and every untold pundit has an interpretation that justifies the referee’s decision, on the other hand when the penalty goes against arsenal, the untold pundit panel always has the “pigmob” cheaters interpretation. For example, when bellerin conceded a penalty after kicking hazard, we didn’t get your explanation that “it is a foul if there’s contact regardless of when it occurred…”

  21. Dexter is correct, the media scent the blood of Wenger, I suspect they will have their quarry this summer or the next.
    I also suspect the club know they get a raw deal, hence hiring Raul S as director of relations, not sure what that means, but I do know he knows all the top brokers, including infantino very well. I don’t believe this club will stoop to the levels of some , but anyone who can get us a more level playing field is welcome. I remember an article in FIF which basically said Wenger is a romantic and in denial of some of the murkier aspects of the game, not sure he is that unaware personally, but perhaps not willing to stoop to counter it, our new exec , ex Barca, will never be accused of that.
    As for the media, this is the lot that complained bitterly when in the last minute, we got a pen against plucky Burnley when one of their decfenders wrapped their arms around Ramsey and pulled them back in the area, even their universally loved manager didn’t deny that was a pen, just made some cryptic comment about big teams getting decisions.
    I expect a relatively easy ride in the league from refs until the end of the season, Dean and co did their damage last autumn.

  22. Markyb
    The pundits on Match of the day (Murphy and Sutton) forgot to even mention how fortunate Spurs were to get away with the appalling tackles by Verthongen and Lamella, both of which should have been red cards. They did however find plenty of time to emphasize how lucky we were to benefit from the ‘game changing’ award of the first penalty. According to them, (and they are proffesional pundits and therefore know the rules) it was definitely not a penalty, the Stoke player got the ball first!

  23. How on earth did the Stoke player “win the ball”? He did touch the ball (and like it was said, it is totally irrelevant to whether it was a foul or not), but certainly not win it. Winning the ball would mean that by his touch of the ball, he had put it out of Ozil reach, or allowed a teammate to recover it.

    It is obvious that the touch barely changed the ball trajectory, and that even afterwards Ozil was still in control of it, and in a possible shooting position. Which makes the following contact a definite foul…

  24. Felix, I don’t think you quite understand the position. Our prime role, as I perceived it 10 years ago, and still see it, is within the name “Untold”. We carry the stories that other outlets do not and will not carry.

    So if all the media is carrying the story that Bellerin has committed a foul what is the point of us adding out voice to that. But if as yesterday, a penalty is given and the whole media cries out that this is not a penalty because the player touched the ball, then my intention is that we should be there commenting upon this issue.

    We have limited resources, we are all volunteers, we have to manage thousands of abusive and threatening emails a month and sift them out: time is limited. So we do what the name says: cover the stories that are Untold.

    But it is not true as you suggest that every penalty against us is shouted down. Far from it. If you were to read our reviews of the 160 games (the largest and most detailed review of refereeing ever undertaken save for the Referee Decisions website) you will see that what you allege is far from the case.

    I can’t see why this is so hard to follow.

  25. ‘If you were to read our reviews of the 160 games (the largest and most detailed review of refereeing ever undertaken save for the Referee Decisions website) you will see that what you allege is far from the case.’

    I’m certain I’m correct on this; weren’t those 160 reviews taken from all (or mostly) highlights of matches? In which case you can hardly have confidence it them.

  26. omgarsenal
    02/04/2018 at 3:44 am

    ‘ 2) The Law does NOT say anything about first touching the ball when it comes to fouls and misconduct,they do say a lot about contact,’

    Law 12 – Direct free kick..

    tackles an opponent to gain possession of the ball, making contact with the opponent before touching the ball.

  27. Just one example of how to put a positive slant on one teams performance and a negative on the other.

    From the Guardian regarding Liverpool’s win at Palace:

    “Liverpool were below par but showed the character they are often accused of lacking not only to shore up a top-four Premier League place but to secure a boost ahead of Wednesday’s Champions League match with Manchester City. It was a rare ugly win for one of Europe’s most thrilling sides and one that cynics would suggest they ultimately got away with.”

    So you have to be a ‘cynic’ now do you to dare to suggest Liverpool only one because they ‘got away with one’ ?

    The Liverpool Manager said:

    “For Roy Hodgson, it was a case of what could have been. The manager refused to blame Swarbrick for Palace’s fifth defeat in six league games, insisting he wanted to focus on “football watch and not referee watch”, adding: “A point was the minimum we deserved.””

    Obviously poor old Roy didn’t want to be accused of being a ‘cynic’.

    The Stats


    Crystal Palace = 6
    Liverpool = 16

    On Target:

    Crystal Palace = 3
    Liverpool = 6

    From the Guardian regarding Arsenal win over Stoke City:

    “For anyone down at the bottom there is a sense of inevitability that the breaks will go to the opposition. This was Stoke City’s lament. They had held their own at a typically edgy Emirates Stadium until Bruno Martins Indi stretched into a penalty-box challenge on Mesut Özil in the 74th minute.”

    But it seems you don’t have to be a ‘cynic’ to suggest Arsenal only won due to ‘the breaks’ going there way then?

    The Stoke Manager said:

    “I respect the referees,” the Stoke manager said. “I just think in big moments in big games, you have to be 100% sure. It was a game-changer. It was pretty soft.”

    Seems Lambert doesn’t have the same issues as Hodgson when it comes to being a ‘cynic’.

    The Stats:


    Arsenal = 24
    Stoke = 8

    On target:

    Arsenal = 11

    Stoke = 2

    So to summarise, Liverpool’s win, in a much tighter match was down to ‘character’, where as ours, which we completely dominated overall, was down to a dodgy ‘game changing’ penalty.

    A typical example from the guardian on how to put a positive spin on one team and a negative spin on the other.

    And this is only from the Guardian, I have no doubt a similar theme repeats throughout the media.

    Unless of course one of our regular visitors and media apologists can prove me wrong and show us all how balanced the media really are.

  28. Most of the problem is that the perception of the laws change over time just as the advance of PC into modern society. What was acceptable a few years ago no longer is.
    How often did you see Big Tone motion the shape of the ball after a foul had been given . In his time and for that matter most of the pundits that was the unwritten rule of the day.
    The understanding of the law has changed which is why diving has become such a bone of contetion , the slightest touch is deemed sufficient to warrant a player crashing to the floor. it’s interpretation , one ref will give it another won’t.
    Even on the Lacazette shove , it was the linesman that gave it.
    The whole thing needs highly publicised clarification so that we can all understand. Of course publicity is not part of the PGMOL’s remit and is unlikely to happen for as long as it’s vague they are protected from criticism.

  29. Porter – I think also one should differentiate between the protest of a player, as with Tony Adams, and the commentary of a manager and the commentary of a “pundit” and expert” on the mass media. The latter are the most insidious because they occupy a position which takes their message out to large numbers of people and are often called “experts” overtly. So their constant reiteration of a wholly false interpretation of the laws of the game smacks of something rather nasty.

  30. @tony, I’m sorry I should have indicated that my earlier post was intended for OMG. As I mentioned earlier, it’s hard to take the statement he made on contact justifying penalties regardless of timing. It would have sounded more unbiased if he had also made such statement during the bellerin -hazard incident. Now it just sounds like we make the referees right when they call in arsenal’s favor (like the handball goals last season, and penalties against Southampton and Burnley last season), however when the call is against us, ,they’re cheats.
    @Tony, indeed I agree that not all decisions against arsenal are contested by untold, and yes I’ve read the 160 games report a dozen times. But also not all decisions against/for arsenal are argued in an anti-arsenal manner by the press, but that doesn’t stop you from making that claim. Its called generalization. Few instances will go against the general trend on occasions, but reputation is gotten from the general/ common behavior.

  31. @Tony, let’s be clear on the bellerin-hazard incident. My point is you and OMG accept there was contact, OMG’s statement suggests that contact irrespective of timing justifies penalty, the press reports that bellerin conceded a penalty. Can you then tell me why untolds verdict was that cheating pgmo wrongly awarded Chelsea a penalty? And why OMG didn’t write in to counter this stance then?

  32. Thanks Menace…..misquoted the Law….happens to the best of us.

    PTO…..please tell us your vast experience in officiating, managing,playing, interpreting the Law, etc……until then, write an article about the Laws or do something useful on UA.

  33. The point that I was trying to make , ( obviously not clear enough ) was that at the time Tony was playing so were many of our so called experts and at that time anything went providing you got the ball. The law appears to be interpreted differently now but the first reaction of those playing at the time would be regarding the ball .
    I would like to see the PGMO in concert with Sky come forward and produce a programme that explains the rules that are open to interpretation. I.E Is offside called on the body or the feet ? Frequently a player on the turn has his feet level with the defender but because of his body shape he gets called offside. If that’s the case then he has to give a foot or so advantage to the defender and hang back or start his run later .
    What is a dive and what isn’t ? Is the slightest touch on the shoulder sufficient to bring down a fully grown man ? if so Oxford Circus would be mayhem in the rush hour, perhaps they need to be clearer on that.
    I know that things are different to the way they were when I played but my first reaction is to the mindset I was bought up with , I am not advocating returning to the days of Harris and Hunter but I do think that the pendulum has swung too far the other way. It is meant to be , at least it was , a contact sport after all.

  34. Glad to see nobody in the media really made a fuss about the 4 not given penalties in the match at Stoke earlier this season….

  35. Felix no I can’t because there is no such thing as “Untold’s verdict”. Untold Arsenal is written by people who wish to take up their time for no reward and write articles. We accept and publish articles that argue against my personal point of view providing they follow the standard views outlined in our page on comments and which are not simply repeating a general view expressed elsewhere (which would seem to me to be pointless). I don’t see what Walter or Andrew or Blacksheep or any of our core group of writers writes before it is published.
    As to why a person doesn’t write in on a particular subject, I certainly don’t have any idea. Indeed quite often I don’t have the time to write in myself on issues that concern me.
    As for the notion of “cheating PGMO” I don’t think you have really read our full commentaries on PGMO. My editorial position (which of course many disagree with) is that PGMO has chosen to organise itself in a way utterly different from other referee organisations in Europe, following an approach which in the past has facilitated rather than stopped Type III match fixing. They won’t explain why they have done this, so we are just left with suspicions and doubts as to why. But given this background it tends to make some of us suspicious about what is happening with refereeing, especially when the media refuse to pick up on the subject of why PGMO is organised in such an odd way.
    I hope that now answers your questions.

  36. Fair enough. But how you can attribute one particular view point to the press or indeed the cultivation of a singular view in a large number of fans to the press, as many, varied and heterogeneous as the press is. Yet not be able to do the same for a tiny group as untold arsenal(contributors &commenters) is surprising and smacks of double standards.

  37. I thought Vertongens awful near leg breaker not even called a foul by Martinet would have been a more worthy point for debate, but hey ho.

  38. OMG
    For fucks sake man, I was agreeing with you. Note my much earlier post at 7.48 yesterday, where I said the same but used far fewer words.
    It’s true what they say about you isn’t it?

  39. After watching the penalty incident several times, I’ve got to say I have to change my mind, it’s not a penalty. Martins India gets to the ball before ozil, who’ stumbles after kicking the back of Martin Indi’s leg

  40. PTO …you may say things about people on UA rather than provide salient arguments about the issues or even write something to gain our interest, but that’s par for the course with you. I’m not criticizing your post of yesterday, I am referring to this post:

    02/04/2018 at 6:47 am

    As I suspected.

    Your lowball commentary trying to bait us on UA is sad and cowardly…..step up, contribute positively and stop personalizing your chagrin at being found out for what YOU really are!

  41. PTO by the way, why do you hide behind an acronym….I write articles on here under my real name and have nothing to hide, why do you want to remain an anonymouse?

  42. OMG
    ‘As I suspected’ was in agreement with your comment to me. Sorry if you don’t see it that way.
    I’m not sure what you mean about who I am. What difference does that make to you or anyone else here? Would anyone care? I’m a very private person and have reasons to remain that way. Most of the posters on UA (including yourself) do not use their real names so take it up with them also, or if you feel that strongly about it write another flowery article on the subject. I’m sure it would be well received.

  43. PTO…please write a flowery article for UA, with your real name like I have done, otherwise……we’ll never know if you’re real or not!

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