Football reduced to the survival of the fittest. The untold referee index – gameweek 3

by Walter Broeckx

So let us have a look at the ref from the game against Airburn Rovers – Arsenal. Ref in charge was Mr. Foy who had received a fair deal of criticism after the game Stoke City – Tottenham H.  And he deserved that criticism as he was truly bad in the Stoke game.

But how did he do at our away game ?

The first miss he made was not giving a yellow card against Song early in the game when Song was bringing someone down rather cynically.

Next important thing was that all three goals were within the rules – nothing to report.

And then he gave a yellow card for a blatant pull on the shirt from Givet who was testing the quality of Walcott’s newly designed top.

If this would have been all that there was to report Mr. Foy would have a fairly good game. But for the first time this season I feel the need the bring in the other decisions table as there are a few things I should report and take in to account.

Let us start with the wrestling in the penalty area. I don’t know how the FA is dealing with the instructions from Fifa but in other parts of the world the refs get the instructions to act before a corner or long throw is taken. This means that when you seen players holding each other, wrestling each other, blocking each other, blocking the keeper, … you should stop the free kick or throw in, or corner, from being taken.  You then call over the people who are doing all those kind of things that are against the laws of the game, and warn them that you will take action and then take action.

Nothing of that kind to see with Mr. Foy. As a ref you should be the boss on the field and it should be you who is telling the players what to do. Now after seeing this game (and the summary of the Stoke-Tottenham game) it is clear that Mr. Foy is not the boss on his field. He just lets players do what they want and he just accepts the outcome. If the defender wins the illegal battle, fair for him. If the striker wins the illegal battle, also fair for him. He just let things happen, in the rules or outside the rules it doesn’t matter for him. The survival of the fittest seems to be his motto when refereeing the game.

And I don’t want to say that our players didn’t commit fouls. Because when you allow attackers to start using those tactics the defenders start to react and then you get this scenes where 12 players in total are holding each other and all are committing fouls. So as a ref there is indeed nothing you can do after that because you cannot punish 12 fouls at the same time. But you have to act BEFORE the fouling starts and warn the players about what they are doing. Nothing with Mr. Foy of that kind. He just let the players do what they want and by allowing this he makes a fool of himself as a ref.

Now I could go and count all the scenes when he didn’t act in accordance with the instructions but I will keep it to five situations and a score of five points. And he gets a score of 1/5 because at one occasion he actually gave a foul when Almunia was pushed out off the field when he had collected the ball. But if I really would have to count all the scenes it would be maybe some 15 in total I think.

And then we have the question which was asked by Terrence McGovern and which I was going to take on anyway: “Yesterday, during an Arsenal attack a Blackburn defender was guilty of a blatant handball which broke to THEO who converted from what appeared to be an offside position. The offside was deemed to be the dominant offence and it resulted in a free kick even though Blackburn were guilty of a blatant hand ball on the edge of their box. How does that work exactly?”

First of all, the handball was outside the box so it never would have been a penalty.  But beyond that…

The instructions are that as a ref you have to punish the first foul. If we analyse the situation we come to the following conclusion. Theo was in a offside position. But an offside position itself is not a punishable offence. You must get the ball, or interfere with play, before you can be punished. They call this the “wait and see” rule which means that you only raise the flag for offside when the offside is punishable.  So if the ball would have gone to Theo without anyone being near it would have been offside.

But because the ref has to punish the first foul (this means happening in real time) he should have punished the handball from the Blackburn player and give a free kick to Arsenal. Because the first foul that  happened (in time) was handball and then after that foul the offside was punishable.

But I can understand that assistant raised his flag to indicate the offside position. He maybe couldn’t see the handball and he had to make sure he made the offside signal to indicate the punishable offside situation from the moment Theo touched the ball.

It was up to the referee to then take his responsibility and give the free kick for handball.  And even give a thumbs up to his assistant for signalling the offside but he then should have made it clear that the first punishable foul on the pitch was the handball. It is very easy to do for the whole stadium as you make a gesture with your hand and point to it, and everyone would know what happened.

But as we know of Mr. Foy, and as I described him earlier on, he never takes the difficult road and always leaves things like they are. He could hide himself behind his linesman flagging and he followed the linesman decision. So yet again Mr. Foy has showed that he doesn’t take responsibility and takes things in hands. 0/1 points for this.

So where does this takes us in total

Cards 1/2

Goals 3/3

This would mean a total of 75% BUT for the reasons mentioned above I have to change this and take in account his failures on the other decisions

Other decisions 1/6

And if we then make a total then the final score is 56 %. Remember 90% means a very good game and this score, even without the other decision score is far from 90%.

The only advice I can give to Mr. Foy is to work on his game management and personality,  and let the players feel you really are in charge and also a good read of the rule book at times can be helpful. So yes we won the game but I really feel that the ref was poor, but it didn’t affect the final outcome of the game.

PS : I would like to add that if you have any questions about the rules just feel free to ask. Even in the comment section from other articles. If I see them I will take them in to next week article. You can also ask questions about non-Arsenal games but then I would like to ask you if you could provide me with a link to some images because it is very difficult to judge a situation and not having seen it.

Walter Broeckx is a referee in Belgium.


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40 Replies to “Football reduced to the survival of the fittest. The untold referee index – gameweek 3”

  1. Is it possible to add a total for the other games on the bottom?
    Easier to follow and see if it evens out during the season. Might be a lot of spam come may though.


    Game 1 vs opponent – ref – 56% – score (2-1).
    Game 2 ….
    Game 3 ….

  2. Hi Walter,

    Excellent report of the rules re handball/offside that weren’t followed.

    You’re writing is without fault, but your maths….

    Cards + goals = 4/5 = 80%. Cards + goals + other decisions = 5/11 = 45.5%.

    Sorry, but you cannot add together two percentages and divide the result by 2 without the high possibility of an error. I’m not being picky here, just trying to keep you factual.


  3. Sorry Walter I should have perhaps eloborated on my question at the time but I wanted to kepp it as an enquiry and not a debate.

    I knew that the handball was outside the area and that in all probability the result was potentially a free kick and never a penalty however the “key” aspect of my enquiry was this:

    If the last player to touch the ball was a blackburn defender( ie who handballed it to THEO which doesn’t seem to have been in dispute), how was Walcott deemed to be offside? Surely if the ball comes off a defender last this negates the oddside ? yes?…No..?

  4. Great article Walter, but I ll go a bit off topic.
    Is it my “supporter” blindness or there are really double measures in EPL. Anyone who watched last week Fulham vs Manure game, and sow penalty given to MUFC could see the same kind of handball just in opposite box, less than 2 minutes later, with ref in same position, just this time silent. With explanation “there were no intention”. Walter how can intention be described? What is difference between ball hitting Duff in upper leg and ricocheting in his hand, and one when ball hitting ground and than Vidic hand?
    Yesterday game, Gigs is tackled from behind and its penalty, same situation in MUFC box, this time its not penalty, rather “What a great tackle”?

    Watching yesterday Liverpoo game, how much wrestling is actually allowed? How much shirt has to be stretched? Till it tear or ?

    It don’t look to me as refs mistakes anymore, it is now series of blunter’s day by day, game by game.

  5. Terrence,
    The touching the ball by an opponent is not enough to take away the offside position. If TW was offside at the moment that Cesc has a shot on goal and the bal would rebound to TW he must be judged offside as he is gaining advantage from his offide position at that moment.

    Only if a defender kicks or heads the bal and hits it the offside is not punishable. Let us say a defender that attempts a back pass to his keeper and did not see the attacker then he intented to touch the ball. But a shot hitting a defender then the attacker still is in an offside position and should be punished. According to the rules.

  6. Gooneraside,

    I never explained about it but I do the maths that I give the ref a percentage on each subject

    goals 3/3=100%
    cards 1/2=50%
    other decisions 1/6=17%

    Then I add them all 167:3= 56%.

    I didn’t mention it this time and I think I only mentioned it in the comment section last time.

    At first I did it but then people said that if a ref gets 8 goals in a game who are correct and for the rest he has some bad mistakes you cannot see it and the correct goals take away his mistakes.

    But I will mention it next time IN the article and also will mention the refs so far all taken with the same method.

    I did it like this because I felt that it would be more balanced at the end of the day. But then again both methods have their good and bad things I think. Maybe I should keep both scores? I will think about it in the next 14 days and let you know

  7. Intention with handball is very difficult to describe as in fact the ref cannot look inside a players head.

    But a player can try to avoid handballs and this is how the ref should look at it. If a player makes himself bigger by sticking his arms out and the ball hits his hand or arm it should be intentional. Because if you throw yourself in the line of a shot and you use your arms to possible block the ball it is a deliberate action and should be punished. Even if the shot comes from close range.

    On the other hand a player will never kick the bal deliberate against his own arms. So the Duff handball when it came of his leg was not intentional.

    And why the ref gives it? To avoid SAF being mad at you I think.

  8. Walter.

    Thanks for the explanation, and you can add percentages and divide them, but only if you want an incorrect result.

    To be mathematically correct, and thus correct in your calculations, you must add all of your pluses and bases and then divide the total bases into the total pluses. Otherwise, you might as well just make it up as you go along.

  9. Hi Walter. Obviously there were too many comments to read on Ref 2. You must have missed mine:

    August 23rd, 2010 at 5:12 pm

    Walter. Sorry mate but you can’t average percentages unless they are working from an identical base figure. e.g. ‘Arry goes scrumping. He steals 50 apples and 10 gooseberries. 2 of the apples (4%) give him heartburn, all 10 of the gooseberries (100%) give him the squits. Now whilst this explains why ‘Arry boy is such a miserable looking sod, it’s wrong to say that 52% of stolen fruit cause ‘Arry a problem.
    It’s only 20%. 2+10 ÷ 60 = 20%

    NOW to your expertise…Can you explain why free kicks to us in say, our half can be taken a) nowhere near the site of the foul, b) often with the ball moving c) and the ref departing the scene not even looking at the ball? So, quick free kicks are allowed providing they’re not immediately goal threatening?

    BUT if they are goal threatening, then the wall can be built, the attacker has to wait for the ref’s whistle AND all or much of the attacking advantage has been nullified? Why do the guilty party get the advantage? This rule was only brought in a few years back but even so, cost Thierry Henry more than a few goals…and Cesc would have had a feast last year. Makes no sense to me. Thoughts?

  10. GF60, yes I missed that one.

    I will be going back to class this week and start my maths again and hopefully come up with a decent way of calculating things and maybe start again like I first intended and that was taking all the points and get only one percentage at the end….

  11. the offside was correct as the player was blocking the ball to stop it going to theo, meaning he was interfering with play

  12. And where I feel more comfortable: yes it is like you said. A quick restart (this is how it is called by Fifa) can only happen when you have a few conditions at the same time. You cannot allow it if the ref has to give a card, when there is some trouble nearby, or when there is some kind of dispute, in short when you have to manage the situation.

    And the rulebook also is telling us that a quick restart NEVER can be given near or in the penalty area. Remember the Porto quick restart which was totally against the rulebook.
    It was so blatant that even Fifa found it necessary to remind us of this rule at the start of the season.

    You could say that this ruling is in favour of the defending (and mostly fouling) team when it is near their own penalty area.

    Why fifa decided this I don’t know but I think, but this is me just guessing, that they had the opinion that in many rules the ref must give advantage to the attacker when there is doubt (eg. offside decision) and to balance things they maybe were thinking in giving this time de defenders a bit of help?

  13. I dont think its correct to compare ref decisions of different leagues. Its more flowing football in Spain but in England, its more physical. Even in the Italian league, its physical, even there we can see such tactics used. And EPL has the same physical tactics used in the game. Thats one of the reasons why most of the wrestling and blocking during corners or free kicks are not given as fouls in England. You can see such fouls in almost all the Premier League games. So i wouldn’t count those decisions unless they are extremly physical. We are most concerned about all this bcoz, its our weak point. We are little nervy during set plays. And thats bcoz we dont have too many physical players in our game.

    Even in sliding tackles, unfortunately, as Wenger said, our players are not protected. And its bcoz our players dont play the normal EPL football game, which is highly physical in nature. Our football is more free-flowing like the Spanish League football. And thats why we become more of a target in EPL.

  14. I’d just like to point out, that perhaps, in the case of the handball, at first Mr.Foy wanted to play the advantage? Seeing as it happens first, I mean, any other part of the field, had it not been an offside, I’m quite sure a ref would play the advantage if it were to be a chance at goal, however, it was an offside, so he gives the offside..

    What do you think about that Walter?

  15. Have another look at the Song incident Walter. I think the referee was conned by Diouf; it was not a foul and definitely not a booking as Diouf saw Song coming across and was on his way down before being touched. It’s not easy to see in real time, which is why he got a free kick, but a booking would have been really unfair.

  16. JeromJ, you could be right thatFoy wanted to give advantage if possible at first. But as a ref you always have the right to come back on the advantage decision you wanted to give.
    Because if the advantage goes lost immediatly (and this was the case) you can come back on the first advantage decision and call the first foul.

    So anyway a bad decision Mr. Foy made at that time.

  17. I think we have seen the goal mouth wrestling in all the leagues in Europe at some time. But Fifa has instructed all the FA’s and the refs to stop it. And in most of the leagues I see it has stopped, but not in England. This means that the FA has not reacted to the Fifa request to stop it or that the refs in the EPL don’t listen to the FA and Fifa.

    But if I get a game with so much pushing and shoving around and there is someone from the FA who is coming to see how I am doing my job as a ref I will not be a happy man when I leave the dressing room after I have been told the truth and been given the advise to look for another hobby like referee in darts or so. 😉

  18. And finally don’t believe the hype, I’m not only bad in maths but I also managed to wipe the game from my digital recorder so I can’t review it.
    But this was my first impression during the game and I wrote it down immediatly in my match report.
    So I (have to) stick with my first impression…

  19. Walter, I support your maths (and, for what it’s worth, that’s the subject I studied in university).

    You just need to preface your “final rating” by saying something like
    Decisions on cards are worth 1/3 the score, goals 1/3 the score, and other issues 1/3.
    Something like that. You need to be able to weight categories so that, the only goal in a one-goal game with five cards given (and two not) is treated as important.

  20. I agree with Rusty. Weighting the scores from each section evenly removes the need to do so many other corrections and manipulations. In some games that may lead to slightly strange scores (when there is an abundance of mistakes in one section) but overall will keep things simple.

    I think the commentary is far more important than the actual average. You may even just want to leave the ratios for people to make their own interpretations. For instance Foy’s score from this weekend could have been:

    Goals: 3/3
    Cards: 1/2
    Other: 1/6

    And you could leave it like that, for the rest of us to make our own impressions. That would remove all these “maths” debates and take the debate back to the proper place i.e. did the referee have a good game or not?

    Overall, a very good summary though. Bravo. A great addition to the site.

  21. hey guyz anyone playing fantasy premier league on the official site of barclays premier league???

  22. Thank you for clarifying that for me walter.
    It does seem like a bit of loophole that could be exploited.
    If an attacking player is off side a handball has the potential to go unpunished as long as it goes behind the last defender bringing the off side player into play when it is conceivable that he may not have been activated without the intervention of the hand.
    I presume that if Walcott hadn’t attempted to play the ball then the ref would in theory have given us a free kick just outside the area in RVP territory.

  23. Yes Torrence if Walcott would have not made a move to the ball the ref could only give the handball as an offside position itself is not punishable.

    But normally there would be no loophole if the ref would have done it according to the rules and would have given the foul for handball.

    A ref and the assistant are a team but it is the ref who has the final decision. If he wants to overrule a decision of the assistent he can do this if he wants. But it’s not a good idea for the team building part.
    But if the ref has seen a foul prior to the offside he can give the foul and no assistant will moan about that after the game.

    And I can tell you that you sometimes can have arguments during half time or after the game between refs and their assistants.

    But a lot depends on the quality of the ref.

  24. In relation to this handball/offside debate isn’t walcott affecting play directly the moment the ball is passed to him? If walcott was not standing there the pass would not have happened as it was clearly directed at him, therefore he has a direct effect immediately. Therefore the offside decision is the first offence and so the ref was right on this occasion. The offside is ruled from the moment the ball is passed forward, and any deflection enroute has no influence on the ruling. Whether the recipient of the pass is affecting play depends on the intentions and/or outcome or the pass.

  25. Sorry to disagree with you Mr Broeckx but the first punishable offence was the off-side, When the ball was played Theo was in an off-side possition. the “wait and see” aspect is there as a test of intelligence and awarness which im sad to say alot of pro footballers fail. I do beleive that you are hanging on to the “It is not an offence in itself to be in an offside position” statement within the rules. However “A player in an offside position is only penalised if, at the moment the ball
    touches or is played by one of his team, he is, in the opinion of the referee,
    involved in active play by:
    1 interfering with play or
    2 interfering with an opponent or
    3 gaining an advantage by being in that position”.
    Theo was 1&3 of the above.
    What i find more disturbing is that two refs (yourself & Foy) can interprit in two different ways. not good for the game. However i can forgive the trangression if you admit you have your Arsenal blinkers on.

  26. Offside must be judged on the moment the ball is passed but should not be punished at that moment.
    Just suppose this situation: The same situation but the defender does a shawcross tackle on the Arsenal player that gives the pass and breaks his leg before the ball comes to Theo.

    No one would argue one second if the ref would give the foul for the tackle and no one would look at the offside decision.

    Now you could argue that this is a different foul but in fact handsball or doing a leg breaking tackle is the same punishment: a direct free kick.

    I can tell you that the situation that happened saturday has happened rather a few times in the games I was involved and the refs always took the first foul (must admit it was always a wrong tackle on the attacker and than the ball ran to the player in offside – but like I said the foul tackle/handball is the same).

    Now it could be that the refs I had were wrong at that time, and it could be that I was wrong but it would surprise me that we all had it wrong.

    I have seen this situation in CL games and other league games when I was not involved, but was just watching.

    One thing could have happened and this would clear the ref in this case: maybe he didn’t see the handball?????

  27. And I do disagree with the point 1 & 3.

    Because as an assistant you have to wait to see if there suddenly is coming another player not from an offside position and that the player in the offside position really moves to the ball. If TW would have stood still like a statue and would make no attempt to play the ball he would not interfere with play.

    I think we all can recal some situation where the attacker in offside does not move to the ball and another player goes after the ball. This is way one has to wait for what is just happening when the ball comes to the player in an offside position.

    But suppose if a ball in his flight is catched by a defender with his hands and if he would hold the ball in his hands what would you do? Say, well there was an attacker in offside so the defender didn’t have to wait for the linesman and the ref and he can catch the ball in his hands (handball) and take a free kick for offside or should he let the ball fly over his head and wait for what is happening?

    Just like I said: when there is a foul happening before the other foul becomes punishable the first foul should be punished in this case the handball.

  28. They’re some interesting examples you give there Walter and i see your point, but i think it just goes to show how difficult it is to referee a game football these days.

    I’d argue (as a devils advocate) that in the case of a foul by tackle on the passer that a direct free kick is the correct decision because the intended pass and/or passer is influenced by the tackle itself, thereby that becomes the primary foul play. In the case of a defending player catching the ball when passed to an attacking player in an offside position then the offside stands (if it was seen and called by the linesman) because there was an intended target effecting play.

    As for the circumstances of an attacking player standing or returning from an offside position when a pass is played through but another attacking player not in an offside position runs to collect the pass without the offside player touching the ball then this is always up to the referees personal judgement. Yes, i remember instances when a pass has seemed like it was intended for an offside player but he doesn’t make a move for the ball and a team mate does when the defense stands still expecting an offside to be given but it has been judged to be legal. I’d argue that the offside player is having an effect on proceedings as he’s very presence in an illegal position affects the judgement of the defence.

    AS for the incident on Saturday i believe the ref did see the handball and that is what he called first but then there was a short delay as the linesman notified him about the offside and the decision was changed.

  29. Walter, one thing that has always puzzled me, maybe you can explain. When a ball is running out of play for a goal kick and an attacker is trying to reach the ball but a defender is doing everything possible to shield the ball by spreading his arms, his legs and his backside and any other part of his anatomy to prevent the attacker from achieving his aim, why is it not punished by the ref as obstruction or is this action permissible? It seems most unfair to me, sometimes the defender almost manhandles the attacker from reaching the ball by pushing back into him but a foul is never given. Conversely when the attacker in desperation goes slightly hard on the defender the ref seems very quick to give a foul in favour of the defender.

  30. Anders, as long as there human interpretation possible you will always have different opinions. And from that moment you have troubles.

    Mick, a defender has the right to shield the ball (an attacker also so should have said a player) and let it run out of play. But he can only shield it by putting his body between the other player and the ball has to be in his reach. If the defender stops his run and let the ball run away a few meters then it is obstruction. But a bit of a clever defender will off course keep the ball close to him.

    The other way round it is so that even a little foul on a defender who has the ball should be punished immediatly. Let us say a defender that runs with the ball and gets a little push should be blown immediatly by the ref to prevent that the defender gets out of balance and misplaces his pass and the other team gains advantage.

    The other way round a ref can allow a little push on an attacker because it could be that the attacker despite the push can still give a good pass to another player or could score. In this case the ref can wait to see if there is a possible advantege.

  31. Thank you for your explanation, all is clear now. May I say how much I enjoy your writing, it is most informative and intelligently written. This is by far the most enjoyable and well balanced Arsenal site, and unlike most of the others the contributers and the commenters can all spell and form a coherent sentence.

  32. Cheers walter for the reply, food for thought. Its a difficult one as Theo was in the box so was gining a goal scoring to a point you raised, I do hope that all refs would take an act of violence as a priority. Another point which was brushed upon earlier which has always bugged me is the late challenge on a player who has just taken a shot at goal. We see on so many occasions a player get to the ball before a defender, take a shot but get cleaned out by the defenders last ditch attempt, why do we not see more penalties for this offence. It seems to me that it is acceptable as long as the player has got his shot away.

  33. Walter,
    Education is the most powerful tool in the shed. I believe this is an inspired site because we all can improve upon much needed education. So, what do we have here? History lessons, Economics, Financial, Refereeing, Pre & Post game analysis. What is left? Oh yes, humor! Thanks

  34. Adam, your final remark is spot on and maybe even more food for thougt and maybe even for me I must admit.

    Let us take as an ecample the Cole tackle on Koscielny. A late tackle after Koscielny kicked the ball upfield. Foul given, red card given. Very correct.
    But if it would have been Koscielny having a shot on goal (going over) and the same late tackle from Cole……I think nothing would have been given at all.

    As you rightly point out those late tackles in the penalty box are almost never punished and it still is the same foul. So it should be the same punishment. Foul and the card.
    Because it doesn’t matter where the foul is happening on the field you should always act in the same way as a ref.

    BUT even I must admit that I sometimes do miss them. A problem for such a foul in the penalty box is that as a ref you also have to see what is happening to the ball. Does it go in the goal, is there a handball, is there an offside, …. and so your eyes will automaticaly follow the ball and you will miss sometimes the late challenge.

    While the Koscielny kick just hoofed forward the ref can keep an eye on the tackle as he knows the ball will not be challenged immediatly as it is flying in the air.

    So this could be a reason why refs don’t see the late tackle on an attacker but you are right that it should be punished. A late tackle is a late tackle, no matter where it happens on the field.

  35. I thought that he actually had a failry good game, at least not one that’s worht 56%…

  36. TommieGun, I try to look at the ref like the “mentors” do it in my country.
    A mentor is someone from the FA who just comes to look at the ref during the game and watches him all game long. They then give points for his game and if he get good points he can climb up the ladder.
    I do know a lot of those mentors personally so I know how they must look at the refs and how to give their remarks and points and a final quotation.

    Maybe when my legs are letting me down I would apply for becoming a mentor myself, but as long as I am able to run on the field I will stay a ref.

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