By Tony Attwood
There is an interesting paragraph in a report on the Tottenham v Arsenal match in the Daily Telegraph website that says
“There were a number of contentious incidents with replays showing Harry Kane was offside in the moments before Skhodran Mustafi barged him over for Spurs’ second half penalty. The referee Taylor may well have judged that the foul took precedence over the offside call.”
I do hope someone can help me out on this, as I am not a referee, so can find on occasion my understanding of the rules and laws of the game are not what I have often thought.
But my understanding is that the order of events on the pitch is the determining factor in making referee decisions. Thus if a player is offside, and then a foul is comitted after that, it is the offside which has to be dealt with by the award of a free kick. If the subsequent foul is of such a serious nature that for example a yellow card has to be given to the player committing the foul, that can still be given, but it does not mean that the offside is ignored.
If that is not so, as the Telegraph suggests, then there is a problem, because it suggests that all sorts of incidents can be ignored, even though they involve the laws of the game, because of later incidents. Which raises the question, how much later?
If this is indeed the case then I do need to revise my reading of the game and I can only apologise for years of misunderstandings.
But based on my current understanding of the situation, the offside came first, and that should have been called and the game stopped. Then any other issue could have been dealt with, before Arsenal got the normal free kick which is awarded after an offside.
And if my reading of the rules is right, I wonder what the Telegraph is playing at. Here they have a professional journalist writing on the web site of a long running publication with something that is completely wrong, which is rather different from me writing on Untold – a blog run by a group of friends – and making a mistake (which of course has often happened, given that we don’t have proof-readers and paid researchers to help sort things out.)
The Telegraph comment, right or wrong, also raises the issue of why mainstream publications still refuse to deal fully with refereeing issues, and indeed how they choose their headlines (as well of course as refusing point blank to ask “why?” in response to most issues).
Given that it appeared to me that the Tottenham goal yesterday was preceded by a number of players being offside one might have thought that the headline “Referee and assistant make multiple error over Tottenham goal” would have been reasonable, but no, I didn’t find that.
We might also have expected a few headlines asking why VAR is not used in the Premier League when it is in so many other competitions. And indeed Sky did oblige with the headline
Video: Emery: Refs need help from VAR
But it was Give me Sport, seemingly alone, that picked up on the fact that Vertonghen was clearly inside the penalty area when the penalty was taken, and according to the laws of the game, that means that the penalty should have been retaken and Vertonghen either warned or given a yellow card.
But no – not only did the referee not take any action, and not only did the assistant seemingly fail to notice, but also the rest of the media chose to ignore that fact, perhaps because it was just a little bit too inconvenient for their agenda of not criticising referees.
However this is what the media does. It does join together as a unity to ignore certain issues, or to treat them in a specific way, that does influence public opinion, and so we continue as before. English refereeing is the best in the world. We know it is because… well, no one criticises English referees.
Rather the people who do criticise referees find themselves criticised, either on the grounds that referees make lots of decisions and will always get some wrong, or because it all evens out in the end (which clearly the statistics we have gathered across the years show does not happen), or because we are only complaining because it is Arsenal.
All three excuses are poor in my view – referees could get more decisions right by using VAR and by having open debates about the errors on TV. After all we get details of how many times a player has kicked a ball, why not statistics about how many mistakes a referee has made, and which team he has favoured? It might help us understand what is happening a little more clearly.