This weekend saw Marouane Fellaini headbutt, punch and generally man handle Stoke’s Ryan Shawcross.
Since then there has been an uproar against Fellaini who has since received a 3 match ban for his attack. But when you look at why he did what he did you will see Stoke players practically pinning Everton players to the floor. I am in no way condoning what action Fellaini took but clearly there is an issue that we would have had 8 Everton penalties and that’s not to say Stoke wouldn’t have had any penalties either.
This is a problem for referees that needs solving, either we give penalties or free kicks (depending on which team is at fault) at probably every corner taken and see where that takes us …or let this carry on and only punish the more serious infringements.
Graham Poll makes an interesting argument in his piece in the Daily Mail stating, ‘Holding is easy to detect, it’s blocking that is hard to penalise.’
Taking that statement apart there are two infringements that regularly occur as a corner is being taken. One is holding which as said is easy to detect but who do you penalise?
Consider the scenario,
- 7 defenders and a keeper against 7 attackers and 1 corner taker.
- The 7 defenders and attackers are all inside or around the penalty area.
- At least 4 defenders and 4 attackers are holding each other down
Who gets punished? Either way you anger one side. It’s a lose/lose situation for a referee. You could try stop the game before the corner is taken and warn all players involved. That rarely stops players as once the corner is taken the players just jump back on each other so the corner is taken.
Here is what I would consider:
- Who is still committing an offence?
- Is it most by one side?
- Are there any more serious offences being committed?
- If it’s mainly attackers being held down, can they gain an advantage and still score a goal?
- If it’s mainly defenders being held down, personally I would blow straight away as long as there aren’t any other or more serious offences being committed.
That thought process has to be crammed into the 2 or 3 seconds it takes from the corner to come in – to a player touching the ball.
The second part of that statement is blocking, but this is a lot harder to detect. Again a high number of players in the box, all handling each other. How can you see anyone doing anything? And even if you do, how do you justify either giving a penalty or a free kick, especially when it’s players from both teams that are involved?
I believe that is why up until now it has been allowed to go on as normal. It is also easier to give a free kick rather than a penalty because we are always told, “players remember the big decisions, penalties and off-sides, they never remember a small decision” and in that saying you can now see why penalties aren’t given for infringements at corners.
The above statement sounds very unprofessional from a referees point of view but match control is paramount to a referee.
Giving a penalty for a decision that a] is rarely given and b] could have gone either way will always lead to abuse from players, coaches, managers and fans. This affects match control and can make a game very unpleasant, hard to control and in some instances lead to serious abuse and violence. This should not happen yet is widely accepted by all as ‘part of football.’
And then we wonder why decisions like these aren’t given.
Example: Fellaini’s headbutt is seen by the referee but Shawcross has committed an offence as well. Both could be guilty of violent conduct, football is a contact sport via shoulders or tackling that wins the ball and is clean, but putting your hands on another player isn’t allowed therefore you could say Shawcross is as guilty as Fellaini. This wouldn’t happen because of the amount of red cards we would see at each corner then the Match of the Day pundits would rip referees to shreds, along with managers in press conferences.
Worst of all a referee would probably be torn apart by the assessor especially in the Professional game where each referee is assessed at each and every game, marked, put into a league table which decides whether or not they stay at that level, go higher not to mention aid decide what games they get.
Graham Poll states when these scenarios arise with players such as Kevin Nolan who was always marking the opposition goalkeeper. Poll says he always asked Nolan to ‘step away which he refused’ so Poll would give a free kick against him as soon as the ball was played.
Poll goes onto say ‘I would do so at every corner. Two free kicks and he would move away so it can be cured.’
Again though Poll took the easy option, he ignored what ever else was going on in play; what about if one of the other players had struck another player? He was totally focused on Nolan’s position and movement at this time which suggests he was ignoring the rest of the box which I would say is dangerous,
Surely players need to be brought down a peg, personally I wouldn’t want to give a penalty or a free kick at every set piece as I want to see 22 players battling each other to win, not 22 players being stopped and started and no football being played.
I, along with many other referees do not want to be the center of attention but this is what would happen, we want to see football, beautiful football so it’s down to players, coaches and managers need to take responsibility themselves and move away from the physical tactics we see week in week out for the greater good of football.
It’s either that or face a constant barrage of penalties, free kicks, cautions and red cards.