Advantage need not always be played

Referees love to play advantage and if it comes off, perhaps a goal scored, they couldn’t be more pleased. It does however have its dangers as some recent incidents have shown.

In the England v Germany friendly match the ITV co-commentator, Glen Hoddle was annoyed that the referee didn’t come back to caution a player after allowing an advantage to be played. The Law allows him to do that, provided the game hasn’t been restarted. Perhaps it wasn’t a cautionable offence, or did the referee just forget it as the play carried on for a long period after the offence? That’s one of the dangers.

A referee should also take into account the temperature of the game and the severity of the foul. To allow play to continue after a bad tackle can sometimes lead to retaliation as happened recently at a Reading game.

The Law says. ‘The referee allows play to continue when the team against which an offence has been committed will benefit from such an advantage’. This makes two points clear. Firstly, that there has to be a definite benefit from the advantage, it’s not just a question of retaining possession of the ball. Secondly, it gives scope to the referee to decide whether to allow advantage or not.

A classic case happened in the West Ham v Crystal Palace game last weekend. A West Ham player was fouled just outside the Palace penalty area, but the ball broke loose to another Hammers’ player in a clear space going toward the Palace goal. You could see referee Mark Clattenburg hesitate, but he decided to award the free kick. West Ham of course have that most effective of free kick takers, Dimitri Payet, whose kick lifted the ball over a seven man wall and into the top corner of the Palace goal.

It wasn’t the fact that West Ham scored that would have pleased Clattenburg, but knowing he had done the right thing by not playing the advantage.

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