Sanchez still has his moment of fame with Reading

I am sure that even the most hardened Royals' supporter would have been thrilled by local rivals Wycombe Wanderers' appearance in the F.A. Cup semifinal against Liverpool, and disappointed that Laurie Sanchez didn't achieve his ambition of being the first manager to take a Division Two club to the final.

I am sure everyone knows that before this cup run, the Wanderers' manager's claim to fame was that he headed the goal which won the cup for Wimbledon against Liverpool in 1988. That goal has certainly been shown on television enough times in the weeks leading up to the semi-final. Most people in Reading will also know that before joining Wimbledon Laurie Sanchez was a Reading player.

What perhaps fewer people know is that Laurie Sanchez also made a little piece of footballing history when he was a Reading player. He was probably the first footballer in the world to be sent off for what is euphemistically called a 'professional foul' in other words the prevention of a goal by illegal means.

In 1982 the Football League had a competition called the Football League Trophy, played in groups of four before the season proper started. 

Reading's first game was against Oxford United and, when a Reading player was injured, Laurie Sanchez came on as substitute. The situation happened when the Reading goalkeeper, Ron Fearon, had come out of his penalty area to head the ball away. Unfortunately it fell to the feet of an Oxford player who promptly volleyed the ball back towards the empty goal. Sanchez who had run back, deflected the ball wide of the goal with his hands. The referee awarded a penalty and to the puzzlement of the crowd and the dismay of Reading Manager Maurice Evans, sent Sanchez off.

The interesting thing was that at that time this punishment did not appear in the laws of the game as it does today. So how could the referee send him off? It was all down to the Football League Club Chairmen who were concerned about falling gates and an enormous loss of paying fans. 

The League appointed a subcommittee chaired by Jimmy Hill to devise a plan that would once again fill their emptying terraces and stands. The committee which also included Sir Matt Busby and Bobby Chariton came up with a number of suggestions which they felt would speed up the game and improve its entertainment value.

These suggestions which included sending off for 'professional' fouls were put forward to the International Football Association Board who are responsible for the laws of the game. The Board ignored the Football League's ideas and as no one else can alter the laws, the Football League could only bring in the professional foul sending off by calling it an interpretation of the Laws.

All Football League referees were told, 'Any offence under the heading of the so called "professional" or "cynical" foul, including intentional handling of the ball in appropriate situations, should be regarded as serious foul play if in the opinion of the referee it denies the attacking team a probable goal-scoring opportunity. The player concerned should be sent off the field.' The Football Association felt the interpretation would be to the benefit of the game and ordered that it be implemented at all levels of the game in this country.

It was not until ten years later in 1991 that the International Board endorsed it by including it in the Referees' Chart as a mandatory decision, which made it universal across the world. Only in 1998 was it actually written into the laws.

Dick Sawdon Smith



R Sawdon Smith 2001

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