There are often discussions why rugby players accept the referees’ decisions, whilst footballers constantly argue over them, sometimes belligerently. My theory is simple – The rules of rugby are so complicated that the players admit that they don’t understand them, so don’t argue. Footballers don’t understand the laws of the game either, but they think they do and that’s what leads to the arguments.
This was obvious on two occasions a couple of weeks ago. At my Saturday game, I gave an indirect free kick for dangerous play a little way outside the penalty area. I made it plain to everyone that it was indirect, so a goal couldn’t be scored direct from the kick. Even so, the kicker blasted it straight at the goal and the goalkeeper tried to save it, but only succeeded in knocking it into his goal.
As I walked back to the centre circle, I was besieged by defending players. ‘You can’t allow the goal,’ they said, ‘no one else touched the ball’. I pointed out that the goalkeeper had punched it but they said that didn’t count, it has to touch someone from the other team. Complete nonsense of course.
As young men they can perhaps be forgiven their ignorance, but what about former Everton manager David Moyes, guest pundit on Match of the Day? A goal was scored by Rudy Gestede of Aston Villa, after the ball had bobbled up and hit his hand before dropping back down to his feet. Moyes, whilst admitting the ‘handball’ was accidental said that the player had gained an advantaged from it and therefore he should have been penalised. There is no clause or intimation in the Laws that an offence has been committed if a player gains an advantage from an accidental handball. Moyes was not corrected on air leaving watching fans and footballers misinformed, and likely fueling protests for another referee in a similar situation from people who think they know the Laws – but don’t.