A couple of weeks ago, I wrote of a new service being offered to BBC Match of the Day by Howard Webb and fellow retired Premier League referee Dermot Gallagher. They are looking to advise about any controversial decisions that might come up in the programme. Last week I thought I saw some evidence of this happening when the relevant law was shown after the controversial non-goal at the QPR – Manchester City match. However this last Saturday the pundits were again showing a complete lack of understanding of the laws, which needed some explanation. I suppose we should have been pre-warned when we saw that those on duty were Alan Shearer and Robbie Savage.
Let us start with the first Everton goal in the Everton v West Ham game. For those who didn’t see it, the situation was quite simple. Ross Barkley of Everton had the ball just outside the West Ham penalty area and took a shot at goal through a number of West Ham players. Standing in an offside position was Everton number 10, Romelu Lukaku. A West Ham player in the area stretched out his foot, hoping to block the shot but only succeeded in playing the ball to Lukaku who promptly scored. ‘Lukaku was yards offside,’ said Shearer, ‘how on earth did the assistant referee not see that?’ See what exactly? We all know I’m sure, that if an offside player receives the ball from a team mate, which has deflected off an opponent, he is still given offside. But this wasn’t a deflection, the West Ham player had deliberately played the ball, it hadn’t bounced off him. The interpretation of the Law in the book is quite clear. ‘A player in an offside position, receiving the ball from an opponent, who deliberately plays the ball (except for a deliberate save) is not considered to have gained an advantage from being in an offside position.’
Just take your mind back (if you can bear to do so) to England’s game against Uruguay in the last World Cup. Stephen Gerrard jumped up to head the ball but only succeeded in knocking it backwards into the path of his then Liverpool team mate, Luis Suarez. Suarez was clearly in an offside position but he was let, quite correctly, to go on and score. West Ham manager, Sam Allardyce, who is quickly becoming the grumpy old man of football, said ‘I’m sure Fifa and UEFA will come up with some explanation but I’m baffled and we are frustrated yet again’. You would have thought a manager of his experience, would know it is the International FA Board not Fifa or UEFA, which sets the Laws, and consider it might be worth looking at them from time to time.
The next game on Match of the day was Chelsea v West Bromwich Albion. Towards the end of the game Claudio Yacob of West Brom was sent off for a two footed tackle. ‘He got the ball,’ cried the commentator and Robbie Savage said ‘I would think myself very unlucky to get sent off for a tackle like that. I don’t think he endangered the opponent’s safety’. The fact is that when a player is coming in at speed with his feet off the ground, he has lost control over his actions, he can’t pull out of the tackle and its pure luck whether he gets the ball, injures his opponent or misses both of them. Nevertheless, the ‘lunge’, as it is called in the Law interpretations, endangers the opponent’s safety, which makes it a sending off offence.
It seems the two ex- Premier League referees have their work cut out in educating the Match of the Day panel, or perhaps we need better pundits.