Seeing is Believing

Ronald Koeman last season called for a ‘grappling ban’. This was after his then club, Southampton, were involved in a holding incident. He said,’ If you pull someone back by his shirt in the penalty area and stop them getting to the ball, then it must be a penalty’. I doubt any manager or fan would disagree, except perhaps when it is one of you own players doing the pulling.

I was reminded of this when Southampton were beaten earlier this season by Arsenal, assisted by what one commentator called a ‘perceived foul’ in the 91st minute. In this case the referee did award a penalty, against Southampton. Claude Puel, Southampton’s present manager, said after the game, ‘my players are very angry. They claim it wasn’t a penalty. I will wait until I see it again before I decide.

The television replay showed quite clearly Jose Forte holding onto Oliver Giroud’s shirt in the penalty area. Although the players and their manager might not have seen it, the referee, Robert Madely, obviously did. He didn’t perceive it, he saw it.

Refereeing a Reading Academy game recently I gave a foul for a player holding onto an opponent’s shirt in a similar manner, although not in the penalty area. I indicated what the foul was for by moving my arm in a pulling gesture. One young player came up to me and asked if I could tell him who the guilty player was? I was at a bit of a loss to understand his query. He said it was because he didn’t believe there had been any shirt pulling.

This is why the Southampton players were angry, they, like him, didn’t see it. I have explained many times that not every grapple is seen by the referee and that’s why more penalties are not given. Seeing is Believing, but because you didn’t see it, then take it from me, that if the referee does, you have got to believe it.

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