Decisions, decisions – the hard part of refereeing

Something that anyone taking up refereeing has to accept is that refereeing is all about making decisions.  There is simply no way of getting out of it. More than that, not all decisions are easy to make, and whatever your decision, right or wrong, you are never going to be popular with everyone. This was illustrated by two decisions that referee Anthony Taylor had to make in the recent West Ham v Liverpool match.

The first one was when West Ham centre forward, Andy Carroll jumped into a group of players going for the ball which included Liverpool goalkeeper Simon Mignolet. The referee’s first consideration had to be whether the player jumped at an opponent rather than for the ball, for that is one of the ten direct free kick offences. Then there is the distance the jump is made from. In other words, if the player makes a running jump it could be considered that it is reckless, made without consideration to the opponent’s safety. Then there is use of the arms. In a post-match interview, it was put to Andy Carroll that it was difficult to jump for the ball without using the arms. Carroll replied that this was something he had been saying for years. When you think about it that is very true, try jumping in the air with you arms by your side and you won’t rise very high. But there are two occasions when the use of the arms in jumping is against the Laws of the Game. The first is when a player, usually jumping from a distance, leads with his forearm or elbow.  This can greatly endanger opponents’ safety and has caused some serious injuries. The other is when a player leans on an opponent’s shoulder or even head, either to hold down the opponent or to help the player lever himself even higher. However, the referee must be sure that is what has happened. I remember  Euro 2004 when Sol Campbell had seemed to have headed the winning goal against Portugal in the quarter finals. If you looked at a still photo, Campbell’s arms were on the shoulders of a Portuguese player; this was obviously the referee’s view. The moving picture however showed that Campbell had risen unaided and the opponent had jumped under him. In the heat of the game, not so easy to spot. Andy Carroll’s jump at West Ham was a little different to all of this. Realising he was not going to reach the ball, Carroll stretched out his arm, first to push the Liverpool goalkeeper and then knock the ball out of his hands. Referee Anthony Taylor obviously missed this and ignoring the suggestions from his assistant referee, his decision was to award the subsequent goal.

Anthony Taylor’s other big decision was another of those difficult ones. He gave a penalty against the West Ham goalkeeper who in diving, brought down the Liverpool player who was running after the ball. Although more dramatic because the goalkeeper is diving at the opponent’s feet, these tackles are like any other. Does the player play the ball and the opponent then fall over him or does he bring down the opponent? It’s not enough for the player to have touched the ball, despite what Sam Allardyce may say. What makes these decisions more difficult is because the referee is running behind the players and not looking in sideways at the action.

      So two very different decisions. By allowing the West Ham goal, the referee enraged the Liverpool players and delighted West Ham, but with his decision for the Liverpool penalty he faced the wrath of West Ham. That’s the problem with having to make decisions, you’ll never please everybody all of the time.

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