“Last Man” is not in the Book


Do you ever get the urge to shout ‘rubbish’ at the radio or television when you hear something completely wrong?  I did a couple of Saturdays ago when listening to the post-match revue of the Reading/Huddersfield match on BBC Radio Berkshire. Mick Gooding, former Reading player and joint manager, now a pundit on their football commentaries, was asked what he thought of the tackle by Reading full back, Chris Gunter, just inside the Reading half. ‘He should have been sent off,’ he said,’ he was the last man and unless they changed the law yesterday, that’s what it says, the last man should be sent off;. ‘Rubbish’.

There has been an experimental change to the Denying a Goal Scoring Opportunity Law, which I covered earlier in the season but the Law does not mention and has never mentioned ‘the last man’.

What the Law actually says is, ‘A player, substitute or substituted player who denies an obvious goal scoring opportunity to an opponent moving toward the players goal, (outside the penalty area) by an offence punishable by a free kick, will be sent off’.

There are four circumstances the referee must take into consideration. Firstly, the distance between the offence and the goal. In this instance the attacker was brought down just over the halfway line, some 50 to 60 yards still to go to the Reading goal. Would you consider that to be an obvious goal scoring opportunity at that distance?

The referee also has to consider whether it was likely that the attacker would keep or regain control of the ball. If the attacker loses control of the ball he is unlikely to threaten the goal. Then there is the direction of general play. The Law has already said the attacker must be moving towards the goal. Finally, he must consider the location of any other defenders. Could any one of them have intercepted the attacker – from wherever they were on the pitch?

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