Tough decision divides ex-referees on Arsenal game

As if it wasn’t enough for referees in the Premier League to have their decisions subject to comments by assessors, match delegates, club markings and ex-footballers as pundits, they now have leading ex-referees giving their views in today’s multi media world. This was brought home to me last week by different reactions to the penalty appeal by Arsenal that was turned down by referee Chris Foy, in their game against Reading at the Emirates Stadium. I don’t suppose Royals supporters want to be reminded too much of that match. The first game under new manager Nigel Adkins had expectations of the ‘new manager bounce’ but they found their team outplayed. The first real incident came as Oliver Giroud of the Gunners followed a bouncing ball towards the Reading goal, inside their penalty area but just off centre. Reading’s veteran ‘stand-in’ goalkeeper, Stuart Taylor came out to meet him, obviously hoping to get to the ball first. However, the Arsenal player beat him to it and flicked the ball over Taylor’s falling body and outstretched hand, towards the Reading goal, before tumbling over Taylor’s body and crashing to the ground. The ball was prevented from going in the Reading goal by being headed clear by Reading centre-back Alex Pearce. The referee, Chris Foy, then waved away Arsenal appeals for a penalty at the very least. The former Tilehurst resident and ex-FIFA referee, Graham Poll, is noted for his sometimes scathing criticism of today’s referees for the Daily Mail Online. I know at least one local referee who has written to him in strong terms saying that he is doing his former colleagues a disservice by the tone of his comments. He was uncomplimentary about Chris Foy’s decision at the Emirates. ‘Sorry Foy-Boy, ‘ he wrote, ‘but I cannot fail to nominate you (for bad decision of the week) after the failure to award a penalty to Arsenal in the first half when Reading keeper smashed into Arsenal’s Oliver Giroud. Staggering’. I am surprised at his unequivocal denunciation of Chris Foy’s decision because it looks identical to one he made when he was still refereeing in the Premier League. In fact we use the video of it when training new referees in recognising challenges The goalkeeper in that game was Tomasz Kuszczak who clattered into Emanuel Adebayor in the penalty area. The ball was not in this case knocked towards goal but ran out over the goal line. The question for the trainees is, ‘What action would you take?’ Unfortunately, Graham Poll tends to give it away by coming into the picture showing that he took no action at all. On Yahoo ‘The whistle Blower’ Dermot Gallagher or Alan Wiley, both ex-Premier League referees, are asked to comment on videos of controversial incidents in the weekend Premier League games. Last week, Dermot Gallagher was much more sympathetic of Chris Foy’s decision. His take on it was that it is difficult when two players are going a full speed towards the ball and the Arsenal player had got his shot towards the Reading goal away, before the players collided. ‘Referees don’t like to give fouls in that sort of situation,’ he said. I must say that I’m with Dermot on this. It’s not quite a case of the goalkeeper simply bringing the player down, he went down trying to reach the ball and the player went over his body. Penalty or Not? I think even Graham Poll knows it’s a tough decision to make but as one referee said to me when I was on a CPD course for Referee Tutors at St Georges Park, the FA’s new Training Centre at Burton-on-Trent last week, ‘Refereeing is all about making decisions and then managing the consequences’.

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