The art of awarding a penalty

by Dave Redden

Tuesday, May 12th, 2009

I have been involved with the beautiful game in so many different aspects – player, manager/coach, tournament director, fan and even as a referee. In all of those positions the same feeling of complete fairness has always been close, if not at the top, of my priorities.

Let’s take that word – fairness – and return to Wednesday evening and the Chelsea versus Barcelona game. Personally I counted six penalty claims by Chelsea, all of which were viable claims although no-one would have given a penalty for all of them. Most English newspapers the following day went with just the four serious shouts by Chelsea and The Guardian actually broke the claims down over a two page spread.

I have heard and even engaged in the arguments over whether or not Chelsea should have been given any or all of the penalties claimed and that’s not what this article is about, even though I’ll bet the house that’s what all the comments will focus on. No, my article is simply about the fairness of the game itself. Fairness to all the players and team officials involved, fairness to all the fans of the clubs involved, fairness to the worldwide television audience of such a big game as the one being discussed and, more importantly, fairness to the sport itself.

In England on Saturday I noticed a rash of penalties being given by referees. Granted, I did not watch all the games played in the Premier League and I do not know how many penalty claims there were in those six games but to have an average of almost a penalty a game given seems a little extreme to me. Maybe the officiating pendulum swung too far the other way and our domestic referees didn’t want to be seen in the same vein as the now notorious Tom Henning Ovrebo and gave penalties just to be seen as open to the thought. There was even a penalty given in the other big game of the day, Burnley versus Reading, which turned out to be the difference in a 1-0 game.

My point is that a foul is a foul. No matter where it occurs on the pitch, no matter when it occurs in the time frame of the game and most definitely no matter what the score of the game is. All of us have played football in some shape or form. Remember how hard done by we felt when that one penalty claim was turned down by that gangly referee who obviously has never played the game and doesn’t get the intricacies? Now take those feelings to a Champions League semi-final and times by at least four. Only one word comes to mind for me – injustice.

Of course, had the now infamous Didier “Outburst” Drogba but away that sitter of a chance by slightly lifting the shot over the outstretched leg of Valdes we wouldn’t need to have these conversations. Same can be said if Michael Essien would have planted the ball in Row Z instead of tickling it on its way to the opposition immediately prior to the equaliser and eventual tie-winning away goal.

It will be interesting to see how the English teams perform in Europe again next year. It will also be interesting to see if Reading can come back from the heartbreak of losing their Championship Playoff semi final first leg to a late penalty.

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  • Darren

    One thing I will say is we don’t want TV reply’s, or even if we did only the ref and linesman should have access to it, I’m sure with today’s technology they can come up with a gadget.

    it’s amazing how the worlds biggest game is ruled by one man, all the fans, all those people watching, ultimately it’s the ref who is the most important person on the pitch.

    I do think that the ref should consult the linesman every time he awards a pen, like he did at the Hull Villa game earlier in the season, the irony is, that decision could send Hull down. Which goes to show how much that one decision could be worth.

  • Dave

    Darren, that decision won’t take Hull down, their form since about November will do that.

    I agree that we don’t need or even want television style replays in the game. They have them in American Football and it spoils the flow of the game and extends the length of them enormously. The referee should consult a linesman for EVERY decision that could be construed as a controversial one, especially now that they have wireless communication.

    The referee is as much a part of the game as the players on the field and we should keep it the way it is at the moment in my opinion, but we can still complain about how badly our forward line played, how our defence looked more like a sieve, how the referee failed to give a penalty in six legitimate claims! 🙂


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