How many times out on the park have you heard that cry: "What is he looking at?" That and all its variants: "You're missing a great game!" or "How could she miss that?" and "It was right in front of him, and he did nothing!" As an instructor I have dealt with this problem many, many times, and tried various themes as a way of impressing referees that knowing where and when to look is as important as knowing the laws. And after watching the Premiership these last few months, I have to say that the problem doesn't exist only in the amateur game.
So before I go on to the subject, let me ask a few questions of you . . . and then we'll have a practical demonstration from the eight-year-old daughter of two skillful soccer-playing parents, with whom I have had the great pleasure of playing.
The pundits all over the place are having a go at Chris Foy for expelling Vincent Kompany for a challenge on Nani in the FA Cup match last weekend. Their lamentations are everywhere: "It's the end of tackling as we know it," says one. "It's ruining the game," shouts another. "The skill of tackling will disappear if this keeps up," chimes in a third. And today we learn that the disciplinary body has rejected the appeal by Manchester City, and has suspended Kompany for four games; three for the challenge plus one more for it being his second red card this season.
Herewith, the photographs. Let's take a look at the challenge in the cool, clear light of hindsight and dispassionateness.
I'll have something to say about the movement and observation by referees this afternoon, stimulated by this posting from Hong Kong. This site is detailed, carefully written and full of shots from videos of Premiership games. I heartily recommend it for sound observations, detailed analysis and its entertainment value. I believe I have recommended this site before, but another reminder is not superfluous:
A lovely little brouhaha is building in England about the half-a-million new commemorative fifty-pence pieces in circulation, with an explanation of offside on the backside of the queen's image. According to a story in this morning's Guardian, a well-known referee (called "expert" in the story) has complained that the coin (get the story here) will cause confusion because, in his words, the information on it is totally out of date.
It's fun to read, even though the writer (David Hills) botched the story, revealing that he knew neither the history of Law 11 nor the fifteen-year-old changes in how we emphasize involvement by players. Here in the United States, we had the law figured out and widely taught by the end of the eighties, and I always smile when I see examples of how far ahead we were of the originators of football. What then is the problem?
Since posting yesterday on the commemorative ("Offside") 50p coin from the Royal Mint (UK), I have had a few requests for more information. I had done a little searching, by no means exhaustive, after I read some news reports, and here is what I sent to the author of one of the requests:
Go to the official site for The Royal Mint (UK) and there they have details of how to buy bullion, if you want, and any of their coins. For the olympic coins, go to the site below *. The face value of 50p is less than a dollar, and I don't know how they ship them. I'm sure that dealers over here will have them soon. Remember that the queen is "heads" on the coin, so when you use it, try to make sure it always ends up as "tails". That method of tossing ensures that her royal self ends up face down in the mud.
After publication of my latest blog, which featured an analysis of the error made by one of the Assistant Referees at the end of the game between Sunderland AFC and Manchester City last weekend, I was contacted by a gentleman from Llantrisant, in south Wales. He was a representative from the Royal Mint, the government-owned company that manufactures coinage for Britain and many other countries. Very politely, he asked if I was aware of the efforts being made by the Royal Mint to prevent such errors as I had described.
In my surprise, I asked: "You think if you pay them more the ARs will get the calls right?"
"No, no, no, my dear chap! Not at all! Not at all! I'm talking about our new coin made for the 2012 Olympics. We're helping the chaps on the line with an explanation of offside."
"You're kidding, right?" said I, slipping into my American vernacular. But he wasn't, he really wasn't. Take a look at this . . .
You have to love the drama of matches in the highly-competitive Premiership competition. And over the holidays we had drama a-plenty: massive upsets, last-minute victories, players too hung-over to train and so fined a week's wages, accusations of players' plots to get an opponent sent off, referees going soft on serious foul play, stories of locker-room rebellion, and the top clubs dropping points unexpectedly. And through it all my home-town club of Swansea City are steadily playing attractive football to the unquenchable roar of Welsh voices in the Liberty stadium, hoping to survive in this English competition. But some drama is not necessary, if the officiating is done well . . .
Not a day or two ago I commented on the clash between Clint Dempsey (Fulham) and Phil Jones (Manchester United), that caused Jones to be taken to the hospital for further examination of his facial injury. The importance of the referee providing an environment that protects players from injury is paramount. But it appears that not everyone was paying attention, because just yesterday we had two incidents of the same sort in a single game: Liverpool vs Newcastle United. Pay attention, Lee Probert . . . !
I've been astounded quite a few times to hear instructors or assessors tell referees exactly what disciplinary action should be taken against a player who commits a bad foul. Astounded, because they seem to have it down to a formula, a mathematical expression, if you like. Careless? A free kick. Reckless? A caution. Delivered with excessive force? Send him off.
Mathematically, here we go: C=FK; R=Yellow; EF=Red. Easy, isn't it? Simply convert the complexity of physical contact between players in a soccer match into simple letters, symbols and words. Any referee can understand it, right?
The problem is that the method is wrong, because it is over-simplified. An example from last week in the Premiership, and involving one of our best American players, will show you just how defective it is.