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Alberto P. Abreus

I agree one hundred percent with the assessment. What I really want to know is what the clowns at FIFA were thinking. Since it seems orchestrated for this world cup to try and "save" players. I ask in all candor. Why on earth would anyone want to be a FIFA referee? With all of the nonsense that happens at these tournaments and how routinely for one mistake, referees that FIFA and their respective federations have spent years and hundreds of thousands of dollars in training are summarily dismissed is pathetic and contrary to the improvement in the art of refereeing.

FIFA better be careful if they think that automaton of a referee Irmatov will be up to the task in four years. That guy just has the ability of a middle distance runner, but none of the abilities of a referee. He would have made more of a meal of this final, with his . . . hand gesticulations of "just calm down".

[In the next few days we will present some information about how referees are selected for major tournaments, and what training is given them. Selection is a highly political process . . . RE.]


I don't think we need to read any conspiracy theories, thanks. Yes, the FIFA referee list is political, in the sense that every country wants to use its allowed number of nominations for FIFA officials and be seen as a 1st-class soccer nation. And yes, the FIFA Referee Committee must make a desperate effort to balance the tournament list with refs from all regions, so that an impartial ref can be assigned to any match, no matter the origin of the teams.

Nor do we need ad hominem criticism of young Irmatov, who did a very creditable job in his first World Cup. There's nothing wrong with pointing out real errors or, even better, specifying how he might have done better in a particular play, but the observer needs to withhold his personal bias or taste. I look forward to watching brother Irmatov again.

The pressure on the refs to satisfy the FIFA Ref Committee and the General Secretariat is immense, because nobody wants to be shipped home, especially if their performance is without egregious error, as has happened. I was pleased that this World Cup came off with minimal public FIFA interference with the refs.

Alberto P. Abreus

One other point, had Webb cautioned van Persie in the first minute and sent off de Jong in the 28th minute would it have made an impact in the match? We many times like to think so, but I wonder if the Dutch were determined to continue to foul till the end. For reasonable people it should send the message to back off.


"In preparing for battle I have always found that plans are useless, but planning is indispensable."
-- Dwight Eisenhower

[Great quote! Cheers, Bob]

Alberto D. Prieto

Helllo, I'm a spanish former referee and I have a blog in the best and most-read journal in Spain, Marca.com. During the World Cup I've been writing some posts about the referees and how they worked. A reader set me your link and I have enjoyed reading it. Sorry about my English, I read your language without any problem, but I cannot write it very well, as you can see.

I agree with your point of view, and even I have discovered some arguments about which I haven't thought earlier.

If you wat to read my job, the link is www.marca.com/blogs/periodistaycolegiado

Best wishes

jeff forward

Bob, you hit the nail on the head.
J Forward

Dennis Wickham

Although Mr. Evans accurately reports what happened, I’m not sure that he identifies the correct cause. Perhaps the issue wasn’t blindly following a technique when it no longer served its purpose, but that the strategy became the objective. Did the purpose (enjoyment) become lost in the strategy (flow)?

Why did Mr. Webb allow, at first, allow advantage when DeJong danced on Alonzo’s ribs? Having decided that the act was not so severe as to require an immediate sendoff, did he bind his hands when the players refused to accept any advantage?

The notion that referees fail when "following advise" involves more than world cup technical study groups. The altar of game flow seems to be a place where enjoyment has been sacrificed by referees who allow too much mischief.

I look forward to reading more about world class referees following by rote strategies set by the Referee Committee. I can see no other reason why Germany’s Mueller was cautioned in the quarterfinal.

Soccer Uniforms

Great article, I have never read such a comprehensive post. I also watched the game Netherlands versus Spain and that was amazing.

Peter T. Johnson

Excellent article Bob. Your analysis is, as usual, right on.
The "red card" for the chest high challenge was Howards "moment of truth" as we used to put to our colleagues in the NASL.
From that point on it was all downhill.
Howard was playing to the FIFA Referees Committees "code of control" rather than the style that got him to the World Cup.

HK Ref

Thank you Bob and Ed for your excellent assessment. Rita Mae Brown’s definition of insanity is wonderfully apt in terms of Howard Webb's approach.

If you have time, I would appreciate your thoughts on the following please:

1) The Tournament Referees Unit is supposed to be left alone and freely independent; and we always hear from those at the top (e.g. Sepp Blatter at FIFA; Michel Platini at UEFA) that they never interfere with or comment on the refereeing. So who is really responsible for the “advice” or “directives” that are handed down to the match referees? Is there a direct line from the FIFA president, or does the Tournament Referees Unit attempt to “second-guess” what the powers-that-be are unhappy with, and then construct their “advice” accordingly?

2) You have mentioned referee trios being from the same country, but how important is this for the 4th Official? We do not know whether Nishimura’s culture (you said he appeared very polite) or non-native English impacted on the communication between the match officials. Webb speaks with a Yorkshire accent and, at a guess, Nishimura’s English may be accented too. Imagine how they might sound to one another through their crackly communication devices! Therefore, should referee trios become quartets?

3) If Howard Webb had an injury, what are the World Cup competition rules for the replacement referee? If the 4th Official Nishimura had to replace Webb, would this mean that the whole referee trio would have to be replaced too? Similarly, if there was a 5th official specifically on standby duty in case of an injury to Webb, would there also be standby ARs from the same country?

Alberto P. Abreus

In response to JimG,

It's clear every world cup beginning with 1998, FIFA has instructed the referees to be mindful of certain types of misconduct. In 1998 it was tackles from behind; 2002, it was shirt pulls, and so on. 2010 it was all handballs must be sanctioned with a caution.

There is immense pressure brought to bear on the referees and the Referee Committee, from Blatter and his crew at FIFA. I'm glad you felt the referee's committee did a creditable job. I disagree. There were mistakes made, all directly attributable to this perceived directive to caution handballs. Irmatov gave a caution of Muller of Germany, that resulted in him sitting out the semi-final against Spain. It was a bad call and it was a decision that was clearly orchestrated by Messi's appeals for a handball. The funny thing is that Messi was the guilty party that had seconds earlier deliberately handled the ball.

You had top referees like Roberto Rosetti being sent home for the missed offside call; Larrionda being sent home for the missed goal. I have issues with how FIFA believes they can lay the blame squarely on the official and toss them to the side like some pariah or latter-day Leper.

Leigh W. Davis

I have been unable to craft a response consisting of multiple paragraphs so here’s my scattershooting of ideas:

The game didn’t need a red card!

Could anyone have foreseen the level to which the Dutch descended? While the Dutch had been seen to be a bit on the dirty side in early matches and there were clearly several players to watch carefully, their “play” in the finals took it to a whole new level. The France team that won in 1998 weren’t any angels. If I counted correctly, during the course of the 1998 finals they had 13 cautions and 3 sendings off. But I don’t recall anything approaching what we saw from the Dutch this year in the final.

Why would Mr. Webb would want to try to so hard to keep players on the field? There’s certainly historical precedent for sending off players in the final: 2 Argentinians in 1990; Desailly in 1998; and, Zidane in 2006.

My perception of Mr. Webb is that he likes and wants to use his police/people skills and physical stature to “man manage” rather than caution and send off. Which is all well and good if there’s potential for that if a player or two have gotten a bit worked up, but once the elephant is rampaging the only viable option is a large bore rifle and true aim.

Did FIFA recognize that the Dutch had little chance against Spain and select a referee more inclined to try to keep players on the field? I mean no disparagement of Mr. Webb; he had some excellent performances in the tournament. But the game would have been effectively over when Sr. Archundia sent off the second Dutch player before half time, ratings would have suffered, and the FIFA cash juggernaut would have taken a torpedo amidships.

Am I a little conspiracy theorist regarding FIFA? Yes. Sepp Blatter and company make Machiavelli look positively youth league.

This final set Dutch football back a decade. I’m not sure what I found more disgusting: their play or their attitudes. I still remember Dennis Bergkamp’s goal in the 1998 quarter final and their run in Euro 88, but I no longer have any desire to watch them play.

Here’s an interesting article posted before the final: http://www.cbsnews.com/8301-31751_162-20010188-10391697.html

Here’s an excerpt:

So much, therefore, might depend on the personage of Howard Webb, the English referee.
If he chooses to declare his intent early by yellow carding the first serious offense, he might make the Dutch more cogniscent of their boundaries.
If, however, he decides that a little World Wresting Entertainment (WWE) is just what the World Cup Final needs, then Spain might have a more difficult task.

And, of course, the game didn’t need a red card! (Or, if you prefer, the referee shouldn’t decide the game.)

Thank you for your insightful comments and analysis. I have learned much during this world cup.

Leigh W. Davis

Here's a link to an article in which Mr. Webb admits that with a better view, he would have sent Dejong off. http://www.guardian.co.uk/football/2010/aug/25/howard-webb-world-cup-final

What I find interesting is that he describes being despondent over showing so many cards. I find this interesting because I and so many others think he should have showed more---red ones!

I recently watched some highlights of 2006's Battle of Nuremberg. Two things struck me about that match. One, while Mr. Ivanov can certainly be criticized for missing a couple of straight reds, unlike Mr. Webb, he didn't hesitate to send off players when a second cautionable offense was committed. Two, both matches were marked by obscene amounts of dissent and mobbing of the referee. When Van Bommell was cautioned in the second minute of the match he leaned over and shouted into Ivanov's face. I wonder what would have happened had he then been sent off for that? Would Boulaharouz have planted studs into Ronaldo's thigh?

Is this a disturbing trend or isolated incidents?



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All around good article..

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