In the dark prehistory of football, before video refereeing was introduced, referees sometimes had to use circumstantial evidence to make important decisions.

Consider, for example, Rudolf Kleitlein’s dismissal of Argentine captain Antonio Rattin in the 1966 World Cup quarter-finals for dissent. German Kreitrain didn’t understand a word of what Latin said to him in Spanish, but “the look on his face was enough”.

These old refereeing techniques are apparently lost. I have never seen a more guilty look in football than Fabinho’s after Evan planted a stud in Ferguson’s Achilles tendon five minutes after his FA Cup tie ended yesterday.

The usual reaction when Fabinho commits a foul is to smile sweetly at the referee. This time, he rose from the challenge and appeared to be the man who realized that he had accidentally run over his neighbor’s dog and that his neighbor’s kids had seen the whole thing.

Referee David Coote’s failure to see the seriousness of the foul in real time was clearly a bad mistake, and Fabinho painstakingly apologized, effectively admitting guilt. But that’s why he has VAR. A video replay gives a clear picture of what happened, and video assistant Niels Warbrick will no doubt step in to recommend Fabinho Red his card.

But Swarbrick saw no reason to participate. Only victim Ferguson played no further part in the match. Brighton manager Roberto de Zerbi said it was too early to say whether he had suffered a “serious injury”.

Ferguson was off the field after receiving initial treatment, as was Virgil van Dijk after Jordan Pickford broke his knee at Goodison Park in 2020. (David Coote) also missed it.)

Football has always had misjudgements, but when you can watch it being played in slow motion from multiple angles and the referee still doesn’t seem to have done anything wrong, that extra dimension of mind-bending absurdity is there. I have.

In the context of what Howard Webb said last month when he became the new Chief Referee Officer of Professional Game Match Officials Ltd (PGMOL), it’s hard not to look at the Fabinho Ferguson debacle. Of course, Webb made his name in refereeing history in his 2010 World Cup final for not realizing Nigel de Jong had Xavi his Alonso encrusted heart.

“I honestly had no idea this was a red card,” Webb wrote in his autobiography six years later. In that case, on that pitch, I was completely sure it was yellow. He was less than one percent who thought otherwise. ”

It wasn’t until halftime that he saw the foul and realized how bad it was.

“I was incredibly pissed off. It looked like I missed a red card offense in the World Cup final. [Looked like?] “What a terrible nightmare.”

With that error being a defining moment in Webb’s career, it’s no surprise that he professes to be a “strong proponent of VAR.”

But since Webb took the top job, his main goal seems to be to reduce the role of VAR.

“I think we’ve seen the best implementations around the world with the least interference,” he said in December.

“It is behind it and will only intervene in situations where the majority of people agree that there has been a clear and obvious error…the training that must be given to officials is to determine when a clear error has occurred.” It is about consistently identifying what has been done.”

The implication of this policy is that any VAR intervention becomes something of a rebuke to the referee, a public rebuke of incompetence. Instead of “This is potentially important and you may have missed”, “I think you made a serious mistake”.

Webb often reminds us that referees are human. In that case, don’t pretend they are less sensitive than others to public professional embarrassment. Will you teach, or will you keep quiet and pretend you think you’re okay?

A further complication arises from the increasingly relaxed attitude towards fouls. This was summed up by former referee (and current video his assistant his referee) Mike Riley in his column for The Daily Mail earlier this season: Flow freely and legally as much as possible, but not when they are always going for free kicks. Harmless interruptions prevent fans from watching the free-flowing game of his top-flight football. ”

Did you know that there is something else stopping fans from watching free-flowing football matches? Fouls. Fouls can break the flow of the game as effectively as they stop the flow of the match, and if you decide not to punish fouls, what you are sure to get is more fouls.

In the Brighton-Liverpool match, Ferguson, Mo Salah and Alexis Mack Allister were brought down in attack but not fouled.

Mack Allister was sprinting through goal when Ibrahima Konate knocked him to the ground – and there was a strong reason to send off the already booked Liverpool defender – but Couto continued to play and perhaps Congratulated himself that he was “going with the flow.”

A tackle from behind that endangered the safety of an opponent was an automatic red card offense in 1998. But 25 years later, referees are waving at those tackles.

So Andy Carroll can jump into Christian Eriksen and walk away without a reservation, while Fabinho only gets yellow for studding Ferguson’s Achilles. are also victims of a refereeing culture that emphasizes avoiding potentially unpopular decisions. Don’t worry about casualties, feel the flow.


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