Monday, 23 May 2016

Referees are Players at Heart: Mike Riley

Players at heart: Mike Riley’s love of the game keeps him focused on job

Former English Premier League official still relishes the game and hopes to develop the standards of refereeing
PUBLISHED : Sunday, 22 May, 2016, 1:37am

If there was a referee that might have reason to be angry about the plight of officials in the modern game that might well be Mike Riley.

There is the constant sniping in the media, an excruciating focus on every dubious decision they make, an abundance of new technology leaving them open to even more criticism and a pervasive lack of respect from highly paid players.

There aren’t too many referees who feature in their own nine-minute YouTube video chronicling every tiny error from one particularly criticised performance in the 2004-05 season.

The video, made up of a series of clips from the Manchester United-Arsenal match has amassed well over 350,000 views, and more than 650 comments, the overwhelming majority of which are rabidly critical of him.

And yet, despite this, he maintains it was a love of the game that started him off in refereeing and he still finds joy in doing it today.

“I used to play. Ask any referee and we’re players at heart,” says Riley on the sidelines of the HKFC Soccer Sevens yesterday, where he was delighted to referee children’s and special needs matches.
“If we could be players we would be. Very quickly I realised the limits of my ability as a player and refereeing was the next best thing.”

Riley, the current general manager of the Professional Game Match Officials Board (PGMOB), a body which is tasked with monitoring referees and developing excellence in officiating, was an at times divisive figure during his long top-flight refereeing career.

He professes his love for Hong Kong and the Soccer Sevens tournament in particular and has been a regular at Hong Kong Football Club for eight years. In 2007 he oversaw the Hong Kong FA Cup final.

An approachable character, a bruising career has failed to dim his enthusiasm for the game.
Perhaps most notably, he speaks in glowing terms about the respect afforded to officials by players and managers.

“I actually think that the players should be given an awful lot of credit for the way that they conduct themselves. And the relationships between players and referees, and referees and managers is really first class,” said Riley.

Now 51, the mild-mannered Yorkshireman enjoyed a 20-year career in refereeing and worked his way up from being an assistant in the football league, to a Premier League official in 2006, before being granted the vaunted Fifa status to officiate over international matches.

But it is a day in Cardiff back in 2002 that he considers to be the pinnacle of his career.

“As an English referee, you only ever get to referee the FA Cup final one time, so that’s a very special occasion,” said Riley.
“To walk out at the Millennium Stadium with the ball under your arm – it was Arsenal-Chelsea and a fantastic game of football – one of those things that you’ll always remember.”

Upon his retirement in 2009, he replaced Keith Hackett as general manager of the PGMOB, and in that capacity, he’s keen to develop the standards of refereeing, even if it means a greater reliance on technology.

“Referees want decisions to be correct,” said Riley. “The Premier League introduced goal line technology three years ago. Last season, there were around 20 decisions when we used the technology.
“In four or five of those, we’re talking millimetres – did the ball cross the line or did it not – virtually undetectable to the human eye. Now we have the answer.

“Can we extend that? Referees want to enhance the game. We want to get the key decisions right. If you look at the other sports that have harnessed technology it’s benefited match officials. I’m sure it will in football.”

Reference: article in

Tuesday, 22 March 2016

Referees live in fear as grass-roots game spirals out of control

There is an article from The Telegraph highlighting results from a survey of over 2,000 grass-roots referees in England. There needs to be a much better and improved version of the Respect campaign.

Respect 2.0 please!

Tuesday, 8 March 2016

Chief Football Writers Need to Learn the Rules

It was interesting to read the Telegraph's chief football writer Sam Wallace claiming that Tottenham Hotspur's second goal in the North London derby on Saturday 5th March 2016 developed from an offside incident that was never picked up by the match officials.

Wallace is wrong, as shown by this screen shot.

 Arsenal defender (red) is clearly keeping Dele Alli (white) onside, which led to 
Harry Kane's sensational goal to make it 2-1

From the Telegraph article


Kane fires hosts ahead

What a finish. Harry Kane, that is magnificent. He bends in a 25-yard shot from wide of the box all the way around the goal and over Ospina. Absolutely incredible finish - he'll never finish one better. Luckily for Arsene Wenger, Dele Alli was offside in the build-up so he can blame that after the game, rather than his team going into meltdown. Again.

Tuesday, 1 March 2016

16 football rules that drive us mad and must be changed

By and large, football writers who give their opinions of the game reveal their lack of knowledge for the Laws of the Game. They may mean well in wanting to help to improve the game, but they fail miserably because of their ignorance of what they understand match officials should do.

This is perfectly captured by the rather mundane article "16 football rules that drive us mad"
                   means their opinion lacks technical knowledge;
                     means their suggestion may actually help match officials.)

16 football rules that drive us mad and must be changed

Some of our writers started discussing the laws of the game - and got angrier and angrier. Here are their main gripes, and what they would change






The football rules that drive us mad
We want some of the rules tweaked to make the beautiful game more beautiful Photo: GETTY IMAGES/FIFA

Kicking the ball out when players get injured

Not a rule as such, but a convention that no longer has any place in the game. And for what’s supposed to be an act of sportsmanship, it’s amazing how often this strange ritual never fails to generate maximum ill-feeling. This is because there are two false assumptions underpinning it. Firstly, that any player on the ground is in need of treatment.
Kicking the ball out of play for an injured player often enrages supporters

And secondly, that the player on the ball can make an instant medical diagnosis of an opponent lying 70 yards away. Kicking the ball out may have had its roots in fair play and comradery, but it’s been exploited with ruthless cynicism by divers, time-wasters and cretins. If referees are too squeamish to stop an attack in full-flow, then either let play continue while players get treatment, or appoint a neutral doctor with the authority to stop play.
Jonathan Liew


Honestly, nobody knows the handball rule.
"He hasn't moved his hands towards the ball", "it's ball-to-hand", "it's not deliberate", they say in an offender's defence.
The exact wording in the FA's rules says "A direct free kick [or penalty] is awarded...if a player handles the ball deliberately" while "distance between the opponent and ball" should be taken into consideration.
Daley Blind blocks John Terry's shot with his hand. Handball?

But when does a player actually mean to block the ball with their hand? When does someone knowingly and deliberately move his hand or arm towards the ball? Unless he is Luis Suarez, the answer is very, very rarely indeed.
The excuse "his hand is in a natural position" is also used - but what does that even mean?! Who on earth knows what a natural position is when you're sliding in at 100 miles an hour or jumping to head the ball. Was Daley Blind's arm unnaturally positioned as John Terry struck at goal at Stamford Bridge on Sunday? Who knows?
A solution is hard to come by but it seems to me that a blanket every-instance-of-hand-touching-ball might be the best answer, with destination of the ball the deciding factor. This isn't without problems though - it may encourage attempts to deliberately flick the ball onto an outstretched arm and will almost certainly mean even more appeals. It's better than the mess we have at the moment, though.
Alistair Tweedale

Fouls not given in the penalty area

This is very simple really. A foul is a foul regardless of where on the pitch it has occured. It is not the referee's job to debate whether a penalty is too harsh a punishment for someone committing an offence inside the 18-yard box. Yes, there are major issues with being forced to harshly send players off in certain situations but that is a separate debate that should not come into this equation. For the purposes of this point the only issue should be foul = penalty. If it's a foul on the halfway line, it's a foul in the penalty area.                
NB. Tim Sherwood is yet to fully grasp the concept of penalty areas...

Ben Bloom

The penalty

The punishment system in football is a mess: regular fouls, even deliberate fouls, are penalised so leniently that teams use them as a strategic ploy (“he’s taken one for the team there”). The penalty, on the other hand, punishes even piddling offences with an almost certain goal, based on a completely arbitrary 18-yard measurement. The penalty rule is a relic of the days when football was a more territorial game, and an attacker with the ball in the penalty area was very likely to score.

These days, it makes no sense, and simply encourages referees to take the safe option. Of the first 53 fouls in the penalty area during Euro 2012, 52 were given against the attacking team. By introducing free-kicks inside the area, you would allow referees to punish minor defensive offences (shirt-pulling, grappling in the area, marginal handball calls), in turn rewarding attacking football.
Jonathan Liew

Get rid of the quadruple punishment

Building on the changes needed for the penalty rule, something must be done about the quadruple punishment of your goalkeeper giving away a penalty. A slight miscalculation from a keeper can mean a red card, a penalty, a need for a substitution and a suspension. Would it be too radical to just award a rugby style penalty goal, keep the cards in the ref's pocket and move on? I can't see how either the attacking or defending team could be too enraged by that outcome. If the foul is violent and deserving of a red card in and of itself, then a red card and a penalty goal could be awarded.

Getting rid of such a harsh punishment, and this goes for professional fouls by defenders as well, would solve the problem of referees being wary of giving penalties that they know will also require an automatic red card. Time and again we see officials shy away from giving a foul that will also mean sending off a player, which is hardly surprising when the consequences of getting the decision wrong are so severe.                   
Charlie Eccleshare


Footballers get away with absolute murder when it comes to dissent. Why not take a leaf out of rugby's book and take a no tolerance stand to back-chat?
Diego Costa vents his spleen at a linesman

"A player who is guilty of dissent by protesting (verbally or non-verbally) against a referee’s decision must be cautioned."

So when Diego Costa squares up to a linesman or Joe Hart pushes his head into Michael Oliver's face, it should be (at least) a yellow card. Footballers might become nicer people and it could encourage others to become referees.
Alistair Tweedale

The unwanted advantage

There are few things more infuriating than when your team sees a player fouled while defending a lead and are grateful to have the free-kick, but the ball rolls to a team-mate, who is surrounded by opposition players, and the ref screams "play on, advantage".
This is not an advantage. Clearly what the defending team wants is a free-kick, especially when they then find themselves in danger of being instantly dispossessed. It would be one thing if the player could hack the ball away, and effectively accept the free-kick for his team, but if he tried this tactic invariably the ref would say he had the ball and therefore an advantage that he had has now passed. It's also not an advantage to not be awarded a free-kick plum in front of goal but instead have a player quickly hustled off the ball on the edge of the box.
A referee plays an advantage
We often see refs refuse to play advantages when they should, but this reverse advantage is equally as damaging.

While on the topic, it would be worth experimenting with a longer advantage rule, like in rugby. This would encourage referees to play more advantages, without being worried that the team he's given the advantage to is about to lose possession.                      
Charlie Eccleshare

Encroachment on penalties

The rules state: "the referee must check that the players other than the [penalty] kicker are located: Inside the field of play [and] Outside the penalty area."
If it's a rule, enforce it. It's not hard to police as it only happens at penalties which start with everyone standing still, and yet often players are not punished for entering the area before a penalty is taken.
The Fifa website is very clear on this  Photo: FIFA

The solution? If an attacker enters the box before the penalty is struck and it is scored or he gains an advantage at a rebound, retake it. If a defender enters the box before the penalty is struck and it is missed, retake it.
Alistair Tweedale

Foul throws

Anyone who has played Sunday League football is unlikely to have ever completed 90 minutes without a member of the opposition piping up 50 yards away from the action with a strangled cry of: "Foul throw ref!" You see, the rules in amateur football are simple: A player is allowed only to launch a throw-in long down the line. Any attempt to go short, throw the ball to feet or in any way promote anything other than lumped, long-ball football is to be immediately pulled up for a foul throw under the rule that "It didn't really look right".
Oddly, the professional game appears to adhere to a completely different interpretation of the rule, namely that anything goes. And by anything I mean ANYTHING. At which point it seems right to bring in Patrice Evra:

Really this is all a load of unnecessary nonsense isn't it? The benefit to be gained from one angle of release compared to another is negligible at best and there is a simple solution: Everyone should just chill out. Of course that isn't a rule that can be formally implemented so instead let's propose a new simplified regulation that states: "The thrower must deliver the ball with two hands from behind their head". As long as the two hands start from behind the head it should make no difference at what point the ball is released. It can be released behind the head, over the head or in front of the head. IT DOESN'T MATTER. Just let the ball re-enter the field and allow play to continue.
As long as you don't do what Evra did. That should literally never be allowed.
Ben Bloom

Goalkeepers coming off their line at penalties

It's less the act itself that is so frustrating and more the seeming total inability of linesmen to pick goalkeepers up for it. At the point the penalty taker's boot connects with the ball, regulations state that the keeper must be on his line. If he has encroached in any way then the penalty will be retaken (unless it has been scored, in which case the goal stands). In reality the goalkeeper will come off his line approximately 99 per cent of the time and be penalised for the offence approximately two per cent of the time (those statistics may or may not be totally accurate).
The Fifa website is also very clear on this

The assistant referee positions himself on the goal line with the sole purpose of watching the keeper. Where goal-time technology is in use, he literally has nothing else to do aside from watching the keeper. Just watch the keeper. Watch him step off his line and raise your flag. It's simple. Stop allowing goalkeepers to cheat.
Ben Bloom

Players getting booked for taking their shirt off

Tempting as it is to sigh at a goalscorer for removing their shirt when an automatic yellow card (and shrug of the referee's shoulders) inevitably follows, it's hard to fathom exactly what this clause of Law 12 is trying to achieve. Even less understandable is the mandatory caution for any goalscorer whose celebration takes them into the crowd - as if any visible blurring of the boundaries between star players and humble supporters could possibly be tolerated in the modern game.
This is admittedly a terrifying sight

Law 12 does allow for referees to apply "common sense" to goal celebrations but, with the dreaded assessor sat in the stands looking for cold-blooded consistency, there seems little opportunity for football to throw caution to the wind when it comes to unbridled goalscoring joy.
Adam Hurrey

Defender holding off forward as ball trickles out

Back passes, tackling from behind - these have been addressed down the years by law-makers as they encourage attacking football. But there is one ugly, glaring exception. How many times do we see a defender blocking a forward while making no attempt to play the ball as it trickles out of touch for a goal-kick or throw-in?

An exciting, attacking possibility fizzles out in a moment of undiluted negativity. It could be described as an art, of sorts, but in reality has nothing to do with the skill of football. The remedy? Revive and enforce the old obstruction law. Any player who refuses to play the ball while impeding an opponent should have a free-kick awarded against him. And make it a yellow card for a second offence.
Ben Findon

Players wasting time

This is an offence that gets me irrationally angry, partly because there seems to be such an easy deterrent. If a goalkeeper or defender continues to waste time, book them. A referee can then say to the offender, “keep doing that and I’ll send you off.” Instead what happens is referees allow players to time waste until the very last minute, and then decide to book them, by which point the yellow card is entirely useless.

Referees should also crack down on players taking an age to leave the pitch when being substituted. Again, all it would take is a quiet word with the player telling him to hurry up or be booked. The deterrent to time wasting exists, please can referees start using it.                    
Charlie Eccleshare

Time for substitutions not being added on

Injury time is always stated as "a minimum", yet it is hardly ever extended beyond the minimum; it is almost always exactly that amount. A favoured time-wasting tactic for managers is to wait until stoppage time to make a pointless substitution because it isn't seen as time wasting and usually doesn't result in more time added on. Such a substitution can waste as much as a minute of crucial late play.

The clock should be stopped when the ball is out of play during injury time - like in rugby. Play the exact number of allotted minutes, to the second, unless a team is on the attack. Once that attack ends, blow the final whistle.
Alistair Tweedale

Who decided technical areas were a good idea?

All they do is provide a job for the fourth official, obliging him to tell managers earning up to £7m a year to stand inside a white dotted box.
It also lessens the chance of a Jose Mourinho/Arsene Wenger style incident, and who doesn't want to see more of that?
Let's be honest, we all found this hilarious
Get rid of them. Or, if they are to stay, make managers share one during the last 10 minutes of games.
Julian Bennetts

Six second rule

Often the gripe of Sunday League footballers the country over, the six second rule is rarely enforced as we know it.
Interestingly, however, the six seconds only starts once the goalkeeper is in control of the ball and able to start looking to release it back into play, which is up to the referee's interpretation.
'Six seconds ref' will have been screamed by someone shortly before this kick
The six seconds should be enforced more stringently but given the ruling it is rare for keepers to hold onto the ball that long.
The answer to this one is to stop letting it wind us up so much.
Alistair Tweedale

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Referee Correct to Disallow Goal by Bournemouth

Much has been said about the injustice, and the appearance of injustice, to Bournemouth in their match against Liverpool on Monday 17th August 2015. However, the injustice of Christian Benteke's winning goal—which should have been called offside and wasn't—does not mean that there was also an injustice to Tommy Elphick's goal, which referee Craig Pawson correctly disallowed.

The media and Bournemouth wrongly believe that Bournemouth had two major decisions go against them ... when in fact it was only one.

Here are the freeze frames of the Cherries' disallowed goal:

Bournemouth's Tommy Elphick (black 5) fouls Liverpool's Dejan Lovren (red 6) to head the ball

Elphick clearly does not believe he did anything wrong as he headed the ball into the Liverpool net in the 11th minute, saying:
"It is really frustrating. I wouldn't like to be doing the referee's job. I got up ahead of him (Dejan Lovren), obviously you have to use your arms as leverage."
Is it obvious that players have to use their arms as leverage? No!

Referees know that if a player uses his arms against an opponent to prevent him from jumping, then it is an offence. Elphick effectively pushed his opponent down, which is a foul.

Friday, 14 August 2015

Are ex-Referee Graham Poll's Views Relevant Anymore?

With the start of the 2015-16 EPL season referee Michael Oliver, who officiated Chelsea's 2-2 draw with Swansea, demonstrated why he is possibly the best referee currently in the premiership. Ex-EPL referee Graham Poll praised Oliver but then said something that seriously jarred against modern-day refereeing principles.

Referee Michael Oliver sends off Chelsea's Thibaut Courtois for DOGSO. Pic AP.

In his column Poll said: "Michael Oliver was right to award Swansea a penalty against Chelsea... but Thibaut Courtois did not deserve a straight red card".
He based his reasoning by insisting that "For DOGSO, the ball must be heading towards goal and, as replays show, it was not."

This is a very traditional, rigid and non-progressive take on DOGSO and I do not know of any referee instructors who still stick to this, especially at the highest levels. The problem is perhaps because Graham Poll no longer teaches in refereeing circles, and therefore is no longer up to date with the best current refereeing practices. Therefore, are Poll's views about referees relevant anymore?

Thankfully, the FA review panel rejected Chelsea's ill-advised and frivolous appeal against Courtois' red card and upheld the one-match ban.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

Whose Blunder Is It Anyway?

Media reports have accused a Chinese goalkeeper of making a serious mistake. Sui Weijie's club Lifan has also fined him 50,000 yuan (about US$8,000) and faces a suspension. However, a bigger mistake was made by the match officials ... what was it?

Liaoning players (red) take a quick free kick against Lifan (white) in the Chinese Super League

You can see the video here (or watch below)

PUBLISHED : Tuesday, 26 May, 2015

Quenching his thirst while on duty proved costly for Chongqing Lifan goalkeeper Sui Weijie, who has been fined for sipping water as their opponents equalised in a Chinese Super League match.
Relegation-threatened Lifan were leading 1-0 seven minutes from time in Sunday’s match when hosts Liaoning took a quick free-kick and midfielder Ding Haifeng darted past a group of static defenders before slotting the ball into an empty net, with Sui stood motionless drinking next to the goal post.

Lifan have since slapped Sui with a 50,000 yuan fine and he faces suspension.

Alternative angle

"I made a terrible mistake in Sunday’s game and let go a full three points," Sui, who was confronted by Lifan supporters at Liaoning’s Shenyang Airport on Monday, was quoted as saying.

"I won’t repeat the same mistake and will never lose concentration."

And Sui is unlikely to be a popular man in the dressing room - management had promised players a 1 million yuan bonus for a win, which was reduced to 400,000 since they only drew.

Sui was questioned by the ICAC in 2010 while playing in Hong Kong for Happy Valley in a match-fixing scandal, but never charged.