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Do Referees Know The Rules On Two-Footed Challenges?

Thursday 12th January 2012

In the past two weeks there have been three occasions in English football where the rule over the two-footed tackle has been challenged to its core, losing any of the consistency that was there in the first place. From the terraces and by watching the sport on television at home, it's clear to see that the game has almost become bubble-wrapped, the players becoming evermore protected following horrific challenges that we have seen in previous seasons.



Leg breaks from the past ten years include the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Eduardo and Alf-Inge Haaland in 2001. Of those challenges all three perpetrators (Martin Taylor, Ryan Shawcross and Roy Keane) were sent off, but only one tackle (Keane's) had an element of malice.

The softening of the game has correlated with the rising number of cards shown in each game. Ex-referee and PFA official Dermot Gallagher claimed he would've sent four players off whilst reviewing a previous FA Cup final a few years ago. Of course, nobody wants to see somebody sent off as on most occasions it kills the game.

Three tackles spring to mind in the past couple of weeks which could have had effects as serious as the the leg-breaking challenges mentioned above. Factors differ from winning possession from the tackle and studs getting caught in the ground, as was Eduardo's downfall.

Out of the three recent tackles in question, only Frank Lampard's tackle on Adam Hammill in the first half of Chelsea's match at Molineux on January 2nd was punished, and only with a yellow card by referee Peter Walton. Wolves went on to lose in the dying minutes thanks to, ironically, a Frank Lampard goal. The only debate held should be why didn't Walton send Lampard off? Lampard didn't win the ball, he was off the ground when he lunged at Hammill and caught him on the shin, a tackle similar to Martin Taylor's against Eduardo in February 2008 where the Croatian striker infamously broke his leg.

 

The challenge that has perhaps hogged a little more of the limelight than the other two was the Vincent Kompany challenge on Nani. This is almost certainly due to the magnitude of the match and the fact that it was blatantly obvious that it wasn't a red card. Nani didn't flinch and the fact that Kompany didn't leave the ground and got the ball gives City manager Roberto Mancini the right to be infuriated with Chris Foy as the decision ultimately cost City the match and their place in the FA Cup. It left a gaping hole in the City backline, and they found themselves 3-0 down by half-time.

Kompany's challenge was well-timed, couldn't have hurt Nani in any way and watching the replays back, Chris Foy will be looking back with regret. In such a high profile match and with so much at stake, the fact that the FA didn't rescind the red card shows that they were backed in a corner to defend the referee. The Belgian defender misses four matches, including both legs of the Carling Cup semi-final the first of which City have already lost.
Maybe, instead of defending their referees, the FA should clamp down on the officials instead of making examples of players. The level of consistency is not even close to being good enough. This decision has been inflamed somewhat by the controversy surrounding the City's Carling Cup semi-final first leg 1-0 defeat to Liverpool at the Etihad. A third referee comes into the equation as Lee Mason failed to spot foul in Glen Johnson's tackle on Joleon Lescott as a foul.

Undoubtedly, as claimed by Mancini, the tackle was worse than Kompany's on Sunday. Yes, Johnson got the ball in the tackle but the nature that the English full-back went about it was totally wrong, he left the air and clearly to most in attendance left the ground with both his feet.

Mancini was then confronted by Steven Gerrard in the middle of his press interview, with the Liverpool midfielder claiming the City boss was trying to get Johnson sent off by waving an imaginary card. Gerrard also backed up his fellow England colleague, claiming that Mancini was contradicting himself having complained that Wayne Rooney was trying to get Kompany sent off on Sunday.

If there is to be no rule change with the officials then a level of consistency needs to be applied by all of the top-flight referees. The fact that three separate officials failed to spot the right decision for all three of these tackles makes it ever the more damning for the profession of referees. The PFA need to implement something sooner than later.
Jake Doyle

Total articles: 19

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