Alistair Hendrie examines the latest example of refereeing pedantry and, well, despairs.
The world has gone positively potty for anarchy recently, with anti-establishment protests becoming commonplace, as well as looting and rioting in London. After all, the antagonistic rioters argued they were “only getting their taxes back” – ironic considering most of them were copycat 14-year-old ASBO/truant cases.
We live in a world strictly governed by rules, and it’s a slippery slope. Right from birth, it’s in our DNA to rebel against authority. There’s the baby who won’t eat what you feed them, the child who won’t go to bed when you tell them to, the teenager who won’t turn their music down. Whatever happens, if someone tells us to do something, most of the time, we will give them the finger and do the exact opposite.
And football is no different. England stalwarts John Terry, Ashley Cole, Joe Hart and Andy Carroll have all endured well-publicised misdemeanours in recent years – Terry and Cole, ahem, putting it about, Carroll putting away pints and Hart’s (woeful) dancing on tables. God bless the tabloids. But where does the rule-breaking end? Why should a player receive a booking for taking off his shirt after a goal? Surely the sight of a man’s bare chest in public is not such an astonishing disgrace in 2011.
Of course, these days the match in question would be fixed anyway. That or the players wouldn’t turn up because they are on strike. But there’s one rule – one godforsaken rule – that leaves fans fuming more than most. A player takes a free-kick on the centre circle and is penalised for taking it too quickly – he then does the exact same thing a split second later, with most of the other players in an identical position to before. Whatever next?
Recently, Russia’s Euro 2012 qualifier against Republic of Ireland in Moscow saw yet another calamitous example of a refereeing jobsworth. Step forward German Felix Brych. Deep into the second half, with Ireland’s bulletproof defence standing up to a Russian onslaught, Richard Dunne slid into Russia’s Yuri Zhirkov. Dunne’s head then bounced dangerously off of the nearby running track.
He was left with a rearranged face when he trudged off to change his scarlet-stained shirt. Now, this isn’t the main problem. Replacing a bloodied shirt is the intelligent option, but what came next was a shambles which left groans reverberating around the Irish bench.
After a nervy 10 minutes with the Aston Villa man receiving treatment on the sidelines, Dunne returned with a numberless shirt – not good enough for Brych. He was booked and made to go back – only to have goalkeeping coach Alan Kelly scrawl a five onto the shirt with a chunky felt tip pen, an instrument which, by the way, looks ridiculous when used by anyone over the age of seven.
What irks most about this is the pedantic nature of Brych’s decision. A referee should, though they rarely do, let the game flow as well possible and also let common sense prevail in certain situations. Generally, referees are good at dealing with more serious injuries – Dunne received stitches off the pitch immediately – but considering Brych barely took the laws of the game into consideration, his decision to send Dunne back was remarkably blinkered.
On page 18 of FIFA’s Laws of the Game, it states a jersey, short or long sleeves, is mandatory equipment but mentions nothing about a number on the front. Indeed, many newspapers and members of the UK press were adamant that Dunne had not broken any rules by entering the field of play without a number on his shirt. UEFA, governing body for Euro 2012, also stated they have no qualms about a player playing without a number after a blood injury.
Given that Dunne was wearing a white shirt and green shorts, it appeared quite obvious which side he was on – his thick Dublin accent would have been more help to the ever-intuitive Brych. More to the point, one wonders what number he noted down when the booked the numberless Dunne. In this age of ghost goals, video technology arguments and disgracefully quick free kicks, the mind really does boggle.
You can find Alistair on Twitter @allyh84.