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It wasn't obvious obviously

It wasn't obvious obviously

Some of footballs laws are more ambiguous than others. Most red card calls are subjective judgements and as such will depend on the individual assessment of the referee. Whether a tackle is careless, reckless or uses force to excess is something that opinions will always be divided on though some are clearly more obvious than others. The decision as to whether a handball is 'deliberate` and therefore 'denying the opposing team a goal or an obvious goalscoring opportunity` seems to create more uncertainty than it should. Most deliberate handballs are, or should be evident enough. In an effort to clarify one particular law I wonder whether the game has made the situation more confusing.

A change in the law enabling professional fouls to be defined as 'serious foul play` and thereby a red card offence was introduced in 1982 following the spectacularly obvious foul by Willie Young on Paul Allen in the 1980 FA Cup final. With some tinkering in between the law was changed after 1998 to define what is now included as part of Law 12. The change calls for the referee to determine, under Law 12 whether a player has committed the offence of 'denying an obvious goalscoring opportunity to an opponent moving towards the player`s goal by an offence punishable by a free kick or a penalty kick`. On the surface it sounds clear enough except perhaps for the inclusion of the word obvious. It is an ambiguous enough law for the game to seek to establish its own criteria to decide whether the opportunity is obvious enough. This is usually promoted as the unwritten and therefore non-existent 'last man` rule by which if another player is close enough to impede the player then it might be determined that if an opportunity existed it wasn`t an obvious one. Similarly judgements are made as to whether the player was in control of the ball notwithstanding that he might have been if he hadn`t first been fouled.

Incidents over the season and particularly over the last two weekends make me wonder whether we might tinker with this law a little more. Koscienly was sent off against Newcastle having been judged to have brought down Nile Ranger closer to the touchline than the penalty area. An opportunity to score a goal might have resulted had he been able to go on but from that angle and the distance he still had to travel I wonder how obvious it might have been. The same referee, Mike Dean awarded a penalty against Wes Brown in the ManU/Villa game at the weekend. Though Browns defensive partner was also very near the play the ball had passed him and he had no chance of playing a part in defending the attack. That an obvious goal scoring opportunity was denied seems obvious enough, certainly far more obvious than Koscienly`s but Dean chose not to issue a red card for the denial on this occasion. Similarly Squillaci seemed to deny Saha an opportunity to score a goal in the game against Everton yesterday. This supposedly was deemed not to be obvious because Clichy might have been able to get to him though almost certainly not before Saha had got into the penalty box. The only factor that might have made the anticipated chance not an obvious one would probably have been that Saha would have had to take it with his right foot but that an opportunity would have arisen seems clear.

Maybe a red card is fair punishment for denying a genuine opportunity but for the most part it is invoked quite often when the opportunity isn`t such an obvious one so perhaps a different more appropriate punishment might be made. Instead of issuing a red card any professional or deliberate foul on a player through the last line of defence, outside but within a given distance of say 10 yards from the penalty box should be punishable with a penalty. It won`t stop opinions being divided over whether it was a foul or not or whether it was deliberate or not but obviously at present not all goal scoring opportunities are obvious either.

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Date:Monday November 15 2010
Time: 11:47AM


I think no matter how obvious a rule, foul or situation is, we're always going to have the "fors" and "againsts". We football fans are an extremely blinkered breed. With regards to recent weeks I think things have evened itself out for us, I thought Koscielny's red card was very harsh, no where near close enough to either dead ball line to be a goal scoring opportunity, but then Squilaaci got away with one yeseterday. As you say, it's all about personal interpritation of the rule, but there's ultimately only one opinion that counts.
15/11/2010 12:02:00
I personally think its extremly harsh when they give a red card & penalty for being the last man. You have a 80-90 percent chance of going a goal down and playing with 10 men for something that might of been a tangle of legs or a slightly mistimed tackle.
15/11/2010 12:17:00
But then isn't even the ten metres/yards subjective? Or are we just going to increase the size of the box by ten metres? The current system is flawed, but any other system employed in favour of it would also have its flaws. I suppose the one argument you can make for not giving a red card in a case like the Wes Brown one is, that in giving a way a penalty, he does not actually deny a goal scoring opportunity, he just denies you one opportunity for another.
Ozi Gooner
15/11/2010 12:21:00
last man/goal scoring opportunity*
15/11/2010 12:22:00
It makes no sense, even by the letter of the law, to send a player off for commiting a foul in the area for the penalty and then sending him off for "denying a goal scoring opportunity" .... because they have a penalty, the opportunity is still there and if anything the player has made that opportunity even easier. Bonkers.
15/11/2010 12:34:00
Rocky7 and if they miss the penalty? Also I think to state that penalties are easier is a little bit naive. I think it all comes down to sportsmanship, if the opposing team is bearing down on goal 1-on-1 and they get hacked down then surely its only fair that player is given their marching orders. Maybe an unwritten rule perhaps.
15/11/2010 12:42:00
TFN7, how many times is a penalty/red card given for a 100%, nailed on, definite goal? It's pretty rare. Cases like Luis Suarez punching the ball off the goal line are 1 in 1000, not the norm. In most cases when a penalty and/or red card is given the goal is no more likely before or after the decision. In some cases the penalty makes it much more likely. However, I'd agree that if it is both a professional foul and a clear penalty (which is far from always the case) then a red is the correct decision.
Ozi Gooner
15/11/2010 12:50:00
If a penalty is sufficient punishment for denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity in the box then it should be sufficient for denying the opportunity when outside the box. The decisions to make are the same - is it an obvious scoring opportunity and was it a deliberate foul? There's no need to extend the penalty area as such as the rule as at present is only designed to stop the professional foul and in many ways its fairer to the team that has been denied the chance.
15/11/2010 12:57:00
I don't disagree with that, but your suggestion of 10 yards within the box is arbitrary. You can cut a player down 20 yards or more from the box and be denying a goal scoring chance.
Ozi Gooner
15/11/2010 12:59:00
I'm not so fussed whether its 10 or 20 yards but it's just as arbitrary now. Logically the further away from goal you are the less obvious the opportunity is. There's got to be a pretty good chance that a goal would follow to warrant a penalty as it should now to warrant a red card. Some refs find it much easier to give red cards than penalties.
15/11/2010 13:13:00
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