Sol Campbell and the FA

Posted by Pierre Igot in: Football
August 20th, 2003 • 9:55 pm

I have no idea what Kevin McCarra is trying to say in his August 20 column for The Guardian on the “rift” between Arsenal defender Sol Campbell and the Football Association following the incident with Manchester United player Djemba-Djemba during the recent Community Shield game.

What I’d like to quote is the following:

It is unfortunate that Djemba-Djemba’s recklessness in the more recent game with United will go unpunished. That episode is closed because Bennett dealt with it at the time by awarding a foul.

That is precisely the part that I don’t understand and that is at the core of the matter. When an incident is seen by the referee (or at least when the referee thinks that he has seen it) and a refereeing decision is made on the spot, the matter is considered closed. When an incident is not seen, the FA jumps in and makes its own decision.

What happens if a referee thinks he’s seen an incident and has a good appreciation of the gravity of it, but subsequent review of the incident on video shows that the referee’s decision was not appropriate? Nothing. Because the referee says he’s seen it, and dealt with it. In other words, the ultimate objective for a player is to commit a foul in a way that will be seen by the referee, but not seen well enough for the referee to have a good appreciation of it. That is how you can get away with murder on the pitch.

It seems to me that, in ORDER to be fair to all players, all incidents involving some kind of violence should be subject to the same review process, regardless of whether they were noticed by the referee during the game or not. Otherwise, it’s too easy for the referee to say that he saw this, but didn’t see that. A GROUP of independent observers reviewing recorded video evidence simply is not the same as a single individual on the pitch watching with his own eyes events as they unfold and HAVING to make decisions in the heat of the moment.

6 Responses to “Sol Campbell and the FA”

  1. Michael Williams says:

    The overturning or extension of a decision a referee has actively made on the pitch would undermine their authority, but review panel can safely rule on an incident the referee didn’t see without undermining him.

    Of course there may be individual cases where this leads to great injustice, but presumably that is felt to be a price worth paying for the respect afforded to refs by players and managers because they know their decisions are final.

    It’s a difficult balance to strike, but there’s no doubt that there is a categoric difference between actively overuling a ref and reviewin and incident the ref hasn’t ruled on.

  2. Pierre Igot says:

    I realize that allowing reviewing of ref decisions might be like opening a can of worms… but I still believe that there is a gross imbalance in the current situation. As for the “respect afford to refs by players and managers”, I tried to notice that the last time I watched Man U play, but I mostly saw the typical hounding and yelling when the ref or linesman made a decision that they didn’t like. :-)

    I guess my most important issue is when incidents that are clearly unacceptable and are NOT noticed by the referees are NOT being reviewed by the FA. A couple of Van Nistelrooy low blows and Scholes leg kicks come to mind…

    It just seems to me that whenever an Arsenal player is involved, the media make such a big deal of it that the FA has no choice but to say that it’ll review the incident. Whereas other teams to seem to have to suffer the same media treatment…

    If you are going to review, review all incidents, not just the ones that the media puts right under your nose.

  3. Pierre Igot says:

    Yes, SU did pretty well in the FA Cup last season :).

    I don’t know if refs are more respected in other sports (don’t know anything about cricket). From the little bit of hockey that I see on Canadian TV, I’d say it’s just as bad.

    I wonder if they’ll ever manage to integrate some kind of instant video replay assistance for referees in football… That would help, but it could easily disrupt the flow of the game.

    As for your pet peeve, I agree 100%. It’s beyond ridiculous.

  4. Michael Williams says:

    The rules of cricket were revised in 2000 to explicity include a policy on sportsmanship. The new section ‘The Spirit of Cricket‘ put down in words how the game was and is played. For me, this is how all sport should be played. It’s worth a read (and very short!)

  5. Pierre Igot says:

    Sounds very reasonable indeed :). Thanks for the link.

  6. Michael Williams says:

    I don’t think reviewing all incidents is a feasible solution—or for that matter desirable.

    But I entirely agree with you about Man U. I support a somewhat smaller team which managed to do incredibly well in cup competitions last season, in spite of the indubitable premiership bias. I haven’t seen Man U play since the first day of the Premiership back in 1993 (or 1994?) when we beat them 2-1. How things have changed … ;->

    And the hounding of refs and linesmans on the pitch, the immediate appeals for any possible decision, and the questioning of every decision that is given has to stop. I’m following the England test match (cricket!) at the moment, and the contrast is astounding. The culture of the game is completely different, and to be honest, I’m beginning to find footballer’s willingness to win through officiating rather than skill a bit irritating. Man U are probably amongst the worst offenders, but it’s a problem that the whole of football has to deal with. I can’t think of another sport where the officials are treated with such contempt and it is played with less sportsmanship. It doesn’t improve the game.

    And my pet peeve has to stop: people using their bodies to protect the ball (i.e. obstruct another player) as it roles harmlessly out of play. This is obstruction.

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