For two weeks in a row now, glaring penalty calls have been missed in the early Saturday EPL game. Wolves’ striker Kevin Doyle was fouled twice, by my count, when through on goal, and last week it was Villa’s Agbonlahor who was being tripped in the act of shooting. (Here are the videos for the Wolves and the Villa incidents).
What’s interesting is the commonalities: Both incidents would have demanded a red card for the offender, and they both happened very early in the game (2nd minute for Wolves, 11th minute for Villa). (I’ll set aside the fact that in both cases, the more-fancied team was given the benefit of any doubt).
It’s my feeling that referees are loathed to call a penalty that would also result in red card that early in the game. Whether it’s human nature or a conscious decision, I reckon they don’t want to spoil the game by making 10 v 11 for 80+ minutes.
This highlights the problem with the so-called “last man” rule. When it’s also a penalty, the double-whammy sanction is just too severe. In both of these cases, the defender was making a genuine attempt to tackle. If they’re off by a fraction, should they effectively forfeit the game? Of course not. But that’s what the rule calls for.
There’s another problem with the “last-man” rule – it’s sometimes too lenient. If the foul is outside the area, and it’s late in the game, then it’s hardly a deterrent at all.
Here’s how I would change things: I’d award a penalty for any foul in a clear goalscoring opportunity, no matter where it occurs on the pitch. To me, that’s just common sense. I’d then leave the red-card decision up to the referee. If it’s flagrant – a hand-ball on the line, a rugby tackle with an open-goal gaping – then send the guy off. If it’s a legitimate attempt at a tackle, then a yellow card is sufficient.
I know tinkering with the rules is often considered heresy, but I’m just getting sick of teams getting short-changed by referees who are too timid to make the right call.
What do you think? Crazy talk or crazy-sensible? Let me know below.