Anyone who watched last Saturday’s match between Bolton Wanderers and Tottenham Hotspur on television would have seen Tom Huddlestone’s deliberate stamp on Johan Elmander. The numerous TV replays of the incident saw Huddlestone take out his frustration by stamping his foot down on the calf of Elmander (fast forward to minute 8:37 to see the incident).
After the incident happened, referee Chris Foy blew his whistle and walked over to the players but decided against issuing Huddlestone a yellow card. You’ll notice in the above video that Foy is at the top of the center circle when the foul happens.
ESPN commentator Ian Darke was incensed by the foul and predicted that Huddlestone would receive a ban from The FA after they had a chance to review the TV replay of the incident.
However when The FA contacted Foy to ask about the foul, Foy said that he saw the stamp and did not deem it worthy of a yellow or red card. Case closed.
Huddlestone is extremely lucky to avoid punishment for the awful foul. But in fairness to Foy, he was not aided by TV replays so he can only report what he saw with his own eyes. And standing in the position that he was in, it’s quite possible that the incident looked harmless from he was, and he may have felt that Huddlestone was just trying to avoid Elmander and unfortunately made contact.
For those of us who watched it again and again on replay, we saw what really happened. And I’m convinced that if referees such as Foy had an opportunity to watch a brief replay of the incident on a TV screen that he would have awarded a red card to Huddlestone. TV replay technology has been discussed ad infinitum in terms of bringing it into the game and allowing teams to request a replay if they believe a referee missed an incident, but it’s not going to happen anytime soon as long as Sepp Blatter is in charge of FIFA.
Huddlestone got off from receiving a ban from The FA because of a technicality. If Foy had told The FA that he didn’t see the clash between Huddlestone and Elmander, then The FA would have been able to review the TV replays and would have presumably banned the Tottenham midfielder.
It’s not a matter of who is wrong or right in this situation. Foy saw what he saw. How many times have you seen an incident on television in real-time and thought it was a definite penalty, only to watch a replay a few seconds later to find out that a player dived and that you had made an incorrect call?
The FA has its rules and that’s where things need to change. If there is overwhelming evidence that contradicts a decision made by a referee, then The FA should be able to step in and inform the referee that he made an error and that The FA will serve punishment for the act that was committed. It would undermine the authority that a referee has, but it would ultimately ensure that fewer incorrect decisions are made in matches. That’s fair, right?