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Was the Decision to Award the Penalty Correct or Harsh? Read This First

phil dowd1 Was the Decision to Award the Penalty Correct or Harsh? Read This First

Take any Premier League match and there will often be one or more crucial calls made in a game by the referee that will be incorrect and, sometimes, will sway the final score of the match. Whether it’s the correct or incorrect decision to award a penalty for Liverpool after Micah Richards handled the ball, or a stamp that goes unnoticed by the referee, or a lunge that was correctly or incorrectly penalized with a red card, the catalogue of questionable decisions is a mile long.

Practically every collision and goalmouth incident is scrutinized so closely on television. The incidents are played over and over again, in slowmo and from different camera angles. Oftentimes, if you’re like me, when I first see an incident, my reaction will be to call it one way — either a foul or not a foul, a goal or a not a goal, etc. Then I’ll see a different camera angle, and I’ll agree that my first reaction was a correct one. But then the devils that are those production people will show me a entirely different camera angle and I’ll completely change my mind. This happens so often that I’ve lost count.

For once, in an upcoming high profile football match — take, for example, this Saturday’s early kick-off between Liverpool and Manchester United in the FA Cup — I’d love it if the FA and TV networks took part in an experiment. For one match only, all slowmo and replays will be banned. All we’ll get to see in the match is the game itself, played in real-time without the opportunity to see key incidents replayed.

It would be incredibly frustrating, right? We’d be itching to see that key moment again to second guess whether what we thought we saw indeed actually happened.

Ladies and gentleman, welcome to the world of referees. Not aided by any video technology, the referee and his assistants can only make decisions by what they see in real-time. They don’t have the luxury to see it again. For once, we would be on a par with the ref. They would have the advantage of being on the actual pitch, but depending on their position on the pitch compared to our camera angle, the referee and his team wouldn’t always have the best vantage point for seeing incidents.

Maybe then we’d have a greater appreciation of the difficult job that referees have, and how it’s completely unfair that we have so many more advantages over referees of seeing the incidents over and over again on our TV sets while the refereeing teams have nothing.

By the way, I believe Phil Dowd’s decision was a correct one tonight. Having said that, I can see both sides of the argument. When something like that happened tonight, a referee can’t win. If he hadn’t called a penalty, the home crowd would have put him under so much pressure because he didn’t award a penalty when Richards obviously handled the ball. But from City’s perspective, he didn’t have an opportunity to get his hands out of the way. No human can attempt to throw his body and try to block a shot by not using his arms to balance himself, like Richards did. That the ball hit is hand was purely accidental, but like I said before, if Dowd had not awarded a penalty, the fans (and any home fans) would have been baying for his blood.

This entry was posted in Leagues: EPL, Liverpool, Manchester City. Bookmark the permalink.

About Christopher Harris

Founder and publisher of World Soccer Talk, Christopher Harris is the managing editor of the site. He has been interviewed by The New York Times, The Guardian and several other publications. Plus he has made appearances on NPR, BBC World, CBC, BBC Five Live, talkSPORT and beIN SPORT. Harris, who has lived in Florida since 1984, has supported Swansea City since 1979. He's also an expert on soccer in South Florida, and got engaged during half-time of a MLS game. Harris launched EPL Talk in 2005, which was rebranded as World Soccer Talk in 2013.
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31 Responses to Was the Decision to Award the Penalty Correct or Harsh? Read This First

  1. jtm371 says:

    i agree that was a tough one like you said could have went either way.any chance or hope of video replay or are we looking at a huge Pandora’s box!

  2. Peter says:

    What an idiot you sound…one one hand you say the penalty decision was correct, you then state that the ball hitting his hand was “accidental”. You cant have it both ways chump. It should never have been called a penalty…that sir is a FACT.

    • The Gaffer says:

      Peter, it’s completely subjective. How do we know that there wasn’t intent? Again, I can see both sides to the argument. My point here is that it’s incredibly difficult being a referee. If I didn’t have the luxury of being able to see replays and slowmo, I would have awarded a penalty. After seeing the incident in slowmo and from different angles, it looks like City were hard done by.

      Cheers,
      The Gaffer

      • Evan says:

        “How do we know that there wasn’t intent?”
        Are you kidding me!!!????
        How is it possible that he could have intended to deflect the ball perfectly off his foot so that it would hit his arm?

        What a f*cking joke this article is.

        Every analyst and the commentator said they wouldn’t have given the penalty.

        • The Gaffer says:

          The point of the article is not whether the call was correct or not. It doesn’t matter how many tv replays there are, the ref has to make a decision based on what he sees. My first reaction was that it should have been a penalty, which is what Dowd saw.

          The TV replays in this game – or any other game – can show whatever they want, but the point is that referees don’t have access to it, so unfortunately it doesn’t matter. Sorry.

          Cheers,
          The Gaffer

          • Noah says:

            Well if what the ref saw is the law on the field than Balotelli shouldn’t have a four match ban right? Webb didn’t give any red card when the so called stomp(which was accidental) happened than why is he out? People can’t say not to use replay’s for one incident but than go use it for another. Either there are replays or no replays and what the ref saw on the field stands.

            • The Gaffer says:

              The referee didn’t see the Balotelli incident, so the FA has every right to punish the Man City striker afterwards based on TV footage. With Richards, the ref saw it and based his decision on what happened. The FA can’t come in later and overrule his decision.

              Cheers,
              The Gaffer

  3. Michael says:

    While its good to consider intent it is important to consider the basics first.

    1. Before the ball struck Richards arm was it heading towards goal? yes.

    2. After it struck Richards arm was it heading towards goal? no.

    In this situation the burden to follow the rules of play is on Richards. If Enrique fairly plays the ball toward goal and (intentional or not) Richards unfairly plays the ball away from goal then it must be a penalty. I agree, its unfortunate. However, i think it would be more unfortunate if the penalty had not been given.

    If you arent going to give the penalty there THEN WHY HAVE THE F@#%ING RULE?

    • Evan says:

      “1. Before the ball struck Richards arm was it heading towards goal? yes. ”

      If you actually use your eyes when you watch the replay you’ll notice that before it struck his arm, it was deflected off his foot and never would have gone in the goal.

      Therefore, your entire argument is invalid.

      • Matt says:

        “Every analyst and the commentator said they wouldn’t have given the penalty.”
        “If you actually use your eyes when you watch the replay..”

        You really seem to have missed a major point of the article. The referee, unlike analysts and commentators or you and I, doesn’t have the benefit of replay. Would you be saying the same things had you seen the play for a split second in real time and that was it? For me, that really put things into perspective as to how crazy the media’s over-analyzing every play has become.

        Unless we’re talking about implementing replay review, debating plays like this that happen every single week can get tiring. Sometimes it goes your team’s way, sometimes it doesn’t. For better or worse, this is soccer.

  4. Evan says:

    “By the way, I believe Phil Dowd’s decision was a correct one tonight. ”

    You could have just started off by saying that so I wouldn’t have to waste my time reading such utter sh*te.

    It’s a penalty if it’s hand to ball. In this case however, it was ball to foot to hand in a natural position to keep balance.
    Even Gary Neville said it wasn’t a penalty, and Gary Neville hates City.

    • Jerry says:

      “Even Gary Neville said it wasn’t a penalty, and Gary Neville hates City.”

      Watertight argument there mate, because Gary Neville loves Liverpool, doesn’t he?

    • Trickybrkn says:

      As previously stated Gary “mustache” Neville isn’t your best argument. In fact, while City and United are surly rivals, in Phil’s time at United, City was at best a bounce club. Liverpool was Liverpool.

      As an outsider to the game, I thought the better match was Cardiff v Palace. Not just cause the players ran themselves into the ground, but if you watched, it was football. Not the histrionitics on display by the big clubs.

      And like yourself I have a bias. Damn city just come off like a bunch of moaning puppies.

      And frankly who cares… It’s the beer cup.

  5. Matt says:

    I actually agree with the writer on this one. When I saw it in real time, the ball was struck goal-bound and as it was flying past Richards, it rapidly dropped, which, at least to me, screamed either handball or, for lack of a better term, faceball. When he popped up unfazed, my mind was made up. It’s a penalty, especially when he was sliding in as if he was a keeper with both of his arms outstretched.

    To be honest, it felt like Liverpool was going to find a way to advance today. They definitely got a deserved result on the balance of play. They have been in some very poor form in the past month, but they’ve shown up in this cup tie and they have definitely earned their ticket to Wembley. Without Hart, this would have been a laugher within the first half-hour. He was phenominal, but the rest of the guests were pedestrian at best.

    • Yespage says:

      The replay does seem to indicate that it deflected off of his foot and hit his arm. But what Dowd sees is Richards lunging his arm in the path of the ball going towards the net. Richards didn’t technically commit a hand ball infraction, but was certainly trying to.

      A bad luck call caused by bad karma.

  6. Cantona says:

    I like Phil Dowd.. but this was a horrendous call.. never a penalty..

    deflection off the boot.. ball to hand.. no intention… BAD CALL…

    an Anfield gift..

    Cantona—

  7. Gaz says:

    Complaining about the penalty decision misses the point entirely. Liverpool out-played City over the two matches. I’m a Liverpool supporter; I know how terrible they can be (Stoke two weeks ago), but they deserved this one.

    Liverpool finally got some luck, and we may have a chance to add another trophy.

    City are still in pole position to win the title this season. You’ll be okay.

  8. Pat says:

    So for those arguing that if a ball deflects from boot too hand it isn’t a penalty, let me run this scenario by you:

    I’m defending a corner, I put my body on the post. I then outstretch my arms completely parallel to the ground covering the net(basically putting my arms out across the net fully stretched) and leave them there. The corner gets played in, shot taken, hits my foot, bounces up and hits my outstretched arm. Penalty?

    I think what is really in question in these things are is there intent, very subjective. The way Richards’ arms were both going across it actually looks like he’s trying to make a save with them. But again, matter of opinion, it’s awfully borderline.

    • Cantona says:

      yes penalty.. hands not in a natural position.. there’s intent..and your gaining advantage.. not what happened with Richards.. hands were in a natural position ..when you slide in.. you balance yourself.. there was no intent to gain advantage.. ball hits boot.. ball deflects to hand… NO PENALTY…

      Cantona—

  9. Harry says:

    When Richards dived to block the ball he held out his hands. Had the ball hit his hands first it would have been a penalty. It looked like his intent was to try to block the ball with his hands if necessary. It’s possible therefore that the referee thought that the ball hitting his leg first and then his hand was inconsequential and that because of the original intent of Richards a penalty was justified. I don’t know what the rules say so I don’t know if the referee was right in his decision. When I saw it in real time I thought Richards had dived to block the ball with his hands but the ball hit his leg first instead. Tough call for any referee to make at the split of a second.

    This decision aside, I still think the officiating and the FA’s use of video after the game has been very inconsistent. Kompany gets a red card for a tackle that was a lot less worse than one made by Lampard in another game and Lampard avoids a sending off.

  10. Jason says:

    City fans should feel hard done by because the referee missed a clear penalty on Adam kicking Dzeko in the box. For me the penalty given to Liverpool was the correct call because Richards dived with his hands outstretched. City should have been awarded a penalty too.

    “Even Gary Neville said it wasn’t a penalty, and Gary Neville hates City.”
    This has to be the funniest comment about Gary Neville since by his own admission he hates Liverpool more than any other club. United supporters and players still hate Liverpool more than any other club even if Liverpool are no longer a top 4 club.

  11. Duck says:

    Christ, one of the first things taught to defenders are don’t outstretch your hands in the box. His hands were outstretched, away from his body, and brought down a goal bound shot. Penalty plain as day.

  12. Dani says:

    You’ve seen them given is what a neutral would say. And that’s football for you. Its been this way for ages. The amount of decisions that are subjective in almost every game week in week out are too many. So all I can say is, on another day, it probably would not have been given. Mind, that is no consolation to City fans but thats just how the game is.

  13. jjerg says:

    Poor Gaffer!
    See what happens when you side with an official.
    I couldn’t agree more with you. The ref is handicapped compared to these brilliant analyists, and us viewers. My major gripe is that the FA refuses to take strong action one players and managers when the obviously attempted to intimidate the officials by surrounding them on the pitch, whining mid week in the media, or all wear a racist shirt in solidarity protesting the punishment of a racist.
    That has more influence on the ref’s decision because the fear of the mob on the pitch out weighs the feat of the mob on tv.

  14. Jason says:

    I think it’s perfectly just… Karma my friends. Balotelli avoided a clear cut red against spurs and we saw how that played out in Citys favor. Payback was only a matter of time. Who cares if it’s a correct call or not. LOL

  15. Mike says:

    “By the way, I believe Phil Dowd’s decision was a correct one tonight. Having said that, I can see both sides of the argument. When something like that happened tonight, a referee can’t win. If he hadn’t called a penalty, the home crowd would have put him under so much pressure because he didn’t award a penalty when Richards obviously handled the ball. But from City’s perspective, he didn’t have an opportunity to get his hands out of the way. No human can attempt to throw his body and try to block a shot by not using his arms to balance himself, like Richards did. That the ball hit is hand was purely accidental, but like I said before, if Dowd had not awarded a penalty, the fans (and any home fans) would have been baying for his blood.”

    The entire point of officials is to not be affected by any of this stuff……at all…….He is supposed to interpret the rules and make a decision. If we referee by how the crowd reacts, we might as well hand the ball-boy a whistle. While your point about replay is a good one, in this case, he was right there and a replay would only serve to confuse what he saw, a player slide to block with his leg, arms in a natural position for a sliding human being and the ball striking his arm while going up away from goal. There is no ‘intent’ there, period. There is a reason that in most sports there are clear rules, it gives the ref a leg to stand on, with all the ambiguity created by governing football bodies and ‘analyzing’ the psychology of the current game, that is vital to making on the spot decisions. I feel for football refs, they have only gray area to stand in, they’d be much better served with a clear cut choice.

  16. Why? says:

    I don’t think Dowd seen it hit his foot otherwise but if he did he bowed to pressure and gave a wrong decision as it was not a pen, even if it hits his arms straight off the ref has to think did he do that deliberately as it was 5 foot away that would yet again be described as harsh. Instead it was just a very poor decision.

    The other penalty shout Dowd seemed well placed. Adam clearly kicks the back of Dzeko’s leg who doesn’t shout for the pen for some reason. If he does a Rooney (he does it even if he falls over) and runs screaming with both arms in the air (not trying to influence the ref at all lol) would he have got one? I don’t think so even though it was a clear pen but maybe Mancini is telling them to be careful don’t shout for these thing as a yellow may come your way. At City it seems somebody is seeing red and/or yellows every week now mostly for what is described as nothing or harsh. They say these thing even up within a season, if so City should win the league easily lol.

  17. raj says:

    Hey Gaffer, stop defending yourself, you don’t need to, this is your site, and your articles….these people who keep calling your work/opinions names are the ones who are idiots for reading everyday if they don’t like whats there. A lot of (NOT ALL) English fans (from England) are ignorant and let everything except the real game fuel their opinions. Cheers man, love the sight, love reading the opinions people have the guts to post.

    All the best, from Canada/Poland/Ireland or where I live in the next month

  18. Mark says:

    I agree. It would be interesting to have a game where no replays are shown. People will be brought down to the ref’s level and actually see how difficult it is.

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