A Bad Weekend For Match Officials: Reviewing the Premier League Referee Decisions, Gameweek 21

Starting at St James’ Park, where the most controversial decision of the weekend took place. Newcastle’s Cheick Tiote hit a superb strike, which flew into the net, following a corner. There were three Newcastle players in an offside position as the ball left Tiote’s boot. As soon as the Newcastle players and fans celebrated the goal, Manchester City goalkeeper Joe Hart appealed for offside to the assistant referee. Referee Mike Jones communicated to his linesman via his earpiece before running over to discuss the decision.

To me, it looked a perfectly good goal and I was surprised when it was disallowed. The assistant referee initially did not raise his flag, which indicates that he either didn’t spot Yoan Gouffran in an offside position, or he didn’t deem him to be interfering with play. On replay, you can see Joe Hart shouting at the assistant “I couldn’t see anything”.

The picture below shows that the only players in the England number 1’s vision were Manchester City players. Gouffran is nowhere near Hart’s eye line. Mike Jones is in a decent position, but the force of the strike was so much that he was possibly taken aback at how quickly the City players disputed the goal.

Gouffran does move out of the way of the ball before it strikes the net as Hart was clearly beaten and made no attempt to dive it is hard to make a case for Gouffran being active and interfering with play. It would have been different had the ball hit Gouffran and deflected in. I think Mike Jones has made a bad call that has resulted in him being dropped for this weekend’s games. However, former Premier League referee Dermot Gallagher believes that the officials came to the right decision. Speaking on Sky Sports News’ Monday View, Gallagher argued that Gouffran moving out of the way of the ball made him active. Therefore he was in an offside position. The laws of the game state:

A player in an offside position is only penalised if, at the moment the ball touches or is played by one of his team, he is, in the opinion of the referee, involved in active play by:

•        interfering with play or
•       interfering with an opponent or
•       gaining an advantage by being in that position

I am certain that Gouffran was not committing any of the above offences.

In the same game, Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa made a very late challenge on Samir Nasri, which has resulted in the Frenchman being sidelined for eight weeks. Yanga-Mbiwa initially fouled Nasri from behind, before kicking out and swiping his left leg into Nasri’s knee. The Newcastle defender can count himself very fortunate to only receive a yellow card.

Moving on to Sunday’s thriller between Stoke City and Liverpool, which ended 5-3 to Liverpool, referee Anthony Taylor awarded Liverpool a penalty with the score 2-2. Raheem Sterling was brought down in Taylor’s view by Marc Wilson. For me, I didn’t think it was a penalty at real time speed. The closer camera angle lead me to the conclusion that it wasn’t a foul and merely a collision between players. However, looking at the referee’s perspective, I can understand why he gave the penalty, but help from his assistant was required, not only for the penalty, but for the handball by Sterling prior to the penalty award. Sterling’s arm was raised and the ball connected with the youngster. The ref had a very difficult view to make a decision from, looking straight into the back of Sterling. The linesman had a much better view and I think it was a poor decision to let the game carry on, where a dubious penalty appeal could have been avoided.

West Ham secured a much needed win with a 2-0 victory to Cardiff in Ole Gunnar Solskaer’s first league game since Malky Mackay’s harsh sacking. Again, West Ham had a player sent off, this time it was James Tomkins who was sent for an early bath by Lee Mason. The first of his 2 yellows was for a reckless tackle on Frazier Campbell. The ball was passed Tomkins before he slid in, making no contact with the ball. No arguments about the yellow card. Shortly afterwards, with the score line still at 1-0 Tomkins again fouled Campbell, with a high boot that caught the former Manchester United and Sunderland striker in the face. It was a clumsy attempt for the ball and Mason correctly sent Tomkins off, with the help of his assistant.

Cardiff did have two penalty claims turned down though. The first was a correct decision as George McCartney’s arms were down and in a natural position when the ball hit the defender, following a shot that McCartney was not far away from. The second appeal is more controversial. In a previous referees article I mentioned that fouls in the penalty box need to stop and this was highlighted again when Campbell was involved with a tussle with McCartney, where he had both arms around Campbell, not allowing him to move. For me, a certain penalty, but I get the impression that referees are letting incidents like these happen. Not the correct way to assess those situations in my view.

Two more penalty decisions will conclude the latest instalment of controversial Premier League refereeing decisions. In Sunderland’s much needed 4-1 win away at fellow strugglers Fulham, Phillippe Senderos brought down Jozy Altidore with the score 3-1. The tackle was unnecessary in my opinion, with not much support around the big USA striker. The tackle was late summed up the frustrations the home side were showing. In Tottenham’s 2-0 home victory against Crystal Palace, the visitors had an early chance to score from the spot after a late foul on Marouanne Chamakh from Moussa Dembele. There was not much contact, but enough for a penalty to be awarded by Michael Oliver, who has been very consistent in recent weeks and made another great decision here. Jason Puncheon couldn’t convert the penalty and in somewhat comical circumstances, skied the ball very and certainly not handsome!

Editor’s note: Read reviews of key referee decisions from previous Premier League weeks.

21 thoughts on “A Bad Weekend For Match Officials: Reviewing the Premier League Referee Decisions, Gameweek 21”

  1. That picture used in this article only makes it clearer that the goal shouldn’t have been allowed.

    How many players are actually allowed to stand in an offside position between the ball & the goal before it’s meant to be offside ?

    1. Technically all 10 players can be in an offside position at the time the ball is played by the 11th player. The issue is whether they commit an offside foul by being part of the play (playing the ball, preventing or distracting opponent).

      Where I disagree with the author of the article is when he said Gouffran moved out of the way yet it is hard to make a case for him being active. If he wasn’t in active play why did he have to move out of the way?

      Also obstructing a player’s view is not the only way you can prevent or distract them from playing a ball.

      Finally, the part of the rule/law that many seem to omit or disregard is the most essential one: “he is, IN THE OPNION OF THE REFEREE, involved in active play”. I know people want to think offside foul/offence are a black/white issue like ball crossing the line, but it is not.

      1. Gouffran was not active because he had no interference with anybody else. Had the ball deflected in off him, its a different story.

  2. The FIFA rules are quoted in the article. None of the players that were in an offside position were interfering with play, therefore the goal should have stood.

  3. bullocks. The ball was going toward two Newcastle players and one even had to move out of the way. He is interfering with the play. He is offside. I am an Arsenal fan that would have delighted in Man City dropping points. Why is this so confusing for people. If you have to move so the ball does not hit you clearly you are able to make a play on the ball so you are involved in the play. It has nothing to do with line of sight for the GK. So many have made that point and the rules do not state anything that regards seeing the ball or line of sight. Having the ability to interfere with play indeed interferes with play. He is offside. The rules clearly state it. What more do people need? This should not even be a controversy.

    1. If he touches the ball, it is offsides. Hart wants him to touch it!

      If the player is in Hart’s way, Hart probably should have got to the ball, which was closer than the Newcastle player, if memory serves.

    2. Three thumbs up for this comment? Really?!!! The ball traveled trough a sea of blue (and blue ONLY) into the net. The fact that Gouffran moves out of the way does NOT mean he interfered as he was never obstructing Hart’s view nor was he making a play on the ball. There isn’t a single TV camera view or virtual reconstruction that supports what you’re saying.

      This, again, is illustrative of the fact that ALL goals must be reviewed. If the whistle isn’t blown before a shot is taken and the ball goes in, there are two reviews. First, Hawkeye. Second, video review to determine if it was scored from an onside position, both in terms of the shooter and his teammates. This would resolve probably 95% of disputed calls.

      1. Agree with you Aaron. Just because Gouffran moves out of the way, it doesn’t mean he is offside in this instance. This is because Hart was beaten.

  4. This is still being debated all over the place and still nobody seems to have settled on anything!

    IMO – it was just a goal. Nothing more nothing less… it was a goal.

    As for Dermot Gallagher saying the officials made the right call – I’d take everything he says with a pinch of salt, especially when he’s on the TV saying it. Michael Owen was with him at the weekend doing some work with PLP and tweeted that “Everyone on the panel at Premier League Productions plus ex Ref, Dermot Gallagher, says the goal should have stood.”

    Original tweet here https://twitter.com/themichaelowen/status/422380118057975808

  5. Oh i can’t beleive it!! Dermot gallagher was in the studio of epl channel on sunday along side andy towsned,alan curbishley and michel owen and he agreed the 3 guys that the goal should have stood. And now he told skysport the referee was right. what happened to him? more than 150nations were watching him when he said it on sunday. Is he telling some thing different to world and uk?

  6. I think it’s about time they have 3 officials on the field so they officiate the game better. The game has evolved and 1 official and 2 linesman isn’t enough.

    1. How has the game evolved? There might be £billions in the game these days thanks to TV money but it’s still the same amount of men hitting the same ball around a field. TV coverage has evolved and the football grounds have evolved but the game itself is just the same.

      We don’t need 3 officials on the pitch. That would just be ridiculous. We just need better officials! The same ones always come up trumps with the odd howler. Just take them off doing any more fixtures for a couple of weeks and send them for a crash course to brush up on their skills. It’s the best league in the world so the least I expect is a decent standard of ref. It’s not like the PL can’t afford them.

  7. At least the referee that awarded Sterling the penalty admitted that he made a mistake. The next time Sterling goes down in the box he will not be given the benefit of the doubt.

    1. I’ve only read something the Daily Fail posted on that. Not heard Anthony Taylor actually say it himself though?

      I found myself agreeing with Gary Neville on that ‘incident’ actually. He speaks sense that man.

    2. Its a shame players have a reputation and its true that referees do judge them slightly differently. Each decision should be taken in isolation.

  8. Another related point I hear people keep on saying Mike Jones has been dropped for this weekend’s games because of the offside call. Here’s the problem though:

    – Nowhere do I see official statements about that. Nor any newspaper seem to mention whether or not he was scheduled to referee a game this weekend before the controversy. Naturally I became suspicious.

    – As it turns out, Mike Jones will be officiating this weekend. He will not be the first referee at any game but he will be the fourth official of a PL game. That is officiating. Unless someone explains to me that the fourth official role is only reserved to referees as punishment (Martin Atkinson by the way was the fourth official in that NUFC/MCFC game), I am inclined to believe that Mike Jones was always scheduled to be the fourth official in the upcoming weekend fixture.

    Is it too much to ask for thorough research by media before passing things as news. Please here’s an assignment to the journalists in England: Find out how the officials are allocated and whether or not the fourth official spot is reserved to referees who had a poor performance. That should keep them busy.

    To Andy Turnbull, great weekly article as usual.

    1. We don’t get any official statements regarding refs. It’s always been that way. Brendan Rodgers touched on it last week when he still wanted an answer from the FA as to his point regarding the appointment of a Bolton-born ref for a Manchester game. Fact is, he won’t get an answer.

      And re Mike Jones – I do agree that a lot of outlets simply put 2+2 together and come up with 5. I personally read The Mirror and they ran the headline “Premier League drop offside-row referee Mike Jones as Newcastle’s Cheick Tiote says he won’t hold grudge” but they reported in the same piece that he’ll be a 4th official for the Sunderland-Southampton game. It seems everybody else ran the same story but left out the key part.

  9. It’s all well and good, or is it, when a referee admits his mistake. But how about when a team loses three points because of a bad decision. How about when the dynamic of a game is changed because of a bad decision. I don’t want to see a game bogged down with video reviews, but some type of resolution needs to happen to benefit the teams hard done-by. When you look at the tight race all across the board in the PL, this year, a few of these bad decisions could cost a team a very lucrative position.

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