Soccer can be a beautiful game, but refereeing is often ugly. When referees apply loose constructionism to the rule book, consistency suffers.
Players like to know what they can and can’t get away with. Erratic refereeing decisions foster player and manager rebellion. Emotionally-laden decisions rooted in a subjective sense of “what’s good for the game” confuses everyone.
Especially when adjudicating fouls and yellow card offenses. It’s nice that referees apply common sense while “managing” a game. But, there’s a cost. Their discretion is inherently subjective often contravening the rules and ensuring predictability. For the sake of consistency, referees should oblige the rules and avoid the hubris of management manipulation.
When referees manage matches instead of officiating, fouls tend to masquerade as incidental contact. As a result, goalies generally get preferential treatment on the field. Though they are not given special dispensation in the rule book.
Soccer’s supposedly a contact sport, and goalkeepers, especially during corners and crosses, inflict much of it.
Nevertheless, if a diminutive striker innocuously brushes against a fumbling goalie, the referee invariably blows the whistle. Conversely, defenders often get away with dirty tricks during corners and may as well be playing rugby rules.
Some apparent fouls simply dissolve into a mirage inside the penalty area.
When certain infringements occur outside the box, the ref is more convinced and usually blows the whistle. However, when the same foul occurs inside the box, it’s suddenly illusory.
The rules make no such distinction. Should referees?
Players will adjust to consistent refereeing. In the meantime, perhaps a few more goals are in the offing. Sure, some fouls are borderline and do require refs to exercise judgement. If it’s an inadvertent “coming together,” they’ll do well to play on and let the game flow.
On the other hand, some fouls are so blatantly obvious that they should be penalized irrespective of exogenous factors such as the player’s reputation or the competitive repercussions. The rule book is indifferent as to the period of the match in which the foul happens.
Neither does it care about the occasion, nor the venue.
When a defender scythes down a fleet-footed attacker on a breakaway, it’s a legitimate yellow card. Whether it be in the first minute or the ninetieth minute. When a player stamps his boot so as to imprint his studs on an opponent’s ankle—yellow card, it’s a yellow card at a minimum.
If the same unruly player commits these malicious acts, that’s two deserved yellows and a sending off. Even if it changes the complexion of the match. Off he jolly well goes to reflect upon his brutish indiscretions.