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The Baird dilemma: Should referees stop a match any time a booking is in order? [VIDEO]


I must admit, I had never pondered this dilemma until Chris Baird was sent off for two fouls in one sequence in Monday’s crucial Euro qualifier in Belfast.

With eight minutes left, with Northern Ireland down 1-0 to Hungary following an unfortunate yet dreadful goalkeeping error by Michael McGovern, Michael O’Neill’s men pushed forward in hopes of an equalizer. Baird committed two fouls in rapid succession, the first was just outside 18-yard box, away from the ball in Hungary’s half. The second was a classic professional foul to try and break up play as Hungary had numbers going forward. Both were undoubtedly bookable offenses.

But the question in my mind is whether Baird sticks his foot out to stop that Hungarian counter if he knows he is carrying a yellow card?

The unusual circumstance came as Northern Ireland, who was seemingly in control of a match in which they sought to qualify for the European Championships for the first time, saw the game slipping away. O’Neill’s side, which has looked so disciplined and composed throughout the qualifying, suddenly looked rattled and out of sorts after the fluke Hungarian goal. Baird’s desire to stop play likely was going through the minds of the other Northern Irish defenders as they quickly tried to track back and prevent a serious counter-attacking opportunity for the opposition.

But the question remains: If Baird knew he was already on a yellow, would he have committed the foul or simply relied on a teammate who wasn’t already in the referee’s book to do so?

Keeping control of a match is one of the most difficult aspects of officiating. Today’s game was played in front of a ruckus atmosphere in Belfast and, following the Hungarian goal, tempers were being easily frayed. In such a circumstance, it is sometimes difficult to have perspective on events, but maybe in this case the match official should have stopped the game?

It is a difficult situation to gauge, but considering both Hungary and Northern Ireland have gone 30 years without qualifying for a major tournament and this match was critical for both nations’ hopes of returning to the big stage, maybe a cautionary style of officiating is needed if a player is going to be booked?

In any event, Northern Ireland rescued a point late on in dramatic fashion and still controls its own destiny in terms of qualification. What are our readers’ thoughts on this conundrum? Do referees need to stop play in such a circumstance if they are going to book a player? Should a player somehow be notified if advantage is played that they will be booked at the next stoppage of play so that they don’t commit the type of cynical foul Baird did in this circumstance?

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  1. TheElf

    September 8, 2015 at 10:11 am

    The question here is very very simple: What can influence your play and why?

    Would a yellow card influence your decision about commiting a fault that “might earn you a yellow card”? Yes, for sure. You don’t want the red card, so it makes sense to consider this warning.

    Would a yellow card influence your decision about commiting a fault that is “likely to be straight red?”

    No, bacause a red is red in both cases. So having an prior yellow card is totally and utterly menaningless there, and there is no point considering it.

    The player in question commited a fault that is good for straight red most of the time. And at this time he had a reason to know: The ref had no time to forget his previous fault and won’t see this one as one time mistake. So if it is often red it should be red for sure.

    And he knew that after playing advantage he can get booked for the first offence. And if that can be good for straight red as well, but it is almost certainly a yellow and knew the rules…

    So we are at the moment when Ref can decide about which card to show?

    Only one card (red or yellow) would show the other incident is doable without getting a card… It would be a bad decision.

    Yellow for the first – Straight Red (as it was deserved) for the secound would create even more confusion, as showing that combination is usually signals the 2nd yellow card… Why would the ref want to create the extra confusion with this ruling?

    Two reds would have been funny… It would have been deserved, and noone would argue that there were 2 straight red situation… And it is easy to tell neither faults were an one time mistake, and both deserved red. Sadly the rules of the tournament doesn’t specify how many matches a player who earns 2 red cards would skip… 2 reds would be a confusion later.

    Yellow – Yellow and Red -> So the ref had to judge both of them separately. And knows even if they are “good for straight red” flashing that doesn’t make a difference, the offending player will just as easily sent of with two yellows just as well anyway and he has to judge both faults and in both cases booking and flashing a card is mandatory.

    The only problem is the whiney moron who commited the offense, and the prick who built a tactic on this kind of unsportsmanlike play will complain and whine but that is not an issue they are free to while all day.

  2. Daniel

    September 8, 2015 at 4:56 am

    If the referee decided that that is a straight red, since the fella was clearly out of his mind, kicking virtually everyone who came along, this topic wouldn’t exist. He just wanted to do it super correctly, and now that is a problem for some.

    And Hungary was pretty much in control of the game in the second half, and it is a shame that they weren’t able to finish the game off after the red card. However, I have to say that the draw was a fair result. (Yes, I am from Hungary.)

  3. ManUtdFan

    September 7, 2015 at 11:11 pm

    Hmm. A player on one yellow will definitely be more cautious for the remainder of the game, or at least be more circumspect before deciding whether to commit to his next tackle.

    And I think that’s the whole point of a yellow – to warn the player that he’s on the brink and that future similar bad behaviour will not be tolerated.

    Baird was denied this warning aspect in this case, and thus, arguably, also denied the opportunity to temper his game.

    I like the idea of playing the advantage, but perhaps it should not be done for bookable offences? I dunno, kinda torn on this.

    The question it boils down to is: should the need to warn a player supersede giving the opposing team an opportunity to score?

  4. Bishopville Red

    September 7, 2015 at 8:57 pm

    This topic should have spawned an article called “Referees can still get it right sometimes!” IMO, the ref played this perfectly. Advantage is designed to benefit the aggrieved team, not the offending.

    Allowing advantage provided just that – and advantage for Hungary to break the other way and possibly finish off the match. Proper decision to resist blowing the whistle and allow that to happen.

    The fact that Baird committed two idiotic fouls is not the fault of the referee. BTW, to describe them more politely than “idiotic” is incorrect. He could have professionally fouled the opponent without trying to rip a leg off, BTW, referring to the second could as a “Professional foul” ought to earn you your second yellow after that headline flub – Off you go! The was nothing professional about that GBH attempt. He also had no need to clatter his man with the first caution able offence. Baird had clearly lost the plot big time and received the appropriate compensation.


  5. Dan

    September 7, 2015 at 7:57 pm

    What the hell does this have to do with a ref? “Should referees any time a booking is in order?” Umm please explain, this is about the player who received two cards in one foray. So what does a ref have to do with this? Would be great if Kartik could explain this title, that would be wonderful.

    • Christopher Harris

      September 7, 2015 at 8:36 pm

      Title has been corrected. Apologies for the error.

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