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. Dan September 7, 2015
    • Christopher Harris September 7, 2015
  2. Bishopville Red September 7, 2015
  3. ManUtdFan September 7, 2015
  4. Daniel September 8, 2015
  5. TheElf September 8, 2015

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