Compounding Chris Foy’s highly contentious decision to issue a straight red to Man City captain Vincent Kompany last Sunday the F.A have now upheld the four-match ban the imperious Belgian must serve. Rarely has a dismissal caused such heated debate and proving that club allegiance is not immune to the disagreements we asked two blues – Matty and Rob – for their thoughts on the matter…

Against (Matty)

As we all know, Vincent Kompany was sent off after 10 minutes of the derby match this past weekend for what Chris Foy deemed Serious Foul Play, a decision that was upheld on Tuesday by the FA following an appeal by Manchester City. Those are the facts of the matter, however they fail to tell the whole story.

To say the decision was “controversial” would, actually, be inaccurate, as there was nothing debatable or questionable about it. It was plain wrong. An example of modern day refereeing at its most abject. Chris Foy, ably and unsurprisingly assisted by half-caveman half-sludge Wayne Rooney, waved the red card at Kompany for that most heinous of crimes, winning the ball, cleanly, without getting close to contacting the player.

So, why am I so convinced that Foy got it wrong? Why do I feel I know better than a highly qualified Premiership referee? Well, mainly because I’m not burdened with the pressures of appealing to my paymasters. Foy, like all referees, is answerable to the FA, and “guidance” from on high is clear, the “2 footed tackle” is to be outlawed. Any instance of using 2 feet to challenge for the ball, it seems, is shown an instant red card. So, surely that makes Foy right to send off Kompany? Well, let’s look at the FIFA definition of Serious Foul Play shall we? Note that. FIFA. Not the FA’s skewed interpretation of it, the official FIFA guidance on what constitutes Serious Foul Play:-

A player is guilty of serious foul play if he uses excessive force or brutality against an opponent when challenging for the ball when it is in play.

A tackle that endangers the safety of an opponent must be sanctioned as serious foul play.

Any player who lunges at an opponent in challenging for the ball from the front, from the side or from behind using one or both legs, with excessive force and endangering the safety of an opponent is guilty of serious foul play.

So, the law does indeed mention the use of both legs, however at no point does it state that a 2 footed tackle, automatically, necessitates the issuance of a red card. In fact it actually indicates that the number of legs used in the tackle is, essentially, irrelevant, as is the direction from which the challenge is made.

What danger exactly was Nani in when Kompany cleanly won the ball?

In order for Serious Foul Play to have been perpetrated the player MUST have committed 3 specific offences.

Firstly he must have “lunged in”. Unfortunately lunged isn’t a particularly clear word to define, what constitutes a lunge exactly? Do you need to leave the floor entirely? How does a lunge differ from a slide or from jumping in? This is one of those grey areas which the authorities leave as a “judgement call” for the referee, a referee put under increasing pressure to enforce the laws in a specific way. So, in Kompany’s case perhaps yes you could classify his tackle as a lunge. I wouldn’t, most wouldn’t, but a referee under strict instructions possibly might.

Secondly the player must have used “excessive force” when attempting the tackle. As with the lunge element of the law, excessive force is a tricky little
bugger to nail down. How can anyone accurately determine what is excessive in any given situation? Chris Foy isn’t a footballer (he’s a referee so almost by
default he was likely that kid picked last to play football because he couldn’t kick straight if he tried) so why is his interpretation of excessive better than that of professional footballer Vincent Kompany who chose exactly what level of force he was going to apply? Numerous pundits, most of whom are ex-professional footballers, didn’t deem the challenge overly excessive either. But no, Chris Foy did and, as this has been left as a “judgement call” too, it’s hard to argue Kompany didn’t use excessive force.

Finally we get to “endanger the safety of an opponent”. Here’s where Foy’s decision, and that of the FA, completely falls down, catastrophically so. What danger exactly was Nani in when Kompany cleanly won the ball? Nani didn’t actually have his feet anywhere near the ball at the time, in fact Nani wasn’t even in the same postcode as the ball when Kompany intercepted it. It’s worth noting that Nani, a footballer not normally shy when it comes to rolling on the floor, clutching non-existent injuries and screaming like a child, not only stayed on his feet, but made no attempt whatsoever to even claim for a freekick. He was as acutely aware as everyone else (apart from Foy and the newly hirsute neanderthal) that Kompany had committed a perfectly timed tackle and nothing more.

I’m still unsure about the red itself, but there is one angle that does make me side with the referee.

So, surely, with neutrals galore proclaiming Kompany innocent, and the challenge failing to meet the criteria for Serious Foul Play, the FA had no choice but to view the incident for what it was, a strong, robust, but ultimately extremely fair tackle, and rescind the red card? No, they upheld Foy’s original incompetent decision and further emphasised their complete lack of understanding when it comes to the actual game they are charged with overseeing.

For (Rob)

I was at the game on Sunday, and I was sat on the bottom tier of the Etihad Stadium, rather than in my usual position of high up on the second tier, so I didn’t get the absolute best view of the tackle. At the time I didn’t share the angry reaction of the people around me, who were shouting expletives towards Chris Foy after he produced that red piece of plastic which has become the biggest talking point of 2012 so far. But was it even a red card?

The first thing I did when I got home was ask my dad, who had watched the game on TV, if it was a red card or not. He said he didn’t think so, but he did say that one camera angle helped him understand Foy’s decision. And to be honest I can see where Foy and my dad are coming from. I’m still unsure about the red itself, but there is one angle that does make me side with the referee. Kompany leaves the floor, and is therefore not in control of his own body, thus putting Nani’s leg potentially in danger. Luckily for Kompany, at first, and Nani, Kompany lands before making contact with the ball. The crowd applauds and Kompany is a hero. But wait… the ref blows the whistle and I know exactly what’s going to happen next. What I thought was a clean tackle does not get pulled up if the end result is a simple pat on the back and a warning. The red card is brandished and the stadium erupts in disbelief. But I think I know why Foy gave this decision…

Last week, Frank Lampard escaped with a yellow card after crunching into Wolves’ Adam Hammill, with a tackle that could have potentially broken his leg. The referee for that game was Peter Walton, and he came under heavy criticism from all teams when he didn’t send Lampard off. This may have passed through Foy’s mind as he saw Vincent slide underneath Nani. Did Foy want potentially bad press for something he did give, or something he didn’t? As it happens, he’d prefer bad press for something he gave. It did change the game and it probably knocked us out of the cup we were trying to defend, but inconsistent refereeing is part of football.

Final verdict: harsh, but fair.