by Luke Irelan-Hill

Tennis uses it, cricket uses it, rugby uses it, but why does football continue to ignore it?

The video evidence is clear; Manchester United striker Robin Van Persie looks over his shoulder sees Yohan Cabaye and clearly swings an arm out in an arc which is not a natural movement when running.

The Dutchman’s arm is raised and makes contact with his opponent. There is no debate here, unlike when a player is jumping for the ball. His arm, simply, should not be where it is. You cannot blame Howard Webb for missing the incident, it happened away from the ball and at pace.

The incident was caught on the TV cameras and it has been replayed in slow motion and zoomed in, but of course Webb cannot utilise this technology during play. But the FA can. They can sit down on Monday and watch this footage and if it has not been dealt with by the match referee they can hand out the necessary misconduct charge and punishment.

But there is a clear flaw in this process. The FA asks the referee that was in charge of the game to look at the incident and say whether he missed a red-card offence. In this case, Webb, one of England’s best referees who had a red card overturned the week before, has said there was not one.

The flaw is that it should not be up to him. There should be a disciplinary panel at the FA who decides on matters such as this without needing to involve the referee. He has done his job when he completed the game.

You can understand the doubt that was in Webb’s mind. His last red-card was overturned and it would be easier to say that he was not 100% sure and therefore it would go no further. You can imagine the backlash from managers if their players start getting misconduct charges against them 2 days after the game!

An independent panel needs to be set-up. This should include a former player, manager and referee who have all had experience in the game and can review all incidents like these in a consistent and impartial manner.

On the field there is a degree of inconsistency in that one referee’s opinion can vary from another’s. If each incident is looked at by the same panel these inconsistencies will no longer be there.

The other incident over the weekend that should then be looked at by the panel and that is the alleged stamp by Stoke defender Robert Huth on Liverpool striker Luiz Suarez.

The referee Lee Mason appears to believe from the video evidence that the incident does not suggest a clear red-card offence. I would however ask him that if it was a Stoke player on the floor would Huth have been able to avoid him? I think so.

One of the worst things for a referee to do is admit that he missed something. Asking them to look at it a second time will make them feel that they have missed something, yet the one thing they are trying to do is see everything.

The biggest benefit of a panel is that they would not have the same fears of being compromised as some referees do if asked to review. If the players know it was not the referee’s choice then the incident will not follow them every time they come across the players involved and their club.

The panel would be completely impartial, the consistency would be there and they could also offer a solution to the current issue of diving which has been in the headlines almost every week this season.

Detecting diving, especially at the speed the modern game is played is almost impossible. But slowed down video replays clearly highlight this cheating. Once this has been seen then an appropriate punishment can be given and we might see players stop trying to deceive the referees.

But until the day comes when the FA change their current system, referees will consistently continue to make the headlines for incidents that they only get to see once.


On a brighter note, what a fantastic decision by Darren Cann in the Newcastle v Manchester United match. Cann was directly in line with the goal line and correctly judged that the whole of the ball was not over the whole of the line and proved why he is England’s best assistant referee.