by Matt Carrell

We all know the rule. Two players go for the same ball, one makes it, the other is a little late and makes contact with his slightly quicker opponent. It’s a foul right?

What about if the challenge leaves the other guy writhing on the ground with a head injury?

I’d say that’s at least a yellow, probably a red card.

Every match day we see referees applying this consistently, without fear or favour. OK, I was joking about that bit, we know referees don’t apply the rules consistently.

It doesn’t change the point though, if a player makes a late challenge and gets the man not the ball, it’s a foul. Right?
Well no, it doesn’t seem to work like that.

Oddly enough the rule only applies when the challenge involves the feet. You know… the sturdy, hardwearing bits on the end of your legs that are, in any event protected with leather boots.

When the challenge is made with the head, the rule goes out the window.

If you watched the recent Leicester – Arsenal game, you’d have seen an incident involving Laurent Koscielny and Jeff Schlupp. The Leicester man won the ball and milliseconds later, Koscielny’s head made contact with the back of his skull. The TV commentary team unanimously agreed that it was an honest challenge. I don’t doubt that and I’m not blaming or criticising the Arsenal player. These are the rules as currently applied by the referees. I’m just fascinated by the contrast.
The tiniest contact to a player’s legs or feet is punishable with free kicks, penalties and cards. A thump on the back of the head is evidently all part of the game.

As someone who screams at the TV when referees blow up for the slightest contact, I’d hate to see even more free kicks, but am I the only one who thinks the contradiction is insane?

In the Leicester game, Koscielny came off worse and was substituted shortly after the incident. This may have been because the Arsenal staff had made him put on a little skull cap that made him look like a demented Smurf. I’m guessing it was because he was feeling much the worse for a crack on the head.

As it stands, players are penalised far too often for strong, physical but fair tackles with their feet, when referees might want to take a closer look at some of the aerial challenges. That is, of course, unless footballer’s brains really don’t matter.

This article originally appeared in Matt’s blog. Check it out here

Matt is also the author of A Matter Of Life And Death, a brilliant football novel that centres of Colharbour Town’s twin concerns of Premier League survival and a killer on the prowl.

Buy it from Amazon here