Thursday, 23 April 2009

Common Sense v Rules Of The Game

Came across an interesting moment whilst watching the Tommy Robredo v IgorAndreev match in Barcelona.

In the final set, Robredo served out to go 3-2 up, and both players walked back to their chairs and sat down to towel off. Andreev obviously had a ‘hang on a minute’ moment whilst thinking through the game just played, and after 30 seconds or so pointed out to the umpire that he’d only lost three points in the game. After much discussion and shaking of heads, an official ( presumably a scorer ) was called and both players were sent back out to a reset score of 40-15. Whilst the umpire had called game, those involved came up with the sensible answer. Robredo looked suitably aggrieved, and had a squeaky moment at 40-40, but won the game and the match progressed to a satisfactory conclusion.

It struck me how different an outcome was achieved than in the now infamous Watford / Reading clash in September, where referee Stuart Attwell managed to award a goal to Reading when the ball went five yards wide following a corner, on the advice of his linesman.

Mistakes happen, but in English football the authorities allow no-one any discretion to correct such errors. As the Football League’s CEO stated in the aftermath of the unsurprising rumpus that followed the game – ‘ the referee’s decision is final and binding’.

I have no problem with a binding decision once play has finished, and would hate to see a regular stream of replayed matches following errors, but what about during play? It transpires that the official’s match assessor had instant video evidence of the error. Nearly everyone in the ground apart from the three officials knew it wasn’t a goal. The Watford players spent 5 minutes arguing before the game restarted. Yet, no-one was able to pass information onto the referee to allow him to correct his decision.

Who’s at fault? The football authorities. It is obvious to anyone who regularly watches premiership football that with a couple of exceptions ( Howard Webb being one ), players and managers have little respect for referees or their bosses. Technology is available to help officials, but it isn’t used for fear that referees will be seen to have made mistakes.

Until common sense comes back into fashion, thus it will remain.


  1. Back in the 60s, Palace had a goal awarded to them even though the ball had hit the side-netting. (Palace shots often do...) The other team of course protested, and finally the ref asked Steve Kember if it was a goal, and to his credit, he said no. I would hope that had the referee asked the Reading players the same, they would have done the same. Even if it were a cup final, surely nobody wants to win by cheating. Well, except Maradonna of course.

  2. Rob,

    If you watched the match closely you'd see that Tommy Robredo argued his case far stronger than Igor Andreev. He started off saying that he had won the game, then said he couldn't remember anymore then said it didn't matter anyway because Igor had sat down.

    Hardly sportsmanlike. There's a far difference between Roger Federer constantly challenging balls that are far out purely to disrupt his opponent and blatant attempts to defraud the officials. Its hardly surprising Igor wanted the umpire to check almost every other ball that Robredo pointed out that he felt was marginal.