Tuesday 10 November 2009

The Unwritten Rules of Penalties

I tread lightly as I am intending to bring up one of everyone's favourite subjects, namely diving, referees and what we do about it.

I only saw the replays of David Ngog's acrobatics against Liverpool and he has been roundly criticised for his disgraceful and theatrical dive that earned the Scousers an ill-deserved point. At least that is what the papers said this morning. By the afternoon, some of the papers' internet sites are carrying articles asking why video technology still hasn't been brought into play. Apparently a video replay will clarify all incidents and the referee will never make a mistake again - see this in the Telegraph.

As usual, I am not so sure its all that simple. So lets start from the top and see where we get.

1. A penalty is given for a foul in the box. So thats pretty easy so far.

2. A player will sometimes commit a foul that does not actually make contact with the opposition player. For example, the use of dangerous play such as a high foot in the tackle, is a foul even if no contact is made. However, its rarely the case that defenders get punished if the incident happens inside the box.

3. Many fouls do involve contact with the opposition player, but are not enough to bring the player down. What is unclear in the majority of those incidents is whether the foul actually affects the player with the ball. For instance, there is an unwritten rule that so long as the striker gets his shot away, then the subsequent leg-breaker from John Terry is not a foul. The same is not true outside the box - it would be a free kick awarded and a card for Terry.

4. Strikers get pissed off that constant fouling from defenders goes unpunished. The unwritten rule is that so long as the defender makes contact with the striker, then the striker is allowed to throw themselves to the ground, turn forlornly to the ref and say "I had no choice, he touched me softly just behind the ear, its a penalty"

5. Outside the box, players regularly and routinely anticipate bad tackles, hurdle the challenge, collapse in a heap and get a free kick from the ref. There are two unwritten rules for this situation. The first one is that if David Beckham can do it, then so can I. The second unwritten rule, is that if a player expects to be fouled, then why wait for contact which might cause injury, when he can miss all contact altogether and still get a free kick?

6. Inside the box, as David Ngog shows, the hurdle and collapse routine is disgraceful cheating. Unless Steven Gerrard does it.

7. Occassionally, depending on the moods of the season, other factors have to be taken into account, such as whether the player was heading towards goal or away from it, whether a goal scoring opportunity had been lost, whether the player had lost control of the ball or not. This unwritten rule is all about not giving a penalty when you don't think the striker deserved one.

Ok, so everyone still with me? There is so much subjectivity in the subtleties of the rules of fouling that its basically impossible for a ref to get in right. Trying to remember that a collapse outside the box is a free kick to the striker, whereas a collapse inside the box is a free kick to the defender is never going to lead to consistent decisions.

You can also show video replays to me and 1979 all day. Although we are both Arsenal fans, I would bet we disagree on most decisions on whether a foul should be given, let alone whether it deserves a penalty. We're as bad as Rednapp and Souness on Sky:

Jamie Rednapp:- "Definite penalty. Stonewall decision for me. Thats a quality ball from Lampard, pure quality. Gallas just touches Drogba with his finger-tips, just there, you can see it on the replay, and the big man goes down and starts twitching like he is a decapitated chicken."

Graeme Sounness:- "Fucking shut it Rednapp, you lame arsed cunt. Drogba should be sent off for being a ponce. Have that it your face pretty boy. And that..."

Apart from calling 1979 a pretty boy, thats pretty much how it is. And given that we are footballing experts that this world has rarely seen the likes of, then what chance has a video ref got? Thats right. None at all.

Maybe we could have Souness and Rednapp miked up and watching a live screen for every game of football in the world at all times - every ref in the country can then press the panic button and it goes through on a random selector either to Graeme "Fuck me in the arse if thats a pen" Souness, or otherwise the striker goes wild as soon as Jamie "Stonewall quality gay penalty" Rednapp points to the spot. It would be at least as effective, and probably more entertaining, than the current lottery.


1979gooner said...

awesome, had me chuckling inbetween putting my make up on,

you forgot to mention your own cynical cheating on the pitch, apparently you're half argentinian!

but seriously there is a point here,

the media are very very bad at covering things at all consistently,

referees are also part of the problem as they do not give fouls unless a player goes to ground, this encourages a tendency to dive and go to ground easily for free kicks

refs need to get better, they need to give free kicks for the foul, not based on a reaction to a foul,

to help them video technology would help, both as an adjunct to a live game and as a retrospective tool for punishing things

Obsinho said...

I don't know if I know the rules on penalties anymore!? Is it supposed to be a penalty only if a goal scoring opportunity is denied? Seem to have an inkling of that being the case, but that is not what is played in the prem nor on Hackney marshes. I had a great dive the other week where I was running onto a diagonal ball across the box, got tackled and went down like a twitching Drogba. It may have even been a foul, but I was never going to score mostly cos I am shit. Should that have been a penalty?

Basically I am saying what are the situations when a free kick in the box should be given? West Ham's against us was a great example - cole was never goion to score, and if he hadn't dived a free kick would not have been given. If Song had done the same in the centre circle the game would have carried on. Therefor a penalty cannot be a fair reward to the striker.

I am so confused!

Ted said...

That's basically my point obs.

There is no such thing as a free kick in the box (I think). So any foul is a penalty, which usually means a goal. Or at least a hell of a better chance than the first situation.

I didn't offer any solutions to the problem in my post. My best, and controversial suggestion, is to get rid of penalties altogether.

Its a free kick in the box on most occassions, but if the ref is convinced that the deliberate foul play justifies a red card, then I would award a penalty goal with no need for a spot kick.

Its a beautiful solution that no one can argue with. No one.

The crazy current situation is giving strikers so much reward by conning refs into awarding pens.the solution is to remove the reward and treat fouls in the box mainly the same as fouls outside the box.

The box, after all, is about defining where the keeper can pick the ball up, not where stevie G should throw himself to the ground.

Uncle Mike said...

I wouldn't mind giving a free kick in the box to a few people.

I don't care if a player is English or plays for FC Belove By the Media, or what. I don't care if Jack the Ripper sticks his foot out to trip Winston Churchill and misses, and Winston, about to kick the ball past Michel Platini, decides to fall to the ground anyway: The rules must be applied equally, to those we like as well as to those we don't like.

Even if the man who passed Winston the ball was Liam Brady. Coming on in the 72nd minute for The Queen after she's already scored a hat trick. (I know she's a little old by Wenger standards, but it's Platini in goal.) With Queen the band as the back four.

marcus said...

Interesting blog but for me the main issue with the current hysteria over Ngog's dive is something else entirely.

Would we be here talking about this incident if Gerrard had committed the dive and not Ngog?

Let's summarize the moral compass of British football and its media:

Diving is the ABSOLUTE WORST thing in the game -- far far worse than deliberate violent assaults and persistent cheating by defenders.

Diving by FOREIGNERS in top four teams is worthy of reams and reams of screeching self-righteousness by the media, ignorant hypocrites on talk radio and anyone else weighing in with their ready dose of selective morality and bigotry.
Whereas there is total silence when Rooney and Gerrard do the same thing.

That good English lad Darren Bent blatantly dives in the Spurs-Sunderland game and NOT ONE WORD from the media. Of course, Bent is English and plays in a one of those teams of manly men in the north, not a pansy top 4 team full of foreigners.

Johnny Evans deliberately assaults Drogba with his studs up in a move that could've broken Drogba's ribs -- a clear red card offense. And DROGBA is the one who's booked!

NOT ONE WORD OF OUTRAGE. Instead we get some ridiculous attempts to justify the ref's action.

And it looks like Drogba was entirely right to exaggerate the affects of Evans' assault on him since he's now injured and has been withdrawn from the Ivory Coast game on the weekend.

Of course, it's ok since Evans is a good British boy and it's ok to assault Drogba, as he's a dirty foreigner in a top 4 team.

If that had been Drogba nearly breaking Rooney's or Gerrard's ribs, we would never have heard the end of it.

Chris Morgan regularly assaults players (even putting one player in a coma) in off the ball incidents.

No hysterical moral outrage from the media.

Of course, he's not a foreigner in a top 4 club.

The media has now done its job as the referees association are meeting to do something about diving.

Defenders can cheat all they want of course -- the media will never ever conduct a witchhunt against them.

Unless one of them assaults a good English lad.

The football culture in other countries is riddled with flaws but there is absolutely no rival to the sanctimonious moralizing hypocrites in English football.

Obsinho said...

Good point on the Bent and Evans issues. The muted reaction to them speaks volumes, and sadly they were wholly predictable.

I don't think the English media are entirely racist, but think they have an agenda to promote (most) English players. It's probably understandable but that doesn't really help the situation.

I would suggest that the game has always worked because the sense of professional decency outweighed the benefits of cheating. That is clearly not the case anymore (I think Wenger posed the question to the media what they would do if a Rooney dive won us the world cup) and is simply one of the developments of the modern game.

Anonymous said...

inconsistency is part of the charm of the game, any game, and part of the charm of life.

off topic-
going back a bit, i thought carlton cole played really well against us. i think he's the kind of bull the arsenal could use. obviously we don't need more attacking options, but i like him.


1979gooner said...

agree on the n'gog one

carsley slid in late and got none of the ball

if n'gog had not dived out the way then he would have been nailed

carlsey's challange was still a foul

it was no different to rooney vs almunia, or eduardo vs celtic, or even

it's the inconsistency with which the media reacts that annoys me

on the drogba evans incident, i have no sympathy for drogba as he went in late to nail evans, evans was naughty but it was defensive against one of the biggest c*nts in the game

marcus said...

1979, that was not a defensive move against Drogba. Evans deliberately lifted his leg up very high with his studs up knowing Drogba was coming toward him. Since when is that defensive? This isn't about defending or liking Drogba, it's about letting another clear cut case of a Utd player (usually British) get away with thuggery because the object of his thuggery was foreign and easy to dislike. The fact that Drogba's unlikeable is irrelevant.

Obsinho said...

Remember Eboues red card at Old Trafford for jumping into someone in the air? He got rogered in the press, and Evans has nit got so much as a bad word.

Obsinho said...



and contrast......


don't you love football!!