Monday, 31 July 2017

Debating DOGSO

Games 3-5, 2017-18

The spectator seems genuinely angry, as they often generally are on their way out of the ground after a home defeat. "That should have been a red card," he huffs at me with hot conviction. I'm standing at the tournament official's table, getting my cash, and don't bother responding. Right after the final whistle is generally not a good time for rational discussion.

DOGSO - much dissected and
discussed among reffing nerds
"Bet he's never refereed a game in his life," mutters the official. I laugh and give one of my standard replies: "Everyone's an expert. Everyone." The tournament's sponsored by a local bank, and there's decent cash involved for the winners. This is a welcome contribution to the sporting community, but not much help when it comes to sporting perspectives.

At the time of the non-red card, the host team had been 0-2 down in the final, their third (shortened) game of the day. It was just after half-time, and one of their forwards had successively shrugged off a couple of challenges on his way toward the penalty area. Just inside the arc, while shaping up to shoot, he was deliberately brought down from behind
by the opposing side's number 14. Was this denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity?  (This is known in refereeing circles as 'DOGSO'. Should you ever overhear a group of balding, middle-aged men earnestly talking about DOGSO, it's nothing deviant - just a bunch of harmless and probably quite dull referees debating the nerdier aspects of football's laws).

It might have been a DOGSO. But then again, it might not. Two other defenders were closing in on the attacker, and may have been able to block the imminent shot. At least, that was my on-the-spot assessment. It's tough to accurately predict the future. When I only showed the number 14 the yellow card, no one on the field argued with the call. But clearly it was discussed on the touchline.

Dog so cute - thought you
deserved a picture of
something nice for a change.
After the spectator's post-match comment, I felt belatedly unsure of the decision, so I asked my colleague - who'd been alternating games with me all day - if he'd have shown red. "Absolutely not," was his curt assessment. So I cycled home without feeling I'd made a game-altering cock-up, while at the same time still thinking that if I had given it, then it would not necessarily have been a wrong call.

There are straight red cards for violent conduct and severe foul play where there's never any doubt that dismissal is the right punishment. It's different, though, with DOGSO. It's like with penalty kicks - you have to be 100% sure before you make that decision to send someone off, because you're reducing a team by one man, and that's going to have a big effect on the rest of the match.

I'm sure the home fans thought I'd bottled it. Yet looked at the other way, it could have been me pompously striding over to the scene of the foul with a straight arm, a stern look, and a lofted red card. And if there's one thing you want to avoid as a referee, it's making yourself the centre of attention with a contentious decision - the feeling that by making an erroneous borderline call, you had a significant influence on the game's result.

The resultant free-kick was wasted. Had it gone in, and if their opponents had now been one man short, then the home side might have clawed their way back into contention. In fact, they were already knackered against a superior side one level above them in the pyramid. The only real frustration at the final score (1-3) came from the stroppy fan who absolutely needed to Have A Word With The Referee before heading home to nurse his wee hurt at the cruel vagaries of recreational loss.

Final scores: Game 3: 3-0 (1 x yellow); Game 4: 4-0 (no cards); Game 5: 1-3 (1 x yellow).

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