Monday, 12 February 2018

Deliberately making the wrong decision

Game 34, 2017-18

On Saturday I gave a free kick when I should have given a penalty. There are no excuses for consciously making the wrong decision, but I'm going to explain it anyway.

The home team was leading 9-0 in a boys' U19 match. I had already awarded them three penalties. One had been saved and two converted. Their opponents simply were not good enough to take the ball off them. The home team's right-winger dribbled the ball towards the penalty area at speed. As he reached the area he was tripped, right on the line. I indicated that the foul had taken place just outside the area and awarded a free kick. No one complained.

The truth is, I was too embarrassed for the away team to award another spot-kick. Four in one game? How could you be so poor as to concede four penalties? My decision didn't trouble me. It was 9-0 in a friendly match. Perhaps the home team would appreciate the chance to try out a free-kick routine rather than bang home their tenth goal of the afternoon.

If the score had been 3-3, or if it had been a competitive game for points, I would have awarded a fourth penalty. So how can a referee justify deliberately making an erroneous call? I don't know. An
unwritten Mercy Rule, I suppose. It was wrong, but it felt alright.

The away team had changed their goalkeeper at half-time. "Have fun," I said to him as he told me his number, and he gave me a smile. "What's the score now exactly?" he asked. 7-0, I said, and he winced. His predecessor had spent the first half screaming at defenders who had let him down time and time again.

Offside - only thanks to
help from willing
spectators (pic: N. Lotze)
When a game's this one-sided there are some inevitable developments, and none of them are good. First, the losing team starts to commit niggly fouls out of frustration. I spent a lot of time talking to the fouled players to make sure they stayed calm (they did). Second, the team in arrears half-heartedly appeals for offside every time an opponent is played through beyond the second to last defender.

This heavily losing team had an old boy along who did the appealing for them in the second half. Unfortunately, his first two appeals happened to be correct, and so I'd whistled them, but this gave him the idea to appeal from his position - next to the away bench - on every single through-ball. If I didn't blow, then he screamed "Offside!" again, in case I hadn't heard him the first time. Finally I went over and told him to shut the hell up or I'd throw him out the ground. The coach, standing next to him, looked away in embarrassment.

"Are we not playing offside today?" asked the away team's sulky central midfielder as the home side scored their 12th. "Are you not playing defence today?" I countered. A minute later I booked him for another show of dissent. It was the 88th. minute. Then I blew early for full time. We'd all suffered more than enough embarrassment for one afternoon.

Final score: 12-0 (3 x yellow)

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