spot the referee

Aston Villa are 0-2 down and then what happens next ?  Referee (and I do use the term lightly) Rob Harris awards a penalty to the visitors on the advice of a linesman for handball.  He didn't see the handball although he was in line with the play and had a clear line of sight from the edge of the box.  He didn't see who handled the ball.  He didn't see the push on Iversen when the corner was taken before the shot came in.  He didn't have a very good game really.

For those not familiar with Mr. Harris, he was the referee who fouled up the last minute substitution in the Tranmere Rovers vs. Sunderland FA cup tie earlier this season, allowing a substitute on to replace a player who had been sent off.  For that misdemeanour he served a suspension from the game.  He was also responsible for sending off Liverpool defender Steve Staunton for encroaching at a free-kick after already having been booked, but the Irishman was only closer than 10 yards after the kick had been taken.   Another incident that springs to mind was the West Ham United vs. Leeds United Premier League match at the end of last season when he showed three West Ham players red cards and one to a Leeds player.  

In the old days, they used to say that you knew when you had seen a good referee because you hadn't noticed him.  In the modern day, refs are all well known and it is amazing when you don't notice a referee during a game.  We all know they are only human and that they make mistakes, but some seem to make them a lot more often and appear to enjoy the limelight they are suddenly thrown into.  I, for one, wouldn't do their job, but if I did, I would hopefully admit that there are situations in which I might not make a decision correctly.  However, it looks like the FA are ensuring that their match officials are above criticism, as anyone who speaks out against them is likely to find themselves on a disrepute charge.  Coupled with which, there appears to be little in the way of internally disciplining errant officials and those who appear to be on a  large ego trip.

Assessors are supposed to attend every match to mark refs and managers also score them.  I would be seriously tempted to give Mr. Harris a negative mark, such was his performance.  He not only failed to see the incident that was the reason for giving a spot-kick, but his indecisiveness led to a period of about three minutes when anarchy reigned.  He lost control of the match in those minutes.  He ran to the linesman to get a view of someone further from the incident than himself.  Having discussed it with the assistant referee, he ran to the spot and button-holed Chris Perry as the culprit.  When he was disabused of the notion that the central defender had been responsible he rushed back to his linesman for another chat.  Then it appeared that he was going to book Clemence, but didn't.  He then ran back into the area pointing to the spot, while Ehiogu was pushing Taricco to the floor behind him.  Obviously, the ref didn't see this happening, but another brawl could have ensued, for which Tottenham would have been heavily punished (with points deduction being a real possibility after the Leeds fiasco) and the referee would have been blameless no doubt.

It was quite an odd performance from the referee as he seemed to take a long time to notice his assistants every time they flagged.  I thought that they had buzzers in their flags or were supposed to be in radio contact or something.  The total lack of communication between the officials was bewildering.

When the spot-kick was finally taken, no player had been booked or dismissed for the offence.  In fact, Iversen had been pushed from behind when the ball from the corner was in flight.  When the shot came in, he was standing in front of the goal and appeared to be turning his back on the ball, when it struck him on the arm.  Now, Tottenham have had harsh penalties awarded against them before and have been refused such decisions too (remember Newcastle United in the FA Cup semi-final last season ?), but it is highly dubious that the pen. was given, when it should have been a free-kick to Spurs in the first instance.

While the responsibility for the other three goals should all be that of Tottenham, the award of the penalty gave Villa an impetus they have rarely displayed previously in the first hour of the match.  Their other three goals were outstanding and whatever people think of Walker, he could not be blamed for any of them.  The second came when Sol was stranded upfield following a quickly taken free-kick by Ginola and Dublin was marked by Carr - a mismatch if ever I saw one; the third when Dublin was allowed a free header to set up Carbone and the same player backed into Campbell to nod down for Wright to hit one of those shots that rasps into the net or goes into row Z.

The referee also failed to spot injured players and his consistency for stopping the game for treatment should also be questioned.  When Freund was flattened by a studs up challenge by Samuel, he let play go on although the German was seriously in pain.  Later in the game, when a Villa player was winded, he stopped play for treatment and re-started with a drop ball.  Also, his attention span appears to be very short.  He gets fed up watching the ball and has to have a gaze around our wonderful stadium to recharge his interest.  That is the only conclusion I can come to when he was staring towards the corner flag, while Ginola was chopped from behind by Boateng during a quick fire period of play on the edge of the Villa box.  A similar foul had earned Thompson a yellow card early on, but the match official obviously had filled his notebook with enough names by then.

One final gripe is about the assistant referees, as they are now called.  The title would infer that perhaps they carry more responsibility now and that they should get involved, but in a number of games, they are obviously under instruction from the "real" referee to give only offsides, throw-ins and corners/goal-kicks. They are little more than secondary to the main official and he is the one who is relied upon to make all the important decisions.  Perhaps because of his previous failings he has roped them in to make some decisions for him.  Whatever, from Euro 2000, they will have the right to enter onto the field of play to assist the ref and fourth officials will also have the same powers !! What a laugh that will be - four men in black/green/red trying to decide who handled a football, because none of them had seen it !!

The Funky Phantom


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