15 Jul 2010
Referee Howard Webb Hero or Villain
Imagine if Howard Webb had followed the letter of the law and sent off Nigel De Long and Mark van Bommel, in the final of the World Cup on Sunday, as arguably he should have done according to the letter of the law.
What sort of final would the billions around the world have witnessed. Instead, in my view, he absolutely did the right thing in trying to play 11 v 11 for as long as possible. He recognised that he had a duty, so much more than an officious referee who hid behind the rules of the game: to compromise, to take the lack of respect from both sets of players, the abuse, the blatant gamesmanship and put the “beautiful game” of football first
So instead of the recognition he deserved, in what should have been the proudest moment of their careers, Howard Webb and his two linesmen Darren Cann and Mike Mullarkey were booed by Dutch supporters when they went up to receive their World Cup final medals on Sunday.
With the benefit of watching all 120 minutes of the final for the second time, one thing is clear: Webb had a very good game. In a match of 47 fouls, countless tricky decisions and two very argumentative sets of players, his percentage of mistakes was low. Graham Poll was right to give Webb “nine out of 10” yesterday, and Poll does not give praise lightly.
Maybe it is time for the football authorities to look at a different card system. One that allows referees to punish players and teams for a limited period, rather than send players off and spoil football matches.
So, I make no apologies for repeating a summary of an earlier blog on this subject:
The Yellow and Red Card System
When a player gets sent off for what sometimes are two relatively innocuous challenges, then the whole emphasis and dynamics of the game are changed and the game can be really spoilt as a spectacle for tens of thousands of supporters watching the game live and for many millions watching the game on T.V.
What happens when a player gets sent off? The team with 10 men are invariably on the back foot and defending for the rest of the game. If they are losing at the time of the sending off, the game is almost certainly over. How fair is that on the spectators?
How about the authorities consider introducing a different card system. What about, the first foul is a yellow card, the second foul, instead of being a second yellow and a sending off, becomes a green card instead.
This green card would mean that the offending player has to leave the pitch for a set period of time, say 10 minutes, like the sin bin in rugby.
This could then create a number of interesting scenarios:
- A power play for the attacking team. They know they have 10 minutes when the opposition have 10 men. Can they adjust their tactics, be positive and take advantage of their numerical advantage?
- The team with the 10 men know they only have to survive for ten minutes, can they adjust tactically and survive the power play.
- The manager of the team who has the player green carded has an interesting decision at the end of the 10 minutes. Depending on what happens in the ten minutes, do they put the player who has been green carded back on and risk him fouling again and being sent off. Or do they substitute him and maybe change the team tactically?