Liverpool, Aston Villa, Sunderland and Hull fans all have a right to be disappointed with refereeing decisions this weekend. Saturday was an exciting day in the Premier League, as the 9 games produced 29 goals between them as well as 8 red cards. That it the most red cards that have ever been branded on one Premiership day, but why were so many players sent off? Was it because there were genuinely a lot of bad tackles, or have referees become too keen to go to their pockets?
Of the 8 red cards given out in the Premier League on Saturday, three quarters of them were arguably contentious decisions. Everyone knows that football referees have an incredibly hard job and their task is hardly helped by the behaviour of the players themselves, but sometimes they should just hold their hands up and take responsibility for poor decisions. The FA will probably have a very busy start to the week, with a handful of Premiership clubs lodging appeals against the dismissals and many of them should prove to be successful.
Liverpool had not one but two players sent off in their defeat against Fulham at Craven Cottage and neither were clear cut. Degen’s late challenge was far from malicious and didn’t deserve a straight red, while Carragher will argue that he won the ball when Zamora was through on goal. At Goodison Park Villa’s Carlos Cuellar can count himself extremely unlucky, as for the challenge that resulted in his second booking he clearly won the ball. Everton’s Bilyaletdinov was also unfortunate due to the fact that he slipped as he went in for a challenge and was only a fraction late, but his studs were showing.
The worst decision of the day came at Turf Moor, where Geovanni and Hull will feel that luck deserted them. Geovanni’s perfectly good free kick was disallowed, and to rub salt into the wounds he was booked for understandably remonstrating with the ref. Then like Bilyaletdinov the Brazilian slipped for his second booking and his match was over. The only real clear cut red card decisions were when Bolton’s Samuel clearly brought down Drogba against Chelsea and West Ham’s Kovac who committed two bookable offences.
The difficult job that referees have was illustrated in the encounter at the Stadium of Light. Sunderland’s Kenwyne Jones appeared to push Ilunga to the ground, and the defender exaggerated the incident by holding his face and in effect got Jones sent off. Along with diving, the overreaction of players is something that needs to be eradicated from football. World-class players like Drogba disgrace themselves when they constantly go to ground all the time and it is becoming more and more difficult for officials to judge whether players are faking it or not. Referee’s jobs are hard enough when the players are honest, but players’ simulation makes their task almost impossible.
The question is how can you punish players for acting during games and is firmer retrospective punishment using video evidence the way forward? However, referees also need to take some responsibility for their decisions, and surely when in doubt it is better to try and keep as many players on the field as possible.