This season has been surrounded in controversy with regards to referring performances. There is an apparent inconsistency with the severity on fouls such as Mane (against Man City) and Richie (against Swansea). The main problem I have with whole debate is that context has been completely removed as a mitigating factor in determining the severity of the foul.
Many people have complained that because Sadio Mane received a red card for his kung-fu kick to the face of Ederson that Matt Richie should have been dismissed for a similar foul on Alfie Mawson. Just because you go in for a challenge with your boot head-high does not make it an automatic red card! What if no one was near you and you go high to control the ball, is that a red? Of course not. The determining factor here has to be the context and the effect of the high boot. Is it dangerous? Red. Is is just reckless? Just a yellow.
Mane was completely dangerous. He could see Ederson come out from his box and he knew it was going to be 50/50 regardless of who won the ball. He was going to collide with the Man City goalkeeper. As it happened in real time it looked like he lost the challenge but didn’t hurt the keeper and when the referee gave the red card there was an initial sense of surprise. It was in the replay with an alternative angle slowed down that we got to see just how much of a nasty challenge it was and how lucky Ederson was to not have been more seriously injured.
Contrast this with Matt Richie for Newcastle when he had an almost identical challenge against Alfie Mawson of Swansea. The difference between the two challenges is that the was no contact between Richie and Mawson. This can not be understated. It was fortunate, and on another day there could have been and then it would have been a red. We can’t treat every situation the same because not every situation is the same. There has to be a strong level of understanding between the players and the officials. The players have to understand cause and effect. If you do something potentially dangerous you are putting your fate in the hands of both the receiving player (their reaction) and the officials to interpret the situation.
Both Mane and Richie are guilty of making stupid challenges. As a professional player playing in the biggest league in the world you should be able to read the game enough to understand your movements and the movements of the players around you. If you are chasing a long ball, like Mane, its probable that their is an opponent doing the same and if you’re going to put in a risky challenge like Mane (or even a last defender) then you need to a) ensure your safety and b) the safety of players around you. Intent is irrelevant. You cannot use ignorance as a means of excuse.
This is tricky. There are different styles of referees in the league, some like to leave the play develop and others like to set a disciplined tone early on and they also have to comply with directives from the FA and UEFA in terms of clamping down on different aspects of fouling. Ultimately they need use common sense! No one wants to see a game marred by red cards or the constant awarding of free kicks.
Does Technology help? – We’ve seen the introduction of video officials introduced in the MLS this season with mixed results. They use it to review decisions for Goals, Penalties, Red Cards & Mistaken Identity. This has to be brought in world -wide as soon as possible as the amount of decisions that are being called incorrectly is disgraceful. Such fine margins define games. Penalty decisions one-way or another awarded incorrectly can have a major influence on the season as a whole. Similarly a player being sent off incorrectly can have disastrous consequences in a game.
I would hope not. In these situation both referees got the decision spot on. However, with extra scrutiny, it is possible that the pressure on the Video Ref deciding the Richie challenge would have changed the colour of his card to Red!
Time will tell how referees continue to manage these situations but for now it is a thankless task for them to get the right call. Biased fans will always go on social media and chastise the officials for being unfair on their team.