Something has been puzzling me ever since Hull were awarded a penalty on Saturday. Not whether it should have been awarded, or whether it was a goalscoring opportunity or not, but something else.
Having decided that it was not a goalscoring opportunity (which the referee has since said was his reasoning), why was Sol Campbell booked?
When keepers take down attackers who are running away from goal, they are booked. When referees decide that players have not prevented an ‘obvious goalscoring opportunity’, but there is still a decent chance, they sometimes still book them instead of showing the red card. And having come to the same conclusion, Andre Marriner took the same action on Saturday.
Here’s the kicker: there is no such cautionable offence as ‘well, it was almost a goalscoring opportunity, but it wasn’t quite, so I’m going for yellow instead of red’. Unless there is some other reason for a yellow card to come out, the referee has a black and white decision to make – was it an obvious goalscoring opportunity? If yes, red card, or if not, no card at all.
It has become accepted in these instances that the yellow card is given, but let’s look at the rules to see what offences can cause that punishment:
Unsporting behaviour – given for wild fouls and cynical, deliberate fouls. Sol’s was neither – he brushed the player.
Dissent – nope. He was pretty restrained given how incorrect the decision was.
Persistent infringement – no. It was his first foul.
Delaying the restart – no.
Failure to respect restart distance – used for encroachment at a free kick. That’ll be a no, then.
Leaving/entering the field without permission – no.
No mention anywhere of a ‘nearly goalscoring opportunity’, you’ll note.
Just to be clear, I’m not just referring to Saturday’s incident. Time and time again, at all levels of football, players are booked when a referee doesn’t feel the chance was quite good enough to show the red. Keepers in particular barely ever commit a foul without receiving a card.
But there is no rule to back this up. There is no reason for a referee to caution these players, so it is bizarre that it has become such accepted practice. A bit like flashing cards in the last ten minutes for identical challenges to those that went unpunished in the first ten.
Can anyone enlighten me on this?