Sympathy for referee in tackle row

Glen Johnson challenge shows how hard it is to make correct call, says former official Alan Wiley

Another high-profile match between two of English football's most powerful clubs on Wednesday night and another tackle that has become the narrative of the game. Glen Johnson's challenge on Joleon Lescott at the end of Manchester City's 1-0 home defeat to Liverpool in the first leg of their Carling Cup semi-final has demonstrated, once again, the difficulty of implementing a law that is consistent on all occasions.

Fellow referees were united yesterday in sympathy for Lee Mason, the official in charge at the Etihad Stadium on Wednesday who failed to recognise that Johnson had committed a textbook red-card offence. Ignore, for a moment, the off-the-cuff wisdom of the pundits from the never-a-red-card-in-my-day school and examine the actual letter of the law.

It is Law 12 of the game dealing with serious foul play. There is no mention in the rules of a player's intent and it is immaterial as to whether he plays the ball first before connecting with an opponent. The key criteria in deciding whether a player is guilty of serious foul play – and therefore dismissed – is if he "lunges" at an opponent with one or both legs with "excessive force" and is guilty of "endangering the safety" of the opponent in question.

The former Premier League referee Alan Wiley, who officiated in the top-flight for 11 years, told The Independent yesterday that Johnson's lunge at Lescott in added time on Wednesday was, under the current rules, a red-card offence. "I would imagine the only reason he [Mason] hasn't sent him off was because he hasn't had the view of it that we had on television," he said. That may not come as a consolation to City manager Roberto Mancini who felt most aggrieved that the challenge was similar to the one for which his captain Vincent Kompany was sent off by Chris Foy in the FA Cup third-round tie against Manchester United on Sunday. But Wiley made the point that it is impossible for referees to ensure they always see every challenge during a game from the most revealing angle.

"When you see a challenge slowed down it is very easy to spot [the nature of it]," Wiley said. "If you break it down bit-by-bit in replay you see that Johnson takes off from a distance and both feet come off the ground, like Kompany [on Nani in the game against Manchester United] . All the Premier League teams have a visit [from a referee at the start of the season when they are explained the rules and shown video clips of examples of different challenges]. They know that if they 'launch' like that they do run the risk of being sent off.

"If you look at the Johnson challenge from a normal angle it just looks like a normal challenge. I cannot speak for Lee but I think the option [to send off Johnson] would have been there.

"When a player does first 'take off' in a tackle he has no idea where he is going to land. I know that sometimes they take the ball but at times the other player has to jump out the way. The big argument is 'Should a player have to stand there and suffer an injury for it to be a sending off?'"

In the split second of a challenge, referees are asked to apply seven key criteria to their decision, including whether there is malice intended, the speed and intensity of the challenge, the distance travelled, the direction of the tackler's feet and whether he uses his studs. All these are regarded as a means to arriving at a decision as to whether excessive force was used and a red card is necessary.

It is an argument that comes back to the old question of consistency. Why, for example, have fouls by Nenad Milijas (against Arsenal) and Jay Spearing (against Fulham) resulted in those players' dismissal while the likes of Johnson on Wednesday, Yohan Cabaye (against Liverpool) and Frank Lampard (against Wolves) have escaped punishment having committed fouls that look as bad if not worse?

Wiley said: "There is only one thing that changes in every incident and that is the human element. I think managers and players should expect consistency in the 90 minutes of a game because it is the same referee in charge for all of it. But to try to get consistency week after week with different referees is impossible. You have different opinions. A referee stood in one place sees a challenge one way to a referee who sees it from another angle."

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
News
Robyn Lawley
people
News
people
Life and Style
lifeDon't get caught up on climaxing
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
Voices
voices In defence of the charcoal-furred feline, by Felicity Morse
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
News
people
News
A speech made by the Turkish Deputy Prime Minister urging women not to laugh in public in order to preserve morality has sparked a backlash on social media from women posting defiant selfies of themselves laughing at his remarks.
GALLERYWhy are Turkish women having a chuckle at the government's expense?
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star