James Lawton: Fifteen penalties a game is a price worth paying to end a crime everyone commits

This is a crime against which no one stands with a hint of indignation

It was painted as Survival Sunday – or not – for the beleaguered Roberto Mancini and Rafael Benitez. But then the pressure on both the managers and the players of Manchester City and Chelsea to begin to justify the huge discrepancy between their rewards and resources and those of Leeds United and Brentford always made that billing look more than faintly ludicrous.

Survival Sunday, did somebody say? It was more likely to be a shooting-alley Sabbath and so of course it was.

Brentford, who in the first half at Stamford Bridge played quite as splendidly as they had at their own Griffin Park before ceding a late draw, argued not altogether illegitimately that things might have been at least a little different if referee Neil Swarbrick had granted them the briefest advantage and allowed the goal of Marcello Trotta.

Brentford should have got the goal and the lead shortly before half-time but would that have staunched the goals and creativity of Oscar and Juan Mata and the late thrusts of that obdurate old guard formed by Frank Lampard and John Terry?

It is not likely, no more than that a different decision by Mark Clattenburg, when he granted Sergio Aguero the penalty that so inflamed Leeds, might have postponed significantly the dismemberment of the Championship team.

In the end Survival Sunday became the last word in the predictable enforcement of football power and wealth.

Where the really significant debate needs to start is this Monday morning.

It needs to be engaged not in the inner sanctums of Stamford Bridge and the Etihad Stadium but the one which passes for the heart of football authority. There should be two items at the top of the agenda, both key to a much needed reappraisal of vital issues.

One concerns the enshrined lunacy that because the referee at Stamford Bridge acted upon the gut-wrenching brutality of David Luiz's foul on the young Brentford player Jake Reeves, and awarded a wholly inadequate yellow card, there is no reason for further action.

This is quite appalling. Luiz, who was seen grinning as the Brentford player was led from the field as a precaution against concussion, had slammed his shoulder into the face of the unsuspecting Reeves. You hardly needed the reruns to confirm that this was a piece of gratuitous and extremely dangerous violence. Luiz made no attempt to play the ball.

The TV analyst, and former Brentford manager, Martin Allen was – he made clear – as incensed as he had ever been in a long career in football. His colleague Ian Wright, who admitted to his own "naughtiness" on the field, agreed that in any league table of sly and dangerous conduct this surely ranked very high.

There will, of course, be the usual platitudes and evasions from within the game, depending on where anyone happened to be standing at the time, but the essential point is surely as evident as the consequences of a broken jaw.

It is that the need for retrospective justice, underpinned by explicit TV evidence and unclouded by any dreamy, time-expired notion that the authority of a referee found to be in error cannot be compromised, has never been required more urgently. If cheating and other forms of malpractice are considered to be no more than aspects of professionalism, there is surely no place for benefits of the doubt.

Issue number two rose up inexorably barely an hour later when Clattenburg unhesitatingly pointed to the spot when Leeds defender Tom Lees threw a hand in the direction of Aguero's face, then draped his arm across the Argentine's body.

Leeds were appalled and the resident TV analysts, Craig Burley and Martin Keown, apparently understood their anger. Keown, the former Arsenal defender, agreed that Aguero had been impeded but added that such penalties are rarely given. Burley compared, extremely favourably, Lees' offence with the full-scale wrestling match imposed by Juventus on Celtic in last week's Champions League game at Parkhead.

What we are invariably told on these occasions is that the sickening progression of law-breaking in the penalty area has to be treated as a matter of degree. You know the football argument well enough now. Everybody breaks the laws of the game so what would be the result of a penalty award each time it happened? On balance it would be roughly 15 penalties a game – and why, in the short and correcting term, not?

There was a lot of distress in Glasgow when Juve so blatantly grappled and grabbed and pushed at every set piece but how easily can you bleed for victims of a crime which everyone commits and against which no one in the game stands with a hint of consistency or indignation.

Aguero was judged by many to have indulged in a little sharp practice when he simply stopped running. He didn't dive, he didn't produce the nauseating performance of Ashley Cole at Stamford Bridge when he reacted so theatrically to a non-existent contact, he just stopped and left the referee to make his decision. The player as usual, performed with superb professional commitment and scored two fine goals.

He will no doubt hit the net many more times but rarely will he make a better contribution to the health of football than in that moment when he said that it was time, at last, to observe the laws of the game.

It is, anyway, something to hope – and quite fervently.

News
FIFA President Sepp Blatter reacts during a news conference in Zurich June 1, 2011
news
News
people
Life and Style
food + drink
News
peopleKatie Hopkins criticises River Island's 'seize the day' bags for trying to normalise epilepsy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Nicole Kidman plays Grace Kelly in the film, which was criticised by Monaco’s royal family
film'I survived it, but I’ll never be the same,' says Arash Amel
Life and Style
Retailers should make good any consumer goods problems that occur within two years
tech(and what to do if you receive it)
Life and Style
healthIf one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
Life and Style
tech
News
i100
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

Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor
The ZX Spectrum has been crowd-funded back into play - with some 21st-century tweaks

The ZX Spectrum is back

The ZX Spectrum was the original - and for some players, still the best. David Crookes meets the fans who've kept the games' flames lit
Grace of Monaco film panned: even the screenwriter pours scorn on biopic starring Nicole Kidman

Even the screenwriter pours scorn on Grace of Monaco biopic

The critics had a field day after last year's premiere, but the savaging goes on
Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people used to believe about periods

Menstrual Hygiene Day: The strange ideas people once had about periods

If one was missed, vomiting blood was seen as a viable alternative
The best work perks: From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)

The quirks of work perks

From free travel cards to making dreams come true (really)
Is bridge the latest twee pastime to get hip?

Is bridge becoming hip?

The number of young players has trebled in the past year. Gillian Orr discovers if this old game has new tricks
Long author-lists on research papers are threatening the academic work system

The rise of 'hyperauthorship'

Now that academic papers are written by thousands (yes, thousands) of contributors, it's getting hard to tell workers from shirkers
The rise of Lego Clubs: How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships

The rise of Lego Clubs

How toys are helping children struggling with social interaction to build better relationships
5 best running glasses

On your marks: 5 best running glasses

Whether you’re pounding pavements, parks or hill passes, keep your eyes protected in all weathers
Raif Badawi: Wife pleads for fresh EU help as Saudi blogger's health worsens

Please save my husband

As the health of blogger Raif Badawi worsens in prison, his wife urges EU governments to put pressure on the Saudi Arabian royal family to allow her husband to join his family in Canada
Birthplace of Arab Spring in turmoil as angry Tunisians stage massive sit-in over lack of development

They shall not be moved: jobless protesters bring Tunisia to a halt

A former North African boom town is wasting away while its unemployed citizens stick steadfastly to their sit-in
David Hasselhoff's new show 'Hoff the Record': What's it like working with a superstar?

Hanging with the Hoff

Working with David Hasselhoff on his new TV series was an education for Ella Smith