Referees are just 'applying law' on two-footed tackle

The Referees' board has denied that officials have been ordered to clamp down on the two-footed tackle and say they are merely enforcing existing policy.

The two-footed tackle has been under the spotlight recently following a spate of red cards, including Boxing Day dismissals for Chelsea's Ricardo Carvalho and Reading's Brynjar Gunnarsson. But the spokesman for the Professional Game Match Officials Board denied there had been an instruction to be any stricter than they usually are.

The spokesman said: "The issue of the two-footed challenges was discussed at the regular pre-season meetings the PGMO hold with managers and players. They were reminded of the key point surrounding the excessive use of force in the tackle.

"A player who jumps into a tackle two-footed is not in control of himself and therefore if he makes contact with the player, ball and player, or if the referee determines there to be excessive malice in the challenge, he will be dismissed.

"There has been no 'clampdown' on the tackle or new directive issued referees are simply applying the law as it has always stood."

The former England and Arsenal defender Martin Keown has called players who make two-footed tackles "cowardly", and concerns are growing that someone will be seriously injured unless it is severely dealt with by referees.

Keown, a no-nonsense centre-half in his day, believes modern players are more concerned with self-preservation and have little concern for the welfare of opponents. "It is creeping in more and more. I saw a couple yesterday and the players made them look premeditated," he said. "They really need to stamp it out, outlaw it in the game. Yesterday [Boxing Day] everyone was punished in the right way and it was good to see Carvalho come out and apologise.

"I wonder if players are thinking: 'I don't want to break my foot'? But to go in with two feet you know you are going to cause some damage. I think it is cowardly when you go into a challenge when you know you are not going to get hurt."

Keown expects the number of two-footed tackles to reduce over time, given the adverse publicity they have received, but he warned that players who do not cut it out will regret it.

"I don't know if I could do a two-footed tackle. It is something I would never have done instinctively," Keown added. "I think it will disappear. I think when players see it on television they will regret it."

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