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Red cards from day one

The issue of when to give a red card or not is often hotly debated and your opinion will likely depend on which side of the fence you are on, or which team you support.

I discussed this very same topic recently but the debate continues and so I want to highlight recent events in order to give a refereeing perspective and hope, in the process, to clarify any misgivings you may have.

The issue can be very subjective from a spectator’s point of view. If it’s against their team they will, no doubt, hotly dispute it. However, when it comes to the opposition, well then the feeling will be that it was deserved. Two sides to the coin comes to mind, or as we say in Ireland – the same only different.

The Premier League (PL), regarded by many as the best league in the world (a claim no doubt disputed by the Bundesliga, in Germany, La Liga in Spain, and Seria A in Italy), kicked off recently and red cards were flying around like confetti at a wedding.

Well, perhaps that a bit of an exaggeration, but there were three on the opening day of the season and that, in itself, is unusual.

What made them all the more remarkable is that they were issued to home team players and two were in one game alone.

The most high-profile were the two at Chelsea in their game against newly promoted Burnley, who were 3 – 0 up at halftime against the reigning champions.

Gary Cahill, the Blues and England defender, was the first to go for what the referee deemed to be an off-the-ground challenge, which was correctly given by the referee. It has to be said that it was a brave decision by referee Craig Pawson who is new to the PL elite referees panel.

In the second half he also red-carded Cesc Fabregas for a second yellow and was justified in doing so, in my opinion. Fabregas obviously didn’t agree – naturally.

Later on we had experienced referee Andre Mariner correctly dismissing Jonjo Shelvey of Newcastle in their home game against Tottenham Hotspurs at St. James Park for deliberately stamping on the ankle of fellow England teammate Deli Ali.

In each of the above cases the referees were perfectly positioned to witness deliberate acts of what can only be described as hooliganism, for which there is no place in the modern game.

However, it has to be said that this past weekend in the game between Southampton and West Ham there appeared to be a “chink” in the referees’ armour when experienced middleman Lee Mason should have red-carded Mark Noble of West Ham.

He did, however, dismiss “Hammers” Marko Arnoutivic in the 33rd minute for a deliberate elbow/arm into the face of an opponent. Was he scared to issue two red cards to the same team in the same game? I hope not, because if he is, or if any referee is, they should not be refereeing.

Such acts of thuggery and violent conduct do nothing for football and can only do damage to the game we all love so much.

Refereeing cowardice knows no place in football and referees need to be strong and secure in the knowledge that they will be protected by the powers-that-be while doing what is to many a thankless and sometimes dangerous “profession.”

Players need to realise that they have a social and moral responsibility to the many fans, among them children, who idolise them. They are role models for the next generation of players all wanting to imitate and emulate their heroes.

They must act and behave responsibly on and off the field of play and give good example to their many hordes of fans.

Happy whistling
Dr Errol Sweeney
Twitter – dr_errol

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