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When should a red card be given?

I’ve been asked this question so many times that I’ve lost count.

The answer? There is no right or wrong time to issue a yellow card or a red card. The correct time is when it is required and justified.

There has long been an argument or discussion that a referee shouldn’t issue cards too early in the game because it leaves him no option, especially if it’s yellow, to then give the second yellow and ultimately a red.

What does that do?

Well according to the soccer aficionados it “spoils the game” when one team has more players on the pitch than the other. Possibly, although I’ve seen teams play better with 10 instead of eleven at times.

These same “experts” are only thinking from the players' point of view, with ex-players often weighing in on this debate, and not from the general public, who pay good money to either attend the games or watch on television.

Fans pay enormous ticket prices in some cases to be entertained and watch certain over-paid, over-rated, spoiled brat throw a tantrum, leaving the referee with no option but to dismiss him. I say him because the ladies are definitely more disciplined, and it’s a rare thing to see one of them dismissed for unruly behaviour or violent conduct.

The new season is upon us and already we’ve had a Premier League player dismissed for dangerous play, and correctly in my opinion.

The English Community Shield game between Chelsea and Arsenal is such a case in point.

The traditional curtain raiser to the new season between the winners of the Premier League and the FA Cup was played at Wembley Stadium on Sunday (06/08/2017), and a red card was issued in the 80th minute to Pedro of Chelsea.

To many observers, including myself, the referee was correct.

Of course, the Chelsea manager Antonio Conte was quick to bring out statistics saying that there is always controversy when his side play Arsenal, citing that another of his players (Victor Moses) was red carded in the FA Cup final against the same opposition in May of this year.

• How quick managers are to make excuses for their charges when it suits them.

• How quick they are to condemn others for their own failings.

• How quick they are to point the finger at anyone except themselves for their own thuggery.

Incidentally Mr Conte is not alone in this area.

Arsenal coach Arsene Wenger is also a dab hand at making excuses and indulging in selective amnesia when his players misbehave.

How many times have we heard him say that he never saw the incident or was looking the other way?

The pressure on coaches to get results in the modern game is so intense that they will “employ” all sorts of tactics to secure that vital win. If that means lying, cheating, or to be more politically correct, being economical with the truth, then so be it according to many in the modern game.

That makes the job of the match officials all the more difficult. They need to be on their game and right up with play to ensure that players don’t get anything more or less than they are entitled to.

Getting back to the original question – is there a correct or incorrect time to issue a yellow or red card.

The answer is a very definite NO.

Whether it’s the first minute of the game or the last minute of extra time, or at any other time when it is required, the referee must do his job without fear or favour of or to either team.

He has to be objective and firm while doing his job according to the Fifa Laws of the Game.

I have to pay tribute to referee Bobby Madley for having the guts to give a straight red card for what was an awful tackle right on the Achilles heel of Mohamed Elneny.

I hope it is a sign of things to come. I hope that the referees have laid down a marker for the coming season and that Mike Riley, the head of the Professional Games Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) will not interfere when pressure comes from the clubs.

Happy whistling

Dr Errol Sweeney
Twitter – dr_errol

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