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Match officials need all the help they can get

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Phil McNulty | 07:32 UK time, Monday, 16 April 2012

Martin Atkinson's anguish was revealed by Harry Redknapp as the latest calls for the introduction of technology reached a crescendo deep inside Wembley.

Tottenham manager Redknapp had spoken to referee Atkinson after a decision - and indeed a wider issue for world football - had been highlighted once more in a moment that helped to define Chelsea's 5-1 win in the FA Cup semi-final.

With Chelsea leading 1-0 Atkinson, well-positioned and close to the action, ruled Juan Mata's 49th-minute shot had beaten a desperate scramble by Spurs duo Ledley King and Benoit Assou-Ekotto and crossed the line. Initial suspicions proved ominous for Atkinson and were confirmed by the evidence of replays - it had not and Tottenham were the victims of a serious injustice.

It was the continuation of what has been a harrowing period for officialdom and Redknapp said: "Martin said he's going to have a bad week. He said he feels worse about it than I do. I said 'I don't think so.'"

As players past and present, including Michael Owen, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Gary Lineker and Ruud Gullit, took to Twitter to deliver their verdicts a common thread emerged: there can be no more delays in bringing greater certainty to the game and much-needed assistance to referees and their assistants by ushering in the era of technology.

As the incidents pile up so the case becomes compelling to the point of being irresistible. The game is only doing harm to itself if it delays any longer and as Redknapp, rarely a public critic of officials, said: "It can't go on like this. We can't carry on with important decisions not being correct. Video technology must come in."

Martin Atkinson is surrounded by Tottenham players after awarding Chelsea's goal. Photo: Getty

The final phase of technology testing will take place later this month with the definitive decision expected to come after a special meeting of the International Football Association Board in Kiev in July. Football Association general secretary Alex Horne has already told the BBC he would like to see it implemented in the Premier League next season.

You did not need technology to detect Redknapp and Chelsea counterpart Roberto di Matteo, the beneficiary on Sunday, would like it to be approved even sooner.

Redknapp was measured and sympathetic and he stressed Atkinson had simply displayed human error. Suspicion lay elsewhere in two other incidents that provided a contentious sub-plot to the day's events.

Celtic manager Neil Lennon took to his Twitter account to suggest decisions made by referee Euan Norris in their 2-1 Scottish FA Cup semi-final defeat against Hearts were "personal".

The bones of contention the combative Lennon picked over involved the decisive late penalty given for handball against Joe Ledley and the subsequent refusal of one for Celtic in the closing seconds when they believed Hearts' Andy Webster had handled.

Meanwhile at Old Trafford, Manchester United's Ashley Young was again the central figure after his latest exaggerated gymnastics earned a penalty against Aston Villa. Even his manager Sir Alex Ferguson admitted: "It was a dramatic fall and he overdid it."

Young was actually clipped by Villa defender Ciaran Clark and referee Mark Halsey was correct to award the spot-kick, but the United attacker's flying tumble made life hard for the official. Video technology would have made no difference here but it was another illustration of the factors that must be weighed up in seconds by Halsey and his colleagues without outside assistance.

It was a day that once again shone a brutally harsh light on officials, following on from a succession of contentious incidents such as Chelsea's goals in their win against Wigan - both offside - and QPR's Shaun Derry being sent off after his brush with Young at Old Trafford last week.

Atkinson's decision at Wembley was perhaps a classic case of a referee under pressure making a snap mistaken judgement. It was difficult to see how he could arrive at his conclusion with any degree of certainty given that it was almost a scene of human stock car racing in the six-yard box.

Mata's celebration may have been the trigger to persuade Atkinson to award the goal and it was clearly a matter of severe regret when the referee encountered Redknapp later. How Atkinson must have wished for a swift referral, replay and review that could have told him the facts in a few seconds and spared him bitter professional and personal disappointment.

He has had a tough season, seeing the red card he waved to Everton's Jack Rodwell in the Merseyside derby at Goodison Park rescinded, and being on duty when Manchester City's Mario Balotelli escaped punishment for his reckless challenge on Arsenal's Alex Song at The Emirates.

He was also referee when QPR's Clint Hill was denied a goal at Bolton, even though his header was behind the line - although his assistant Bobby Pollock was the main decision-maker on that occasion.

The incidents have followed Atkinson around and are bound to add to the high pressure of controlling games such as Sunday's FA Cup semi-final. Judging by Redknapp's relaying of his mood he was clearly devastated by his mistake and would no doubt welcome any high-tech help the game's hierarchy can afford him in future.

Referees and their assistants have been subjected to fierce criticism in recent weeks and the reasonable voice of Redknapp spoke the truth when he said: "The referee here made an honest mistake. He didn't do it on purpose but it was a mistake."

This is why Lennon's suggestion that key decisions in Celtic's game were personal is quite a call to make.

Referees and their assistants do not want to get it wrong - so they should get the help they require from the game's rulers in the form of technology as well as from players and managers.

Any dissenting voices against the introduction of technology to make key decision-making a more exact science need only have eavesdropped on the conversation of mutual regret between Atkinson and Redknapp in the bowels of Wembley to realise those involved in the game are united on the way forward.

This weekend proved once more - not that it helps Spurs, Redknapp or Atkinson - that it is time football embraced all the modern techniques available to eradicate the injustices that still scar the game.


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  • Comment number 1.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 2.

    Trouble is, these goal-line incidents happen once every... what, 10, 20 games? Not enough to justify the expense of microchip technology, Hawk-Eye, etc.

    We have video technology - they're plain old TV cameras. Watching on TV, the viewer could tell it was not a goal within 20 seconds (well, instantly actually, but you know what I mean). Next time the ball goes out of play, go to an official in the stands, get the verdict... allow/disallow the goal, get on with the game.

  • Comment number 3.

    I'm a Spurs fan who was at the game and I'm disappointed to see that once again a dubious refereeing decision will overshadow the fact that we played terribly, esp the 2nd half. The team fell apart and while this "goal" could be seen as a factor, these professional sportsmen should be ashamed of themselves for rolling over like they did.

  • Comment number 4.

    All this user's posts have been removed.Why?

  • Comment number 5.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 6.

    I dont support goal line technology. Football is a human game and human mistakes are bound to happen. England seems to have very poor referees at the moment and i think the FA needs to retrain or overhaul. As for d game, Spurs thoroughly deserve to lose irrespective of the Mata goal. It shows that having massively overatted playes like Bale and Lennon running all over the place is not sensible. Spurs are basically overachieving with a manager dat have won just an FA cup in his 60+years life

  • Comment number 7.

    Why Martin Atkinson is refereeing an FA cup semi final is beyond me. He has a track record of mistakes. Get him sacked.

  • Comment number 8.

    I am in principle in favour of goal line technology. It should only be used for penalties and goal line decisions, though. I think captains should be allowed to ask for a referral per game; any other player approaching the referee should receive a yellow card.
    I don't think it would slow down the game as it only takes a few seconds to review. Often more time is wasted by players remonstrating with the officials.
    Some decisions will still be debatable though, like the handball not awarded against Wigan in midweek. Even after watching it several times, I still couldn't tell whether the player's hand moved towards the ball or whether Valencia had simply struck it so hard it was impossible for the defender to get out of the way.

    Some purists argue technology could not be implemented in all games at all levels and that it would lead referees to rely on it. The example set by Rugby League shows that a.) not all decisions are clear-cut. b.) those decisions are always accepted. c.) the technology is not used at lower league and junior level and they still manage without.

  • Comment number 9.

    @#5: That's a nice conspiracy theory you got there. I almost hope it's true to give Spurs a reason for losing so many games that we should have put out of sight.

    I just don't understand why football can't follow rugby's example. Somebody scores a goal. The referee speaks into his earpiece: "Is there any reason why a goal cannot be given?" The fourth official looks at the video. "Yes, blue number 9 was in an offside position when he received the ball. Free-kick to red." Put it up on the big screen so the fans can see what's going on, and mic the officials up so the fans can hear them too, thus solving the dual problems of incorrect decisions and officials' unaccountability.

  • Comment number 10.

    Here's a question:

    Does the human error of referees actually make football more exciting?

    P.S. just a point before you answer, my football team (like many others) has been on the end of some atrocious decisions too.

  • Comment number 11.

    I was lucky enough to attend the Chelsea/Spurs game as a neutral last night. For me the whole game was overshadowed by the behaviour of sections of the Chelsea fans who did not observe the minutes silence in memory of the Hillsborough disaster. They should be ashamed of themselves as should Chelsea football club.

  • Comment number 12.

    Also if the above question has already been asked in the blog, my bad, i never read the blog just the comments - much more satisfying!

  • Comment number 13.

    The only thing this refereeing decision achieved was to once again give Harry Redknapp and excuse. Since Capello left his role at England Spurs have faltered badly. Redknapp’s tactical decisions continue to baffle and surely the tag as best man for England should be removed?

    The decision to play Cudicini and the unbelievable mistake of not signing a defender in January will come to define his time at Spurs.

    It will take a long time to forget the Wembley debacle. Any manager, who concedes 5 to Chelsea, Man City and Arsenal in one season, is not fit to manage his country.

  • Comment number 14.

    At least he admitted he made a mistake..that's more than you usually get! after all we all make mistakes!

  • Comment number 15.

    Ordinarily would've found that goal disgusting but the fact that it happened to Tottenspuds makes it hilarious, one of my fave goals of the season

  • Comment number 16.

    9. At 09:07 16th Apr 2012, Harry Hotspur wrote:

    Thats far too sensible!

  • Comment number 17.

    Another weekend of controversial decisions, hyped up to boiling point by the media and hypocritical managers/players.

    Michael Owen tweeting about the phantom Chelsea goal but conveniently forgetting about Ashley Young's diving. Neil Lennon ranting and raving about the Hearts penalty but conveniently overlooking the fact his side's goal should have been disallowed due to offside. It's the same every weekend and it's very tedious.

    By all means bring in goal-line technology but don't expect it to end the controversy. It will then be directed to dodgy penalty decisions. Review them and it will be free-kicks. Review them and it will be corners. Review them and it will be throw-ins...

    People just need to accept the decisions when they go against them, just as they are so happy to accept the decisions when they go for them, and get on with it!

  • Comment number 18.

    Goal line technology will ruin our game. What makes football special is all the talk about decisions after the event - its what makes football uncertainty, the unknown, the bad decisions....its what makes football what it is..!! take that away and we turn in to another American game eating hot dogs and popcorn..!! and all the talk of bad decisions cost clubs money...when did money become the god of our glorious game...!! I know some may say it is....but lets not pander to them..!

  • Comment number 19.

    Does anyone else think referees will be given video evidence, use it incorrectly and continue to make the wrong decisions? The biggest problem is that referees have absolutely zero knowledge of football and it shows week in and week out when they GUESS what decision is to be made. Often we see a referee who would have a better game were he to toss a coin to decide on what decision needs to be taken.
    Refereeing needs to improve, people who have made tackles and been tackled would be ideal and maybe encouraging lower league retired footballers to become referees could help. Do you need to have played the game to be a ref? Absolutely yes, the game is too fast, reactions too fast and fouls (at times) too subtle to be recognised by an armchair fan with a whistle.

  • Comment number 20.

    Human error and these debating points are part of what makes football all the more entertaining. The game would lose out if contentious decisions were no longer debatable. All the talk of introduction of technology has been focused on goal line technology only. Blatter hhas stated this and therefore technology for penalty decisions, offsides etc would not be introduced, so the points about Ashley "Theatrical" Young are null and void in my opinion.

    Hate to be sensible to avoid a good debate, but why isn't more emphasis put on the players to be more honest about things. John Terry, Jaun Mata, they both said they knew it wasn't a goal but still took it. Surely if they had won 2-1 the taste of victory would have been soured? Di Matteo's comments about scoring 5 so it wouldn't have made a difference iss the point entirely, the game because of that "goal" changed from a tight dreary and drab affair into a more open entertaining match. I remember quite a few years ago when Robbie Fowler went down at Highbury and insisted that Seaman hadn't tripped him and it wasn't a pen, I admired him for this. Not only because it's in the spirit of the game but also because so many kids idolised him and I think it set a great example.....having mentioned that though he wasn't such a good role model with some of his celebrations!!

  • Comment number 21.

    Video evidence is my preferred option to other technologies offered (chip based). The 4th official already has access to this already, so its implementation will be at minimal cost. It is already being used to judged red card incidents after the game, but it has to be agreed on what incidents it can be used during a game, as we all dont want a start/stop game. I feel sorry for spurs after the the goal that wasnt, but chelsea had that game sealed up. They were the better team, and would have won the game without the controversy. Drogba, got the better of Gallas & Ledly, while Mata won the midfield battle against Modric. Spurs tactics was to make the pitch as big as possible, but chelsea contered that, with only Bale having a proper go at Bosingwa. Mikel & Lampard worked well together in dfensive midfiled and overpowerd Parker for most of the game. Chelsea showed spurs how to play to win a big game. I would have been giving credit to DiMatteo over Harry, but the game was clearly won by the chelsea players, whom overpowered Harry's tactics and players. Once again Harry has shown that in big games, he still has some learning to do, and something tells me the FA are factoring this into their delayed decision on the England job. Harry maybe the fans choice, but will he deliver the end result needed? This remains to be the test, cos if he gets the job and doesnt deliver, Englad will be set bacj another decade. Just my opinion

  • Comment number 22.

    I agree with the 2nd post, why cant we just use TV replays that me and you see when watching the game? Most of the time one or two looks at that will give the official a clear feeling of what has happened regarding offside or dives or balls crossing/not crossing the line. Just a case of harnessing facilities that we already have, very cost-effective.

  • Comment number 23.

    What we need is a Real Madrid - Barcelona Champions League Final in May and that to be settled by a 'was it or wasn't it' over the line goal.

    If that happened to one of footballs darlings, Blatter and Platini would have goal-line technology installed at all grounds within 10 minutes of the final whistle.

  • Comment number 24.

    It is part of football, what would people have to talk about at work the next day or in the pub afterwards, just because the amount of money has risen exponentially doesn't mean that the game should change. The money goes in knowing the imperfections and should be prepared to accept the consequences.

    Redknapp can't disguise the fact that he has been found out in the latter half of the season, if the goal had not been given who is to say the result would have been much different...? Chelsea to their credit seem to be picking up, maybe a lesson for Abramovic that sometimes it is not the big money / big name that is required...?

  • Comment number 25.

    Update on topics covered in this blog:

    1. The FA have agreed upon the introduction of a new device to help officials rule on borderline decisions. Any decision made automatically favours the team with more money. If a decision might conceivably favour the poorer team, the technology either "didn't see the incident" or "didn't have a clear enough view of the incident". The device is to be called "The Wenger".

    2. Those who regret the 2nd Chelsea goal being awarded more than Redknapp or Atkinson are the Tottenham & Liverpool-obsessed media, who have so cruelly been denied their dream final.

    3. Lennon shouldn't be working in football at all, as he can't hack losing. I always half expect him to say something like "I'm gonna go and get my dad".

    4. Young dived approximately 50000000000000 times for Villa. Did they think he'd turned over a new leaf or something?

    5. Finally, the bill which requires anyone using a sentence which includes the words "Michael" and "Owen" to also include the word "Twitter" has just become law.

  • Comment number 26.

    Managers and players complain bitterly when they get a harsh decision yet condone and encourage each other to act dishonestly on the pitch themselves to con decisions. A much easier way to get more correct decisions would be for managers to tell their players to play to the rules! It's too easy to blame officials when we happily see the behaviour of those in the game.

    What hope is there of this when people defend players like Young/Johnson/Drogba who go looking for minimal contact and then fall over to get fellow professionals sent off and 'win' a penalty?

  • Comment number 27.

    Back to the Young dive at United, the commentary team at the time called dive and for once I have to agree with Robbie Savage, it pains me as a Forest fan to do so. The commentary made it clear that he looked for the contact and went down like a powder puff. As to the comments about oh we won 5-1, yes, you did, but playing 2 goals down is much different to just one, it does change the game hugely. How long did it take for the replays on the tv to show it's not a goal? not long, less time than to restart the match. As with Rugby and Cricket these can be done quickly and if the ground has tv screens can be shown to the crowd as in Rugby.

  • Comment number 28.

    Unfortunately though in the modern game, 'honesty' gets you nowhere. Yesterday Young got clipped, then dragged his leg to get even more contact and went down - penalty. Could have gone either way. On Wednesday, Welbeck was running through and clearly got pulled back. Stayed on his feet and got nothing.

    It's a shame, but that's how it is,

  • Comment number 29.

    This is the only part of tech in football I half agree with, when there is an incident always hands go up to say if it crossed the line, at this point the ref should blow the whistle regardless if other team have the ball because they would not be out there own half by the time an incident happens to the players raising their hands to the ref blowing the whistle who then points to 4th official who then takes 15secs to see on monitor in slow mo if it crossed or not, if not then opposing team retain possession by having it played back to them like it would be kicking it out for an opposing player injury, and carry on with game. Done!! Simple!! Easy!!

  • Comment number 30.

    Neil Lennon, perhaps understandably in view of the hate campaign directed against him, has a gigantic chip on his shoulder. Over the season Celtic gain more from dubious decisions than they lose!

  • Comment number 31.

    #2 Graham

    What if play continues after what should have been a goal and the next stoppage in play is maybe a goal at the opposite end of the field. A wierd scenario that would be.

    # Harry Hotspur

    Rugby is not a great example as there is almost always a natural stoppage in play anyway when referring decisions to the TMO.

  • Comment number 32.

    As a Spurs fan, we are now looking in danger of not getting 4th place. We are out of the FA Cup. How many poor refereeing decisions does it take to convince management that the current set up doesn't provide real results? The Stoke game earlier in the season was hugely unjust and could bite us massively if we miss out. That is not an isolated event either. Plenty of teams have lost out this season due to dubious decisions. Ironically, Chelsea are now a threat for 4th. Wigan should have three of their recent points. Even going back to the England v Germany game and Frank Lampards brilliant strike that was ruled out. The statement that 'it all evens out in the end' is rubbish. The fact is, it can dump a team out of a competition unjustly and there is nothing that can be done. Change needs to happen.

  • Comment number 33.

    Along with the previous post, I agree.

    I think the refs are just not good enough at the moment. Too many mistakes.
    The forth official was introduced so that the man in the middle could just get in with his job of getting the decisions on the pitch right.

    Week after week it seems like the refs have got other things on their minds and are not concentrating. How some recent decision have have been missed are just shocking.

    If its not goal line incidents it's tackles and dives!

    Find better refs!!

  • Comment number 34.

    Regardless of technology, it is time for Atkinson to be removed from the list of referees. He has shown himself repeatedly to be hot-headed, prone to snap guesswork and incapable of making cool decisions in the heat of the moment. Nobody in their right mind could have awarded yesterday's 'goal' on the basis of what they could see. Red card for Mr Atkinson!

  • Comment number 35.

    We all follow, It's only that way because fans and managers let it be that way though. Let's not forget that for years players have been pulling each others shirts and it's been condoned. Just because Hansen pulled out Welbeck doesn't mean that there wasn't a 'penalty' at every free kick and corner - very rarely given.

    The rules used to be about players getting tripped not looking for contact and falling over. To me if he's caught so he loses the ball or the chance to shoot then fair enough it should be a penalty but players are choosing to get a penalty rather than play the game as it was meant to be (and are defended by the own fans and manager for it). I just prefer it when a foul used to be about actually tripping a player rather than clipping him ie when it was a contact sport.

  • Comment number 36.

    You couldn't make this stuff up.

    Suddenly the same people who have spent the last 18 months calling Suarez a cheat and a diver are now saying that "honesty gets you nowhere in football".

    The hypocrisy is mindboggling.

  • Comment number 37.

    I posted on this issue last Monday after Young's dive against QPR. Every big game this weekend has been dogged by controversy (celtic v Hearts, Utd v Villa and FA Cup semi final). Until technology is brought in more time will be spent discussing the performance of refs not players.

    I really enjoyed game but felt the creaking knees of the Spurs players proved decisive. To me Bale and Parker look injured while Adebayor,King and Adebayor are fading as the season ends. The dip in form at Spurs is a result of fatigue in what is a limited squad in terms of quality not the England managers job.

  • Comment number 38.


    "but playing 2 goals down is much different to just one, it does change the game hugely."

    It did change the game hugely. After going 2-0 down, Tottenham came forward more directly and completely bossed the next 15 minutes, scoring an excellent goal in the process and Chelsea were forced to make a defensive substitution during that time. Then what happened? Tottenham went all meek and let Chelsea back into possession and started defending poorly (what happened to the backline for Ramires' goal?).

    Tottenham did not lose because of a controversial goal. They lost because they couldn't keep footballing discipline for long enough, as has been evidenced in their recent league form.

  • Comment number 39.

    #29 Meido

    It is a best stab at a solution but it still does not allow for the fact that teams have been known to break away from set pieces and score. In fact some teams set themselves up to do just that.

  • Comment number 40.

    Why is it that in a week of shocking decisions we pick one and say we need technology?

    What happens if the video shows the ball doesn't cross the line but the defender has handled it or that the striker was offside? Are we really going to ignore it because it can only be used for goaline decisions? What happens if the ball doesn't go off and the other team goes up the other end and scores (like Germany nearly did in the Lampard one at the world cup). Do each team get 1 goal or is it only the first goal that counts? We have to be careful we don't introduce more controversy in an effort to remove it.

    If we want technology then let's use it for all dubious decisions. Dodgy offsides happen every match, handballs maybe once a week and sendings off maybe once a month. Goaline decisions happen maybe once every 3 months. Seems wrong to focus on the one that affects the least number of games.

    Even then it won't stop soft penalty calls like the Young dive yesterday or against QPR because you can justify any decision if you have to. If Man City get a penalty like that against Man Utd do you really think Ferguson would claim it was a penalty? That's the real test would you be happy if the referee gives a penalty against you for the same incident.

    Just a quick comment on Neil Lennon though. The league has to look at docking points for managers behaviour because it is the only way to prevent the quite frankly appalling scenes at the final whistle yesterday.

  • Comment number 41.


    I'm with you there! Alot of money to be gained easily. And in truth its not like they are difficult Decisions, some say refs have it hard but why cant they see what everyone else can see? the ref and linesman are paid to see these incidents and so often cant but average joe in stand D seat Z can see it?why is that? Better vantage point? Pfffttt!! It's not like the refs have to explain there actions anyway, they are protected like presidents.

    hmm smells like fish to me!

  • Comment number 42.

    I think we do need some form of technology, but the problem with football is it does need to be instant. Rugby's replay system works fine, but where there is a debate over whether a try can or cannot be awarded, the game naturally stops (i.e. it's either a dropout or a conversion). That stoppage doesn't always occur in football. Take Geoff Hurst's goal in the 66 World Cup Final. The ball rebounded & went back into play. Hypothetically, what if Germany had retrieved the ball & broken away. Where are you going to stop the game to check the replay?

    I do like the idea of microchips in the ball though, but how far down the league is it going to be taken?

  • Comment number 43.

    There is no way Ferguson will support technology to assist referees - United have gained a dozen points from bad decisions this season.

    Young would also be facing a long suspension by now for all his diving, oh sorry, I meant 'over doing'.

  • Comment number 44.

    Step forward Neil Lennon. For sheer venom and hostility to anyone who disagrees with him, coupled what must surely be the all time gurneying champion for angry faces, the Celtic Manager, with his me me me winging is in a class of his own when it comes to inviting ridicule of one's own club.

  • Comment number 45.

    Ah yes, so this single incident was the only reason Spurs lost the game - as was the penalty given against Aston Villa. The other seven goals scored were just by-the-by, right?

    As much as I think the game could benefit if technology is used wisely, I think it's a bit silly that every single time a goal-line incident occurs we get this same shout for it, as if no one cares about it until it means their team suffers (or in this case, the media don't care about it unless it's a big story).

    It's really a bit of a circus.

  • Comment number 46.

    It should come in, whatever the expense or (short) delay for playback. Like it or not, modern football has too much riding on it nowadays - Managers could lose jobs and clubs lose millions if relegated and dubious decisions are a factor. Similarly, Championship sides denied promotion would be denied the millions on offer in the Premiership

  • Comment number 47.

    Whilst i agree referees need all the help they can get through technology, you can't but be tempted to agree with Lennon's comments that some referees seem to have their own agenda. Atkinson's record with Chelsea seems to throw the cat amongst the pidgeon here. Chelsea never seem to loose in matches he officiates. Replays show he was standing just a few yards from the incident and for crying out loud, players were piled on the line! how he failed to rule correctly beats imagination.

  • Comment number 48.

    There's a photo in the Daily mail and also one on Getty Images that clearly shows the ball is over the line. Is the media going to apologise to Atkinson now as it now looks like he may have made the correct decision...

  • Comment number 49.

    Goal-line technology should be introduced. Referees already have a difficult job: game speed and intensity has increased, and win margins are so slim that can be decided just one honest small mistake from ref. So they refs need to be helped.

    But I do have a problem with Phil McNulty's bias. He describes the goal as "a moment that helped to define Chelsea's 5-1 win in the FA Cup semi-final". Should I remind you that Chelsea won 5:1 (yes, F-I-V-E) and by the time of ghost goal they were already leading 1:0 and pinning Spurs back in their penalty box!?

    I have predicted BBC to say that if Chelsea scores, it would be "against the run of the play" eventhough Chelsea had as many (two) chances to score as Spurs in first half. And while Chris Bevan (BBC live commentator of the day) did not say that, Phil McNulty obliged. Thank you!

    As a resume of the match, can we say that Spurs finishing in final third was poor (hit woodwork and shot at Terry with goalie beaten) and hence they were second best in attack (8 shots to Chelsea's 19 when it was Spurs who needed to attack and score not Chelsea!!!). On top, Spurs were the second best in defense with 5 goals shipped against second string Chelsea attacking line-up that included semi-retired Drogba, Malouda and Kalou, with only Mata as a recognised starting XI striker.

    Phil, you can't redress the facts. Opinions on game can be subjective. Chelsea fans will say we were better, Spurs and biased journos like you will say opposite. When dust is settled, you just need to look at 5:1 score and stats and admit the truth: Spurs were beaten fair and square. You can't hide behind ref decision or use a victim card. Credit to Harry, who has admitted as much.

    P.S.: Please don't talk about psychological impact of going a goal down to bad ref decision. Chelsea were already 1:0 and piling pressure. Professional footballers don't let one bad ref decision to impact their game and let 4 goals in. If 5:1 is because of that psychological trauma, then I would call that team a bunch of crybabies and not worthy of a top 4 spot.
    Remember QPR-Chelsea when ref gave a non-existant penalty against Chelsea, then waived away Chelsea claims for a penalty for worse offence and then reduced Chelsea to 9 men (albeit one red card was a deserved one)? So you would expect Chelsea to capitulate with a cricket score? No, they shown character and should have won the game if not for some bad luck.

  • Comment number 50.

    It seems a shame that we gravitate to the negative rather than the positive.

    The mood this morning seems to be one of looking at where things go wrong rather than celebrating the good.

    Maybe it's just me who's in a good mood or maybe the game really is disappearing up it's own backside in a cloud of vitriol.


  • Comment number 51.

    Another recent point that I find a bit of a laugh is fans calling for "retroactive punishment for diving after TV evidence!" and then keeping very silent when their own team's players do it.

  • Comment number 52.

    The Welbeck incident wasn't at a corner, he was running through about to shoot. The pull back stopped him from doing that, it was a clear foul but because he stayed on his feet he got nothing and Wigan cleared.

    Is a defender getting away with a clear foul any worse than a player getting a penalty for slight contact? Both are equally wrong decisions.

  • Comment number 53.

    #48 CFCInExile

    There's a photo in the Daily mail and also one on Getty Images that clearly shows the ball is over the line. Is the media going to apologise to Atkinson now as it now looks like he may have made the correct decision...
    Have you got a link?

  • Comment number 54.

    Rugby league is made a better sport because of the video referee. The absence of it in top class football leaves a bad taste far too often.

    There is a culture of cheating in the premier league, aided by poor referees, that would be found out by video technology, and adds to the level of resistance for its introduction.

    How many dodgy red cards and penalties would be given at Old Trafford with a video referral?

    It has got to the stage where decisions are so bad they are influencing the game and the outcome of a league season, that can't be right.

    Super league is a game without the overt influence of money, and is better for it.

    Money has been the ruination of football in England and one of the reasons some players seek to influence the referee's decision - Mata & Young yesterday.

    There is no honesty in the game.

  • Comment number 55.

    Most other major sports use technology in some form or another.
    Football boasts some of the most impressive stadia and facilities around the world, so why are they stuck in the dark ages when it comes to a logical evolution of the game? Yes it will be more challenging than some of the other sports where natural breaks in play allow it to be used more easily. But it's not an insurmountable problem.

    As with most decisions involving money and investment it's probably about whose profits it's likely to affect the most.

  • Comment number 56.

    #52 We all follow United

    One could argue that the fact that he stayed on his feet, show's that he could stay on his feet. No?

    And where do you stand on all the shirt pulling that goes on in the box?

  • Comment number 57.

    48. At 09:46 16th Apr 2012, CFCInExile wrote:
    There's a photo in the Daily mail and also one on Getty Images that clearly shows the ball is over the line.

    You got a link? The image I see on the Daily Mail online shows only part of the ball is over the line. Not that I think it matters but you could back that claim up.

  • Comment number 58.

    The players and managers have to take some responsibility. Football players are insanely dishonest. Every single decision, whether it's a simple throw in or something important like a penalty shout is followed by appeals which are essentially bare-faced lies. Not to mention all of the verbal abuse they are subjected to. Even senior players such as Steven Gerrard and Wayne Rooney spend the entire match swearing at the officials, then you watch someone like Kenny Dalglish and it's easy to see why they think it's ok. All of this makes the referee's job extremely difficult.

    You would almost not believe that in other sports, such as tennis, players voluntarily lose points by being honest about moments which the officials may have missed. I have every sympathy for match officials in football.

  • Comment number 59.

    The introduction of technology to help the officials is long overdue. It makes no sense for all the TV audience and the live spectators, via big screen, to have a more privileged view of any incident in such important matches. This past week has surely removed all doubts about the need for immediate action.
    Cheating is now endemic in the game especially diving. In years past it was a joy to see players such as Bobby Charlton hurdling over outstretched legs with one intent, getting a shot on goal. I think the likes of Klinsmann brought a new era to our beloved game and then artists like Hand-ball Henry and the card simulators quickly followed. The managers could and should do more to stop it but they seem unwilling.
    I would like to comment on the lack of respect shown by some 'fans' during the minute silence but I just can't think of anything that is printable. Sad week.

  • Comment number 60.

    47. At 09:45 16th Apr 2012, Chuma_Chuma wrote:
    Atkinson's record with Chelsea seems to throw the cat amongst the pidgeon here. Chelsea never seem to loose in matches he officiates.

    Absolutely false statement and based on "seems, maybe, etc"!

    Check you facts:
    Chelsea won just 1 game our of 4 last games Atkinson has been ref. Chelsea has an average ratio of losing 1 game out of 15. The latter stat was better but took a knock this year.

  • Comment number 61.

    The biggest problem here, I'm afraid, is Martin Atkinson. It's all right him apologising to Redknapp for a goal that shouldn't have counted, but what if Song had had his career ended by Balotelli last week, an incident Atkinson claims to have seen? Did Atkinson apologise to Wenger? Giving a goal where he couldn't have seen whether the ball had crossed the line, and taking no action when he sees a potentially leg breaking tackle. Technology to help out genuine human error is one thing. Using that technology to bail out unacceptably sub-standard refereeing is another.

  • Comment number 62.

    At 09:36 16th Apr 2012, DUBLINVIEW wrote:
    You couldn't make this stuff up.
    Suddenly the same people who have spent the last 18 months calling Suarez a cheat and a diver are now saying that "honesty gets you nowhere in football".
    The hypocrisy is mindboggling.

    Go and wash your mouth out with soap !
    Dont you know that English players never dive :)

    But I do wonder how Suarez would be perceived if he played for a London or Manchester club ?

  • Comment number 63.

    Goal-line technology overall, would help the game, as would the introdction of a sin bin, referees talking to the media after the game, any other ideas?

    Those that say "it's all part of the game" probably haven't played the game much. The situation can be improved so time for the law changers to do it.

  • Comment number 64.

    This is my point though. The fact that he could have stayed on his feet doesn't make it any less of a foul, so from that point of view you can see why players go down in similar situations.

    I'd like to see the photo's that show it clearly over the line as well, the ones on the Daily Mail website certainly don't.

  • Comment number 65.

    An infinitely greater number of goals are scored via incorrect offside decisions than this kind of "Did it cross the goal-line?" incident. And, added to that, are the differing interpretations of the current offside laws - interfering with play, etc.

    TMO referrals in rugby don't do away with result-changing major clangers made by officials e.g. the Wales try with the "wrong ball" v Ireland in the 2011 Six Nations. And Leeds were on the receiving end of 2 crucial cock-ups - a forward pass and a case of the ball going into touch off an opposition player - that lead to tries in last year's Challenge Cup Final. In my opinion, the TMO referral often just sees refs simply bottling making decisions that they could easily judge themselves.

    Of course these decisions change a match's dynamics, tactics and often the final result. Would Geoff Hurst have had such a clear path to goal for his hat-trick if West Germany weren't desperately pushing for an equaliser? (Incidentally can anyone tell me what the 1966 arrangements were in the event of a draw after extra time? A replay?)

  • Comment number 66.

    Skin-tight shirts like Cameroon's old kit might sort that out ;)

  • Comment number 67.

    Ashley Young may have overdone things, but there was definite contact from Clark. penalty? Yes, harsh? by all means yes. But, I don't see any controversy here.

  • Comment number 68.

    One simple question, what would we moan about next?

  • Comment number 69.

    I think that any sane person would agree that goal-line technology needs to be implemented as soon as possible. The fact is, it hasn't been and until then, we've got to deal with it. I feel sorry for Spurs as they were done in a little yesterday, but isn't the subsequent debate pretty good?!

    As for Ashley Young, what a disgrace (from a United fan). It makes me cringe a) because he goes down far too easily and b) because I know that the next few days will focus mainly on the penalty incident, not United's later absolute superiority.

    In any case, video evidence for the Young incident would give no evidence to OVERTURN to the referees decision was there was contact, albeit very minimal.

    Still, here's what I think about goal-line technology, slightly different to most, so I'm sorry Spurs, this may not make good reading. I have a lot of Arsenal fans as mates, so if I was nice to you they said they would bring up 2004 again and they've only just stopped.

  • Comment number 70.

    as there was contact*

  • Comment number 71.

    At least Atkinson has admitted his mistake.

    I agree 500% with the posters advocating the system used in Rugby, to also include the " sin bin "

    For theatrics, regardless wether they are in the penalty area or not, Straight Red Card
    followed by 3 Match Ban, retrospective video to be used. result reversed should it be shown the " clown " gained his team a decisive edge as a result of his cheating. In serious cases Points Deduction.

    Only the teams Captains to enquire as to the refs decisions on the field of play, surrounding the Referee instant Yellows for all the Offenders.

    Violent Conduct : Seasons Ban

    Betting " In Play " to be discontinued.

    PS: The Grand National needs to be banned totally.

  • Comment number 72.

    And I saw the Young incident. Foot left in, contact made. Tough.

    Just because a defender holds up their arms when contact is made, doesn't mean the contact isn't made. He didn't play the ball and his action did hit the player. Penalty, every day of the week.

    People need to realise that dives are only really dives when there is no contact and the player is clearly launching themselves (not just falling over, people... gosh... lose balance sometimes).

    In both Young cases there was contact. At that point it's up to the referee to decide whether it unfairly impeded the player. So long as there is contact, it's simply not diving. As much as I agree the contact in the sport has lessened over the years (for a good reason in some cases), so has the meek crying for justice over supposed diving. Diving used to be when a player fell over with no contact at all. Now they can actually have another player leave a foot in and make contact with their leg/foot and they're still diving.

    Yup, he went down easy. Oh no! I'm sure some players could ride a full-blown kick to the ankle, too. Good for them. I'm sure when they miss and let their team down, instead of going down under contact and earning a penalty for their team, they'll go down as heroes.

    There's simulating and then there's going down when illegal contact is made. In both Young cases the contact made had NOTHING to do with playing the ball.

  • Comment number 73.


    And presumably, you were part of the media that all shrugged at Lampard's "goal" v West Germany and begged FIFA not to send the Uruguayan refereeing team home after their human error?

    And I'm recollect all the same media people who howled with rage when Owen,Gerrard & Rooney all dived to win pens for England in WC/Euros. I can still remember journos having to be restrained by fourth officials from going on to the pitch and pleading with officials not to award those pens, because our chaps had made a meal of it.

    We haven't had any camera angles from on top of the crossbar yet, which is what would be required re goalline technology, so we still can't say for sure Mata's goal was or wasn't over. Probably not, but can you imagine if it HAD crept over & Martin Atkinson had hesitated & Spurs had gone on to win?

    Simple answer is four assistants, end of. That means there would have been three pairs of eyes on yesterday's corner, and Martin Atkinson could have gone to one of those with a realistic chance they'd seen it.

  • Comment number 74.

    I'm in favour of video technology. Surely it is at least worth trying for one season after the recent controversies. it works well in other sports but I do have a suggestion regarding its' use: It should only be used for goal, penalty, or red card decisions and there should be a limit, possibly 3 times, to the amount of times an incident can be watched by the video ref before a decision is made. It works well in rugby league but they have a tendancy to over-analyse, with slo-mo replays being scrutinized up to as many as 10 times on occasion.

  • Comment number 75.

    At 09:55 16th Apr 2012, We all follow United wrote:
    Skin-tight shirts like Cameroon's old kit might sort that out ;)

    Amazingly they were banned because FIFA thought that it gave them an unfair advantage.
    This was because the skin shirt could not be pulled by an opposition player while Cameroon players could still pull the shirts of the opposition players if they felt inclined !

  • Comment number 76.

    Good point #61 "Technology to help out genuine human error is one thing. Using that technology to bail out unacceptably sub-standard refereeing is another."

    It's difficult to understand how the ref definitely saw the ball sross the line, which he must have done to award the goal. If he was unsure it should have been play on. Any junior ref could tell you that.

  • Comment number 77.

    There is so much play acting going on that a referee's job is nearly impossible. Video technology is important but almost as important is its application and guidelines for use.

    They've dithered far too long on technology at this point so they need to use it to address a number of issues all at once (off sides, fouls in the box, goal line, any straight reds). I hope that is their plan.

  • Comment number 78.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 79.

    Seeing Terry and Mata turn away celebrating when they both knew the ball hadn't crossed the line, Terry even lying on the line blocking the ball, helping Atkinson to make the wrong decision shows footballers to be morally bankrupt. Terry laughing while being interviewed after the game just confirms people's opinion of him.

    Unable, like other English journalists Phil, to write the word CHEAT when referring to English players?
    Football as a sport is long dead. It's used like a drug by the few to make a fortune and supported by politicians, while keeping the mob docile from thinking about their situation

  • Comment number 80.

    We all follow, I know it wasn't a corner but it's the same foul at a corner for holding as it is in open play. The fact that that one incident was pulled out by Hansen though to show his impartiality doesn't mean that was the only instance of players being held. Do you think that Ferguson tells his players while defending corners not to, or do you think that he tells them not to let an attacker get a clear run at the ball? Put it this way, if shirt pulling and holding wasn't condoned at set pieces do you think that Welbeck would have been more likely to receive a penalty? I think the answer is yes.

  • Comment number 81.

    Other than goal line technology i do not believe we should bring video technology into the game.

    It completely removes professional football from what the rest of us play on a sunday morning.

    What should be brought in is retrospective punishments for diving. Simulation is the biggest blight on our game and the one all fans will be in agreement with that we hate more than anything.

    The referee should look at certain incidents after the game and decide whether he would have booked the player for diving (even if there was contact it can still be a dive). If a player dives twice and pretends to be injured once he will receive 3 yellow cards.

  • Comment number 82.

    79. At 10:01 16th Apr 2012, czerwonadupa wrote:

    Football as a sport is long dead.

    Translates to: "I am emotionally driven by the behaviour of celebrity footballers"

    Football is not even nearly dead. And you'll keep watching it, too. Terry is a character everyone loves to hate and, me not being a Chelsea fan, I don't really share any love for him. But do you actually say these things to your friends? I'd be a bit... worried if someone I knew started ranting about football like this.

    You'll be watching again next week. And maybe even posting about it again too.

  • Comment number 83.

    67.At 09:55 16th Apr 2012, Chuma_Chuma wrote:
    Ashley Young may have overdone things, but there was definite contact from Clark. penalty? Yes, harsh? by all means yes. But, I don't see any controversy here.

    I think the contact was that the Ashley Young´s big toe collided with Clark´s big toe which had a tazer gun hidden inside.
    This then hit Young with a 20,000 volt charge which blew him 6 feet in the air.

    Why dont we just ban defenders from from carrying tazer guns and cattle prods while on the pitch ?

  • Comment number 84.

    Regarding Ashley Youngs' "dives": In the QPR game he was pushed in the back and in yesterdays' game, Clark stood on his foot, you have to remember that, on both occasions Young was moving extremely quickly, he's not likely to slump to the ground at that speed, he will naturally go flying.

  • Comment number 85.

    #80 Thrashball
    It probably would yes, it's something that needs to be looked at. My point though is that had Welbeck gone down he probably would have got the penalty the foul warranted. Hence why it's understandable that players go down with slight contact, staying on your feet is guaranteed to get you nothing.

    That's the football world as it is now, rightly or wrongly.

  • Comment number 86.

    Congrats to Mr Blueburns on his teams emphatic victory over Spurs, i am sure he will enjoy his trip to Wembley.

    as for me i am still pondering wether its still mathematically possible for The Arsenal
    to win the Title.

  • Comment number 87.

    When we talk about "diving" it's important to recognise the distinction between a deliberate dive, and going down dramatically after minimal contact like Young did. To be fair to refs I think its another case of them "knowing the rules but not the game," and for too long there has been a sanctimoniousness in English football that its only Johnny Foreigner who dives, compare and contrast the reaction between Maradonna's Hand of God and when St. Michael Owen took a outrageous dive against Argentina in 2002!

  • Comment number 88.

    At 09:52 16th Apr 2012, cyberFC wrote:

    47. At 09:45 16th Apr 2012, Chuma_Chuma wrote:
    Atkinson's record with Chelsea seems to throw the cat amongst the pidgeon here. Chelsea never seem to loose in matches he officiates.

    Absolutely false statement and based on "seems, maybe, etc"!

    Check you facts:
    Chelsea won just 1 game our of 4 last games Atkinson has been ref. Chelsea has an average ratio of losing 1 game out of 15. The latter stat was better but took a knock this year.
    You check your facts. Chelsea have NEVER lost with Atkinson officiating especially at Stamford Bridge (don't forget the dodgy penalty he awarded against United last season) I'm not saying he deliberately favours Chelsea but i'm saying it's becoming more than a coincidence. But due credits to Chelsea, bar the "ghost goal" they deserved to win.

  • Comment number 89.

    How about ploughing FA profits into building robot referees? Couldn't see Rio arguing with an android over a dive.

  • Comment number 90.

    Video technology wouldn’t solve all the problems, but it would help.
    There have been some outrageous decisions that have influenced results.
    If a team or individual wins having a wrong decision in their favour, the result is null and void as far as I’m concerned.

  • Comment number 91.

    lol@ the people justifying Young's dive.

    Young swung his right foot inwards to connect with the defender then sprung into the air on his invisible trampoline.

    He could have 'won' a penalty out of a dining chair.

  • Comment number 92.

    Interesting all the fuss being made over Young's diving, especially bearing in mind Suarez was actually booked in a recent Liverpool game (against Villa iirc) for a blatant dive with zero contact and yet the incident was not even mentioned on the BBC coverage of the match. Also recall Dzeko winning a penalty by running into a Sunderland defender the other week and taking an exaggerated dive. Yesterday Shay Given, whilst scrambling around on the floor, blatantly knocked the ball out for a corner with his fist when at least a yard outside his area. It's a red card, simple as that, but not even a mention on MotD. What was it Neil Lennon was suggesting about bias again? The coverage of football in the media is one of the major drivers of all the so-called controversy. These people seem to constantly bleat on about consistency, but at the same time they deliberately censor their own coverage to fit their own agendas.

  • Comment number 93.

    Hello Phil, I love reading your posts and in the case of the ref's decision to award that goal yesterday, at first I thought it wasn't a goal but I'm starting to think that you and the media have got to apologize to Mr Atkinson because he did make the right call. Take a look at this and I hope to know your take on it.
    The ball actually crossed the line iff the picture wasn't altered.

  • Comment number 94.

    Frankly the video technology discussion is a moot point on this occasion, the ball was never even on the line yet alone over the line and Atkinson had a clear view of it, so why on earth he gave a goal is beyond rediculous, the man needs his eyes tested, that or he clearly favours certain teams!

  • Comment number 95.

    I find Neil Lennon's behaviour unbefitting of an Old Firm manager. The man really does need to show some decorum and have some respect for the club he manages. His childish, aggressive outbursts and allegations of personal vendettas smacks of the bullish dad at a Sunday morning childrens match. Arguing on twitter and allowing himself to be made fun of by every internet joker clearly shows that his temperament and his attitude are in need of retuning. It's embarrassing and if only the great Jock Stein were still around he could a word with him....and maybe even give him the kick up the penalty spot that he so sorely needs.

    As for technology is concerned, it's a no brainer. Football is after all the only major sport left in the world that doesnt utilise such decision making aids and i am at a loss as to why. The way i see it the only group of people who dont want this are newspaper and TV pundits and writers who thrive off of the controversy.

  • Comment number 96.

    "Young was actually clipped by Villa defender Ciaran Clark and referee Mark Halsey was correct to award the spot-kick, but the United attacker's flying tumble made life hard for the official. Video technology would have made no difference here"

    WHY MENTION IT THEN? The article is about video technology not tumbling after getting fouled.

    Stupid comment Phil, that just gets more people on the Ashley Young bashing band wagon.

    Villa had a clear handball in the second half NO ONE is mentioning that?

    The fact is if Young stayed on his feet like everyone seems to have wanted him to, Clark's foul in the area would have gone unpunished

  • Comment number 97.

    We all follow, Seeing as he still had the ball I don't think it was a foul. If he had gone down the ref would have been more liekly to give it as they've become attuned to dishonest behaviour and supporting it. We should applaud his honesty in that instance.

  • Comment number 98.

    80 it's not the same foul. at a corner it's a static situation. in open play it's a professional foul. in my opinion, of course.

  • Comment number 99.

    #81 wirral18

    Other than goal line technology i do not believe we should bring video technology into the game.

    It completely removes professional football from what the rest of us play on a sunday morning.
    Do you think that cricket is worse for 'hotspots' and the 'snickometer' cause they don't have those down the local village green on a Sunday afternoon?

  • Comment number 100.

    83. At 10:06 16th Apr 2012, repo wrote:

    I think the contact was that the Ashley Young´s big toe collided with Clark´s big toe which had a tazer gun hidden inside.

    Ah yes, instead of going on to play the ball to a team-mate after having gotten well clear of the challenge, or make an attempt at goal, Young instead skipped effortlessly past the defender and... aimed his foot at the defender's and went for a penalty.

    You couldn't really make that sort of logic up. How about the defender put his foot in to make a challenge, totally missed the ball and made contact with Young's running foot? I mean, if he'd played the ball I'd feel sympathy for him. But he didn't. He made a challenge that missed the ball and his action resulted in contact being made with Young's foot as he ran past.

    It's a foul any day of the week. If Young had not gone down and stumbled past him, it would still have been a foul only it wouldn't have been given. In my eyes, that aspect of the game is a much worse offender.

    I've seen players get fouled, ride the challenge but fail to do anything after because they were so off balance, yet no foul was given. So that's OK, because they're valiant and altruistic and don't care if they don't get a decision for the contact, right?

    A challenge was made and caused contact with an opposing player and, in no way, shape or form, was the ball played.

    When Ronaldo was caught diving when no contact was made I was the first to agree that it was cheating and it's one aspect I really disliked about the player. Some of his dives were truly horrific.

    Young's aren't even close. The whole thing is being blown way out of proportion. Contact was made and it didn't play the ball. It's not controversial at all!


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