It’s time for everyone to accept the Laws of the Game are subjective and that VAR won’t help

This weekend was matchday 26 in the Premier League and featured what should have been the game of the weekend, a top four clash between two of the hottest teams in English football, Liverpool and Tottenham. It was a game that should have been decided by a moment of supreme skill, when Mohamed Salah danced between three Tottenham defenders and lifted the ball over the keeper – easily my vote for goal of the season. But instead of a moment of skill, the match was decided by a moment, by two moments, of trickery and deceit.

For the first, Harry Kane stood in an offside position. Dejan Lovren took a swipe at a ball played through to Kane in an offside position and maybe got the slightest touch. He wasn’t trying to pass the ball backward, he was trying to clear the ball. But Lovren being Lovren, he failed. Kane, in an offside position, ran at the ball, the Liverpool keeper, Karius, had no choice but to come out and try to claim, and Kane seeing the keeper coming out, then kicked the ball well away from his ability to control and began his dive. Karius made himself as small as possible, but Kane, knowing that he needed contact to draw the foul, kicked Karius with his trailing leg. Just a touch, but hey, a touch is all it takes these days.

Moss blew up for the penalty and Kane stepped up to take. There was a sense of justice done when Kane’s penalty was saved but it wasn’t really justice done, since in my book, there never should have been a penalty allowed because Kane was offside and if you allow play to go on (incorrectly) then Kane should have gotten a yellow card for what was easily the dive of the season.

A few minutes later, Jon Moss blew up for a second penalty! This one even more tenuous than the last! Here we had Lamela in an offside position, and Liverpool’s £75m defender looks like he’s going to clear the ball, but actually tries to pull out of the clearance. His foot touches Lamela, Lamela goes down as if shot, and Jon Moss awards Tottenham a penalty. This time Harry Kane scores and celebrates the goal as if his team had done something well deserved and not at all the most shameful thing you could do as a sportsman.

The laws of the game have a ton of room for interpretation. In fact, almost all of them invite the referee to interpret the intent of the players. Handball? Must be intentional. Kicking someone? It’s not necessarily a foul, unless you’re careless, reckless, or use excessive force. Virgil van Dijk, by the very act of trying NOT to kick Lamela proves to me beyond a shadow of a doubt that he took great care. A full kick is careless, seeing the opponent and then kicking him is reckless, and going in with a massive roundhouse to try to kick the ball out of play is excessive force. Seeing your opponent in the middle of a kick and pulling out of the kick as much as you can? That’s using a great deal of care. So, this literally can’t be a penalty for me.

I’m no Liverpool supporter, I’ve seen them get the benefit of diving footballers as well. One time at Anfield, I watched as Luis Suarez did the exact same move, kicking the ball out of play at the exact moment he initiated a dive and kicked out at Szczesny to fake the contact. Suarez, however, to his great credit, also rolled around on the ground and even took his shin pad off to try to show that there was contact. In that match Szczesny also saved the penalty. Justice was done.

Mark Clattenburg, who is a sometimes controversial figure but who refused to sign a gag order when he left officiating in England, said he wouldn’t have given either penalty since they were both offside but stopped short of calling Kane a diver – instead absolving Kane by saying that there was contact. And he then a few seconds later says that the contact on Lamela wasn’t hard enough for him but that he knows why Moss gave the penalty – because he had to publicly support his assistant, who was the one who called the foul. Clattenburg claiming contact was enough in one situation but not in the other is actually perfect, because that’s how the Laws of the Game work!

The PGMOL, which is the worst acronym in history and stands for Professional Game Match Officials Limited, however disagree with me and with Mark Clattenburg. They went all in for Moss. Their statement is almost hilarious.

“Jon Moss was in a good position to see that a Liverpool player deliberately played the ball before it fell to Harry Kane in the penalty area. he then correctly judged that Kane was fouled by Loris Karius.” Their spokesman continues: “However, given the speed of the attack he was uncertain of the identity of the Liverpool player who kicked the ball. Eddie Smart, having identified that Kane was in an offside position, correctly sought clarification on whether Dejan Lovren had deliberately played the ball.”

“His question created some momentary confusion when Eddie asked if Lovren had touched the ball. Moss knew a Liverpool player had touched the ball but not that it was Lovren. He then asked a question to his fourth official, Martin Atkinson and acknowledges that referencing ‘TV’ was misguided. Atkinson did not reply to the question and so had no involvement in the decision. Having properly reflected on the questions asked, Jon knew that a Liverpool player, now identified as Lovren, had played the ball and that no offside offence had occurred. He then awarded the penalty. For the avoidance of doubt, Atkinson did not view a television monitor and did not relay any information to the on-field officials.”

This is an incredible insight into the laws of the game. I always thought that if a player was in the offside position and was interfering with play that he was offside. But now we are told by the PGMOL, the people in charge of the laws of the game in England, that players can and probably SHOULD stand in an offside position at all times, they should interfere with play as much as possible, because if a defender even remotely touches the ball, that offside player is now ONSIDE.

We are also now informed by PGMOL that any touch on an attacking player is now grounds for a foul. Even if the contact is actually initiated by the diving player, who was diving well before the contact, and who admits later that “I felt contact and I went down. I’m not going to jump out of the way because it’s football.”

In other words “I cheated but it’s ok because there was some slight contact, which I drew by dragging my leg across the keeper, and I’m not going to jump out of the contact, even though that would mean that I was 100% through on goal, because it’s football”.

Look, I’ve long ago given up on rooting out diving in football. It was Wayne Rooney who taught me many years ago that this play – where you kick the ball out of play and simultaneously fall over to draw the contact – is a foul and that it’s a good foul. So, no matter how clearly a player dives, if there is any contact it could be given as a foul. It’s up to the interpretation of the individual referee – it’s subjective.

This subjectivity is also what makes VAR such a raging failure. I think many people wanted VAR to come in and give us some objectivity to the laws of the game. I was one of them. I thought that if the officials just saw the game the same way that I did – through the lens of the television camera – that we could agree that Kane was offside and that he was looking for contact in that play which he actually drew by his own actions of throwing himself to the ground.

But what I forgot was that the laws of the game are almost completely subjective. The only objective laws are the ones where the ball goes out of play or crosses the goal line. Everything else is in the interpretation – is a player offside? Depends. Maybe a defender tried to clear a ball, maybe the attacking player was offside but wasn’t “interfering” with the play. Handball? That requires intent. The official has to decide if the defender intended to touch the ball or not. Contact? Is it a foul? Maybe, but only if it is reckless, careless, with excessive force, happens to an English player in the act of diving, or pretty much anything else that the officials want to call, or don’t want to call!

It’s kind of the perfect Catch-22. Whatever the referee decides is literally the right call, because the laws of the game are subjective. Just to be perfectly clear, this means that my interpretation (that Kane dived and was offside interfering with play and that Virgil van Dijk’s kick was very careful) is also unassailably correct. As is your interpretation. However you saw it is also correct. However Jon Moss saw it is correct. However Mark Clattenburg saw it is correct! Virgil van Dijk is right. Jurgen Klopp is right. Everyone is right!

That’s why VAR isn’t working for people. They expect things to be “correct” meaning that they expect the laws of the game to be interpreted their own way and as PGMOL, the match officials, the ex-officials, and I have just proven, there is no one way to correctly interpret the laws of the game. It’s all 100% subjective. So, feel free to argue your interpretation of any action on the pitch, you’re correct. But just remember that I’m also just as right as you are.

These are the Laws of the Game.

Qq

45 comments

  1. Phuck Harry Kane and his diving rooster team, Tottinghum Shits’ Purr. Same goes for Dele Alli. You’re totally right in that, given this horrible situation, VAR is now a moot point because we still have boneheads for refs interpreting the calls rather poorly. Not to mention that, since Arsenal will always be seen as a delicate Southern team, we’ll always get wrecked by bad calls.

  2. Woah! That’s far too fast to dismiss VAR. And I don’t agree your grounds either.
    Its introduction so far has been far from perfect – decisions taking too long, VAR consulted unnecessarily, images being viewed by the video ref not being shown in the stadium and, worst of all, different and inferior footage to that of Sky/BT !
    That said, it’s a work in progress and its use and interactivity and technology will all improve.
    And it does provide far greater objectivity.
    I personally think Kane wasn’t offside for the first decision. Lovren does try to make contact with the ball, he just mucks up that contact and Kane, because he’s not interfering with play, is the grateful recipient of Lovren’s mistake and can then try and capitalise. Which he does in the same way Rooney legitimately did against Almunia, by getting to the ball first. And if the striker does that, the keeper can’t then clean him out with his follow through if he gets there second: it’s the keeper’s choice – either go for it and get there first or, if there’s a risk you won’t, hold back and don’t ‘clatter’ the striker.
    I’ve got Gooner glasses too but you’ve got to take them off in this instance – if you toe poked past Rooney and his follow through then went into your leg, you’d go over. You might have thought that’s not a bad potential outcome in the first place but you also might have been able to tap the ball into an empty net if you hadn’t been clattered and Almunia/Klaris was still out of position. I’d award Kane higher marks for theatrics than Rooney, but both were taken out.
    That’s what I think. However, I’d willingly trade my opinion for a more considered consensual evaluation by a VAR team who then explain their decision, alongside the accompanying slo-mos, to the match ref.
    As for the Lamela decision, two points. It is a foul by Van Dijk, as ignorance of where an opponent is doesn’t excuse kicking them when they get in the way. However, Lamela is an offside position and interfering. So, it shouldn’t have been given …BUT, VAR would have spotted the offside and ruled accordingly.
    I grant that football rules contain a lot of leeway for subjective interpretation. They still will, even after the introduction of VAR, and maybe it should only be used in certain instances (penalties, offside goals etc) but there’s a far better chance of correct decisions coming through than by relying on one man’s imperfect view and individual interpretation.
    I say bring it on, and enjoy the changes it brings – less wrestling at corners, less diving due to retroactive cards, less offside goals incorrectly given, more instances of keepers rushing out and then having to try and close down strikers while still on their feet and out of position, and more insight and knowledge about the decision making process. I can’t see it not happening and I, for one, can’t wait.

    1. There is almost no objectivity in the Laws of the Game – except as where the ball goes out of play or crosses the goal line. Offside requires the referee to judge intent. Handball requires intent. Fouls require judging intent and malice. It’s all subjective. Adding another referee in a booth only adds another subjective interpretation.

      1. The rules need to be re-written for sure. Obviously intent and malice can never be accurately measured. The rules need to changed by the authorities to “if the ball hits your hand in the penalty box, not matter what, it is a penalty” and “no intent” required for offside. If you are offside, you are offside. Similarly rules should be brought in for fouls as well. Simply leave no room for interpretation.

          1. Yeah I really hate this in (Field) hockey where they just hit the ball onto the defenders legs for a penalty corner.

    2. Huh?! Why is it a foul by VVD again? I happen to think Tim’s point about it not being careless, reckless, or with excessive force is spot on and difficult to argue against, but there’s the more basic point that EVERY KIND OF CONTACT IS NOT A FOUL, and indeed, arguably, every kind of contact with the leg isn’t even a bloody KICK!!
      Some camera angles made it seem like the contact on Lamela was greater than did others, but at least one camera angle showed clearly that the contact was almost non-existent, occurred as his leg was tucked in by his side, and was initiated by Lamela’s movement not by VVD.

      I have no love for Liverpool, and I’m glad, for our sake, that the game ended in a draw. But my verdict is that that shouldn’t be a foul in a million years (and it was also a bad dive; note that these two things are distinct: a dive can also be a foul, as, perhaps, Kane’s was).

      I actually don’t agree entirely with Tim, in that I don’t think these matters are entirely subjective, if that means there aren’t right and wrong (or better and worse) answers, since there are better and worse interpretations of normal English phrases like “excessive force,” “intentional,” etc.

      With that in mind, we need to distinguish between saying it’s subjective in the sense that there are no right answers, and saying it’s subjective in the sense that the right answers are difficult or near-impossible to establish. In that second sense, Tim is surely right. And the fact that you (Fox in the Box) and I disagree so sharply on whether VVD fouled him or not is evidence of this point.

      Of course, I happen to think there are strong, very strong, arguments/evidence supporting most of my interpretations of calls (just as Tim makes, in my view, a very strong, though not unassailable, case for both the Kane and Lamela incidents). But the bigger problem is that PGMOL, and the wider football-watching public, are simply not intelligent or honest or conscientious enough to be capable of, or interested in, following these arguments.

      So egregiously bad decisions continue to be made and equally bad reasons for these decisions continue to be given. It’s a mess. But in the end, VAR can only help make things at least a little bit better, if only by making the poor reasoning behind such decisions transparent.

    3. “I personally think Kane wasn’t offside for the first decision. Lovren does try to make contact with the ball, he just mucks up that contact and Kane, because he’s not interfering with play, is the grateful recipient of Lovren’s mistake and can then try and capitalise. ”

      I respect your assessment. Let me ask you this: if Kane wasn’t there, would Lovren have tried to make that interception? Or would he have let it roll harmless to his keeper/go out of bounds? I don’t know the answer – it is subjective, which is why this is all difficult to start with – but you could argue that Kane was interfering with play be being in an offside position, which is what I think Tim is arguing.

      As a numbers guy, I’ve always wanted interpretation to be banished from football. I wanted rules to be clear. I still do, but what VAR is doing is showing us just how far we are from getting there. I still support it’s implementation though, because even if we got rid of the the most contentious 5% of incidents, that’s progress.

  3. It’s shocking how subjective the rules of this game are. I doubt if there is any other sport that has so many vague rules. I wonder how it works in other contact sports like Basketball and Rugby (which I don’t follow) . Are they as vague? If you do a 5 why analysis the root cause of all the refereeing problems, It will definitely come down to the vagueness of the rules written. Perhaps they need to be modified and re-written. But it seems like a difficult task because players will always find a way to work around the system and deceive.

    I think the only way you are going to fix this problem is by building a system into the game that is consistent. It does not have to be 100% accurate but if there are errors, it has to be consistent across the board (I’m referring to technologies VAR or Hawk eye where there is no bias and involvement of humans). Unlike Referees, where sometimes a studs up challenge is given as a yellow, sometimes red, we can rely upon technology to be consistent and not have a bias. The beauty of technology is that it can evolve, so we can correct flaws. We should move away from a system that allows humans to make critical decisions (reduce it as much as possible)where there is room for multiple interpretations. Cricket has seen almost an 95% reduction in umpiring errors thanks to the DRS (Decision reviewing system). They simply rely on technology to make decisions and it has positively evolved since it started several years ago where there were glitches. For example they rely on something called Hawk eye technology to give LBW (leg before wicket) decisions when in doubt, which is again another interpretation. There is no way to 100% say that the technology is accurate (and the ball will hit the stumps), but it is consistent. So everything works out in the end. That is what VAR should evolve to be.

  4. Lovren’s miskick is comedy gold. I was surprised Klopp started that donkey, especially given how useless he was in their previous meeting with Hotspurm.

  5. Just watched VVD incident once, from one angle. VVD kicks Lamela in the arse, Lamela falls over. Possibly soft, but also very giveable.

    Far more of a pen than Bellerin on Hazard, in fact, which you, Tim said was a definite pen. What’s the difference here?

    1. Intent. VVD tried NOT to kick Lamela. Thus he was taking care. Bellerin just kicks Hazard. Bellerin was careless, VVD was care-ful. This is my interpretation and while you can disagree it doesn’t make me wrong. Everyone is right.

      1. The reason the “everyone is right” line doesn’t ring true, Tim, is that then we’d have to say everyone is equally right in how they interpret English words or phrases. So if I claim he “kicked” him, when all he did is brush him with his hip, I’m just as right as you when you deny a kick took place. But this is absurd. There are better and worse ways of applying a common, natural language to describe events in the world. So there are better and worse ways of applying the laws of football, which are written in English. Maybe often there is no one best way, but there should be plenty of applications of the laws we can definitively rule out, in any given scenario.

      2. Fair. I didn’t watch the VVD incident enough to see him pull out of the tackle. Not sure intent really swings it either, but ultimately it doesn’t matter. Was just curious.

      1. That angle certainly clears things up.

        I always find it amazing how something can look so different from a different angle. Should kill ‘ref saw it’ arguments. Also makes a case for VAR to show incidents from multiple angles, which I’m not sure it does.

    1. A delicate question. Is he going to gee up the players and make sure they like it up ’em a little more? Probably. Is he going to implement a more tactically sound defensive system? Almost definitely. Do I really want him after he flamed out so spectacularly at Chelsea after one good season? I’m not so sure. Will our best creative players appreciate him, considering the seasons that Hazard and Willian are having over in Fulham? I really don’t think so. Will his intensity fit well with the Arsenal hierarchy? Certainly not. I think he’s a good manager but probably not a great fit for Arsenal.

    2. So wait. Now head to head records don’t say anything about a manager’s capability?

      To answer the questions. No. I don’t think he’ll be a good fit at Arsenal. With these players, Wenger.

  6. I agree that our respective takes on the Lamela incident illustrate the scope for multiple interpretation. But it’s precisely because of this that VAR makes sense: two interpretations are better than one, especially when aided by multiple viewpoints and replays of the action. And allow consideration of other factors – that Lamela was offside – rather than just whether or not VVD committed a foul.
    Happily, I think it’s inevitable, not least because the significance of refereeing decisions in major matches and the frequency of wrong calls has made them too big a burden for individual match refs. Again, if this ushers in a new era of transparency about and accountability for decisions, all involved – fans, players, managers – will be better served.
    As for Conte, I’d take him just for the change, but I don’t think I’d enjoy watching us so much. Frustrating tho’ Wengerball can be, especially the imperfect variety seen over the least few years, it’s still massively entertaining at times.

    1. He’s basically admitted that his team goes out to break the rules, something we knew anyway given that their tactical fouling is (a) breaking the rules in the most calculated, cynical way possible, and (b) clearly coached into them.

      This is going to sound terribly bigoted, but the cynicism with which he approaches the subject is so typically Argentinian. There’s a whole section of Inverting the Pyramid devoted to explaining how bending/breaking the rules became very much a part of Argentinian footballing culture back in the 50s-60s (then again, that book was written by an Englishman:)).

    2. Looks like over at the Tots, they practise going down in the box. Something clearly our players don’t practise at all – they all seem to try getting up. As recently as the last game, when Iwobi was tripped on the edge of the box, he just got up and misplaced a cross! I remember many other times, including a few years ago when Walcott was tripped, got up and scored, while everyone thought the ref would blow.

  7. Objectivity is chimeric*. What we should do is create selection pressure for consistency, i.e., set a standard then hold people to it.

    Before the season as a group the referees set standards for what constitutes a foul, with video examples to illustrate edge cases.

    During the match the referee can stop play to review anything he wants. Each manager gets two ‘challenges’ where they can request a review of a play.

    After the game, a committee of expert referees reviews the tape and grades the referee based on how many calls he got correct weighted by how they affected the game, with bonuses for fewer consultations of the video. The committee prepares a report which goes to the teams and the media. The managers can request a public explanation from the committee of why a particular call was judged correct or not. They must reference the previously defined standards and this decision then becomes part of the ‘case law’ on how to interpret the edge cases surrounding the rules. The media attends this public explanation and can ask questions.

    At the end of the year the bottom 20% of referees gets relegated to the Championship and replaced with the top referees from that league.

    1. And then unicorns appear and begin dancing to the rhythm of “Kumbaya my Lord” while Mike Riley expresses his guilt and hugs Arsene Wenger while trying to hold back the tears of contrition for screwing him and Arsenal over too many times to remember.

      Sorry doc , but my scenario is probably more plausible than yours 🙂

    2. Most of what you say already happens. Or at least we are told that happens.

      For instance, we know the refs meet with the players to tell them how they are going to interpret the rules. This is good, but no reason they can’t share it with fans. But that would mean accountability because players can be gagged, but fans at large can’t.

      However the problem with the media asking questions is that the media is not separate from the PL/FA/PGMO power structure. Broadcasters have PGMO reps backstage to advise them on how to report on refereeing incidents. I’m pretty sure they have contracts which limit what they can say on air too. It’s a gravy train and the media are on it. (And they get the fans on it too)

      Did the media ever question how the PGMO arrive at their figure of 99% decisions correct? Why would they question any interpretation put forth. I mean look at how they deny the offside and the dive. How nothing was made of Lukaku kicking out twice at an opponent and the panel not deeming it violent conduct. Even Everton’s Niasse got banned for diving and the same interpretation didn’t apply to Hazard. Nope. The media is a part of the organisation. They’re never going to question it.

      The TEAMS though. That can be a thing, like in cricket where the teams send reports on the umpires’ too. But I fear the PL is too far gone. Any team which sends an unfavourable report will be punished subsequently and with extreme prejudice (The 4-4 Newcastle happened after Moyes revealed that Fabregas questioned Lee Mason’s integrity for awarding an offside goal which the PGMO have now declared should be legal anyway. Kos deliberately made a bicycle kick to try and stop a through ball)

    3. @Tom I didn’t say anything about the likelihood. Just what I thought would work. That said, I don’t think it’s so unpalatable.

      I think VAR is coming. It’s already in all the other major sports and each major wrong decision leads to more and more calls for it.

      The PL has an interest in implementing it in a transparent way that doesn’t raise more controversy (viz the NFL’s weird catch rule). At the same time putting it at the referee’s discretion minimizes the disruption to the flow of the game, while leaving room for a dramatic coach’s challenge.

      The officials will hate being second guessed and publicly called out. But the reality is that happens anyway. Everyone gets ratings these days. Pro-Rel will be the big sticking point, but realistically, how else are you going to improve the referee pool? I’m sure they would like to protect their little club, but how much power do they have in the equation? Are they going to go on strike? I might add a sweetner where the top refs get a bonus and dangle the carrot of the best refs getting an opportunity to retire onto the judging committee which would obviously extend their career when they can no longer sprint up and down the sidelines.

      Doing the postmortem publicly will also be a point of contention and it carries the risk of derailing the league’s dramatic narrative. On the other hand, it will allow the issues of the ‘bad call’ to be dealt with. It will also decrease the Ref X is bad for Team Y talk and help protect the league from match fixing, which is a real threat.

      I get it that the FA is an old boys club, but seven PL teams are owned wholly or in part by Americans. I’m pretty sure they are hoping to expand the PL’s popularity in the US and I’m equally sure that they are aware that soccer players’ reputation for being soft diving whiners is a major impediment to mainstream acceptance. If the PL could eliminate all the embarrassing rolling around on the ground to draw penalties that could be worth billions. In that case, I don’t think Mike Riley’s hurt feelings will even enter into the equation.

  8. I never understood the outrage against strikers going down for penalties after keepers decide to take a gamble and stretch out for the ball and not get there.

    How bad was Almunia btw, not only for coming out for the ball he had no business coming out for, but also stretching out his arms and never even attempting to bring them back when surely he must’ve realized he wasn’t getting there at some point.

    Even if Rooney doesn’t go down to ground before he collides whith Almunia, he still probably would’ve eventually because he’s running at full speed and has just poked the ball with his toe while stretching for it.
    He’s already off balance and his trajectory and that of Almunia will bring them together.
    Stone wall penalty.
    The only argument I can accept against the pen in this situation is the fact that Rooney kicked the ball so far out of his reach before contact that he wouldn’t have been able to run it down had Almunia not fouled him.

    Kane penalty is a bit different because he clearly is controlling the ball before contact and would’ve regained control after rounding the keeper.

    Lamela incident ,however, is another story.
    Not a pen in a million years for me .
    The linesman got it wrong.

    1. Agree with your assessment of all three incidents. The Rooney one was almost certainly a pen (even if it’s also true that Rooney dived). Almunia was terrible. Our squad today is miles better than in those days. Too bad our results/performances are as bad or worse.

  9. Thanks for agreeing , but let’s revers the situation and suppose Aubameyang is in on goal in the league cup final and Ederson dives for the ball but misses , and Aubameyang instead of going to ground tries to hurdle him.

    He stays on his feet, retrieves the ball but by that time Otamendi recovers and poks the ball out for a corner.
    Ref gave no foul because there was no contact and Arsenal lost on penalties.

    How many Arsenal fans or fans in general would applaud his efforts at honesty?
    I wouldn’t.

    1. Agree. But the problem there isn’t honesty. It’s the fact that refs don’t have a good grip on how to implement the rule that very specifically says you don’t have to kick the player for it to be a foul. Contact isn’t essential (it’s neither necessary nor sufficient for a foul, yet most refs/pundits treat it as both). Outfield players sometimes get called for flying in and forcing an opponent to have to hurdle over them, but goalkeepers get away with a lot more. So, while I hate the whole dragging the leg thing to bring contact in general, e.g. Kane, I think the majority of the time, if the goalkeeper is forcing a striker to have to hurdle over him to avoid contact, it’s probably a foul.

      So, yeah, I agree with you, I think. But I think these kinds of cases lend themselves much more to gray areas than others (e.g. if a goalkeeper dives for the ball initially but then pulls back to avoid contact, but the striker then purposely drags his trailing leg to ensure the contact; he could have avoided hitting the keeper, and, let’s say, could have done so without having to leap over him, but still would have had to adjust his intended movement at least somewhat due to the keeper’s position, which would ensure he couldn’t get to the ball in time: what is legitimate defense from the keeper, and what is unfairly impeding the attacker with no prospect of getting the ball yourself?). Contrast this with the Lamela incident, which to me is pretty straightforward, once you see it from the right angle.

  10. The ‘laws of the game’ include a bit about the spirit of the game in guiding the refs interpretation. This is normal legal practice as I understand it, because the law has to be drafted in anticipation while loopholes can be found later.

    I think the rulebook is pretty clear in the Harry Kane offside case if you take the wording and the spirit together. Unless of course, as you say, the PGMOL deem the spirit of the game is best served by making a mockery of the offside rule.

    But there is no way they’ll own up to it. Why would they? They have the media to obfuscate and/or deny as and when they want it. Because after all, they get 99% decisions correct. The only censure for Moss would be discussing these things in front of TV(and they’ll be having a word with the TV companies too). If they wanted that they’d make the mic feed public. But seeing as Moss helped the team that the brand wants to help I think it is understandable they back him so totally.

    VAR won’t solve everything. Because the refs will interpret rules as they want to. But it takes away the excuse that they didn’t get to see the event as well or in as much detail as we, the tv viewers, do. It should then lead to a deluge of fans making videos comparing two similar events judged differently by referees, and eventually force a base standard for certain types of situations. The NBA does this on their website to educate fans as to how refs are supposed to make certain calls. No chance the PGMOL does this. They’ve got their media cronies out to defame VAR from the start. They want it to fail and I think if it fails, it will only be for that reason.

  11. Human brilliance, and error, is why we pay to watch. VAR has made the NFL and NBA a less watchable product and it’s will do the same to football.

  12. for the sake of joining in the conversation, i’d like to say two things about the kane offsides no-call. first, kane was offsides because he was active when the tottenham player played the ball forward to him. if lovren’s clearance goes to the other side of the box where son is standing in an offsides position, that’s different because the ball wasn’t played to son by a tottenham player.

    second, lovren playing the ball assumes he has the ball. lovren never had the ball. i interpret lovren playing the ball to be him under pressure, playing the ball to the goalkeeper. then, if kane is in an offsides position, it’s not offsides because a tottenham player didn’t play the ball, a liverpool player did. however, a swing and miss doesn’t constitute positively playing the ball.

  13. I looked into the offside rule and agreed with the officials decision. Here is why.

    Kane is in an offside position when the ball is played. This does not mean that an offside offence has occured. One of the following must happen for the offence to occur.

    1. He must touch or play the ball, after it was touched or played by a team mate.
    2. He must interfer with an opponent (without touching the ball).
    3. He must gain an advantage by recieving the ball or interfering with an opponent after a a) rebound or a deflection, or b) deliberate save.

    The second scenario clearly does not apply. For the first to apply, Kane must recieve the ball from a team mate, but since he recieves it from Dejan Lovren, that alternative is crossed off as well.

    So the only way for Kane to commit an offside offence is by gaining an advantage, via either a deflection or rebound, or a deliberate save. Lovren tries to clear the ball and fails. This is neither a rebound or a deflection nor a deliberate save, and so the third condition fails as well.

    The Laws of the Game backs me up on this. I quote from page 94.

    “A player in an offside position receiving the ball from an opponent who
    deliberately plays the ball (except from a deliberate save by any opponent) is
    not considered to have gained an advantage.”

    tldr; Lovren kicks the ball deliberatively, but misplaces his clearance. Therefore, Kane does not commit an offside offence.

    This is a text book case for match officials, and they should be proud for making that decision.

    Now, with the offside out of the way, I want to add that think that both incidents are penalties.

    In the first situation, Karius misses the ball and interfers with Kanes running. He is not allowed to do that.

    It does not matter whether or not the contact was enough to make Kane fall over. Nor does it matter whether Kane looks for the foul. If Karius wants to avoid the foul, he has to get the ball or not throw himself in the way of Kane.

    This does not mean that Kane did not dive! He could very well be booked for simulation. But the penalty was correctly given.

    When it comes to the second, I must say I’m baffled by the amount of people that this think it’s soft. Van Dijk kicks the back of Lamelas leg without even being close to the ball. Stonewall penalty.


    The big problem with officiating is not the quality of officiating. It is the complete lack of respect for officiating. Fans, players and coaches verbally assault officials, and blame them almost anything. Players and coaches willingly cheat, and fans treat it as normal.

    People are fooling themselves if they think that VAR or a rule overhaul will fix that. If we don’t respect the officials, we will never accept their decisions. No matter how much technology we use or how clearly we rewrite the rules.

    1. Daniel,
      For the umpteenth time on here:
      1. Are you really going to tell me with a straight face that you can look at THIS angle, and not judge that the pen was, at the very least, “soft”? Any contact with the leg is at most extremely minimal:
      https://twitter.com/TaylorTwellman/status/960220809112453121

      2. Second, let’s assume for the sake of argument he does make contact with Lamela’s leg. Still, not every kick is a foul (and, presumably, not every contact with the leg even qualifies as a “kick”). It has to be “careless,” “reckless,” or with “excessive force”. Proximity to the ball may be relevant in determining carelessness (there’s no way VVD is reckless or using excessive force), but it’s surely not the only factor. What response can you give to Tim’s argument above that VVD doing his absolute utmost to *withdraw* his leg and tuck it into his body is a strong reason to think he hasn’t been careless? Without responding to this argument, I don’t see how you’ve made a remotely plausible case for concluding it’s a “stonewall penalty”

    2. Lovren’s action comes under the category of ‘save’.

      A player in an offside position receiving the ball from an opponent who
      deliberately plays the ball (except from a deliberate save by any opponent) is
      not considered to have gained an advantage.
      A ‘save’ is when a player stops, or attempts to stop, a ball which is going into or
      very close to the goal with any part of the body except the hands/arms (unless
      the goalkeeper within the penalty area).

      You could argue what close to goal means but Lovren’s action was meant to stop a goal threat and he had no way to know whether Kane was offside or not. Hence he meant to ‘save’. Notice that this action being deliberate is expressly written into the rules as not overruling the offside position. The PGMOL’s statement also leaves out the save part and focuses on the ‘deliberate’ part of Lovren’s actions. It is malicious and motivated as I see it.

      Kane was offside. Any other interpretation, which the pgmol in their inability to accept a mistake have now let loose upon us, completely changes the game of football from what we have known so far. (And no fifa/ifab didn’t CHANGE the rules, they actually clarified the rules)

      I agree that the rules aren’t the problem. I also agree that respect for officials will help. But respect is a two way street. As long as the officials can make completely inconsistent and random calls, and potentially hide the fact that they are talking to someone from ‘tv’ behind their earpieces, they show disrespect to the players (Why Cech was angry with Dean) and to the fans. They then have no right to demand respect.

      And by the way, they don’t take respect for themselves seriously. Were they to show a yellow every time someone abused them, the players would learn. But as with anything, it has to be consistent, and they are not. Hence their abuse continues. They should learn from rugby. Be strict and fair in application of rules for respect, but also be open and have a dialogue with the players which the fans can listen in on as well!

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