Jon Moss Agent of Chaos: a monologue

Having handed out a red card to Granit Xhaka for a professional foul on Modou “Wheel” Barrow in Saturday’s match between Arsenal and Swansea I now stand before you accused of mis-interpreting the laws. Accused by my fellow referees in the papers and found guilty in the court of Twitter. But I beg the court to answer the question, what are the laws of the game? Are they immutable laws? Are they like the laws of light and gravity, something measured and explainable with mathematics and applied with little or no room for error or are they better seen through the eye of the referee, an interpretant, a man who is more priest than physicist? I say the laws of the game are mutable and irrational and that like the gods we can only begin to comprehend their multifaceted beauty.

Law 12 is the law which governs fouls and misconduct. It is written in plain language and has the markings of an immutable law and yet in its heart it is as treacherous as the Genie granting us three wishes. It states that for a foul to take place three things must occur: the offence must be committed by a player, it must occur on the field of play, and it must occur while the ball is in play! This is simple. In this case the ball was in play and Xhaka (a player) kicked in an attempt to trip his opponent. This is a foul.

Now we have a group of six to consider and a further group of four to balance them out. I see some of you are falling asleep but you must stay awake! In the group of six we have kicking an opponent, tripping an opponent, jumping at an opponent, charging them, striking them, or pushing. Even attempting to do most of these are also fouls. In this group the referee must decide how the foul was done. Was it careless, reckless, or with excessive force?

These three qualifiers are ever-increasing levels of offence, like Donald Trump’s twitter account as the year has gone by. Careless just means the player committing the foul acted without consideration. The Genie granting us the wish of wealth might carelessly give us money in cash. Reckless means utter disregard for the consequences to the opponent. In this case that same Genie might give us our wish of wealth not just in cash, but in small bills which would be spilling out of our pockets as we walked down the street making us a target for all armed robbers in the world. And excessive force is both careless, reckless, and also an action which far exceeds the force necessary and is in danger of injuring the opponent. That Genie would just turn us into Donald Trump.

But just like the Genie trickster I get to interpret every action on the pitch with what I FEEL! And I felt that in that game, Xhaka’s kick was “excessive force”. Look, we can’t measure a kick in Newtons, at least I can’t — not in the middle of the game — so I just have to guess wildly at whether there was excessive force or not. Typically, I determine excessive force by the number of times a player rolls around on the ground in agony. Two rolls, foul; three rolls, yellow card; three rolls and a grimace whilst magically rubbing the spot; red card.

But I ask you! Is this not the beauty of our game? This uncertainty in the interpretation of the Laws means that we referees can give writers and fans the world over the gift of bloviating endlessly on whether our calls were right! I mean, just last week I gave a direct free kick when it should have been an indirect free kick because there was no contact on a foul! Oh boy, that was a big error, right? WRONG! All I have to say is
“it looked like there was contact” and I’m back refereeing high profile football matches in front of an international audience.

There’s a saying in football, these things all even out in the end. If you take nothing else away from my defense here I want you to remember this: that’s my job, I’m the guy who makes things weird so that someone else can come along and make them weird in the other direction so that they can all even out! In being an agent of chaos I create balance. It’s a hard job because I have to suffer the slings and arrows of critics constantly, but like the Genier, once I’m out of the bottle there’s no stoppering me.


Laws of the game, Law 12:


  1. Before their eyes in sudden view appear
    The secrets of the hoary deep, a dark
    Illimitable ocean without bound,
    Without dimension, where length, breadth, and highth,
    And time and place are lost; where eldest Night
    And Chaos, ancestors of Nature, hold
    Eternal anarchy, amidst the noise
    Of endless wars, and by confusion stand.
    For Hot, Cold, Moist, and Dry, four champions fierce
    Strive here for mast’ry, and to battle bring
    Their embryon atoms; they around the flag
    Of each his faction, in their several clans,
    Light-armed or heavy, sharp, smooth, swift or slow,
    Swarm populous, unnumbered as the sands
    Of Barca or Cyrene’s torrid soil,
    Levied to side with warring winds, and poise
    Their lighter wings. To whom these most adhere,
    He rules a moment; Chaos umpire sits,
    And by decision more embroils the fray
    By which he reigns: next him high arbiter
    Chance governs all.

    Milton could be describing Jon Moss here. He’s so prophetic he even mentions Barca, over two hundred years before they were founded!

  2. Just watching the liverpool v manu game a foul by utd player on liverpool player it was a trip with no chance of getting the ball.
    Guess what freekick given no sign of a card of any colour

  3. But this rule of no chance of getting the ball seems to aplie to the penalty box in law 12.
    Because if not every breakaway stopped by the pulling of the shirt or other means should be a red card.
    This way points to a very different game not sure it would be bad for Arsenal but we all know it’s never going to happen.
    I’ll take bets that Saturday’s card will be the only red card for such offences we’ll see this season.

  4. Yeah, Moss got that wrong according to the rules of the game.

    I’ll never get back the time I spent watching Man United stifle Liverpool away from home, but I did learn from it. I learned that I’ll never in this lifetime like a single thing about Jose Mourinho or his teams. I learned that even if he did have talented players who wanted to play brilliant combination football, he wouldn’t let them express that. I also learned that when it comes time for them to play Arsenal, they’re going to push Ibra and Pogba high to disrupt us building from the back and then use the remaining 8 outfield players to try to bully us off the ball to create opportunities in transition. He’ll also use Ashley Young to shadow Bellerin all game, because that’s what Ashley Young is to him. Finally, he’ll deploy a team full of as many tall players as possible to take advantage of set plays. It’s going to be rugged and frustrating and annoying and I’m allready irritated that we have to go through a blasted Mourinho team twice more this year.

    Most importantly I learned that I really shouldn’t spend my time watching a Mourinho team.

    1. Take heart Mou isn’t even in the Europa league spots! That’s got to be eating him up inside.

    2. He actually looked smug at the final whistle, and the commentator seemed to be praising him and his team for getting what they wanted.

      I can’t make much comment on the game because I literally kept falling asleep during it, but from what I saw, it was a complete bore fest, which apparently means Mourinho bested Klopp, according to James Olley.

      A couple of twitter posts tell me that ManU had 6 touches in the Liverpool box, and that Jose walked back into the press conference to dispute the possession figure of 35%, and insisted it was 42%. If true, it’s hilarious. Right up there with his list of youth players. Amazing that the press don’t destroy him.

      1. I see on the BBC site he’s talking about how great he is to get a point at anfield. The amount of gloating he’s doing you’d thing he was manager of Stoke or Crystal Palace and not Man United.

    1. Not in my books, you are not 🙂

      I feel the same way about that tackle; a mere tap on the ankle to prevent a dangerous situation is no way going to be acceptable, for me, as a straight red card.

  5. It’s a shame really but the sending off has served to mask the ineptitude of the rest of his performance. Fouls on Cazorla and Walcott were equally cynical but unpunished and the calling back of the quick free kick which had Ozil through on goal could only be because as usual he was not up with play and needed a breather.

  6. This ‘agent of chaos’ business is sadly not far from the truth when it comes to football. It all evens out, it adds excitement and discussion. These are things fans and even officials say.

    Moss missed two clear pushes on Walcott when he jumped up for a header. Missed the hand in his eye. Disallowed a quick free kick which would probably have led to a goal because it was taken from the wrong spot, but allowed Swansea to take one from a similar distance away later in the game. His assistant didn’t fare much better with I count at least 3 questionable offside calls against us, of which again, not much was made by TV. There was also a few yellow card offenses that Swansea got away with. All in addition to the nonsense red. I don’t dislike Moss like I dislike Dean or Taylor because I don’t think he’s out to get us. But on this sort of showing, he shouldn’t be a referee.

    On a different note, Swansea have always caused us problems by playing good football. This time it was Barrow instead of Montero or Dyer causing us problems down the wing. But I don’t recall seeing Swansea play a dirty game to ‘get in our faces’ before. I hope they don’t go the Stoke way under Bob Bradley.

  7. I still think, in isolation, the cynical nature of the foul is the kind of thing I don’t mind seeing a red for.

    But then you compare it to all the incidents that go unpunished it looks insanely harsh.

    Was Moss the ref a few years back when we played Everton and he gave a goal to them that was so offside the Arsenal crowd went mental.

    1. Do you mean when Kos tried an overhead kick to clear the ball before it reached an offside striker and somebody at Arsenal’s ground decided to forget the rules and showed a replay, which made the crowd go mental?

      That was Lee Mason, who Moyes revealed was subsequently called a cheat by Cesc. That probably got him Fergie’s grace and got us Phil Dowd and Newcastle in the next game.

      1. That’s the one.
        I mixed up Moss and Mason.
        I was wondering if we had history with him.

  8. On the plus side, at least we don’t have to hear endless bloviating about whether Xhaka or Coquelin should start for a week or so.

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