When Is A Red Card Not A Red Card?

By David Mooney, Mon 14 January 2013 09:32


When Is A Red Card Not A Red Card?

I am livid.

For the second January running, I have just witnessed Vincent Kompany receive his marching orders for a firm, but wholly fair, challenge. Last time, it was after a dozen minutes against Manchester United and played a huge part in leaving the blues with a mountain to climb. This time, it was with just over a dozen to play and left City with a more-difficult-than-it-should-have been end to a match. Less vital, but equally annoying.

First thing's first, let's clear up what the captain was red carded for. The offence that he is accused of committing is 'serious foul play', under Law 12: Fouls and Misconduct. Here is what the laws of the game say about it:

A player is guilty of serious foul play if he uses excessive force or brutality against an opponent when challenging for the ball when it is in play.

A tackle that endangers the safety of an opponent must be sanctioned as serious foul play. Any player who lunges at an opponent in challenging for the ball from the front, from the side or from behind using one or both legs, with excessive force and endangering the safety of an opponent is guilty of serious foul play.

Advantage should not be applied in situations involving serious foul play unless there is a clear subsequent opportunity to score a goal. The referee must send off the player guilty of serious foul play when the ball is next out of play.

A player who is guilty of serious foul play should be sent off and play is restarted with a direct free kick from the position where the offence occurred (see Law 13 – Position of free kick) or a penalty kick (if the offence occurred inside the offender’s penalty area).

The key to whether a player should be penalised for serious foul play comes in the opening line: “A player is guilty of serious foul play if he uses excessive force or brutality against an opponent when challenging for the ball when it is in play.

Watching the way both Wilshere and Kompany challenged for the ball, I'm struggling to see how either has used 'excessive force'. The Arsenal man had lost control and was stretching for the ball, while the City man had a standing start on a slide challenge; how much force can be used in that situation? Nothing excessive, surely?

Neither player endangered the safety of the other: both went in full-blooded, but fairly. Neither player lunged into that challenge: both went in full-blooded, but fairly. Neither player committed a foul: both went in full-blooded, but fairly. Yet City's player was sent off.

I can almost buy the argument that Kompany went in with two feet, however that doesn't necessarily equate to a red card. It's become 'common knowledge' that that's the case, yet from reading Law 12, it's clear that it's possible to have a one-footed out of control tackle and a two-footed controlled one. There's nothing in FIFA's book that says a two-footed challenge is automatically a sending off.

Moreover, I don't think Kompany's got much option but to make the tackle as he has. He makes that challenge with his left foot, yet by the simple fact of biology that his right leg is attached to him at the hips, he has have that somewhere nearby. It isn't studs showing. It isn't even scissoring towards Wilshere – as it was towards Nani last January. It was simply further back, playing as little part in the challenge as it could, being anatomically impossible for the Belgian to leave it behind completely.

However, is it worth appealing the card? The principle for me says it should be, yet given the FA video panel's penchant for mixing up arm-related hinge joints with rectal cavities, it's entirely and equally possible that Kompany will be given a reprieve and a bunch of flowers or an additional game ban and a slap on the wrists. And looking at the coming fixtures, a three game ban would, while unfair, be something we could live with (barring injuries, of course).

So, when is a red card not a red card?

When it's a fair challenge.

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