By Calvin Palmer
Is it the aim of the FA to remove tackling and physical challenges from English football?
Saturday’s fixtures saw Fulham defender Philippe Senderos booked for a challenge on Manchester City’s Kolorov. But the action clearly showed it was a fair tackle in which Senderos won the ball but in doing so Kolorov went to ground.
Football is and always has been a contact sport and yet referees seem determined to stamp out any form of physical contact.
To me if a player’s initial contact is with the ball, it is a fair tackle irrespective of whether the opposing player does or does not stay upright.
The stalwarts at the heart of Stoke City’s defence during the best of the Waddington Years – Dennis Smith and Alan Bloor – would be lucky to remain on the pitch after two or three tackles under the present regime of refereeing in the Premier League.
Norman “Bite Yer Legs” Hunter of Leeds United and Ron “Chopper “ Harris of Chelsea would probably be banned from the game. And yet forwards, as every bit as talented as those displaying their skills today, accepted the attention of these defenders as part and parcel of the game.
Have footballers, particularly strikers gone soft? Or has the standard of refereeing declined to the point where referees can no longer distinguish between a fair tackle and a foul, so choose to settle on the latter just to be on the safe side?
It also makes me wonder whether the presence of so many foreign players in the Premier League is to blame. As Corporal Jones in Dad’s Army used to say, “They don’t like it up ‘em, Mr Mainwaring.”
It is clearly time for the introduction of a fifth official during Premier League games. There is already a fourth official who stands at the touchline and does very little apart from a few exchanges with the managers, holding up an electronic board for substitutions and the time added on at the end of each half, as well as ensuring that the managers keep within the technical area.
A fifth official would be seated in a room with a couple of large TV monitors and have a direct radio link with the referee. When a contentious decision arises, the fifth official with the benefit of the action replays can hand down the correct decision based on what really happened and not what the referee thought had happened.
A fifth official would have ruled that the tackle by Senderos was fair.
A fifth official would have ruled that Robert Huth of Stoke City should not have been sent off.
A fifth official would probably have ruled that Adam Johnson left his left leg behind waiting for contact from the defender and was not tripped and a penalty should not have been awarded.
A fifth official would probably have told referee Howard Webb not to award Manchester United a second penalty in their game against Chelsea.
The technology is available and has been used to take retrospective action against Manchester City’s Mario Balotelli for his stamp on Tottenham Hotspur’s Scott Parker, which referee Howard Webb “missed”.
Why not use it to allow referees to make the right decisions during the game based on what actually happened rather than their interpretation of what happened, which can often mean falling for the con tricks some players seem to employ these days in order to gain either an unfair advantage or see a fellow professional given a red card?
The over officious approach being used by referees, at the behest of the FA, is in danger of destroying football as a tough competitive and physical sport.