Ref Watch: Handball confusion and blue card verdict


Former Premier League referee Dermot Gallagher dissects the flashpoints from the weekend’s football,

Luton 1-3 Sheffield United

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League match between Luton and Sheffield United

Incident: Vinicius Souza headed a corner into Thomas Kaminski’s clutches after the ball took a deflection off Reece Burke’s hand. As Luton went up the other end, referee Chris Kavanagh paused the play for a VAR check. The official gave the spot kick after visiting the monitor, with James McAtee dispatching the penalty.

Dermot says: “With the law as it is, to a certain extent, I can understand the decision.

“Referees don’t like it but it’s not the referee’s choice. Arm is above the shoulder and it definitely strikes him. That’s the rule.

“There’s a number of things. Is his arm extended? Yes. It his arm above his shoulder? Yes. Is the ball goal-bound? Yes. It’s ticked a lot of boxes. It doesn’t have to tick them all to be a penalty.

“I make it clear – I don’t like the rule. Referees don’t like the rule. But the rule is a rule. If you see that, you can’t unsee it. The VAR saw it and has to give the penalty.”

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Both Sheffield United and Luton Town were awarded penalties by VAR from what looked like harsh handball shouts

Incident: Luton got a penalty themselves in similar circumstances after half-time as Elijah Adebayo headed onto Souza’s arm, with Kavanagh called to the monitor once again for the formality, leaving Carlton Morris to pull a goal back for the hosts.

Dermot says: “I think the decision is really harsh. The first one I can understand why it’s given, but this one I’m looking and I just don’t see it.

“Is it a clear and obvious error? The referee gets sent to the screen and he still has a chance to say no. I think he gets it wrong.

“I actually thought he’d go across to the screen and then say no. But the first one has been given, so does he have to give the second one because of consistency?”

Nottingham Forest 2-3 Newcastle

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Should Nottingham Forest have been awarded a penalty against Newcastle after Taiwo Awoniyi was tripped in the area with the score 2-2?

Incident: Nottingham Forest felt hard done by after referee Anthony Taylor dismissed their claim for a penalty when Newcastle goalkeeper Martin Dubravka’s outstretched arm looked like it brought down Taiwo Awoniyi. VAR checked it and confirmed the on-field decision.

Dermot says: “I can understand the referee not giving it from this angle. But when you see the replay, you can see that Dubravka flicks his arm up and that’s what causes the problem for Awoniyi.

“When he brings the arm up, that’s what VAR should see on the replay, and that’s why I thought it was a penalty.”

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League match between Nottingham Forest and Newcastle

Liverpool 3-1 Burnley

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from the Premier League match between Liverpool and Burnley

Incident: There were a couple of checks on Luis Diaz’s goal to give Liverpool a 2-1 lead against Burnley. The goal was checked for an offside against Harvey Elliot and a foul by Alexis MacAllister on Aaron Ramsey.

Dermot says: “I wasn’t convinced it was a foul. I think if a foul is going to be given in this incident [Luis Diaz’s goal] it’s got to be the on-field referee – not VAR. Otherwise you’re re-refereeing a football match.”

West Ham 0-6 Arsenal

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FREE TO WATCH: Highlights from Arsenal’s win against West Ham in the Premier League

Incident: Arsenal were awarded a penalty when Bukayo Saka ran on to a long ball and was fouled by Alphonse Areola. The West Ham goalkeeper was shown a yellow card. There was a question of offside but VAR confirmed Saka was onside. Was the decision just to award Areola a yellow correct?

Dermot says: “Penalty and a yellow card is sufficient, because he’s in the penalty area.

“Saka gets taken down – is he going to score a goal? Maybe. The rule is yellow card. I think Areola would be very unlucky to receive a red card in that situation.”

‘Blue cards experiment not worthwhile’

Football’s lawmakers have delayed plans to publish details of sin-bin trials – which were expected to include the introduction of blue cards – at higher levels of football until next month.

Trial protocols on sin-bins, plus other measures to combat poor player behaviour, were expected to be published on Friday, but it is understood they will now be the subject of further discussion at the International Football Association Board’s [IFAB] annual general meeting at Loch Lomond on March 2.

IFAB has chosen to delay the publication of the proposals to allow more time for discussion.

Dermot says: “Blue cards are not for me. We’ve got what we’ve got. When they experiment with it I think this idea will go away very quickly.

“IFAB have only floated the idea – we don’t know if they think it’s good or not. People are annoyed about incidents where players break up promising attacks [which is punishable by a yellow card].

“Every person I’ve spoken to doesn’t think it’s a good idea. Howard Webb will watch and see what happens but I don’t see it coming to the Premier League.

“It works at grassroots because the players and referees are a different level – it offers the referee more control.”

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