Handling Deliberations in Sunderland

Referee Chris Foy had his hands full in Sunderland with three different handling incidents.

Chris Foy shows Mark Bunn the red card
Norwich City’s goalkeeper Mark Bunn, #28, walks off the pitch after receiving a red card by the referee Chris Foy, left. Photograph: Scott Heppell/AP

In the 30th minute, a poor header by a Norwich defender about forty yards out sent the ball backwards into no man’s land about twenty-five yards out. Norwich keeper Bunn comes out of the penalty area towards the ball as it is approached by Sunderland attacker Graham. Bunn jumps into the air as the ball hits in front of him. He has his fists to his face with his elbows extended in front of him. The ball catches him on the right elbow and his chest while he is in the air. When a player leaves the ground and contacts the ball with his arms, it is deliberate handling (the player deliberately moved his arms to a position they would not normally be). Referee Foy awarded a direct free kick for the deliberate handling.

Next came the interesting part. Remember the Four D’s of DOGSO?

  1. Defenders to beat. There was no one but Bunn between Graham and the goal.
  2. Distance to goal. Twenty-five yards out, but elite players can beat a keeper with a straight strike from that distance.
  3. Distance to ball. Graham, if not for Bunn, would have had possession of the ball.
  4. Direction. Both Graham and the ball were moving straight at the Norwich goal.

Referee Foy went through his mental checklist – perhaps conferring with AR, it is not clear – and then sent off Keeper Bunn for DOGSO. Note that this is not DOGSO-H, even though handling was involved. The referee cannot say but for the handling a goal would have been scored. Instead, this is vanilla DOGSO, where an offense resulting in a free kick denied an opportunity. Norwich Manager Hughton claimed that Graham was offside, but at the time of the original kick by his teammate, he was not. Also, at this level, any uncontested header by a defender will likely be considered control, negating any offside consideration on the resulting sequence.

In the 40th minute, Norwich defender Bassong was called for a handling offense by AR1 Bankes when the ball strikes Bassong in the chest and he then cups it with his arm and moves it away from goal. There was a slight delay as the AR stayed with the ball after the handling but looked back at Referee Foy. He concluded that the referee could not have seen the offense and then flagged it. The handling took place on the opposite side from Foy, and the control by Bassong was subtle. Once play was stopped, the AR indicated a penalty kick by folding the flag across his chest pointing towards the goal line. I do not know if this is an FA mechanic, but in the US, we would hold the flag at our waist (like a low substitution signal).

In the 70th minute, Norwich’s Martin attempts a cross that strikes an outstretched arm of Sunderland’s Rose at the edge of the penalty area. The whistle blows and it appears as if Norwich will have a return penalty kick for the handling that appeared from television replays to have occurred inside the penalty area (determined by where the ball is when it is handled). Unfortunately, both the referee and the AR noted the location as outside the penalty area, and a direct free kick is awarded. I mention this not in disagreement with the decision. If the officials are not certain the offense occurred inside the penalty area, they should not award a PK (this is one of those times where an additional assistant referee might have made a difference). Instead, I mention it because of where the ball was spotted for the kick. It was on the PA line!

There can never be an attacking direct free kick taken with the ball spotted on the penalty area line! The ball should be at the spot of the foul this close to goal. If the foul was on the line, then the foul occurred in the penalty area (lines belong to the area they bound), and the kick should have been a penalty kick. If we ever award a free kick at the edge of the area, we must make sure that the ball is spotted off the line.

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About Dan Paolini

Soccer & Futsal Referee Assignor

Posted on March 18, 2013, in Lesson Posts. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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