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Question Number: 33265

Mechanics 4/24/2019

RE: Rec Adult

Russell of Sydney, Australia asks...

'but I got the ball'
Interestingly, without VAR, this would have been unpunished, as the Ref on the day seemingly did not consider it an issue.

Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Russell
Yep no question it was a red card for serious foul play.
Now in real time these can be difficult to call as shown by the referees decision here. If you look at the position of the referee he is somewhat a bit straight on which is a poor angle of view. The challenge clearly gets the ball yet it was without doubt SFP for what we saw on the video. Having said it is difficult in real time there was tell tale signs of the player being off the ground in the challenge plus the angle of attack is dangerous and always likely to go through the ball into the player. He does play the ball yet it is the follow through that causes the damage.
In my game at the weekend there was a strong challenge on a player in which I did not see as a foul. Limited appeals as well for a penalty. Now the player stayed down and I had a sneaking suspicion that there could have been contact in the challenge. The extent and location of the contact was difficult to call in real time. It could have been a twist or a strain while playing the ball at the same time as the defender or for that matter the opponent causing the contact. As in the video I only had a front on view as to the way play unfolded. Perhaps VAR would have shown a very different outcome and it is in instances like this that the true benefit of VAR can be shown.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

Hi Russel, in challenges that I FEEL have issues but I am limited in vision through screening or poor positioning if I do stop play while debating or thinking card I have factored into account the damage on the downed player that I could see was a result of that tackle. In a men's B division match there was a slide tackle where I saw contact but it was from a poor view at the back and the contact was left and front . The studs of the higher boot had caught the tip of the downed players knee when all I saw was a trip on the lower leg coming across . It was definitely the stud impression on the knee & the bloody smear that gave me cause to upgrade the tackle to card level. There was no grief for doing so when I pulled the defender aside and showed a yellow card. A colleague AFTER told me if I had his view it should be red. Sigh. Even your gut gets it wrong now & then. The VAR has ample time to review stop and roll it back from multiple angles.

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Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Russell,

I watched that game - I'm actually a fan of the Mariners - but I felt that this was inarguably a red card.
I disagree with your presumption that 'without VAR it wouldn't have been an issue'. VAR is there as a backup measure when the referee has made a clear and obvious error and this was the case here. I suspect that the referee may have missed the danger of the tackle because of the fact that it was only the follow-through that caught the opponent. Also, it was a really weird tackle to have the leg come up that high after the tackle - sometimes something out of the ordinary can briefly stump the officials!

To further that point - as I'm sure you're no doubt aware, this wasn't even considered a foul at the time. Now, I know some people disagree with the red card - but I'm sure nobody can possibly argue it wasn't a foul. So that supports the argument that it was completely missed by the referee. Surprising, given the referee had a good view of it and mostly had a good game.

So looking at the tackle itself - as we can see the ball was won cleanly, then studs came up in the follow-through, with straight leg, very high studs directly at the oncoming opponent. Now, I believe the player simply overextended rather than doing anything malicious - but it is always the responsibility of players to play with due regard to their opponents. There was no real reason for the leg to come up like that, so it's wholly on Rowles. Normally on the follow-through the leg would stay down - had it done that, then the after-the-ball contact would be incidental, if there was any at all - after all, a leg on the ground would have slowed his momentum.

And that's when 'I got the ball first' stops becoming an excuse. The nature of the game means there's always going to be contact that's incidental, and often getting the ball first does make all the difference between foul and no foul - but not necessarily. The law change a few years back where 'carelessly/recklessly/using excessive force.......tackles an opponent' was deliberately done to reflect this. For instance, it made it clear that slide tackles which have so much disproportionate force that they end up several yards past the player are often going to be a foul now.

It makes no sense to suggest a player can finish a challenge however they want if they get the ball first - I'm sure there's no disagreement there - so upon realising that, we have to start asking at what point is it fair, natural and incidental, and when is it a foul. One thing to look at is the element of danger created - in this tackle, there is a huge amount of danger to the opponent, it's a potential leg-breaker. With an oncoming opponent, the player has the responsibility to not end up with straight-leg, high studs aimed at the opponent. It's not on the opponent to avoid that - it's on Rowles to not create the danger in the first place.

So, we have responsibility on Rowles. Now, while getting the ball first is often a consideration on the severity of the sanction, in this instance there was such a high amount of danger created that it certainly meets the criteria for endangering the safety of an opponent. The level of danger was such that I don't think there is any real argument that it isn't serious foul play - Rowles was wholly responsible for his actions and needed to find a way to finish that tackle/kick safely. Some will say that he had the right to go for it (as if that's some sort of defence) - yes, but only if he can do so without creating undue risk to the opponent.

So, while I have not been a fan of VAR in the A-League to date, I think VAR intervention here is exactly what the VAR was brought in for. A very, very clear red card that was completely missed by the referee.

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