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Question Number: 33754

Law 12 - Fouls and Misconduct 11/5/2019

RE: English PL Professional

Derek of Cary, IL United States asks...

Was Atkinson right to change his yellow to a red card for Son's tackle? I didn't see what looked like excessive force, but the tackle from behind was dangerous and reckless at the very least.

I'm guessing Martin was using the definition of excessive force, being 'in danger of injuring his opponent' which Son did. It looked more like a series of unfortunate events that I'm not sure if Son should be completely responsible for.

Answer provided by Referee Jason Wright

Hi Derek,
I don't see anything that warrants a red card here. The tackle was made with fairly low force in a manner that wasn't particularly dangerous - studs were raised, but this is fairly normal - and that foot went across the front of the leg rather than making contact studs first. It wasn't overly high speed, it wasn't jumping in, it wasn't trapping the leg beneath the body or anything like that. The injury is simply an unfortunate outcome of a tackle.
The fact that a broken ankle was the result doesn't mean that the tackle was using 'excessive force' or 'endangered the safety of an opponent'. We need to judge the tackle itself on its merits rather than presume the foul was worse because of the outcome.
With no real attempt on the ball it was a yellow card - but that was due to it being so late rather than the level of force used.
Most broken legs I've seen have come from perfectly fair tackles - usually 2 players kick the ball hard with the ball in between, and one player's shin gives way. The broken leg doesn't escalate the opponent's actions to a foul or a red card.
As referees we need to be careful to avoid letting injuries determine our decision after the fact. The way in which the foot caught on the turf was an unfortunate outcome of a foul rather than being due to the manner of the foul itself.
I found the referee's approach to this rather concerning - given he had the yellow card out initially it's clear he didn't think the tackle itself was worthy of a red card but changed his decision purely because of the outcome. Referees are not to do that - and referees at this level in particular should know better.
If the injury was to automatically make this SFP, then where does it stop? We actually deal with this all the time - when a relatively minor foul (or even a fair challenge) results in a fairly bad injury, one that may cause the player to retire from the game or leaves them on the ground in (apparent) severe pain. Should we change our decision on all of those to upgrade the severity? Of course not. We make our decision on the tackle itself.

Given that the VAR in the EPL is still trying to figure out the right balance of intervention (we've gone from 'not intervening in anything except handball and offside' to intervening a couple of times when it shouldn't have), I'm not surprised that the VAR didn't want to have anything to do with this one - however, for the review panel to overturn the red card, that's clearly a statement that the VAR should have intervened
I find the red card being overturned to be a fair outcome.

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Answer provided by Referee Richard Dawson

HI Derek,
Although Tottenham's Son did a slide tackle from behind with no real play on the ball on Everton's Gomez. I do not think a straight red was in order because on the way down Gomez got his foot caught in the turf and created the horrific leg injury that followed. You can see the incident around the 81st minute, about 9:30 into the video, The initial Yellow card for USB reckless was changed to Red for SFP ,in my opinion, due to the injury, NOT the tackle and as such could be overturned. Tottenham appealed the Red and won! Despite the fact Son endangered the safety of the opponent I think the Var influence and the severity of the injury was swaying referee opinion . They may factor the pitch in as part to blame? No one likes to see this and while Son is certainly contrite he made the lunge .Just look what happened as a result if a reactionary decision?


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Answer provided by Referee Joe McHugh

Hi Derek
It is safe to say that without the injury the card would have stayed yellow.
Now on review it looks like that Son intended to foul Gomes which caused him to plant his foot in the ground and his weight then caused his ankle to dislocate and break a bone in lower ankle.

As to the decision by the referee it is fair to say that the foul, after the event, met the criteria for serious foul play as it was a challenge that resulted in the safety of an opponent being endangered due to the consequence of how it turned out.
We know that the games is not refereed based on consequences just on what happened so for me it should not have been red.
Tottenham has been successful on the appeal of the red card and Son will not now be suspended.

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