November 30, 2013

Holding at set pieces

Controversy cropped up in last Tuesday's Champions League match between Borussia Dortmund and SSC Napoli refereed by Spanish Carlos Velasco Carballo. In the early stage (9') of the match, the referee team awarded a penalty kick in favour of the home side for a holding offense committed by a Neapolitan defender during a corner-kick. The decision supported by the additional assistant referee on the goalline, Carlos Del Cerro Grande, followed plenty of dissent and criticism during the match and in its aftermath which again shows that holding during and after set pieces like corner kicks has apparently remained to be one of the most debated issues in modern top-class refereeing.


The following screenshots expose a chronicle of the holding offense of Napoli's defender Fernández against Dortmund forward Lewandowski from an exclusive camera angle that is quite similar to Velasco Carballo's view on this situation. 


And from another perspective:


Screenshots developing incrementally by showing chronological key steps of an infringement only allow a limited judgment on the match situation concerned though. Since UEFA has forbidden me to upload videos for educational, i.e. non-commercial purpose, this however seems to be the best method possible to analyze incidents occurring in Champions League matches. For videos, you might check this link.
Nonetheless, these screenshots are - in this specific situation - already enough to support the referee's decision. Before whistling, Velasco by the way moved his hand towards his headset that indicated that he consulted his additional assistant referee. If this advice even solely came from Del Cerro Grande, it would have been the third penalty / no penalty decision made by this young additional assistant referee within the past year (after Montpellier-Arsenal and Dortmund-Marseille). What they had to detect was a clear and enduring holding committed by Fernández (the blue defender). He pulled, held and embraced his opponent for more than a second when the corner kick was executed and passed into the penalty area. Lewandowski was thus prevented to reach the ball. It is completely irrelevant whether the forward behaved in a clever or provoking manner. Napoli's defender should have reacted more clever himself - players are aware of their duty to avoid holding at corner kicks. There is no reason to protest or complain against this decision, even if it might have come by surprise and with much confusion due to the defective gestures and player management that accompanied the whole performance of this pre-selected World Cup referee.
However, this issue is of huger significance and not only one isolated match situation. The irony of fate is that Velasco's colleague Antonio Mateu Lahoz had to deal with a very similar situation in the encounter between Arsenal FC and Olympique Marseille. Two similar situations at the same evening and, as you can guess, two divergent assessments. Mateu Lahoz did not award the mandatory penalty kick. Teams, players and supporters hence are not able to detect a uniform line in UEFA's instructions related to holding offenses at set pieces. Another example is RSC Anderlecht - Olympiakos Piraeus at Champions League matchday 2, where Norwegian Tom Hagen first missed a clear penalty for holding after a corner kick and, just a couple of minutes later, awarded a penalty to the same team for the same offense. These findings do not necessarily have to mean that there is no consistent line. It might be that the referees concerned just looked somewhere else or made human mistakes just for different reasons. However, this does not change that the mission to communicate decisions efficiently, comprehensibly and uniformly is becoming more difficult to accomplish by such incidents. 
Things get even more complicated if one compares two clear instructions given by UEFA and the Italian referee association AIA. For those who don't remember Vlado Šajn's, Jaap Uilenberg's and Hugh Dallas' words in the movie "Referees at Work" / "Kill The Referee" (that would by the way deserve more awards and should have followed by part 2 at EURO 2012): please look it up at video minute 2:26


A zero tolerance policy was communicated to teams and players and has been followed intensely. UEFA's instruction with regard to holding at set pieces has not changed since Howard Webb's penalty decision in 2008. UEFA is putting great emphasis on this topic and teaches their referees to ensure as much prevention as possible to impede such offenses (e.g. by the presence of additional assistant referees or verbal warnings) so that Velasco Carballo's decision should be 100% in line with what Collina and co. demand from their officials. At the same time, Stefano Braschi, head of Italian referees in AIA, has stated that the holding offense in Dortmund had not been rigorous enough to award a penalty. Maybe he just had other replays. Also here: the same offenses, different opinions. There seems to be a lack of communication and clarity. UEFA should apply a stronger top-down procedure concerning recommending instructions for such offenses, otherwise, there won't be uniformity or comprehension among all those who relish football. 
Finally, certain lines of argumentation deserve to be unmasked. "If you give such penalties, there should be ten penalties per match!" - totally wrong. Holding at set pieces is indeed costumary and you won't find corner kicks without body and "textile" contact. But every referee fulfilling one of the most important facet a referee should sustain - common sense - should be able to distinguish between legal and excessive holding. The borderline might be spongy, but in such cases like this one presented above, it was clearly passed. Another typical argument against such a decision e.g. taken by Velasco Carballo is: "Some referees would have given this penalty, many others not." - Yes, that is the missing uniformity described above. But that does not have any effect on the correctness of the decision taken.
And for this reason, Velasco Carballo and his AAR should be praised for this decision and not blamed for the inconsistency of some of their colleagues. Brave decisions like this one might lead to an uncomfortable aftermath and a more difficult match, but as long as they are correct...

16 Comments:

  1. Spot on! I fully agree on all that is said above.

    /Swedish observer

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  2. Emil Archambault30/11/13 15:40

    Indeed, a correct decision. However, I don't like Velasco Carballo's body language for that decision; he seems way too nonchalant and detached. Pointing to the penalty spot should not be done in the same way as pointing to the corner flag. He lacks authority and control, and needs to show in his body language that he is confident and certain of his decisions.

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    Replies
    1. Very correct Velasco Carballo. He will be at Marocco and Brazil.

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    2. Emil, check the remarks on this situation in the "control" section of my report. ;-)

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  3. That's a ridiculous amount of holding that the defender expected to get away with. Great call and hope it's made more often.

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  4. What time of the match did this incident happen in?

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    1. 08:33
      I think Carlos should have moved back after making the call fending off incoming dissenting players. Doesn't have the element of decisiveness behind the call when standing and remaining at the spot surrounded by players.

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    2. That's his typical dealing with dissent. Please remember minutes 40-45 in Greece-Poland where he was in trouble. When he issued a YC at the sideline, he also had this special gesture to hysterically point to the stadium's roof with an outstretched arm. I wonder why there is no mentor telling him that these gestures fail to reach their target. It is even the opposite, they even heat it up. He won't control players by that.

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    3. http://www2.pictures.zimbio.com/gi/Vasilis%2BTorosidis%2BPoland%2Bv%2BGreece%2BGroup%2BUEFA%2BbIPicPXYvOkl.jpg

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  5. Anonymous1/12/13 13:41

    http://www.uitzendinggemist.nl/afleveringen/1381907

    Skip to 18:20 ( i dont know if its available in every country ). It's the 1-1; but my question is if referee Kamphuis used the whistle before the goal to award a penalty kick.

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    1. Yes, it seems clear. If you stop the video when the whistle begins, the ball is still not in the goal.. :)
      He was lucky probabvly almost nobody noticed that...

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  6. The decision was correct, but dealing with situation absolutely wrong. Who wins from such a decisions referee, football? There's a clear procedure how referee should act in those situations and he didn't follow it: no verbal warning, no cautioning if unsporting behaviour continues....

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    Replies
    1. How do you want to warn any player if there is no holding before this corner kick? It started and continued when the ball was already in play.

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    2. There was holding at least two seconds before taking corner kick. Look at the photos 1 and 2 or better any video.

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  7. Correct decision, not penalty.

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  8. Absolutely spot on and congrats to Carballo and co. for making to right, correct decision. This sort of this needs to stop and players also need to stop bitching and complaining about things, especially when they're wrong!

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