Does England need a refereeing revolution to stop this happening again?

Last updated at 20:52 29 February 2008

An emotional Arsene

Wenger said some

pretty strong words

after Martin Taylor's

tackle caused

horrific injuries to

his Croatia

striker Eduardo.

He sensibly

retracted the


that Taylor

should never be allowed to

play football again, but I

know he still believes it was

an injury just waiting to

happen and that tougher

refereeing is needed to

curb opponents' physical


Here I put the

case for and against; send

your opinions to me at:


What have I done? Taylor realises the damage his tackle has caused


Fabio Capello is hugely

successful and

experienced in European

club football; his first

reaction to the Barclays

Premier League was

surprise that referees are

not more involved. He was

right. On the continent, an

average of 16 additional

free-kicks are awarded

and almost two more

cards issued per game.

The Laws of the Game are

universal, so how can this


When Arsene Wenger

claimed teams try to kick

Arsenal off the park he

merely voiced concerns he has had for a number

of years — that the only

way to stop Arsenal is with

physicality. Any coach

with Wenger's track

record is worth listening

to and most neutral

observers would agree

his team are worth paying

to watch. Before playing

teams such as Bolton and

Blackburn, Wenger has

expressed his concerns to

referees and asked for

protection. This is usually

seen as a psychological

trick, trying to give

Arsenal an edge, but is

also employed by Sir Alex

Ferguson who often

appeals for 'strong

refereeing' in vital games.

When Premier League

referees first venture into

European football they

are often told their

performance was that of

'a typical English referee'.

When I was told this I

thanked the assessor,

thinking he was paying me

a compliment. After a

number of years I realised

it was, in fact, a criticism

that I allowed too much

physical contact to take

place and played too

much advantage in wrong

areas of the pitch.

Allowing play to continue

because the player who

has been fouled still has

possession gave the

impression such offences

were acceptable. The

player who had been

fouled felt aggrieved and

the aggressor felt he

could offend again.

Referees dictating the

pace of the game, to

ensure players have

control over their

emotions as well as their

actions, is vital. It will not

lead to a situation where

defenders are afraid to

tackle but should prevent

rash lunges with a straight

leg, as committed by

Taylor last weekend.

Most people accept Taylor

did not mean to cause

Eduardo harm but lunging

in meant the clash was

possible. It is my belief

defenders such as Sol

Campbell and Rio

Ferdinand would never

make a challenge like that

yet they are not afraid to

make vital interceptions.

Arsene Wenger

Protection racket: Wenger often asks officials to watch out for his players


The reason the Premier

League is so successful

and generates so much

interest around the

world is due to the high

tempo. Referees play

advantage and keep the

game flowing whenever

possible, which leads to a

fantastic build-up of pace

and excitement often

missing from La Liga and

Serie A.

English teams often play

a pressing game high up

the field to exert

pressure on their

opponents; it means

players don't have time

to dwell on the ball an

kill time, which is so

frustrating for fans.

The problem with the

continental approach is

that referees stop the

game too often, show

too many cards and are

trying to sanitise the

game. It will end up as a

non-contact sport in

which defenders will be

afraid to tackle because

if they slightly mistime a

challenge they are liable

to be sent off.

Martin Taylor was

merely unlucky and

didn't mean to hurt his

opponent, it was just

Eduardo was too skilful

for him. Taylor is simply

an honest, English no-nonsense


The game has been

changed to give massive

advantages to the

attacking team; a player

used to be deemed

offside if he was level

with the second

rearmost defender, now

he must be ahead of him.

The tackle from behind

used to be acceptable,

now it is a mandatory

yellow card. All too often

this season players have

been sent off for

accidental clashes.

Arsene Wenger knows

the strengths of his team

and wants to change the

way football is played in

England, thus ensuring

success for his team. That

is his job, but he should

respect the fact that

other teams will play

with contrasting styles.

How should a technically

inferior team set up to

play at The Emirates? Do

you take Arsenal on in an

open, free-flowing game

or press them high up

the field and put the

technical players under

pressure with physical


Obvious, isn't it?

The Laws of the Game

are clear for referees

and there is nothing

wrong with teams

pushing the physical side

of the game to see how

the referee will respond.

After all, Arsenal have

had 72 red cards under

Wenger — so is it not just

a case of his teams being

able to give but not take?


There is no simple

answer, but here

are two


Players need to

consider the

implications of

their actions; once they are committed to a

challenge it is often impossible to pull out.

Referees need to re-assess their approach.

All too often a free-kick for a minor

infringement can take the sting out of one

made within the next 20 seconds.

Next time you see a bad challenge, rewind

the tape and you will see the referee had an

opportunity to take the pace out of the

game with a free-kick just before it. I know

we all love the pace and passion of the

Premier League but players' safety must

remain the primary issue for match officials.

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