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Obvious Goalscoring Opportunity Rule Revisited

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Thundery wintry showers



Some comments here highlight a key problem:
[quote name='Graham Poll']...stated at half-time that he felt that both a dismissal and penalty are too harsh in such instances.
But given that only 75 per cent of penalties are converted in the Barclays Premier League, you can see that if the penalty was the only sanction then more players would be tempted to bring down opponents as they were about to score.
It is vital that referees correctly differentiate between a goalkeeper bringing an opponent down with a mistimed tackle and an attacker forcing contact with a prone goalkeeper.

[quote]The idea of a penalty being enough punishment always annoys me. It isn't punishment. The attacking player is in a position where he can score. That get's stolen from him by a player breaking the law. The penalty gives it back, but it doesn't mean the other player has been punished for breaking the law.
If someone steals your car, the police give it back, how is that punishment for the thief?
Cards and sendings off have to be used to punish the player for cheating. The penalty has to be given to give back to the attacking team what the other side tried to cheat them out of.

The main defence of this rule appears to be the automatic assumption that if a defender or keeper commits a foul on someone who is through on goal, it must be a deliberate attempt to cheat by stopping the other person from scoring.
In reality there's such a thing as a mistimed effort to get the ball, or an accidental collision with a player, and I can't see how this can suddenly cease to be the case just because the person who commits the foul happens to be the last defender.

The mind boggles at how effective the "the rules are right because the rules say so" approach can be at removing logical thinking from the equation.

I actually think the idea of making professional fouls a sending off offence is sound, but the implementation of this rule has resulted in the term "professional foul" being defined far too libertally. Imagine if, in Formula One, they brought in a rule to stop moves like Schumacher on Villeneuve in Jerez 1997, where if A tries to overtake B and gets the line into the corner but B doesn't allow enough room and they collide, B must be disqualified for three races for denying an Obvious Overtaking Opportunity... Even the FIA wouldn't be so stupid as to pass a rule like that, but that's what the Obvious Goalscoring Opportunity is like.
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Just to clarify, I am a qualified referee so am not making blind statements, lol

First off, it is important to clarify the word "[b]OBVIOUS[/b]" within the Law as discussed above. This decides, above all other considerations, whether or not the foul is worthy of a red card or not, irrespective if the effort is thought to be either "intentional (cheating)" or "a legitimate effort". Pretty much any time during the game, is a goal scoring opportunity (corners, direct free kicks, even kick off). What the referee has to determine, at the time of the foul, is whether it was 'obvious' the player could go on to score i.e it is more likely he will score than not.

Another clarification that should be made, denying an obvious goal scoring opportunity (DOGSO) can [b]ONLY[/b] be applicable if the offence committed is a 'penal offence' - basically an offence punishable by a DIRECT free kick (or PENALty if occurring in the penalty area). This is why pass backs etc are NOT DOGSO and red cards.

At no point in the 'Laws' does it state "last man", or "last defender" - this is a VERY irritating misconception within the media, particularly with pratts like Andy Gray (apologies, but refs do NOT like Andy Gray in any way shape or form). Nowhere in the Laws does it state DOGSO involves the last man...eradicate this from your minds one and all!! For example, if an attacker is near the corner flag and the GK fouls him, if defenders are racing back into the penalty area, has the attacker been denied an obvious goalscoring opportunity?? That, as is the nature of Law, is all down to interpretation...IMO, no way has the attacker had an obvious goalscoring opportunity denied there, and would not be sent off by me.

Another scenario for you to ponder - the attacker is on the 'D' being chased down (i.e 2 yards away) by a defender. The ball has been lobbed to him by a team-mate. The GK fouls the attacker before the ball has dropped to him. Should the GK be sent off?

1. Would the attacker have controlled the lobbed pass, enabling him to turn and go on to shoot?
2. Is it reasonable to assume the defender would just have been likely to challenge and take possession of the ball, or, assume that the defender had just an obvious chance of legitimately challenging for the ball and winning?
3. Considering the aforementioned 2 points - did the attacker have an OBVIOUS goalscoring chance?

This is the referee's and the referee's alone, interpretation.

It has to be penal offence, and the goal scoring chance has to be obvious. All other considerations, i.e last man, last defender etc are a fallacy and not a consideration. "Last man" will assist the referee in determining how obvious a chance may be, but it is not a stipulation within the Law, and certainly not the primary consideration!

Whether the challenge is intentional or accidental, if it is a foul worthy of a direct free kick/penalty - its a red (assuming the criteria above apply). The reason for the red card is as Graham Poll says - a penalty is not an obvious goalscoring opportunity. The keeper is allowed on his line, the attacker is likely to be under a LOT more pressure, and in many cases, the attacker is now further from the goal than when the foul was committed (12 yards)! Changing the law to consider a player's intention (which a referee can NEVER really know btw), or consider how close the attacker is to the goal, gives a far greater scope for inconsistency, and therefore club/player/fan frustration.

And finally, please please please, do NOT assume that just because a defender/GK touches the ball, that an offence/foul has not taken place.....DOGSO does not entertain whether the defender/GK makes contact with the ball...a challenge can still be a foul irrespective if the ball has been touched/'won'!!!

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Firstly, thanks for taking the time and effort to come back with such a detailed explanatory reply, especially re. the clarification of what the rule is (and isn't!) really about.

Regarding "intention", I tend not to argue from that angle. I think in terms of elsewhere on the pitch, where one key factor in the likelihood of a player getting carded (yellow or red) for a foul is whether or not the player made much of an effort to get the ball (and I think the referees tend to get this call right most of the time). It strikes me that the rule could easily be modified to take into account whether or not much of an effort was made to play the ball- which would be a good approximation to whether it was deliberate or not, and much easier for the referee to distinguish.

After having read the above, I am still of the view that a straight red is a disproportionate punishment for a defender who makes a genuine effort to get the ball, just because the player is through on goal- especially considering the magnitude of tackles that go on elsewhere and only get a yellow. It is still analogous, in my view, to making denying an Obvious Overtaking Opportunity in Formula One an automatic disqualification offence plus a ban for at least the next race, irrespective of whether it was a "professional foul" like Schumacher turning in on Villeneuve in Jerez 1997.

My proposed modification would still risk increasing the amount of inconsistency, due to the ref having to make two judgement calls instead of one, but it would also reduce the extent of the resulting injustices. A mistake by the ref would be the difference between a foul and a foul plus sending off, or a foul or nothing, as opposed to the difference between a foul plus sending off or nothing.

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From a non-referee perspective, I do agree with you - I think there are occasions where a red card is v harsh, and effectively does ruin a game. There are occasions which I think a red card however is fully justified and I think "Get off you dirty git, lol"

As I said though, from a ref's perspective, I think it is hard enough to distinguish a red card (DOGSO) from a non DOGSO - if there were stipulations in place to account for other variables, it would be a nightmare for me and other refs alike.

It is a difficult one, a situation which at present I agree with you, it is a bit harsh...but I cannot think of a way round it which will lead to a consistent application from referees, while at the same time ensuring the 'punishment' fits the crime...

A toughie.....

One law I wish would be re-implented however (slightly off topic) is the 10 yard dissent rule - a player questions a ref's decision, the free kick moves forward 10 yards!!

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I was reminded of this discussion by the recent Man Utd-Liverpool game- from the other side. Carragher committed what, to me, looked like an obvious professional foul on a Man Utd player, but it was debatable whether he denied an obvious goalscoring opportunity- which I guess is why he only got a yellow card for it. (I must say, though, that I thought Liverpool thoroughly deserved the win).

But especially after the above discussion I can appreciate how hard it is for the referee to make such a distinction. I am coming around to the view that it's difficult to see a way around the "fairness vs making it a nightmare for referees" issue other than to replace DOGSO with something easier to differentiate- but then the question, "what?" arises, and while I'm hopeful that there [i]might[/i] be a way if the governing body put their minds to it, it's a real head-scratcher.
What I can say in favour of the current rule, though, is that IMHO it is a much better way of making the distinction than the "last man rule".

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Indeed - I was jumping up and down as much as Fergie in all honesty. I thought the referee on the whole had an at best, average day at the office. Patrice Evra gets cautioned for committing two fouls, the first of which IMO wasn't even a foul. The referee clarifies that he is being cautioned for persistent infringement by pointing to the foul committed just previously. Lucas, commits, not one, not two, but at least SEVEN fouls, some of them rather cynical, and escapes a caution! Berbatov gets cautioned for some reason - quite how a player jumping in front of him and being tripped constitutes a foul is beyond me. The free kick should have FOR Man Utd for tripping Berbatov, not the other way round.

IMO Carragher should have been shown a red card. I think his actions were deliberate, and I think he committed the foul knowing that if Owen had passed him, he'd have had an obvious goalscoring chance. It's just a pity that Mr Marriner did not share that view.

However - the Carragher incident does indeed highlight the current frailties in the Law, but higlights how difficult it would be if discretion was removed from the referee in its entirity.

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