I thought this time around it was well worth addressing the subject of unsporting behaviour and the unacceptable inconsistency we see in applying it.
Of course, there are the ones you very rarely get these days, such as for a goalkeeper taking too long with the ball or the removal of a shirt in celebration. They may no longer represent a real problem, but they go to show that it’s pure common sense that a manager would make it very clear to his players that he won’t tolerate suspensions arising from such silliness.
But then I have to ask, why does this not seem to apply across the board? I’m referring to acts of sheer disrespect here, and sadly they are all too common, as a tiny sample of the action from three recent games goes to show.
I’m talking about the Champions League semi-final second leg between Spanish neighbours Real Madrid and Atletico Madrid, refereed by Cuneyt Cakir; the Europa League semi-final second leg at Old Trafford refereed by the Romanian Ovidiu Hategan and the Premier League fixture at Anfield the previous weekend refereed by our own Bobby Madley.
The way some of the Spanish players in the semi-finals were constantly waving imaginary cards and demanding action from the referee was an absolute disgrace, and you have to say Sergio Ramos in particular is a serial offender.
There was definitely less nonsense when Martin Atkinson refereed the first leg between the Madrid giants, but that does not mean all our English guys have got the balance right. Why do I say that? Because the only caution issued in all three games for unsporting behaviour, believe it or not, was to James Ward-Prowse, who chose a funny time to be grabbing a drink. While this was correctly given, for the life of me I do not know how Madley did not give Fraser Forster the same treatment at the same time, when he clearly did everything he could to put James Milner off prior to his taking a crucial penalty, which would probably have earned his team three points.
Madley should have shown Forster the yellow card and said to him, “Get back on your line or you are off,” because he was bang out of order. If I’d have been Milner I’d have walked away, but that’s beside the point. I’m not confusing dissent with unsporting behaviour by the way, what I am saying is they should both be dealt with more regularly, with more consistency. Neither am I saying these refs did not do well in other aspects of their performances… but none were a match for Collina, were they!
So when you get players trying to referee the game for you, for me it should always be: out comes the card, “I’m in charge here,” and “next time, you are off”. Players will simply take advantage otherwise, believe me, in every way they possibly can.
Let’s just hope that Slovenian official Damir Skomina, in Stockholm, Anthony Taylor at Wembley this month, and the man in charge of the real showpiece of the lot, in Cardiff on June 3, Germany’s Felix Brych, show the kind of consistency we are looking for in their application of every single one of the Laws.
Until next time you can catch me on the Alan Brazil Sports Breakfast every week day on TalkSPORT, 6-10am.