Waving play on will put an end to acting
THE FA is right to act on the vexed issue of whether play should continue with a player injured.
The FA’s clear edict this week in the light of the Patrice Evra incident in the Chelsea v Manchester United Community Shield match at Wembley last weekend should end the nonsense once and for all.
We’ve had former West Ham and Charlton player Paulo di Canio picking up the ball and refusing to tap it into an open goal because a goalkeeper was injured.
Since those days, countless players have knocked the ball out of play as some mortally injured opponent writhed around the field in apparent agony.
Then, last weekend, as Evra lay ‘distressed’ on the turf after being obstructed by Michael Ballack, Chelsea played on and Frank Lampard scored.
That unleashed a furious tirade of protest from the United players and, predictably, their manager, Sir Alex Ferguson.
Yet where in the rules does it say, play must be stopped the moment a player stays down on the ground injured?
Players are not medical experts, they cannot assess a player’s injury simply by looking at him as they run past.
Even more difficult, they cannot know whether the player is kidding or not. A first glance at Evra would have suggested he’d be lucky ever to walk again in his life such was the drama of his fall and subsequent reaction.
Yet lo and behold, when he saw he wasn’t going to profit from auditioning for a part in the next Harrison Ford film, the Frenchman jumped to his feet and ran back to join the play.
Alex Ferguson can complain all he wants but it is cheating of this nature – yes, even from United players, Alex – that has caused chaos in this aspect of the game.
It was time the FA acted to clear up the mess and now they’ve done so. The message from them this week has been ‘play to the whistle’.
Referees are out there to officiate and run the game; it must be their judgement, their decision as to whether play is stopped.
No-one but the referee should be making these decisions; it’s what he is paid for and his opinion is the only one that counts.
But perhaps the FA ought to issue another edict, a private one to their match officials. Unless you can clearly see a player is severely injured, let play continue. Don’t blow your whistle at the first moment, see what happens.
For I am willing to bet that a great many of these so-called ‘injured’ players will be back on their feet within seconds if they realise the opposition has the ball and might score partly because they are not back there in defence, and the game is not going to be stopped.
The play acting that has gone on has got to stop. Now, referees have a chance to stamp out a great deal of it.