Wav­ing play on will put an end to act­ing

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - FOOTBALL -

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.

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