‘Un­lucky’ Fer­nando pays for rep­u­ta­tion

The Football League Paper - - CHRIS DUNLAVY -

IN 2002, a cadre of 38 English ref­er­ees took part in an ex­per­i­ment that Sh­effield Wed­nes­day’s Fer­nando Forestieri may wish to study dur­ing his fort­night on the sofa. Split into two groups, the of­fi­cials were pre­sented with 50 video clips of two teams chal­leng­ing for the ball, then asked what ac­tion they would take.

Given that both teams hailed from Ar­gentina, nei­ther group pos­sessed any prior knowl­edge of the play­ers in­volved.

Both groups were fur­nished with an in­for­ma­tion pack about both sides, iden­ti­cal in all but one key as­pect: Group A were told that Boca Ju­niors (the blue team) had a rep­u­ta­tion for foul and ag­gres­sive play.

You can guess what tran­spired. When the re­sults were tal­lied, both groups gave the same num­ber of de­ci­sions against Boca. But when it came to red and yel­low cards, Group A doled out al­most 50 per cent more.

Rep­u­ta­tion mat­ters. It’s a les­son Forestieri found out the hard way when he was sent off for sim­u­la­tion last week­end.

Hull skip­per Michael Daw­son ploughed straight into Forestieri’s right leg, even hold­ing his hands up in pen­i­tent ad­mis­sion.

But, like the Ter­mi­na­tor spy­ing Sarah Con­nor, ref Tim Robin­son marched straight to the prone Forestieri and bran­dished a se­cond yel­low – the se­cond time in as many games that the Ar­gen­tine has been du­bi­ously dis­missed for play-act­ing. He will now miss two matches.

Wed­nes­day fans are apoplec­tic at the loss of their top scorer and, in one sense at least, their rage is jus­ti­fied.

Namely, that the rule stip­u­lat­ing only straight red cards can be ap­pealed is non­sense. A red card is a red card no mat­ter how the ref­eree ar­rived at his de­ci­sion. A ban is still a ban.

Why should one player get a se­cond chance while an­other gets a shrug of the shoul­ders? It isn’t fair – and fair­ness is the bedrock of any sport­ing com­pe­ti­tion.

Of course, no­body wants to see ev­ery red card ap­pealed. That would be a night­mare. But an ex­tra game ban for ev­ery up­held de­ci­sion should be enough to de­ter the chancers.


Still, while I agree that Forestieri should be ex­on­er­ated, I strug­gle to sym­pa­thise with those cas­ti­gat­ing Robin­son for leap­ing to judge­ment.

Yes, he made a mis­take. But let’s not pre­tend Forestieri is a paragon of virtue. Even the most ar­dent Wed­nes­day fan must ad­mit that the striker is prone to the odd triple salko or thes­pian tum­ble.

Just ask Wolves’ Bakary Sako, dis­missed last sea­son af­ter Forestieri col­lapsed clutch­ing his face for no rea­son what­so­ever.

Is Forestieri the only diver around? No. And it doesn’t make what hap­pened last week­end right. But it does make Robin­son’s re­ac­tion un­der­stand­able.

Ref­er­ees talk. They watch videos. Howard Webb spent be­tween five and seven days be­fore ev­ery match study­ing the tricks and traits of the play­ers he’d be tasked with con­trol­ling.

Rep­u­ta­tion mat­ters. And ev­ery­body – you, me, ref­er­ees – will fall back on pre­con­cep­tions or rules of thumb when mak­ing split se­cond or dif­fi­cult de­ci­sions. It’s hu­man na­ture.

Think about it. If a pink-shirted, bryl­creemed es­tate agent tells you his mort­gage bro­ker is the best in the busi­ness, do you sign on the dot­ted line right there and then? No way. You don’t know the guy from Adam but you do know es­tate agents are un­trust­wor­thy. Is this prej­u­diced? Yes, but most peo­ple would call it wise. Robin­son was mak­ing a sim­i­lar judge­ment call.

Of course, if video tech­nol­ogy could be in­voked to help ref­er­ees, the prob­lem of split-se­cond de­ci­sions would be elim­i­nated. Rep­u­ta­tions would cease to mat­ter.

Right now, pre­con­cep­tions are here to stay, and the moral of the story is as old as Ae­sop. If you don’t want a rep­u­ta­tion, don’t cheat in the first place. Oth­er­wise, you have no right to whinge about the in­evitable con­se­quences.

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