EPL: 10 Worst Refereeing Decisions This Season
The Premier League touts itself as being the best in the world.
Media partners like Sky Sports try to ram home that piece of information at every available opportunity, and ex-players who become pundits seem to be on commission to get it into every sentence they utter.
I don't know if the Premier League is the best league in the world, personally. My personal preference would be La Liga, as I think it has the two best teams in the world and a number of other teams that would do well in the Premier League.
If the Premier League wants to be taken seriously with regards to their claim of being the best in the world, then surely it should have the best referees in the world as well. But they don't. Far from it, in fact.
The standard of refereeing in the Premier League borders on abysmal at this stage and seems to get worse by the season. It's not just the referees, either. Their assistants have been dreadful on a number of occasions this season, and they won't get overlooked in this article either.
Here are 10 examples of terrible officiating in the Premier League this season.
Made a Bad Decision, Ref? Balance It out with a Second!
Match: Everton vs Newcastle
Referee: Mike Jones
There are two parts to this, and neither reflect well on the match officials.
First and foremost is Victor Anichebe's header. It's hard to place blame on the referee for that. That's on the lineman, but as I said on the opening slide, they are generally poor in the Premier League, as well.
If the lineman is in position, he sees that the ball has crossed the line and flags for the goal. I don't buy into this nonsense that he is having to look through the goal post, which is the excuse that was made for him. If he was in position, he'd see it.
The referee then makes a calamitous decision, having allowed play to go on. Hatem Ben Arfa picks up the ball and rides a tackle from Pienaar before knocking the ball past the last Everton defender. He is clean-through on goal and has two teammates running in support.
It's a near-certain goal.
Until the referee blows his whistle.
It's likely that Mike Jones didn't allow advantage after Pienaar's poor tackle, because he knew there had been a mistake made at the other end. That's no excuse, though. It is simply poor refereeing.
Peter Crouch Plays Basketball
Match: Stoke vs Manchester City
Referee: Mark Clattenburg
If this wasn't so utterly ridiculous, it would actually be funny. Crouch handled the ball three times, twice on purpose in the scoring of this goal, and yet the officials failed to see it.
It's not like Crouch was even subtle in his actions. His second handball could only have been more obvious if he had caught the ball, put it under his jersey and sidestepped the defender.
Mark Clattenburg had a pretty shocking day, as he quite often does, as he also failed to spot a blatant elbow from Andy Wilkinson on Mario Balotelli.
City and their fans must be sick of the sight of Peter Crouch. Last season, he scored an incredible volley against them, and now this.
Only Foreign Players Dive, Apparently
Match: Manchester United vs Wigan
Referee: Michael Oliver
Ask a British manager about diving in football, and they will almost certainly tell you that it's something foreign players do. Well, unless Longsight in Manchester is some sort of sovereign state outside of UK control, that clearly isn't true.
Last season, Ashley Young did his bit for English divers in the buildup to Tom Daley's efforts at the Olympics, and now teammate Danny Welbeck has taken on the mantel. This wasn't out of character for the United front man either, as only days earlier he had flung himself to the ground without contact while playing for England.
Referee Michael Oliver has no excuse with this one; he had the perfect view, an unobstructed view of the incident. It is just a terrible piece of refereeing.
How to Spoil the Biggest Match in English Football
Match: Liverpool vs Manchester United
Referee: Mark Halsey
This might be the worst refereeing performance I've ever seen.
From the very start of this match, Mark Halsey was not in control, and with the exception of one incident, he got all the big decisions in this match wrong.
Daniel Agger was hauled down in the box. A blatant penalty. Nothing given.
Jonjo Shelvey hacks down Rafael. No card given. This was a key incident. It was a very poor tackle and deserved a yellow card. Had Halsey given a yellow card, like any official worth their salt would have, then the next incident likely never happens.
Shelvey and Jonny Evans both jump into a committed tackle. Shelvey left his left but went in one-footed and ultimately got the ball. His follow-through caught Evans, who then rolled around on the ground. Evans, for his part had jumped into the tackle in a two-footed manner.
Shelvey was shown a red card after some delay, while Evans received no punishment. An utterly ridiculous decision that spoiled what had been a great game until that point. Shelvey's tackle was full-blooded, and while it was slightly reckless, the facts are that he went in one-footed and won the ball.
Evans went in two-footed in a similar manner to that, which earned Vincent Kompany a red card against Manchester United last season.
It's either a yellow card for both, a red card for both or a stern talking-to for both. To give one a red card and the other nothing is just terrible refereeing.
Halsey didn't improve, and in the second half he continued getting things wrong.
He did get the Manchester United penalty decision right. There was contact on Antonio Valencia, and while it was minimal and the player did make the most of it, there was contact.
However, Luis Suarez was clearly tripped in the penalty area by Jonny Evans, and nothing was given. Robin Van Persie launched himself into a tackle on Suso which was at best one-footed and dangerous, at worst two-footed and reckless and was shown only a yellow card.
While I don't think Van Persie's was worthy of a red card, based on the decision to red card Shelvey, we should have seen Van Persie leave the field.
These were just some of the decisions that Halsey got wrong on the day, and when Gary Neville comes out after the game and say that Liverpool were robbed, against the club he lives and breaths, you know something was amiss.
How Are You Still Allowed to Have a Whistle and Cards?
Richard Heathcote/Getty Images
Match: Fulham vs Manchester City
Referee: Mark Halsey
Following his abysmal performance the week before, when he took charge of Liverpool-United, most observers expected Mark Halsey to find himself refereeing League One matches for a couple of weeks.
Somehow, he was handed control of another Premier League match between Fulham and Manchester City.
His performance was actually an improvement on the week before, but still ranged somewhere between poor and dreadful.
He gave John Arne Riise a penalty for absolutely nothing, and then denied Manchester City a clear penalty.
If a person wanted to start a small conspiracy, they might point at a certain timeline of events involving Mark Halsey.
These begin with him sitting at the same table as Alex Ferguson during a dinner function a couple of days before United took on Liverpool. And then making "poor" decisions against United's biggest title-rivals the following week.
I wouldn't do that though.
Highlights of this match can be found here.
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images
Match: Spurs vs Norwich
Referee: Mark Halsey
Just so nobody thinks I'm trying to say Mark Halsey is a referee who only gives decisions that may benefit a certain team, here he is having another stinker.
This should have been a relatively easy game for even the most inept of officials. There were very few tough decisions to make, only two in fact.
Halsey managed to get both wrong, as is his way.
First he denied Norwich a stonewall penalty when Benoit Assou-Ekotto attempt to steal Anthony Pilkington's jersey from him in the Spurs penalty area. Both referee and linesman had a great view of this, but Halsey waved away the Norwich appeals.
Later in the game, he appeared to attempt to balance things out when he dismissed Tom Huddlestone for a strong tackle that, at worst, was worthy of a yellow card.
The red card was rescinded by the FA, but Halsey was not questioned over his poor decisions.
Perhaps Mark Halsey has decided that tackling should no longer be part of football, and that anyone who does tackle will meet his red card. Who knows? What we do know is that Mark Halsey should not be refereeing Premier League football matches.
Highlights of this match can be found here.
It Doesn't Happen Often, but It Does Happen
Match: Manchester United vs Spurs
Referee: Chris Foy
Chris Foy actually had a good game on this occasion, but he did make one very poor decision. In the first half, Nani was hauled down in the Spurs penalty area. It wasn't even a subtle foul. It appeared that a game of schoolyard leap-frog was being attempted, as the United winger was felled in the box.
Unfortunately, I can't find footage of the incident in question, but I have provided a video of Alex Ferguson complaining about the lack of stoppage time. Chris Foy played four minutes. How long did Fergie want?
The irony of Ferguson complaining about a lack of stoppage time will not be lost on most people.
Oddly, Chris Foy found himself demoted to League Two after this game, despite a good performance.
Surely, Ferguson's complaints had nothing to do with that?
Howard Webb Plays a Toon
Match: Newcastle vs Manchester United
Referee: Howard Webb
There were three major incidents in this match on which Howard Webb had to make decisions. He got them all wrong, and all three went against Newcastle United. In fairness to Webb, the second one was his linesman's fault.
This is a goal. The ball is across the line before David De Gea gets his hand to it, and it's a goal. It's a tougher decision than the goal in the Everton-Newcastle game, because the ball is just over the line rather than a foot over the line, but it's still a goal. And if the linesman had been in position, he'd have seen it.
He failed to award a penalty to Toon after Papiss Cisse had his shirt blatantly pulled in the penalty area. The incident took place for so long that Cisse stood appealing to Webb while it was taking place, but no action was taken. Unfortunately, this incident isn't in the video above.
And then to top off his afternoon's work, Howard Webb claims to have seen this incident and not deemed it worthy of further action. Robin Van Persie has blatantly elbowed Yohan Cabaye in the side of the head, and has been allowed to stay on the field. It's a disgraceful decision, but one typical of Webb.
This isn't the first time a Premier League player has gotten away with a violent elbow on an opposing player. Surely, if referees claim to have seen these incidents and they haven't shown an immediate red card, they shouldn't be involved in the game.
It's Those Damn Foreign Players, I Tell You!
Match: Spurs vs Aston Villa
Referee: Neil Swarbrick
It's a thing of beauty isn't it? A fine attempt by Gareth Bale to avoid injury. Or a dive.
Actually, just a dive.
Bale has a knack for this sort of thing. In fact, he has a real talent for this sort of thing. He almost can't help himself. Without question or much competition, Gareth Bale is the Premier League's most frequent diver.
Thankfully, he didn't get a free kick for his ridiculous swan dive against Aston Villa, but the poor refereeing decision is that he wasn't punished for it. The linesman is standing five yards away, and the referee had a good view of it, as well.
Bale clearly attempted to not only win a free kick, but that free kick would have seen Villa keeper Brad Guzan sent off.
Why was Bale not yellow-carded? A shameful cop-out by the officials.
The Luis Suarez Agenda
2 September, 2012. Liverpool vs Arsenal. Per Mertesacker drags Suarez down in the penalty area. No penalty given.
15 September, 2012. Sunderland vs Arsenal. John O'Shea trips Suarez in the penalty area. No penalty given. Luis Suarez booked.
23 September, 2012. Liverpool vs Manchester United. Jonny Evans trips Suarez in the penalty area. No penalty given.
29 September, 2012. Norwich vs Liverpool. Leon Barnett bundles, trips and elbow-smashes Suarez in the penalty area. No penalty given.
7 October, 2012. Liverpool vs Stoke. Robert Huth stamps on Suarez. Escapes punishment on the day and retrospective ban, after Lee Mason claims to have seen the decision.
Four stonewall penalties and a stamping incident. They should have resulted in at least three red cards for the offenders. All escaped punishment, while Suarez picked up a yellow card for simulation.
These are simply five examples of the refereeing agenda that is being against Luis Suarez this season. There are others. There have been numerous times where Suarez has been viciously fouled, and while he has won a free kick, the offender has escaped further punishment.
Suarez is no angel. Let that be clear. He exaggerates contact and often goes down theatrically. The way he goes down should not be the issue, though. The contact that brought him down should be the issue.
You'll hear many people claim that Suarez's reputation proceeds him. It's a pathetic excuse.
Suarez's reputation is one built on managers like Tony Pulis making ridiculous after-match claims about his diving. Suarez rarely goes down without contact. He's different to Gareth Bale in that respect.
He does go down too easily, though, and he needs to cut that out of his game.
At the same time, referees need to get a grip on themselves and offer one of the Premier League's best players the same protection they afford to others.
And people like Tony Pulis need to keep their mouths closed.
For Pulis to come out and condemn Suarez after the game is one of the most hypocritical things I've heard from a manager. Pulis applauded Peter Crouch for cheating against Manchester City, and then called for Suarez to be banned for his dive.
This is the same Tony Pulis who demanded retrospective punishment for David Luiz after a bad tackle when Stoke played Chelsea, yet kept quiet when asked about Huth's blatant stamp on Suarez.
I should point out that the last bad refereeing decision with regards to Suarez is one that went in his favour.
He did dive against Stoke, in a comical fashion, but did not receive a yellow card. That summed up Lee Mason's performance on the day: he was absolutely dreadful.
That was Suarez's first outright dive of the season. He might have exaggerated other tackles, but that was the first time he simply threw himself to the ground without contact. Regardless of what certain people may tell you, it's not a regular occurrence.
Given what he's been subjected to this season, one dive should not blur the facts. There is an agenda against Suarez, and it needs to be looked into by the EPL.