Howard Webb at the Centre of Attention Again in Denying Luis Suarez a Penalty

Matt Ladson@mattladsonFeatured ColumnistFebruary 16, 2014

Liverpool's Luis Suarez, right, is tackled by Arsenal's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain during their English FA Cup fifth round soccer match at Emirates Stadium in London, Sunday, Feb. 16, 2014. (AP Photo/Sang Tan)
Sang Tan/Associated Press

Howard Webb, the referee who will represent England at this summer's World Cup—just as he did in 2010 when he failed to send off Nigel De Jong for kung-fu kicking Xabi Alonso in the chest in the final—was once again the centre of attention in the aftermath of Liverpool's defeat to Arsenal.

The former police sergeant denied Luis Suarez a clear penalty for the second successive Liverpool match he's officiated—the last being in the defeat at Chelsea two months ago.

On that day, Webb denied Suarez despite being Suarez clearly fouled by Samuel Eto'o, while at the Emirates in the FA Cup fifth round, Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain was the clearly guilty party.

On both occasions the supposed best referee in the Premier League had a clear view of the incident, yet still got each decision wrong.

In his post-match interview for BT Sport, Liverpool boss Brendan Rodger called it a "strange decision". The Northern Irishman putting it mildly to say the least.

Jack Wilson at the Daily Star called it a "shocker" and "an afternoon to forget for the whistle blower."


The foul on Suarez and the refusal to send off Steven Gerrard were two of the worst decisions of the season. Howard Webb, World Cup referee.

— John Brewin (@JohnBrewinESPN) February 16, 2014

LONDON, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 16:  Referee Howard Webb during the FA Cup fifth round match between Arsenal and Liverpool at Emirates Stadium on February 16, 2014 in London, England.  (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Shaun Botterill/Getty Images

Don't get it wrong—Liverpool were wasteful and had chances to win the game even without the potential second penalty. And yes, it's not guaranteed that the penalty would have been converted—although with Steven Gerrard in his current form you certainly wouldn't bet against it—but Liverpool at least deserved the opportunity. They did earn it.

Oxlade-Chamberlain did foul Suarez, even the young Englishman knew it. Anybody watching knew it. The contact was clear, it was inside the box. Regardless of whether you think Suarez's reaction was overly dramatic, the penalty should still have been awarded.


Liverpool denied stonewall penalty amid an appalling refereeing display by Howard Webb. Good luck, World Cup.

— John Cross (@johncrossmirror) February 16, 2014


Webb was similarly criticised by the home supporters for his failure to send off Steven Gerrard for a potential second yellow card, with all sides of The Emirates expressing their anger at his decisions, or lack of them.

Once again, Howard Webb was the centre of attention, just as he so often is.

Kirsty Wigglesworth/Associated Press

Yet he, and all referees, continue to be completely unaccountable. Not even asked to explain their decisions via the media post-match—surely the minimum requirement when people are paying hundreds of pounds to watch a match that they are officiating, and being handsomely paid to do so.

Ultimately, it's a failure of the game, not just Webb, and not specific to Liverpool. It's about time referees were at the least asked to explain their decisions rather than being absolved of their responsibility to apply the rules of the game.