The Penalty That Never Was

Brian RhodesSenior Analyst IJanuary 1, 2009

The match between Hull City and Aston Villa has raised a startling problem for the Premier League. During the match the referee Steve Bennett awarded an injury time penalty to Hull City for a handball by Aston Villa’s Ashley Young.

The Aston Villa players, as most footballers do, crowded the officials pleading for them to rethink their decision. After consultation with his assistant, Mr. Bennett overturned his earlier decision and awarded a goal kick to Aston Villa.

The controversy arises because the referee’s assistant was witnessed in conversation with an outside source prior to his conversation with Steve Bennett. This conversation was even witnessed by the Aston Villa Captain Gareth Barry who said;

“So I went over and said, ‘Look, it’s hit the bar, it’s nowhere near his hands, what’s going on?’ They were making conversation but in the end, whoever he was listening to, they’ve made the right decision.”

Now, this is a real problem because under the rules of the Premier League the only person allowed to talk to the officials on the field is the fourth official and then only in issues arising from violent conducts. So, who was in conversation with the Referee’s Assistant? And what was said?

Hull City’s manager Phil Brown as gone on record stating that former referee Jeff Winter saw the Referee’s Assistant taking up a position that would indicate that the Referee’s Assistant initially agreed with the ruling on the field that it was indeed a penalty to Hull City.

The main issue involved in this is, who else has access to the intercom, and what sort of precedent does this set for football in general. Obviously, the right outcome was reached because on the video replay the ball clearly doesn’t hit Young’s hand but hits the cross bar. However, as there is not supposed to be any pitch side video replay evidence during the game who was giving the information to the officials on the field?