Hands up for a change of perception

Picture from Daily Mail
Sometimes in Football, the referee just can’t win. With QPR 1-0 up at home and 33 minutes gone, Djibril Cisse reacted angrily to a tackle from Roger Johnson, raising his hand to the neck of the Wolves centre-back.

 

Mark Clattenburg, the unfortunate man in the middle here, had no choice – in reality – but to send the striker off. Calls for common sense to prevail are all well and good but far too simplistic. If the act was construed as violent conduct (and referees are told to see the raising of the hand as such) then Cisse has to go. The referee acted to the letter of the law.
Over the last five to ten years pundits, players and referees have all stated that if a player is naive enough to raise his hands should be sent off.
Like two-footed tackles at the moment, there was no doubt a time when players were repeatedly putting hands on opponent’s faces, so The FA sought to stamp it out. Raising hands has, for a long time now, come under violent conduct, a law that is open to interpretation but one which The FA advise on. Their advice simply seems to be: they raise their hands, they go.
There are problems here, though. A rule that is so rigid is going to prove unworkable and unfair in different situations. How can a commonly-held rule stating a reckless challenge from behind results in a yellow card while a slight grapple in reaction is worthy of a red be right? How can Cisse’s actions be seen as violent yet Johnson’s can’t? It’s hardly a punishment that fits the crime.
Of course, Cisse was quite petulant in reacting; the sending off was certainly avoidable as Cisse had almost two seconds (a relatively long time, if we’re talking about the heat of the moment) to just think and then walk away. No raised hand, no red card, no problem.
But his actions were not difficult to understand. It is hardly surprising that Cisse reacted the way he did given the Frenchman’s torrid injury record. He broke his tibia and fibula in 2004 and broke his leg in 2006. He has missed large chunks of his career (arguably the parts where he would have been at his peak) because of these injuries, so when the lumbering shell of Roger Johnson comes crashing through the back of him, he’s allowed to be a little bit annoyed.
And now, because Clattenburg saw the Johnson foul, there will be no retrospective punishment. This is a bizarre rule which states putting the decision right and bringing a little bit of justice to the world of football undermines the referee. Johnson will be free to play in the next three games, whereas Cisse won’t be able to unless the suspension is overruled – which surely ‘undermines’ the referee anyway? Johnson’s got away with it, while Cisse will not be available for games against Blackburn, Fulham and Everton.
Cisse’s reaction was unnecessary, unprofessional and ever-so-slightly petulant, but it was understandable and it does not merit a more severe punishment than a lunge from behind. The common perception that a raised hand must result in a red card has to change.
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