Saturday, October 9, 2010

'Reckless Endangerment'

Also posted at (

Nigel de Jong on Hatem ben Arfa and Karl Henry on Jordi Gomez represent only the latest in what is a growing trend of utterly callous tackles in the Barclays Premier League. Worrying as it may be, the Premier League’s attitude towards such challenges hasn’t seen much of a shift. Football is no doubt a contact sport and the element of physicality mustn’t be stripped out of the game, but there is a line that should be drawn somewhere, that separates the acceptable from the condemnable.

The Guardian’s Richard Williams suggests a new regulation – ‘reckless endangerment’ as he calls it, which would be an ‘equivalent to the law against driving without care and attention, rigorously punished by dismissal to ensure offenders get the point’. Very often, we see footballers gesticulate to form their hands into the shape of the ball, as if to suggest that they made contact with the ball while tackling, or that they were seeking to get the ball, and therefore, that they shouldn’t be punished. This, Williams seeks to propose should not be a factor in determining the gravity of an offence. Regardless of whether the tackler intended to go for the ball or whether the tackler actually made contact with the ball, the referee must judge whether the tackler had taken due care and attention in ensuring that the opponent will not be periled.

De Jong, startlingly, wasn’t even accorded a yellow card for his tackle on ben Arfa. Surprisingly, in a career in which he could have received half a dozen red cards in the World Cup final alone, de Jong has only been dismissed once – in a UEFA cup match between Hamburg and Rapid Bucaresti. Bert van Marvijk – the Netherlands’ manager – thought the tackle on ben Arfa to be harsh enough to drop de Jong from the Dutch squad for the country’s Euro 2012 qualifiers against Moldova and Sweden. Cynics, however, say that the action should have come much earlier and dropping de Jong for games against minnows, Moldova and a struggling Swedish side is likely to be of little consequence. That said: should it have been left to van Marvijk to take action, while the Premier League and the PFA let the incident run unpunished?

In the space of a few months, de Jong has broken both Bolton’s Stuart Holden’s and ben Arfa’s leg, while putting under threat nearly every opponent he came up against at the World Cup finals. Yet, Brian Kidd, Manchester City's Assistant Manager claims, ‘De Jong is not that kind of player’. Then, I wonder, what kind of a player he is? I am not suggesting that the Dutchman is the only one of an ilk, but, that inaction from authorities and referees alike is contributing to a growing recklessness amongst modern-day footballers.

The Premier League’s failure to act upon careless challenges even on the basis of concrete video evidence is only fuelling this mounting trend. Although, a referee may have seen a concerned incident, it may at times be difficult for the official to gauge the recklessness of the tackle, instantaneously. The authorities must therefore, step in under such circumstances to penalise the tackler with a ban and a fine, if need be, that will act as a strong deterrent. It makes little sense to let incidents pass unpunished on the basis of the referee having viewed the incident, and decided against taking penal action. Moreover, intention as Williams ever so rightly points out, is often tough to determine. The authorities must, hence, act on the basis of the recklessness of the tackle, regardless of the presence of an intention to injure, and accordingly determine the punishment.


Ghanshyam Nair said...

Yup, English football has long tolerated reckless players.
Martin Samuel wrote about the issue too, after the Eduardo injury, and he wanted referees to be much stricter, and not 'let the game flow' so much.
It would be interesting to compare the frequencies of broken legs suffered during matches in the EPL against the rest of Europe's big leagues. I wager that there would be a significant difference, stemming from referees being way more lenient in the Premier League.
I've enjoyed your last few posts a lot - keep them coming!

Suhrith said...

Thanks a lot Karthik. Ya and I think the referees' leniency also tends to cost English clubs in Europe. The same kind of tackling is almost never tolerated.

Suhrith said...

David Winner has written on the same subject in today's Times, but its sadly protected by the Pay-wall. Would have been interesting to read his thoughts.