EPL: Red for referees

EPL: Red for referees
Referee Roger East mistakenly sends off Wes Brown.

Outrageous tackles unpunished. Clear penalties not awarded. Wrong man sent off.

English Premier League referees found themselves in the spotlight in recent weeks, but for all the wrong reasons.

Sure, the men in black don't have it easy, what with the speed of the game these days and the footballing body's refusal to use instant replays to help them with decisions.

But that's no excuse for some of the appalling calls they have made recently (see report on the right).

And the criticism has been scathing and some may say, justified.

Photos of Stephen Ireland's nasty gash on the leg, sustained in Stoke's 1-0 home win over Hull City last Saturday, has been doing the rounds.

Just minutes before his injury, his poor foul on David Meyler went unpunished by referee Neil Swarbrick.

In what looked like an act of revenge, Meyler's Hull teammate Maynor Figueroa later raked his studs down Ireland's calf - an injury which required 10 stitches. Figueroa wasn't even booked.

Former Premiership official Mark Halsey said: "We saw another case of a referee losing his concentration in Stoke City's win over Hull City on Saturday as Neil Swarbrick missed the nasty challenge by Maynor Figueroa on Stephen Ireland which left the midfielder needing 10 stitches."

The match between Manchester United and Sunderland on the same day provided more fodder for brickbats.

United striker Radamel Falcao earned the penalty that eventually led to his side's opening goal.

But referee Roger East sent off Wes Brown instead of the perpetrator John O'Shea.

Singapore's former Fifa referee Francis Lee feels that assistant referees should be doing more during games.

He said: "The referee made a serious blunder sending off Brown instead of O'Shea.

"If the assistant knows that the referee has made an error, he must intervene immediately using his beep or even enter the field before the start of the whistle."

Another high-profile incident took place at Stamford Bridge, where Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho has been claiming that there is a campaign against his team.

Nemanja Matic's dismissal in the 1-1 draw against Burnley on Feb 21 certainly earned the Portuguese some sympathy points.

Matic's retaliation on Burnley striker Ashley Barnes might have been excessive. But what about Barnes' horror tackle which provoked the reaction in the first place?

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Former referees' chief Keith Hackett described Martin Atkinson's outing as arguably the worst refereeing performance in Premier League history.

Speaking on the Alan Brazil Sports Breakfast, he said: "Mourinho was correct. Atkinson got four major decisions in that game wrong and of course the major one was Barnes and that horrendous challenge (on Matic). That is what referees are getting paid for, that's what a professional referee should be able to detect and punish.

"I can't recall such a bad performance."

When Liverpool beat Southampton 2-0 away last month, the Saints also cried foul over what they felt were legitimate penalties denied to them by referee Kevin Friend. However, the Reds had grounds to feel the same way too. In his column in the Daily Mail, ex-World Cup official Graham Poll wrote that there were two clear penalty incidents - one for each team.

He said: "(Filip Djuricic) should have had a penalty when he was brought down by Joe Allen with the home side trailing 1-0.

"Liverpool should have had a penalty of their own just after the half-hour mark when Jose Fonte clearly slid through Raheem Sterling after clipping the ball."

While Lee argued that it is the referees' job to get their decisions right, he also said that the officials are still human after all.

Recalling Diego Costa's stamp on Liverpool's Emre Can about a month ago, he said that it was unacceptable that the Chelsea striker was not sent off on the spot.

But he also added: "We must remember also that the referees don't have the luxury of instant replays.

"So, they will make mistakes, unless the day comes when we have three referees sitting in front of a TV, making decisions off the screen."

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