Pay the penalty

Where in the laws of the game does it stipulate that an offence committed in the penalty area should be viewed more leniently that one elsewhere on the pitch? There isn’t such a law, at least not written down, yet referees appear to have been abiding by it for some years.

Take the notorious case of Tom Henning Ovrebo’s handling of 2009’s Chelsea v Barcelona game. Game-changing? That’s probably why he didn’t give the ‘right’ decisions. He had a look, thought about the ‘consequences’ and waved play on. I was reminded of this while watching Swansea v Forest the other night. Now Forest are my team, so I am allowed a jaundiced view, and although quick to acknowledge that Swansea played the prettier football, for the referee on the night to ignore so many obvious penalty area offences – for both sides – smacks of  ‘consequences’.

I had this conversation with former Premier League referee Peter Jones – on the eve of his handling of a key Man Utd match – about official’s ‘bottling it’ when it comes to penalty area decisions, because they take into account the ‘consequences’ of punishing the offence. “Rubbish” he retorted, “we give it as we see it, no matter whereabouts on the pitch..”

The evidence of my eyes says not. An offence committed in the penalty area – no matter how trivial – should be punished with a penalty kick. It’s in the laws of the game. And sod the consequences!

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