Is football’s double punishment too harsh?
Brett Emerton celebrates with Sydney FC teammates (Image: Supplied)
Football has one rule which is in need of an overhaul, where the penalty far outweighs the crime.
The double blow of a red card and a penalty for last man challenges, regardless of their severity, is something that needs to be reviewed, and Sunday’s match between Sydney FC and Perth Glory provided a perfect case study as to why.
Perth were a team in control of the match for an hour, then one fairly innocuous incident cost them both a player and, essentially, a goal, changing the entire complexion of the match.
There is no disputing that as the rule stands, it was a red card to Steve Pantelidis.
But it was the kind of challenge that, if it had happened elsewhere on the field, would have been a free kick at best, probably not even a yellow card.
Brett Emerton was in a good position, but was by no means a certainty to score. That does beg the question as to why Pantelidis chose to put his arm across the Sydney player’s body, but it was something so simple, with no harm caused to the opposing player, that completely changed the match.
How do you change the rule to make it fairer? If the last man incident happens inside the box, give a penalty and a yellow card. The penalty is punishment enough for the defending team, and the yellow card a personal punishment for the player.
If the incident occurs outside the box, where it will only be a free kick with a far reduced chance of scoring, then the referee should still issue a red card to prevent this change to the rule being abused by cynical play.
If the challenge in question was worthy of a red card, regardless of its status as a last man challenge, then the referee’s interpretation should be different.
Yes, I am a Perth Glory supporter – but this is an issue affecting football worldwide. The Pantelidis incident is one that I believe makes this rule topical, but it is by no means the only time such a scenario has happened in the world.
This piece is not meant as a discussion on Pantelidis’ challenge as a particular isolated incident, or the relative merits of Sydney or Perth to winning that particular match.
It is an overriding and broader issue which, in this instance, robbed the fans of a chance to see a match reach the natural conclusion it would have over 90 minutes of battle, rather than five seconds of technicality.