There is a recurrent problem seen at every football level in England – the referees’ willingness to accommodate physical play rather than actual football.

Law 12 regarding fouls is not applied properly with a constant downgrading of fouls. Red card fouls are given as yellows, yellow card fouls are given as simple fouls and some fouls are simply not given at all.

The laissez-faire refereeing attitude is sadly present at every adult football level.

LONDON, ENGLAND - JANUARY 11: Mathieu Debuchy of Arsenal is challenged by Marko Arnautovic of Stoke City and subsequently picks up an injury during the Barclays Premier League match between Arsenal and Stoke City at Emirates Stadium on January 11, 2015 in London, England. (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)
Not even a foul (Photo by Clive Rose/Getty Images)

This is a race to the bottom and it simply detracts teams from trying to play football, as it is a lot easier to kick the opposition and sometimes if you are lucky injure them (!). Then you hear the excuse: “he/she is not that kind of player”.

At youth football level coaches and educators should teach the kids how to behave, rather than referees having to book and send players off and to be fair the football I see at Girls Center of Excellence is actually free of that physical play allowing players to develop their skills.

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 23: Abou Diaby of Arsenal in action during the Capital One Cup Third Round match between Arsenal and Southampton at the Emirates Stadium on September 23, 2014 in London, England. (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)
A career ruined (Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images)

At the end of the day, football players at any level are sharks, they can smell the blood ie a lenient referee and will do as they please as soon as they see a weak referee.

I can give an example of a FA WSL2 player who has a job like you and me. She has been injured in a game and cannot go to work because the referee lost control of the game. To add insult to her injury, the referee did not even give a free kick for the foul that led to her injury and the FA did not do anything about it despite being advised about the incident.

Another example is a player running across the pitch to punch an opponent in WSL 2 when again, the referee took no action, with the FA again advised and deciding to do nothing.

The same kind of problem happened last Saturday at the game I attended. In the first ten minutes, the referee missed at least five fouls. Players then decided it was a free-for-all and it ended with violent tackles barely being punished. A player actually did not finish the game as she was injured and her team had no subs available.

The injuries to Diaby, Ramsey, Eduardo or Cech (and even Debuchy against Stoke last season) are the result of this permissive referee mentality which is backed by the FA.

BIRMINGHAM, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 27: Eduardo of Arsenal leaves the field injured during the Barclays Premier League match between Aston Villa and Arsenal at Villa Park on January 27, 2010 in Birmingham, England. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)
Destroyed in England (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

 

In many countries breaking somebody’s leg, ankle, or knee would result in an extra suspension as it is deemed unacceptable. Here in England players are likely to get a maximum of a three game ban or, sometimes, only a one-game ban for Abbie Holmes for example.

When players know that they can go at full speed with dangerous one or two footed tackles, and that they are likely to get away scot-free more often than not, sometimes with a yellow card and rarely with a red card, well it is a no-brainer for them.

They can just do it and bear no consequences.

Stoke's English defender Ryan Shawcross walks from the field after being sent off by referee Peter Walton (not pictured) for a challenge on Arsenal's Welsh player Aaron Ramsey (not pictured) during the English Premier League football match between Stoke City and Arsenal at the Britannia Stadium, Stoke-on-Trent, Staffordshire, central midlands, England on February 27, 2010. AFP PHOTO/Paul Ellis
Tree games out v one year AFP PHOTO/Paul Ellis

 

What is a three games ban compared to six months or a year of rehabilitation being on the sidelines and unable to play?

As long as the FA does not act and tell the referees to clean up the game, the English will continue to create more harvesters than technically gifted players.

And guess what? Harvesters do not win you games at international football level.

It’s no wonder, we will celebrate 50 years without a trophy for England men’s senior team next year.

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