The Chelsea game on Saturday was another typical example of a referee bottling a decision.

You have to ask – why do they regularly fail to apply law 12?

Is Martin Atkinson responsible for the Arsenal players not playing well and not being clinical in front of the goal? Of course not! But he is responsible for validating a goal instead of applying Law 12.

There is HUGE difference being 1-0 down with a player concussed and substituted and being 0-0 and playing with your first-choice eleven against ten men for 75 minutes.

So let’s have a look at Law 12 and how it applies for the “foul” from Alonso on Bellerin.

Law 12

Considering Alonso elbows Bellerin in the face as per the video below, it was a shocking decision by Martin Atkinson that totally changed the game:

I have highlighted in red what part of the Law Martin Atkinson should have applied.

First he should have given a free-kick to the Arsenal and then a red card to Alonso.

“1. Direct free kick
A direct free kick is awarded if a player commits any of the following offences
against an opponent in a manner considered by the referee to be careless,
reckless or using excessive force:
• charges
• jumps at
• kicks or attempts to kick
• pushes
• strikes or attempts to strike (including head-butt)
• tackles or challenges
• trips or attempts to trip

If an offence involves contact it is penalised by a direct free kick or penalty
• Careless is when a player shows a lack of attention or consideration when
making a challenge or acts without precaution. No disciplinary sanction is
• Reckless is when a player acts with disregard to the danger to, or
consequences for, an opponent and must be cautioned
• Using excessive force is when a player exceeds the necessary use of force and
endangers the safety of an opponent and must be sent off

Playing in a dangerous manner
Playing in a dangerous manner is any action that, while trying to play the
ball, threatens injure to someone (including the player themselves) and includes
preventing a nearby opponent from playing the ball for fear of injury.

Sending-off offences
A player, substitute or substituted player who commits any of the following
offences is sent off:

• denying the opposing team a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity by
deliberately handling the ball (except a goalkeeper within their penalty area)
• denying an obvious goal-scoring opportunity to an opponent moving
towards the opponents’ goal by an offence punishable by a free kick (unless
as outlined below)
• serious foul play
• spitting at an opponent or any other person
• violent conduct
• using offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures
• receiving a second caution in the same match
A player, substitute or substituted player who has been sent off must leave the
vicinity of the field of play and the technical area.

Serious foul play
A tackle or challenge that endangers the safety of an opponent or uses
excessive force or brutality must be sanctioned as serious foul play.
Any player who lunges at an opponent in challenging for the ball from the
front, from the side or from behind using one or both legs, with excessive force
or endangers the safety of an opponent is guilty of serious foul play.

Bellerin was clearly concussed, which is a serious injury as we all know with protocols to follow before going back on the pitch.

So we are clearly on the ‘endangering the safety of the opponent’ pathway. The red card should have been produced instantaneously.

So, a big error by Martin Atkinson and his assistants and it certainly damaged Arsenal’s chances.

Considering he did not take any action on the foul, there is a genuine retrospective case for the FA to charge Alonso and ban him for a few games as well. But, I would not count on it despite, it being as clear as crystal and there for all to see the media are existing in Trump land when it comes to this.

This also shows that the Premier league need to introduce the Video Assistant Referees ASAP.

In a case like this, where Bellerin is being treated and play is stopped, it is not even time-wasting to see the video proof:  the elbowing in the face – then tell Atkinson it was a serious foul play, award a free-kick to Arsenal, and a red card Alonso.

It would have been a completely different game with the VAR.

Coming back to my original question, I think PGMOL is setting low standards for the Premier League referees and actually tell them not to apply the Law 12 properly. It is quite obvious that they are very consistent at not giving yellow and red cards, as per the rules, so it must come from the people above them. Even Antonio Conte said this sort of challenge is perfectly legal in England. It isn’t.

It also has to be said that you see exactly the same problem at lower levels so referee training has to be questioned at every level.

The saddest thing is no one really questions, or is allowed to question, why referees perform so poorly in general and hence they can get away with it.