There seems to be a lot of confusion around the law in the Premier League and that’s making David Luiz’s red card even more ridiculous.

Why Arsenal's red card appeal was denied Arsenal's Brazilian defender David Luiz waits for a red card decision during the English Premier League football match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Arsenal at the Molineux stadium in Wolverhampton, central England on February 2, 2021. (Photo by Shaun Botterill / POOL / AFP)
Arsenal’s Brazilian defender David Luiz waits for a red card decision during the English Premier League football match between Wolverhampton Wanderers and Arsenal at the Molineux stadium in Wolverhampton, central England on February 2, 2021. (Photo by Shaun Botterill / POOL / AFP)

In 2016, it was reported that the FA were doing away with the double jeopardy part of ‘denying a goalscoring opportunity’ if contact was accidental.

The BBC reported it thusly on 14 April, 2016:

Players who commit a foul to deny a goalscoring opportunity will no longer automatically be sent off, football’s rule-making body has confirmed.

The previous ‘triple-punishment’ rule required a red card – and therefore a suspension – as well as the award of a penalty under those circumstances.

However, players committing accidental fouls that deny a goalscoring chance will now be cautioned instead.

But deliberate fouls will still incur a red card.

Many assumed, including numerous journalists (and myself) that this meant if contact was accidental, it would also be covered by this rule.

It is not and therein lies all the confusion of the past few days.

A key phrase was left out of the reporting after the word ‘accidental’ which changes everything – when going for the ball.

In other words, this confusion has all come about because of bad writing.

The actual law does not even mention the world ‘accidental’ or any variation:

Where a player commits an offence against an opponent within their own penalty area which denies an opponent an obvious goal-scoring opportunity and the referee awards a penalty kick, the offending player is cautioned if the offence was an attempt to play the ball; in all other circumstances (e.g. holding, pulling, pushing, no possibility to play the ball etc.) the offending player must be sent off.

Had it been initially reported as ‘if a player commits a foul when making a genuine challenge for the ball’ things would have been much clearer.

Why Arsenal’s red card appeal was denied

Against Wolves on Tuesday night, David Luiz made the most minimal, and absolutely accidental, of contact with his opponent. In truth, what contact there was was instigated by the Wolves player but that doesn’t seem to matter at all. He wasn’t trying to go for the ball, so it’s a red card. Accidental or not does not matter unless he was making a challenge.

It’s ridiculous, but it’s true. Luiz could technically be lying, unconscious in the penalty box and if an opposition player tripped over him, the rules, as they stand, mean he should be sent off.

Against Chelsea last season, David Luiz was sent off for the same sort of challenge that Southampton’s Bednarek made against Manchester United. On Thursday, the panel determined that Bednarek should only have been booked and overturned his red card. Of course, they did not do that with Luiz’s red card last season, although I don’t remember Arsenal appealing.

Nor did the panel do it this season because Luiz did not make an attempt to play the ball.

It’s farcical. I may have mentioned that.

While this is all factually true, it is like saying ‘Today, I did not buy Google’. Both statements are factually correct but both indicate something neither person even wanted to do in the first place.

So, that’s Luiz, sent off by the same rule for both trying to play the ball and for not trying to play the ball.

If the FA could let him know what he is actually allowed to do to be treated like others in the league before he returns from his latest suspension, I’m sure he’d appreciate that.

I know I would.

If you’d like more on this, you’ll love Matthew’s epic ref rant in this week’s pod which you can listen to here or subscribe to in your podcast player

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Writer. Feminist. Dreamer. Gooner. Owner of DailyCannon.com, writing about Arsenal since 2008. Sometimes found in the Guardian, Vice.com & elsewhere talking queer issues, politics & football. If in doubt, assume sarcasm.