Date: 18th March 2008 at 2:08pm
Written by:

I`ll begin with a few disclaimers. Firstly, I know refereeing decisions go against every club at one time or another, and I am not even going to begin to exorcise any sort of persecution complex by insisting that Arsenal are any harder done by than any other team. Secondly, I accept away from the heat and tension of a game that referees are human beings and make mistakes. They have a difficult job blah, blah, blah etc. (So do teachers and doctors yet they do not seem to be permitted to extract the same sympathy). Anyway, now the mealy mouthed platitudes are concluded, let`s get to the meat of this short article.

Several bad decisions were awarded in the midst of Arsenal`s 1-1 draw with Middlesbrough this weekend. The corner from which we eventually equalised should probably have not been given. The free kick which led to Middlesbrough`s equaliser should also have not been given. I don`t think anybody has any idea whether Aliadiere`s goal should have stood or not. I have poured over Page 11 of the rule book where this much fangled, Blatter approved offside rule is articulated and the language is that irksome, political jargon designed to sound incredibly authoritative, but really just says nothing. (George Orwell once said, “Political language is designed to make lies sound true, murder sound respectful and give an appearance of solidarity to pure wind.” Apt). The decisions above are perhaps forgivable, we still had a decent chance to defend Boro`s long punt downfield and we did it poorly (though the fact that Aliadiere is apparently allowed to run several yards ahead of the last line of defence gives him a distinct advantage). Likewise, Boro had a chance to defend the corner we were unfairly awarded and didn`t. Those two decisions were pretty small fry, the decision to give Boro`s goal just stems from laughable confusion at the top levels of the game. What I absolutely, 100% cannot accept is Adebayor`s wrongly chalked off effort.

It is not so much the decision itself, the linesman was some distance from the action and could have been forgiven for thinking that van Persie had played Adebayor through, not George Boateng. Halsey was mere inches from the incident and should have seen it, but like I said, mistakes can happen. But it is Halsey`s explanation that bears scrutiny. Arsene Wenger explained after the game that when he had questioned Halsey about the decision, he was told, “The intention of our player was to play the ball to one of our players, who was offside, so the deflection of the ball doesn’t count anymore.” According to Page 11 of the rulebook, where the offside law is relayed in full,
“A player in an offside position is only penalised if, at the moment the ball touches or is played by one of his team, he is, in the opinion of the referee, involved in active play.”

If we are to believe what Wenger has said, Halsey has admitted that he was fully aware that it was Boateng who played the ball. According to the rule above, so long as the ball is not played by an Arsenal player, Adebayor is NOT offside. It is not only that Halsey has got this costly decision ridiculously wrong, but the fact that he has been allowed to manufacture or massage the rule to his own end. Surely the Football Association needs to look at this? Halsey either does not comprehend one of the fundamentals of the offside law, in which case what is he doing officiating at this level? Or else he has simply invented a rule to suit his own incompetence, which also bears F.A. consideration. In what other profession in the world would you be allowed to so brazenly to invent the rules to suit yourself without being questioned? I currently work in the Civil Service; as such I have to sign the Official Secrets Act. If I violate this trust, I am sacked without question. I understand this fully. I would not be allowed to maneuver my way out of disciplinary proceedings by making up the rules for myself, so why is Halsey afforded this privilege? (I am sure you can all think of dozens of examples in your own places of work or colleges or universities).

Halsey even had other opt outs, he could have explained that he thought van Persie had played the ball, that ball would only have had to graze a hair on his leg for the offside call to be correct. Or, even more admirably, he could have held his hands up and admitted that he had made a mistake. The fact that he has so confidently misappropriated legislation to his own end reveals a fundamental flaw that is developing in the officiating of football. It is absolutely correct that we campaign for players to grant greater respect for referees, but respect is a two way street. I paid a lot of money to watch a game on Saturday, the Arsenal players are involved in a tight title race, it is time for referees to likewise comply and show players and fans greater respect than Mr. Halsey has shown this weekend.LD.