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Football: Rules do not always demand red card when penalty is given.

Byline: Kevin Pullein

IF a referee awards a penalty, should he also send off the defender for denying a clear goalscoring opportunity?

Mike Riley did so when he dismissed Philippe Senderos during Arsenal's game at Middlesbrough. Phil Dowd probably would have done so if he had spotted Mathieu Flamini's tug on Emile Heskey during Arsenal's subsequent game at home to Wigan.

A lot of people would agree with such decisions, if only because they believe they are demanded by the Laws of the Game. I am not so sure that they are.

The relevant decision of the International FA Board says: "If, in the opinion of the referee, a player who is moving toward his opponent's goal with an obvious opportunity to score a goal is impeded by an opponent, through unlawful means, i.e. an offence punishable by a free-kick (or a penalty-kick), thus denying the attacking player's team the aforesaid goal-scoring opportunity, the offending player shall be sent off the field of play for serious foul play in accordance with Law XII (O)."

If a player commits a foul that is punished by a penalty, he has not denied "the attacking player's team the aforesaid goal-scoring opportunity". It still exists. The attacking team now have a free shot on goal from 12 yards, to be taken by the player of their choice, at a time of his choice, without him having to worry about the possibility of being challenged by an opponent. In almost every case, the goalscoring opportunity now will be even greater than it was before the penalty was awarded.

Also, there is another curious and little noticed feature of this decision. If a forward is fouled while moving away from his opponents' goal - there are lots of situations in which this could happen - the defender should not be sent off.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Date:Feb 19, 2007
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