The majority of the football community were united yesterday afternoon in condemning the unjust red card which was brandished at Manchester City captain Vincent Kompany early in their third round FA Cup tie against their bitter rivals. The City defender cleanly took the ball with one boot in a committed challenge with the momentum of the tackle trailing his left leg in a similar motion. As Andy Townsend correctly noted shortly after on commentary, a players challenge cannot always be perfectly executed and the sole, or studs of the boot, are sometimes the first contact with player or ball.

The fact Nani yesterday did not react or shriek in horror at the Belgian’s force surely also tells a story – only the pressure and antics of Wayne Rooney seemed to bring the incident to the attention of the man in black.  The Portuguese star has been known to go down rather easily in the past with little or no contact and the honest  manner in which he reacted was a shock to many.

A two-footed challenge by the “letter of the law”, is deemed a punishable and illegal offence in the officials book – but how grossly it is viewed and how much excessive force is used in the tackle determines the outcome of the decision. Kompany was full-blooded and determined – but only to win the ball, & at no time did he make malicious contact or have any intent to injure the Manchester United player. A number of pundits, ex-pro’s and managers were lining up recently to condemn referee’s for being to card happy and insisting the art of tackling was dying – Mick McCarthy noted that,  “The fabric of our game is based on tackles. That’s why people come and watch because it’s exciting. It’s part of our game. If they take that out, it’s gone”. Despite a spirited second half display, the decision was made and City were down to ten after only twelve minutes – gone with it was their chance of FA Cup glory.

After witnessing several “hefty” challenges in Celtic’s cup clash at Peterhead yesterday afternoon which did carry intent, you have to wonder which wavelength some referee’s are on when brandishing cards out – in some instances yesterday, a yellow card was not even produced with Anthony Stokes having to watch & protect his own back.  All we really need is some common sense from the official’s and for them not to react to players brandishing imaginary cards in their faces or the partisan nature of the crowd – with so much pressure though, some mistakes will be made.  In what ways can the strain or demands on officials be lessened?

Henry Winter of the Telegraph this morning made a call for the sin bin method adopted in Rugby to be adapted for the game – obviously not everyone yellow-carded can be sent to the bench for ten minutes, but a possible reflection time for incidents when a referee feels the punishment is not quite worthy of a sending-off but deems it more serious than an initial caution, could be an option. A possible video replay of the incident during this  period could give a decision on the punishment straight away not just for the remainder of the game in hand – but for any future penalty and which could eventually render the current appeals process null & void. Certainly, some moves have to be made before we enter a no contact zone.

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