Ask The Ref: Q&A Week 3

Hi, from me, Dermot Gallagher, and welcome to another week’s football, albeit through my blog and with the aid of your questions.

With football returning in The Bundesliga last weekend, what better place to start. Although the round of fixtures did not overwork the VAR it certainly reminded one reader of a few incidents in earlier seasons.

Adrian from Swindon, wrote: it occurred to me that there had been two unusual VAR calls at the outset in Germany. Namely, when the players were asked to return to the field following the half time whistle and a penalty given against a substitute. I can remember the individual matches but can you enlighten me on the processes involved?

Brilliant question Adrian, and hopefully I can recall both incidents for you and walk you through the process and Law for two such complicated – some may say controversial – incidents.

The first, was in April 2018 during the Mainz v Freiburg Bundesliga match with the home team scoring a penalty seven minutes into half time – and after the players had been allowed to leave the pitch.

With half time fast approaching, referee Guido Winkmann declined a penalty appeal for handball to the home team. The referee’s next action was to whistle for half time. At this point the VAR intervened and advised the referee to give the handball and award a penalty kick.

Following an almost five minute delay the Freiburg players were requested to return to the field after it was decided Daniel Brosinki’s cross had been handled by Marc-Oliver Kempf. The penalty was scored six minutes and 44 seconds after the half time whistle had sounded.

Not ideal you may say and certainly not good for the product. However, VAR was always going to be a process that would improve itself by experience and learning.

In the Premier League the VAR and referee are in direct contact at any point and this situation would be nullified.

As the half or full time whistle is approaching the VAR would relay to the onfield official that he has no ongoing checks and the referee would be clear to allow the players to leave.

Should an incident like above, have occurred, he would relay to the referee that he was checking the incident and with the end of the half being the next stoppage he could recommend then to award the penalty. It would be accurate and avoid the confusion seen at Mainz a few years prior.

The second incident you refer to Adrian was even more bizarre and had football supporters around the world leafing through their Laws Of The Game somewhat mystified by the VAR’s recommendation to the referee.

Back in October Holstein Keil were hosting a Friday night fixture against VfL Bochum in the Bundesliga 2.

Trailing 1-0 the visitors were awarded a penalty in what could only be described as the most unlikely of circumstances.

Their forward, Silvere Ganvoula M’boussy seemed to have wasted a goal scoring opportunity by dragging his shot wide of the far post.

Keil substitute Eberwein, who was warming up behind his own team’s goal, stopped the ball and passed to his goalkeeper to allow him to restart play quickly.

Unfortunately, for the eager substitute, his block and pass were made before the ball had left the field and the referee and VAR consulted on how to restart after his innocuous mistake.

In line with the Law according to the International FA Board (IFAB), should a substitute interfere with play, the referee can award a direct free kick, depending on the infringement.

As the offence occurred within the penalty area the free kick became a penalty while Eberwein was also shown a yellow card to compound his misfortune.

Niall from Rotherham asks, what was your itinerary for a Champions League match?

Wow, Niall, giving me a chance to wander down Memory Lane for a wee while, not something I do without being quizzed.

Well my last Champions League game was in September 2000 between Hamburg and Panathinaikos of Greece, so I’ll use that as my benchmark.

The match was to be played on a Wednesday evening which meant flying Tuesday and Thursday and two nights hotel in Germany.

Our flights would be arranged and I’d meet up with my other three colleagues in the lounge at Heathrow airport two hours before departure.

I always tried to arrive at my destination late afternoon. It gave me time to transfer to my hotel, arrange all my kit and future day’s clothes and a rest before dinner.

I normally asked my hosts if we could go to eat by 7-7.30pm as I’m not a good late eater.

This meal would be taken with my colleagues and the match observer, a neutral ex-referee, who would appraise our performance for UEFA. Our referees’ liaison officer would be in attendance also to facilitate everything – often in some countries as much for the language barriers.

After breakfast the following morning we’d be transported to the stadium for 9.15am. Once there I’d inspect the pitch, dressing rooms and generally get a feel of the venue for the night’s game.

At 10am we would all join the Match Delegate for the pre-match briefing meet. At this you would work out details to see the event run smoothly.

My departure time from the hotel would be decided, giving me enough time to arrive one hour 45 minutes before kick off. Team colours would be declared including the goalkeepers jersey and from this I could then select my own shirt colour – there then being five different colour jerseys.

After the refereeing matters we were at liberty to leave and they would then go into the security and team matters. Back at the hotel we would lunch around 1pm. For me chicken, pasta and fruit with plenty of still water.

My afternoon was regimental. I’d lie on my bed just resting but not sleeping. I’d mentally think of the stadium, the players and the group standings. It allowed me to relax but also kept me sharp for the evening ahead.

About 4.30pm I was up – shower, shave, contact lenses in and champing at the bit. Quick few slices of toast and jam and away to the stadium.

For me the most difficult part was between 7.30 and 7.40. I’d done my warm up, I’d changed my undershirt and got my referee’s top over it. I’d got all my equipment with me and I just wanted to get started.

No matter how many times I trod that path though, I always had the same feeling. That mini hiatus was the most unsettling part of my trip, it was almost as if I was in a parallel universe just itching to get underway.

It soon did and with it the time lapse was forgotten as the best part of the next two hours made it all worthwhile – the training, the travelling, the waiting all forgotten as the match unfolded.

Post match the match observer would give me a quick feel for how he saw our performance and check all the details regarding substitutions, yellow or red cards and goal times for UEFA.

It would be off to dinner with our referees’ liaison officer – not something I really relished at that time of night – but it was important to eat something as you expend so much energy during games.

We would arrange pick up times for returning to the airport the following morning. This would usually be soon after breakfast as I liked to get away and back home to give myself as much recuperation time as possible for the following Saturday’s Premier League match.

Like everything, Niall, it evolves and the process for the referees has too. Nowadays six referees, comprising referee, two assistants, fourth official, VAR and assistant VAR.

The referees normally go to the stadium the evening prior to the match and train together for a 45 minute session. I never really fancied that as on particularly long trips I wanted to rest but now it’s the accepted way.

On match days only the fourth official goes to the pre-match briefing allowing the refereeing team to rest and receive the information needed on the fourth official’s return.

Yes, it’s been tweaked. It had to be. As football evolves, refereeing has had to evolve too. Never have referees been so prepared for matches – it has to be that way – and will continue to be so.

To you all, have a great week and stay safe and healthy.

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