Birmingham City vs Millwall: reconsidering first impressions

I try not to pass judgement on decisions made by match officials because I realise that they know more about football than I do. However, I couldn’t help forming an opinion on the goal that was disallowed, allowed, and then disallowed again. I thought that the referee had made a monumental mess and feared that he’d lose control of the game.

This is the sequence as I remember it: the ball going in the net and Millwall celebrating; the assistant on the Kop side putting his flag up very late and all the Blues fans laughing; Millwall players complaining to the referee and assistant; the referee signalling a goal; the scoreboard showing 0-1; Blues players talking to the referee; and finally the referee disallowing the goal and Jack Butland taking the goal kick. It took several minutes and was really bizarre.  It gave me the impression that the referee was being swayed by which set of players were complaining the most.

I had a different impression after listening to the Radio WM interview with Lee Clark.  He said that he’d overheard the fourth official and assistant standing by the dugouts and they’d said that if Chaplow had been offside then the goal should be disallowed because he had definitely touched the ball.  However the referee didn’t seem to be able to hear their opinion on his headset; he allowed the goal because he didn’t think that Chaplow had touched the ball.  The fourth official didn’t give up and eventually managed to communicate with the referee, who then disallowed the goal.  Lee Clark commented that the officials had worked together as a team to get the decision right and that should happen more often.  That made me view the referee in a much more favourable light.  As I’d watched the situation unfolding I’d thought he was just listening to the players and didn’t know that the fourth official was involved.  A referee who is willing to listen to his assistants is not the idiot that I’d thought he was.

It was just another reminder that, in football and in life, we don’t always know the full story and should be willing to change our minds in the light of further information.