The latest edition of Ref Review looks at the foul by James Tavernier on Jonny Hayes, in the opinion of referee John Beaton, which led to James Maddison’s winning free-kick in the Aberdeen-Rangers match. It was a decision that infuriated Rangers boss Mark Warburton.
First of all, Beaton’s positioning is spot on. He identifies that Hayes is breaking into space and gets himself close enough to see any challenge without being too close.
There had been a lot of niggly fouls from both teams in the second half, with various defenders being booked for breaking up the game, and there’s a very great chance this had influence on him. He likely would have been expecting Tavernier to commit a foul. When you’re having to make split-second, instantaneous decisions, whatever has occurred beforehand can play a major part in the final outcome. It shouldn’t, in a perfect world, but that’s human nature.
The tackle was quite similar to one made by Lee Wallace earlier in the half. The Rangers captain halted Wes Burns after the attacker broke into the box on the right-hand side of the penalty area. The differences between the two challenges were the pace of the ball and the body shape of the players. For the Wallace one, both players were moving a lot slower than Hayes, who was galloping away at full speed. The ball was also further away from Burns at the time, making a clean tackle easier, where as Hayes was using his left foot to protect the ball from Tavernier when the challenge is made.
Picture One shows exactly why the referee thought it was a foul. From Beaton’s perspective, it could easily look like Tavernier has kicked through Hayes’ foot to get to the ball. Watching it back in slow motion, it’s really hard to tell whether Tavernier plays the ball before making contact with the player, or the other way around. In full speed it looked like a good tackle, and it probably is, but it’s difficult to be 100 per cent sure. The referee literally has the perfect position to see that, but there’s no way he would know for sure in real time.
One thing is for sure. It’s not a “terrible decision” or any of the other nonsense that has come out from pundits and the Rangers manager. It’s not clear cut, and it’s only because Maddison scored that there is such focus on it. Had the same incident happened 50 yards from goal then nobody would be talking about it. If it’s a wrong decision, then it’s the sort of wrong decision which happens every single week at every level.
• Craig Anderson is a former fully qualified referee. He is also the man behind SPLStats on Twitter.