The latest edition of Ref Review looks at the challenge committed by Rob Kiernan on St Johnstone’s Graham Cummins, an act which saw the Rangers defender sent off in his team’s 3-2 win.
Rangers have decided to appeal Rob Kiernan’s red card, making him eligible to face Hamilton in the Scottish Cup this weekend. If that was the club’s only goal from paying the £1,000 appeal fee then they’ve been successful, though they’re unlikely to get any more than that. It’s doubtful they’ll be successful in have the sending off rescinded as it’s not obviously a wrong decision. Having said that, the appeals panel have reached some curious verdicts in the last couple of years, so you never know.
It’s definitely not a clear-cut red and he can count himself a little unlucky with the referee’s outcome. Euan Norris had a clear view of the contact at first, but as Kiernan goes through Cummins his sight is interrupted by Jason Holt walking directly in his path (Image One). For those who believe he got this decision wrong, this may help you explain why.
For a challenge to qualify as “serious foul play”, which should result in a straight red card, it either has to have been committed with “excessive force”, “brutality” or “endangering the safety of an opponent”, while some other factors may come into play.
The force of the tackle itself isn’t particularly “excessive”. Kiernan sprints to Graham Cummins, which would have counted against him in the eyes of the official, but he’s not out of control when the challenge is made. It’s not a big lunge, if at all, since it’s possible he drags his trailing foot along the turf (Image Two). His speed slows as he begins his tackle, so excessive force it probably is not.
It’s also not a high challenge. In fact, he catches him on his boot and Cummins only goes flying because he’s still to fully plant his left foot when Kiernan becomes the floor beneath him. And the centre back is definitely going for the loose ball, so we can rule this out as an act of “brutality”.
That leaves “endangering the safety of an opponent”, which is the easiest aspect to argue in this case, and why Kiernan will probably serve his two-game ban after this weekend.
It’s a tackle from behind. An opponent has much less chance of anticipating contact, and therefore protecting himself, if he’s blind-sided by a challenge, which is why they’re often punished with red cards. The difference in this instance is that it’s two players racing side-by-side for the football. Cummins appears to anticipate the contact, even give a little glance in Kiernan’s direction, and perhaps moved his left foot out ever-so-slightly to either block Kiernan’s tackle, or to try and dissuade the defender from making one (Image Three). Kiernan suddenly sees a straight line for the ball blocked off by his opponent, at which point he’s already committed.
The final aspect that goes against Kiernan was the area of the park in which it occurred. He’s going close to full speed into a challenge on the halfway line, which is needless in the context of the game. This would have played on the referee’s mind and influenced his thought process as he tried to deduce whether it was excessive force or endangering an opponent.
Personally, I would have said a yellow card was sufficient, but Norris was well within his rights to produce a red. It’s doubtful the panel would disagree strongly enough to overturn.
• Craig Anderson is a former fully qualified referee. He is also the man behind SPL Stats on Twitter.