The latest edition of Ref Review looks at the incident involving Motherwell striker Ryan Bowman and Fabio Cardoso of Rangers, with the latter sustaining a broken nose.
This should have been a straight red card. Bowman doesn’t look toward the Rangers player, so those defending the striker may argue intent, or lack thereof. However, players have to show some care for their opponents when challenging. It’s the same as if a bad tackle happened on the ground. The aggressor doesn’t have to be out to injure his opponent, but if he makes a dangerous challenge then he should go. In this incident, I don’t think Bowman took enough care.
He probably didn’t mean to catch Cardoso with his elbow, as he has his eyes fixed on the ball, but it’s still dangerous. He didn’t consider the potential consequences of flying into the challenge like that, and he clearly endangered Cardoso’s safety.
The lack of intent means it should go down as serious foul play rather than violent conduct, but that would still make it a red card.
The reason it wasn’t given can be seen in the immediate reaction. There wasn’t one.
The game was still going on, which is a justifiable reason for the Rangers players in the area to not begin screaming at referee Steven McLean, but it’s very rare to see a red card worthy challenge and have nobody react.
That’s because, in this instance, it’s a sort of challenge’s that’s incredibly difficult to judge in real time, for both officials and players. It happens in a split-second and if the referee doesn’t have the right angle then he can easily miss it. This wasn’t a case of the referee being too lenient and failing to protect the players, as Celtic boss Brendan Rodgers has insinuated, because he wanted the game to be played like a match from the 1970s. He just missed the elbow.
You can also see from Picture One, above, that a Rangers player (Graham Dorrans, by the looks of it) is standing in the way of McLean, which could have blocked his view. It’s also on the opposite diagonal from the two assistants, and on the far side from the technical area, so none of the other officials would have had a good view of it.
There’s also the close proximity between the players to consider when the contact is made. There’s not much space between them. Had Bowman drew his arm back and violently smashed it into Cardoso’s face, then it would have been much more obvious.
• Craig Anderson is a former fully qualified referee. He is also the man behind SPL Stats on Twitter.