Why referee Bobby Madden failed to award Celtic a penalty

The latest edition of Ref Review looks at the highly controversial no-call made by referee Bobby Madden at the end of the Old Firm derby after Clint Hill appeared to foul Leigh Griffiths in the penalty area.

Celtic's players appeal for a penalty as Leigh Griffiths (left) is tackled by Rangers' Clint Hill in the last minute. Picture: SNS

*A fuller Ref Review looking at the other contentious decisions from the match will come tomorrow*

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It is a penalty, but not for the reason Griffiths insists it was. We’ll get to that in a minute, but first we’ll consider how Bobby Madden got the decision wrong.

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He’s not as close to the action as he’d like to be. As the high ball is travelling over the halfway line, both Danny Wilson and Moussa Dembele go to contest. Madden sees this and gets himself into position, even stopping his jog to judge the aerial challenge (Image One). Instead, the ball bounces over the pair and travels on toward Griffiths and Hill.

It means by the time the contact is made, Madden is at least 20 yards from the incident. Had he anticipated the ball missing Dembele and Wilson - which is not something we can expect when two players involved have both failed to do so - then he could have been five, many as many as ten yards closer to the play, and had a better chance to see it clearly.

As it stands, he’s far away with the worst possible vantage point. He’s trying to look through the back of Hill. All he would have been able to see was Hill going across Griffiths, and the ball moving in the appropriate direction away from the striker. Griffiths later said Hill didn’t get the ball, but it’s clear from the angle behind the goal that Hill does get a heel to it. He just connected with Griffiths first.

It’s such a tough call and not the “stonewaller” many have made it out to be. Griffiths insisted the challenge went through his hip, but that’s not what knocked him to ground. Look at the incident again from the angle behind the goal and watch Hill’s body. Though he puts his leg across Griffiths, he doesn’t follow through with his momentum. He’s leaning back so much that he falls straight down to earth. Had the contact on Griffiths’ side been enough to warrant a penalty then the striker would have been knocked to the left. Instead, he falls forward.

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That’s because the main contact which trips up Griffiths doesn’t come from Hill’s swinging right boot, but actually from his left leg as he becomes tangled with Griffiths. As Hill falls to ground, his left thigh connects with the Celtic player’s right calf, just as Griffiths is propelling himself off the turf in order to get the shot away. Image Two shows you when this contact first takes place. And, as you can see, it’s just a split-second before Hill gets his heel to the football.

The angle from behind the goal also shows you Madden’s view. Judging at which point Hill gets to the ball in relation to his contact with Griffiths is almost impossible. Madden even puts the whistle towards his mouth, expecting a penalty, as the challenge comes in. When he then sees the ball rolling off to the side, having changed direction, he decides against it (Image Three).

It is alleged the whistler asked Griffiths if Hill got the ball. This is a lot more common than people may expect. It’s also fair practice. If he doesn’t know for certain what came first, man or ball, he shouldn’t give the penalty. He’s purely asking because he’s curious, and wants to have got the decision correct.

However, we’re not content with letting Madden off that easily. What he should have done, having not given the penalty, is brought it back to the edge of the area, where Griffiths was fouled by Hill initially.

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The defender had a strong hold of his opponent’s shirt, knocking Griffiths off balance to the extent he nearly went down. Madden didn’t seem to see this, because there was no indication that he was allowing play to continue in the form of advantage. Had he done so, he could have then brought the action back when he didn’t feel there was enough to give a penalty. Whether he deemed it to be a red card or yellow card offence (likely the former) it would have been largely irrelevant as Hill, on a booking, would have walked either way.

• Craig Anderson is a former fully qualified referee. He is also the man behind SPL Stats on Twitter.


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