Why the referee didn't stop play before Celtic's third against Astana

The latest edition of Ref Review looks at Celtic's third goal against Astana, where play was allowed to continue despite a clash of heads.

Celtic's Tom Rogic, right, and Astana's Yuri Logvinenko on the pitch after a clash of heads. Picture: SNS
Celtic's Tom Rogic, right, and Astana's Yuri Logvinenko on the pitch after a clash of heads. Picture: SNS

With regards to a head injury, a referee is supposed to stop the game immediately if the player or players involved are “seriously injured”. If they are “slightly injured” then he can allow the game to continue. Typically you’ll see the officials err on the side of caution. Everyone knows about the seriousness of head injuries in modern sport, and nobody wants to see the refs treat them with triviality.

In this instance, Romanian whistler Ovidiu Hategan should have stopped the game in the lead up to Celtic’s third goal. As both Tom Rogic and Yuriy Logvinenko were bleeding from the clash of heads, and both were immediately forced from the action due to their injuries, they were “seriously injured” in a football context.

Two factors would have dissuaded the referee from doing so.

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Firstly, the players weren’t motionless. He had two glances at them as he ran past. If he thought either were unconscious it’s hard to imagine him allowing play to continue.

Secondly, his whistle would have stopped a promising attack. It shouldn’t play a part in his decision, but he would have been wanting to let the game flow and, as a result, looked for reasons not to stop the action rather than the other way around. Had the same incident occurred and an Astana defender been first to the ball, rather than Scott Sinclair, he would have likely stopped play.

Some observers, including BT Sport co-commentator Chris Sutton, questioned the referee’s decision to book Logvinenko for the challenge. This is a common misconception in football, where a clash in the air seems to be regarded as a harmless coming together.

Challenges in the air with the body or head can be just as reckless (punishable with a yellow) or done with excessive force (punishable with a red) as those committed with the feet. Rogic got the ball first; Logvinenko flew into the back of his skull at high speed. A yellow card was a fitting punishment.

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

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