Monday, October 02, 2006


Law 12 and How to Ruin It

Back to our old friend, Law 12.

I mentioned earlier that the regulation concerning the “denial of an obvious goalscoring opportunity” had an aspect to it that irked me. Here it is again:

…denies an obvious goal-scoring opportunity to an opponent moving towards the player’s goal by an offence punishable by a free kick or a penalty kick

It’s those last four words which shouldn’t be there.

The “professional foul” rule, as it is commonly known, existed in England before it was set in stone by FIFA. Its intent was to punish the cynical outside-the-box foul, whereby a player with a clear run on goal was bundled over by a shrewd defender.

In applying the law to the 18-yard box as well, FIFA completely missed the point.

If a player is brought down in the box, the penalty is sufficient punishment – unless, that is, the foul is a particularly dangerous one.

Let’s see how this silly piece of legislation has affected the A-League in recent times:

In Thursday night’s game, after Darren Bazeley’s slovenly back-pass had put Damian Mori through, Che Bunce’s desperate lunge brought the veteran striker down. A penalty was given (although there appeared to be some doubt as to whether the foul had been committed within the box), and Bunce went off.

From a common sense point of view, what reason was there for dismissing him? The foul had not been dangerous, a goal was now likely to be scored anyway (just as likely as if Mori had continued his run, in fact).

At least the Bunce incident happened at the end of the game, though. Last season’s Central Coast v. Sydney game in Gosford, potentially one of the games of the season, was ruined by the early dismissal of Michael Beauchamp for a similar foul (a highly debatable one, at that) on Dwight Yorke inside the box. Sydney FC played the remaining eighty minutes with a man more, and duly crushed Lawrie McKinna’s team.

And finally, an example of the law as it should be applied – again, coincidentally, in a game involving the Mariners. Their exciting derby against the Jets last week saw Adam Kwasnik clean through on the break on 75 minutes. Paul Okon, the last defender, brought him down quite deliberately, some 30 yards from goal.

This was exactly the kind of foul that should be punished by a red card, since the resulting free kick is so unlikely, by comparison with a striker’s one-on-one with the keeper, to produce a goal. Although not dangerous, Okon’s foul was quite calculated, genuinely denied the opposition a likely goal, and in fact (arguably) gained a point for the Jets in the long run.

It was, in other words, the archetypal “professional foul”.

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