On last night’s Same Old Arsenal podcast we had a fair bit of time dedicated to the refereeing from Monday night and, of course, most people in the chatroom and ourselves shared a level of frustration with the way some of the decisions played out. I’m not going to pick at a wound that will be healed in a day or two (because ultimately we got the win), but there is one element of the discussion that I do want to bring up: the lack of ability to take any action for a second yellow card.

I’ve seen and heard pretty much every pundit admit that the decision to brandish the second yellow card to Tomiyasu was at least ‘very soft’ and the general consensus was that the bar was far two low for an isolated incident. Nobody is arguing anywhere that I can see that it was a ‘definite foul’ and ‘definite yellow’. Now, if you can have a decision overturned like Mac Allister’s red against Bournemouth from last weekend, why can’t Arsenal have theirs overturned in similar circumstances? After all, wasn’t there a similar level of error caused by the referee in saying (which he clearly did if you look at his gestures towards Tomiyasu) that there was a shirt pull when in reality there really wasn’t any at all. Yes, there was contact, but there was contact by Mac Allister and so surely the same rules should apply?

Alas, as we all know, Arsenal cannot appeal the decision because it was not a straight red, it was a second yellow. Why though? What is the justification? This article tries to explain away the FA’s stance on yellow cards, but I’m not having it. The article sites two justifications:

  1. It would make the game too bureaucratic if you could appeal yellow cards
  2. It would undermine the integrity of a referees on field decisions.

What utter nonsense and, I might add, an example as to why the law makers in this game are…well…out of touch and a bit mental if you ask me. Firstly, you could quite easily create an instance in which yellow cards can only be appealed if there is a direct consequence the exists after the game has finished. That ensures that the referees ‘on field decision’ remains in tact (however wrong it might be), but it also stops clubs appealing silly one off yellows. So, for example, if you have a player who regularly gets booked in a season due to their combative style, you might get teams appealing a second or third yellow in the season early on because they know that it would give him a greater chance of ‘getting away with it’ and avoiding suspension. So I get it from that perspective. But that second or third instance has no direct ‘after game’ action/punishment. So that shouldn’t be challenged. However, if that same player was booked on their fifth yellow of the season and therefore a potential suspension is pending, the club should be able to appeal it if it is an incorrect decision, because the impact has a ‘punishment’ after the game i.e. an important player misses a match.

“But think about all of the bureaucracy, Chris”

Ok then, let’s look at said ‘bureaucracy’ – here’s a list of the player’s who got yellow cards last season. There is 99 names on that list. But after 19 matches then you have to get to 10 cards. I don’t know when these players picked up their cards, but if we make the logical assumption that anyone who has played more than 19 games probably didn’t get them all in the first half of the season, there’s three players who played less than 19 who picked up five or more, then 10 players who picked up more than 10 bookings in the season. Even if EVERY team appealed the fifth/tenth booking, there would be a maximum of 13 appeals in a ten month season. That’s less than one-and-a-half bits of ‘bureaucracy’ per month. And are you telling me everyone one of those decisions will be appealed? Of course they won’t. Maybe half, at best? Which would make it less than one extra bit of bureaucracy per month. I reckon the FA have enough paper pushers to deal with that…

So to the second point, which is around undermining the integrity of the referees, to which it feels even more farcical than the first. Doesn’t VAR do that then, if you’re using the same logic? Because it is essentially saying “you got that wrong on the pitch” when VAR tells a referee to look again. Isn’t this approach I have outlined – where you would have a retrospective review of a second yellow / accumulation of five yellows – doing the same thing? Getting the referee, or somebody, to take another look (like they did with Mac Allister) and say “ok, we can see what’s happened here, so we’ll overturn the suspension decision”. Because you aren’t overruling the on field decision, just the decision to punish afterwards.

I’d even go as far as to say that VAR does more to undermine a referee’s integrity because it can help to overrule the decision at the time, rather than after the match has even taken place!

In the case of Tomiyasu the same approach could be taken as they have just done with the Mac Allister rescinded of the red card he received. But because of these, frankly ludicrous rules, there is no way that Tomiyasu and Arsenal can have the same logic applied.


But then again that is what we have to deal with as people who are part of the football community. An archaic rules system, supported by an even more terrible looking PGMOL who seem to have not changed at all other than to issue more apologies under Howard Webb. Funny that, when it is still all of the same people making all of the same mistakes.

Right, that’s me done for today I think. Back tomorrow with more Arsenal-focused stuff. Catch you then.