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Ref could have been more proactive

The incident in the Capital One Cup semifinal second leg between Swansea and Chelsea on Wednesday night was, in my opinion, an incident waiting to happen.

For those of you who did not see it, the situation was this.

The score was 2 – 0 to Swansea from the first leg and was currently 0–0 in the second leg with almost 80 minutes of the game gone.

The ball went out for a goal kick to Swansea. Naturally the urgency for Chelsea to get the ball into play was very evident as they were in danger of going out of the competition.

As is the case with most games today, not only at Premier League level, ball boys are “employed” to retrieve the ball as quickly as possible so that not too much time is wasted and the game can proceed without delay

This clearly didn’t happen last night and that’s where the problem arose.

Eden Hazard of Chelsea ran to get the ball for the Swansea keeper so that the game could resume as quickly as possible.

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A ball boy dressed in a Swansea tracksuit quite blatantly and deliberately obstructed Hazard and lay on the ball to waste time. Hazard tried unsuccessfully to extract the ball from under his body and, in frustration, kicked the youngster in the side.

The ball was then released and a huge furore ensured. Hazard was confronted by Swansea players protesting his assault on the ball boy. He was eventually red carded by the referee.

The Problem

The main problem is that the ball was not returned to play in a reasonable time. The ball boy who, incidentally, is 17 years old, is a son of one of the directors of Swansea and it could be argued that he had a vested interest is delaying as much as possible.

It wasn’t the first time in the game that Chelsea players complained to the referee that night about such time wasting tactics from ball boys. Having said that, would Chelsea have acted any differently if the shoe was on the other foot?

Swansea were on the verge of one of the biggest upsets of the season in reaching the Cup final at Wembley and were eliminating the European Champions in the process.

Questions that need to be asked:

Were there insufficient balls available?

If there were other balls, why wasn’t one provided from some other source?

Were the ball boys, who were all dressed in Swansea tracksuits, instructed to delay as much time as possible?

The Solution

Referees need to be more proactive in dealing with situations like this. They need to be aware of the sensitivities of each game and the state of play at all times.

Home teams should not be allowed to provide ball boys for their games to avoid such incidents happening in the future.

A replacement ball should be available to the keeper behind the goal where he can access it without delay.

If there is any unreasonable delay the referee needs to take action and caution any player(s) for deliberate time wasting as contained in the Fifa Laws of the Game.

A quote from Albert Einstein: “A clever man solves a problem – a wise man avoids it.”

Happy Whistling
Dr. Errol Sweeney
twitter: @dr_errol

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