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Howard Webb discusses Headbutts

I think we would all agree that referees have a difficult job to do and every fan, as well as managers and players, want consistency. In this series of articles we'll look at that issue and hear from Howard Webb how the referees work with everyone in the game.

In this video the topic under discussion in the head butt, what constitutes a headbutt, what doesn't. There was an incident recently which transformed the game against Aston Villa. Spurs were a goal down and quite frankly not looking like scoring or getting anything out of the game.


After a challenge near the touchline and the dugouts, Ryan Mason barged into the back of Christian Benteke and you can see from the first angle puts his head in an area where Benteke can react. The Villa striker did react and a hand in the face resulted in a sending off and the game turning on it's head.

There was plenty of debate at the time, did Mason put his head towards Benteke and make contact or merely move his head for Benteke to make contact. One is legal, although provocative and arguably borderline, one is not.

I have to say at the time I thought Mason should have been sent off and the TV replays appeared to show that at the time but having watched the video below and another one I come to a different conclusion. But that is the issue isn't it, it's what is seen, the assistant in this case, close to the incident, immediately told the ref red card, so he made the initial decision.

Now every team does it, you rile an opponent who may react, especially if things are going badly and you do so by trying to stay within the law and hope they will step over it. We can say it shouldn't happen all we like but as I say every team does it, so Mason is not innocent here.

It's my view that the officials interpreted the situation that Mason did not put his face in Benteke's or look to butt him but merely, as I say, put his head in an area where Benteke could react if he chose. It's a grey area open to interpretation and it's that that fans see as inconsistent.




The problem arises when the referees talk to the managers after the game about some decisions and not others. You hear managers being interviewed after the game and the referee has offered them no explanation. I can only conclude that on those occasions the referee has made a mistake but surely he standing would rise if he admitted to a mistake.

Referees are not allowed to discuss decisions with the media so the fan, who is the paying customer, simply gets left in the dark to protect an official. Do we, as the paying customer, not deserve explanation of crucial decisions?

In other spots the official is miked up and explains to the customer why he has made certain decisions. The surrounding of referees by players is wrong, clubs instruct their players to do it and the authorities should ban it completely except for the captain who can talk to the referee, just like rugby. You are taking the pressure off an official and allowing him to make a decision in a calmer mode than he can be with players in his ear all the time. Even when he tells them to go away, they stand a yard or two away, they just take a couple of steps back and as he makes his card decision they step back in again.

Headbutting is probably an area where we do see considerably more consistency than other areas, although how Torres got away with tearing Vertonghen's face at White Hart Lane, last season was it, is still a mystery.

Next time we'll look at diving with the help of these Sky Howard Webb videos and then yellow and red cards.


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