What a Red Card Appeal Really Means: Part Two

Read Part One

To understand why West Ham’s recent challenge failed, and Tottenham’s didn’t, we first need to understand two fundamental facts about the Wrongful Dismissal process: the Independent Regulatory Commission’s role and “obvious error.”

Role of the Regulatory Commission
In the FA’s official communication about Wrongful Dismissals, the Regulatory Commission’s role is defined as such:

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So, when clubs or the media talk about “overturning a red card”, that’s really not accurate. The red card stands, as do all the in-game consequences. The Commission are not judging whether the red card is right, wrong or too harsh; they’re only focused on the suspension and whether or not it’s fair, based on the evidence presented.

It’s a fine line, but an important one.

The Wrongful Dismissal process isn’t designed to be used to prove the refs wrong or punish “bad” refs. In fact, it could be argued that the process is in place as much to protect referees as anything else.

Whatever fans may say about them at the weekend, these referees are – pretty much to a man – good men who want to do a good job. I doubt there are many who enjoy going home, turning on the telly and watching themselves make a mistake that costs a team and a player. In those cases, the Wrongful Dismissal process is a way to mitigate something that can’t be eliminated from the game: human error.

Because, you know…it’s played and refereed by humans.

Obvious Error
The most critical piece of information the Commission weighs is whether or not there was an “obvious error” that led to the sending off. This is, again, pretty important and a high bar, which is why most claims are rejected. This isn’t just about a team disagreeing with the call. The Commission isn’t deciding whether or not they agree with the referee’s interpretation of the rules, whether they think he was overly harsh or whether Chico Flores is a cheating bum. (He is.)

The only question they ask is: Did the referee make a real, live, honest to goodness mistake?

Keeping those two things in mind then, let’s look at the two latest Wrongful Dismissal appeals.

Tottenham’s Danny Rose: Appeal Successful
In the Tottenham match, Andre Marriner was behind Rose and Dzeko when the former tackled the latter, so his view could be considered obstructed. Even so, he started to signal for a corner, but stopped when he was advised by his linesman that it was denial of a goal scoring opportunity. Replays showed definitively that Marriner’s first instinct was right, and the linesman was wrong, so that constituted an obvious error. Rose’s ban was lifted.

West Ham’s Andy Carroll: Appeal Unsuccessful
By contrast, in the West Ham match, Howard Webb had a clear view (despite what Sam Allardyce claimed, video replay shows Webb was minimally impeded by other players, if at all). He was waving off the players as they tussled, and signaled immediately when he saw Carroll – who’d just forcibly pushed Flores off him – swing his arm. You can say that it was a harsh sending off. You can say that Chico Flores was playacting. But that’s not the Commission’s role and they don’t take either of those things into account. So, no obvious error, and Carroll’s suspension is upheld.

You can also read the FA’s memorandum on dismissals and appeals yourself if you’d like. (And why wouldn’t you? Because it’s not at all dry and boring and soul-sucking.)


  • Pingback: What a Red Card Appeal Really Means: Part One | Play the Advantage: The Refereeing Blog

  • In the employment tribunal, unfair dismissal, there is the idea of a “range of reasonable responses” to a situation. The employer dismissed: the tribunal does not consider whether it would dismiss. So, similarly, no second-guessing.


    • Yes, it’s a very fine line here. The committee isn’t even really deciding if it’s reasonable, because referees make judgment calls all the time. (This weekend, a referee probably should have sent a guy off for a second offense, but chose not to because it would ruin the game.) That’s why “obvious error” is so important. I sent off the wrong guy accidentally? Obvious error. You wanted a penalty and I decided not to give it? Not so much.


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