One of the biggest stories that came out of the Premier League this past weekend had to do with VAR, which isn’t a surprise but also the English referee Mike Dean who made an error in sending off West Ham’s Tomas Soucek.
The incident was during the Fulham vs West Ham game which ended 0-0 and the game was so dire that the red card, in a way elevated it to the back pages and all over the internet.
The moment happened in the final minute when Soucek and the Fulham player Aleksanader Mitrovic seemed to collide. What had happened is that Soucek and Mitrovic were near one another and anticipating when the ball was going to be crossed in. Instead of getting caught up with Mitrovic, Soucek attempted to get clear and raise his arm intending not to hit Mitrovic but to raise it over Mitrovic’s head. He failed in doing that as Mitrovic of course moved at the same time and his elbow hit Mitrovic in the face.
This is where it gets interesting.
Replays show that Mike Dean had a view of what had happened but the game was going to carry on, then of course VAR stopped the game and asked Dean to go to his monitor, which he did. It was there that Dean reportedly viewed the incident 21 times, at least according to most media pundits he did. This is where, for most, the confusion sets in.
Dean had that opportunity to keep watching the replay, now if you are going to watch 21 times or at least he did watch many many times you must have a doubt. Were we not told at the beginning of the season that the incident had to be clear and obvious? So even if Dean did think an elbow was intentionally involved why did he hesitate?, he must have had his doubts.
Let’s make it very clear Dean made an error, a really poor mistake for a referee who has overseen over 500 Premier League games. But he isn’t fully to blame. Other factors were involved which the media have decided to ignore.
The first being that Soucek’s other hand was clenched like a fist when he struck Mitrovic. The second is that Mitrovic when struck went down too easy like he had been struck badly. The third is that cheating in football has got to such a level that we have seen the Soucek incident happen in every country that plays football where the elbow was very much intended. This incident is not as clear cut as it sounds, and West Ham manager David Moyes was emphatically wrong to say that VAR should not have brought it to the attention of Dean in the first place. Isn’t that what the tech is there for to look into incidents.
The bottom line is that Dean made an error and the FA have rescinded Soucek’s red card. The problem for Dean is that it is his 2nd rescinded card in a row after he sent off Southampton’s Jan Bednarek by mistake. These are errors despite his experience that are building up and one wouldn’t be surprised if he quit his job soon. The eyes and cameras will be burning up every time he officiates a game now.
Criticism from fans is fair enough and the pressure will now be on Dean at every incident he looks over and every card he gives out, even a booking will be questioned. However some ‘fans’ have crossed the line and Dean has reported to the police that death threats have been made against him. This goes too far and whilst most of the threats are simply being made by keyboard warriors, there needs to be a zero tolerance attitude to such behaviour. It is after all just a game of football. Of course nothing has been affected by it either as the sending off happened in the final seconds of the game, changed nothing and Soucek has been rescued by the FA.
Such has been the pressure on Dean that he has requested to the FA not to referee any Premier League games this weekend and the request has been granted. However all eyes will be on the Leicester and Brighton FA Cup match which takes place tonight- the referee, Mike Dean.
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