Rob Styles’ poor performance in yesterday Premier League clash between Liverpool and Chelsea has seen him dropped from the Premier League for one weekend. He awarded Chelsea a penalty at Anfield for reasons he’ll be unlikely to ever be able to explain, and the referees’ boss Keith Hacket has decided instead to inflict his ‘skills’ on a lower division instead.
A former referee himself, Hacket works as general manager for the PGMOL, the body which appoints referees for game in England, and after seeing the mess Styles made yesterday he told BBC 5Live that the Hampshire ref has been dropped for one weekend: “It is just like with players, if they miss an open goal they are likely to be dropped. I spoke to Rob this morning and obviously he is extremely disappointed with the decision and admitted he got it wrong. I have left a message with Rafael Benitez to apologise.”
Hacket says that Styles had to look at a video to see how much of a clanger he made, but accepts that he did make a clanger: “Having looked at a video and seen a better angle and a better view, clearly he now recognises that he got it wrong and he’s deeply apologetic for that. I think, in fact, he too will be making contact with Liverpool in order to offer his apologies.”
The worrying aspect of this is that the penalty decision was just the biggest of many mistakes this referee made yesterday. He clearly booked Michael Essien twice, despite claims that he’d actually just shown the yellow card to John Terry twice for the same misdemeanour. The game was littered with the referee’s errors and inconsistent decisions. And he hadn’t fared much better when he refereed the Manchester United – Reading game a week earlier, sending a Reading player off for what should have been a booking.
Hacket spoke about the double-booking of Essien, saying he’d discussed it with both Styles and the fourth official, and the story they came up with was: “I’m informed by both the fourth official and Rob he retained the card shown to John Terry then held the card to indicate a direct free-kick, and failed to put the card away. So it was a basic, if you like, admin error as against an error in application of law. We’ll look at the video to ensure we don’t get a repeat of that.”
For the sake of the game, referees performing as poorly as this need to be dealt with, and it’s clear that Styles is not up to dealing with the high pressures found in games of this nature. The penalty incident wasn’t a case of him seeing it from the wrong angle – it didn’t look like a penalty from any angle, and he didn’t consult his assistant first, which should be the least he does before making such a significant decision.
Malouda’s dive came after the player had been encouraged by getting away with earlier dives. Chelsea had a free kick after 21 minutes which had come from a Malouda dive, as Chelsea’s new Robben showed a side of the game that also must be cracked down on.
The referee’s ‘union’ were quick to defend their member. Graham Poll retired from the game at the end of last season, a season which followed on from making a similar mistake to Styles when he actually booked a player three times before sending him off in the World Cup last summer. He claims that Essien wasn’t booked twice, clearly watching a different video to most other people: “At the first look I definitely thought he had booked Essien a second time. Having looked I can see that as Rob raises the yellow card he points over to John Terry and says that it is John he has cautioned. He had just given a penalty and you have a gut feeling as a referee that you might have made a mistake. You are under pressure then and when the stress is at its highest it is difficult to think clearly and get everything right.”
One difference between Poll and Styles is that the former was often likely to come out after a game to explain his decisions, and to hold his hands up if he felt if on reflection he felt he’d made a mistake. Styles comes across as someone looking to be the centre of attention as well as the man in the middle. As for the penalty, Poll said: “It was a big mistake.”
Nine players were booked, ten if you count Essien’s double-booking, and it’s hoped that Styles doesn’t get to officiate at a Liverpool game again in the near future. We’d much rather be talking about the players, not the referee, and Styles’ poor performance has taken coverage away from what was an excellent home debut goal for Fernando Torres.