Special thanks to Andy and Dick for bringing this one forward so quickly and to Ed and Nigel for their insightful comments.
You might think this was the title of a Sherlock Homes novel gone horribly wrong. It is however a recent incident which occured in the UK.
Dorchester Town player-manager Ashley Vickers was shown a red card for violent conduct after a pitch invasion by a man, sporting only a bright green thong and socks, during the Blue Square South clash with Havant & Waterlooville. A blow by blow article can be found here from Mail Online.
If you haven't seen the video, it is here, and below.
So I have (2) questions for us here:
1. Does the referee have the authority to take this action against the player for what he did to a spectator?
This answer is a clear yes. From the LOTG in Law 12 under "Disciplinary Sanctions" on p. 26 states:
A player who commits a cautionable or sending-off offense, either on or off the field of play, whether directed towards an opponent, a team-mate, the referee, an assistant referee or any other person, is disciplined according to the nature of the offence committed.In this case the offense must be "violent conduct" as simply no other reason for sending off would lie in this case.
2. Should the referee have taken the action against the player?
Here is where the magic lies. In this particular situation, in this particular match ... probably. As was written over email to me by a particularly knowledgeable source on the topic, it put the referee in an untenable position that he just had to act. It is similar to the player who instead of saying a curse under his breath when he misses a shot, rings the top rafter of the stadium with a stream of curses. Unfortunately, the referee has to act in those cases. This may have been one.
Note however is this the right thing to do for THE game or its participants? Look at the reaction of the players after the send off. The referee just about had to run for cover after he send the player off. That to me does not smack of the right decision for THE game.
Even if players are upset about a send off, their emotions are generally offset by each other. Half generally agree, half generally disagree. Here, we seemed to have nothing but disagreement on the topic. That should be a clue that justice was not served here.
Another email comment from another very knowledgeable and philosophical source stated that if justice is not served, "players may be outraged to the point of assault." It would seem that we come awfully close here and if not for the referees backpedaling ability, one may have indeed occurred.
I would opine that the decision is technically correct in this case, but justice was not done.
Let me hang a scenario out there and see if you still come up with the same answer of a send off ...
Same match, same basic circumstances, except the spectator that came charging into the field, was not to just be a nuisance, but to cause serious harm to you, the referee. In this case before the invader can get to you, the same result of #6 tackling the invader occurs, ending the potential standoff, and saving your behind from that harm.
What then? Do you really send that player off for violent conduct?
If so, you are certainly consistent in the application of the LOTG. But is it justice?
Now ask yourself why is a referee out there? To enforce the laws, or to manage the match to a just outcome?
No answers today ... just food for thought.