A referee decision that stands in the way of a goal being scored is the much easier and thus too frequently taken, with the consequence that a list of all recognised wrong decisions shows a clear disproportion to the disadvantage of goals scored.
Now this may sound complicated, but in the end it should be a formulation that sounds moderate enough to at least be granted the possibility of justification.
The problem briefly put into other words: the referee prefers to decide against a goal if he has reason to doubt the correctness of a (possible) goal. The bracket insertion is necessary because penalty kicks and offside decisions are included here, which only stand for potential goals and in the rarest of cases (the rare case would be: a striker scores a goal from very close range, which would be unavoidable if the goal were not disallowed by the assistant by waving the flag and the then unavoidable whistle of the referee) mean a sure goal. As a rule, however, the decisions are as follows: Offside: yes, penalty: no.
Now, of course, this statement is highly risky and, at first glance, not to be accepted. Above all, the referees themselves would vehemently object at first: “I whistle according to the rules. Here it was an offside position, there it was borderline whether it was a foul or not, in this respect I decided rather by chance against the foul and in favour of offside. The pictures and subsequent analyses do show: here it was not offside, there it was a foul, but that was not intentional and merely a momentary misjudgement, for which I apologise. Otherwise, I whistle to the best of my ability – as I did in the two debatable scenes themselves.”
This is a kind of reflex and in principle not only preordained but self-evident. The tendentious way of decision-making indicated here cannot be accepted in this way. It must be an error, a misjudgement, a wrong observation.
Nevertheless, one might briefly consider the idea a little more closely. There is also something like psychology at this point that plays a role in decision-making. One could almost give every referee’s decision the classification “made intuitively” at the same time. Because with the short time span that is measured and within which a whistle – or none at all – must be blown, it is actually too much for the leading official (and would be for any other human being). A decision has to be made immediately, whether right or wrong may be judged afterwards. On the one hand, this assessment of the intuitive judgement of any scene must evoke admiration for the man at the whistle, but on the other hand it directly provides an “exculpatory argument”. So if wrong, one might say, it is at least always extremely difficult to have it right. In good German: every mistake would be an excusable one at the same time. It happens so quickly that it becomes impossible to get it right all the time and continuously.
However, this would still be far from being the reason, it is simply the relief and in this respect it would not be understood as an accusation here anyway. Still missing, however, is the possible sense of why a decision against possibly scoring would be the easier one?
There are a few essential aspects to this, listed in such a way:
- a goal that is awarded usually results in an often considerable shift of chances as far as the outcome of the game is concerned and, if wrongly awarded, in an unjustified one
- an unconceded goal maintains the status quo, i.e. in the case of a wrongly conceded goal it would only deprive the player of a justified shift — a huge difference to point 1.
- usually the decision against a goal is only one against a potential goal, but conversely one per goal is usually an irrevocable one
- a goal itself often changes the course of the game (enormously)
- a goal that is wrongly recognised makes big waves, a possible goal that is not given (a missed penalty, a wrongly recognised offside position) is usually only mentioned briefly after a match and is soon forgotten.
All five of the above-mentioned aspects with their concomitants provide for the intuitive decision preferentially to the disadvantage of the attacking party. It is the far more comfortable solution in each case with intuitively perceived the far more pleasantly acceptable consequences.
Nevertheless, briefly discussed in detail:
An unjustified shift in the distribution of chances due to a falsely recognised hit would be most unpleasant. Here, one would immediately recognise – also purely intuitively – the disadvantage of a team. This is a powerful effect that one would like to avoid as much as possible.
If, on the other hand, a penalty is not awarded in a situation, which the pictures and analyses show to be wrong afterwards, the disadvantaged team could also argue that it missed a goal, but at least the penalty kick would have been awarded. Thus, only a possible goal would have been scored. Likewise, if a striker runs alone towards the goalkeeper, is stopped by the assistant’s flag, but this turns out to be a mistake: a great chance is denied, but by no means a whole goal.
Both manifestations ensure: rather not the goal, rather offside, rather no penalty. Add to this the media coverage and the matter soon becomes clear. After a wrongly awarded goal, the referee has to justify himself, put up with unpleasant questions, is thrust into the limelight – which per se is already a disadvantageous assessment for referees (he is good if he doesn’t attract attention…) – and does not come off well at all. Should he have judged an offside wrongly, it is briefly mentioned in the summary (“he was wrong here, but it was also difficult to see…”) and bygones. Likewise in the case of the penalty: “Could have or even should have given a penalty” but nothing more happens.
The course of the game changed by a wrongly recognised goal (an unjustified penalty that was converted, an “overlooked” offside that resulted in a goal) goes hand in hand with the shifting of chances and the growing professionalism. Whoever scores a goal (most often the 1:0) immediately switches to defending the lead, given that the teams are usually evenly matched. You’re leading now, let the opponent come, we’ll wait for the counter-attacking chances. That’s just the way it is, in the majority of cases. Conversely, if the distribution of chances was maintained (even if unjustified), at least everything would still be in order. The chance not taken (goal not recognised because of a foul by the striker, no penalty, but offside): then take the next one? Intuitively, one would prefer everything to remain the status quo. You only accept changes if they are unavoidable. Apart from the change in the course of the game, a single goal is often enough (in sequence) to decide the game. You don’t want to be responsible for that in an erroneous way. If the goal is not recognised, the decision is still open.
Of course, it should be mentioned at some point that we are generally talking about “critical situations” here. Such situations are of course related to the score. In a game that has already been decided, the decision-making is much easier (for the referee). There are no critical decisions, even if the game situation itself were critical. Nevertheless, it is then, so to speak, indifferent whether it is wrongly or correctly recognised. At the same time, there would be room for the referee and the observers to intuitively compensate for the decisions that so often go against a goal. In other words: in a critical game scene with an uncritical score, decisions in favour of a goal situation may well occur more frequently.
The error in the case of an incorrectly recognised goal is exactly equal to 1, conversely in the case of the denial of a penalty or the incorrect recognition of offside it is almost always smaller than 1. In this respect one intuitively prefers to make the smaller error? “It could have been a goal, sure, but who knows”? versus “the goal was not legal” clearly speaks in favour of allowing the contingency. In other words: rather no goal.
About the penalty kick, at least this view should be inserted and repeated from time to time: as a rule, when a penalty kick is awarded, a tiny chance to score is turned into a gigantic one. This is intuitively repugnant. “Not the slightest danger of a goal when a striker, standing with his back to goal, is hit lightly on the foot yet goes down from it. Sure, yes, there was contact. But there’s no way he could have scored from there. If anything, he might have been able to hold onto the ball and pass it on to a teammate at some point. Now he’s fouled, I can see that. But a penalty kick is by far too big a reward for some, a punishment against others. So it’s better not to take a penalty.”
Now all this is so far rather anaemic and purely on an argumentative level. There are plenty of practical examples, some of which have been discussed in detail elsewhere. However, here and there there is a (expert) voice that supports the thesis. As an example, let’s at least mention this one: “Anywhere on the field, that would be a free kick. There is nothing for it in the penalty area.”
The problem to which the person who says this is exposed is often the most dubious at the same time: he is declared to be biased, because in the match that has just ended his own team was adversely affected. So what he says is meaningless? Not at all. However, it is not recognised. At least it should be mentioned at this point that this statement has also been heard from uninvolved parties. Often thrown after it: “I don’t understand that”. An approach to an explanation – emphasised and repeated: without an accusation behind it – is provided in this excerpt.