Howard Webb’s Performance: Was It Anything To Shout About?

Picture the scene: Little Johnny, an 8 year old schoolboy rushes home to tell his mother some exciting news about the World Cup Final.

Little Johnny: “Oh boy, oh boy! Ma, you won’t believe this!”

Ma: “What is it Little Johnny? I’m just in the middle of throwing out all the assorted England branded merchandise I’ve needlessly bought to show my support.”

LJ: “No need ma! Howard Webb’s refereeing the final! Isn’t it just the best news?!”

Ma: “Oh thank goodness! I shall bake a pie for the occasion which FIFA can brand and take 40% profit from! I am over the moon!”

And so Little Johnny and his Ma watch the World Cup Final, wearing Howard Webb bald caps and novelty T-Shirts which display Howard Webb as Spiderman and drinking Howard Webb branded juice out of Howard Webb shaped mugs. Howard Webb really has united the nation in a flood of patriotism. Patriotism which even goes so far as to let us celebrate his performance in the final as ‘not that bad’, which is, obviously, almost on par with our boys lifting the trophy themselves.

Patriotism which allowed us to overlook the clear red card Spain’s Carles Puyol should have received for trying to fell Netherland’s Arjen Robben before he reached the penalty area, likewise Nigel De Jong’s ridiculous boot on Xabi Alonso, Andres Iniesta’s theatrical dive after Jonny Heitinga stroked his shoulder leading to the Dutchman’s dismissal, a blatant block on the edge of the Spanish penalty area on Elia which in turn lead to Spain’s goal and Mark Van Bommel.

The Robben incident, in which the normally dive-happy Dutchman stayed on his feet, itself has triggered much debate amongst our fans. And when I say debate, I mean people who say “Robben deserves to have blatant foul play ignored when it happens to him because he usually dives in those circumstances!” Seemingly advocating that instead of enforcing the actual rules of the game, referees should in fact make their decisions based on a system of karma. I look forward to the sight of Uriah Rennie seeing red, chasing down Rooney and angrily hacking him down being deemed just as acceptable next season.

There also seems to be suggestions from a few which say that as Webb allowed the advantage and it was squandered, this renders Puyol’s card void. Which is, of course, wrong. A card-able offence should always be punished with the appropriate card even if advantage has occurred, and there have been numerous instances of referees successfully enforcing this rule during the tournament to widespread appraisal from pundits.

On the one hand the mentality of the players can be blamed to a large extent for the 14 yellow cards Webb gave out, on the other it is evidence of his complete lack of control over the game. Part of a referee’s role is to ensure that the game runs smoothly and discipline does not get out of hand.

There were also many inconsistencies with his yellow card distribution. The Spanish players frequently crowded him demanding yellow cards, a bookable offence in itself, whilst Robben’s desperate pleadings for Puyol’s dismissal saw him go in the book. In a complete role reversal, Robben escaped punishment for kicking the ball away, where Xavi was cautioned for the exact same thing.

Now, I understand that it was a hard game to officiate, and Webb by no means gave a dreadful performance, however he did not have the perfect, error-free game the English media seem to be suggesting.

And that’s fine.

Referees aren’t expected to get every decision right. However, when they don’t, they should not be patted on the head because they share the same nationality as us.

Honestly, if the game was presided over by a referee from a different country who had made exactly the same decisions, would we a) try and exempt him from blame and criticism to the same extent or b) talk about him as if he was the focal point of the final?


We’d be talking about when Jimmy Jump got deservedly and hilariously flattened for yet another of his pointless pitch invasions.

Surely his funds and willingness to attend high profile sporting events and miss the majority of them after being escorted from the premises before the end after performing a crap stunt nobody appreciates must be waning pretty thin by now?

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