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Champions League referees prefer comforts of home


Atlético Madrid complained about Fernando Torres’ sending off against Barcelona, or better said, protested that referee Brych didn’t apply the same rigour in pulling out his notebook for Luis Suárez. Those that are happy to admit Torres erred in incurring the second yellow card in Camp Nou, also note with good reason that Suárez also did enough to get himself sent off. On the other hand, Gareth Bale appealed for a penalty in Wolfsburg, which was neither a scandalous foul or easy to spot, much the same as the one awarded against Casemiro. “In the middle of the pitch it would have been a foul, but in the area…” said Bale. In the home side’s area those sorts of penalties are not given In the away end, they are. Casemiro’s challenge did warrant a penalty but it needed a keen eye. The referee did see that one.

It has been many years now that referees lean towards the home side in Europe. It hasn’t always been the case, but it has been going on for a while. Bad decisions going against the home side are exceptional events, which is why Tom Henning Ovrebo’s mistakes in the 2009 Champions League semi-final between Chelsea and Barcelona were so out of place. But the general tendency is to favour the home side. That way scandals are avoided and over the course of a two-leg tie justice is served evenly; or two unjust decisions serve to cancel each other out. Controversy is being actively avoided, and there was plenty of it in the past. Remember the “loco del Bernabéu,” who charged onto the pitch to assault referee Erich Linemayr during a European Cup semi-final against Bayern in 1975-76? Those levels of annoyance are never reached now.

It’s not a slogan, there is no need for one. The referees we have are those who know how to do things, which is whatever pleases whoever is putting on the show. That’s why it’s extremely rare to see a refereeing error against a host nation in the World Cup, or against Brazil, Italy or Germany, the traditional heavyweights. And for the same reason in Europe the away side is always under closer scrutiny than the home team. So Torres, off, and Madrid, penalty conceded. Meanwhile, Suárez stayed on the pitch for the 90 minutes and Bale was denied his spot kick. What today is for Paul, tomorrow will be rendered unto Peter. It’s Uefa’s way of writing the rules with twisted logic.


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