It’s taken me this long to calm down. To be honest, I’m still not totally over it – even after Sunday’s eight-two mauling of Brisbane Roar.
Because last Thursday, Adelaide United were the victims of one of the worst – possibly the worst – refereeing decisions in the history of Australian football.
For those who missed it, it went something like this: trailing after conceding early, the Adelaide United women’s team scored a perfectly legitimate goal. Both the assistant referee and the referee awarded a goal. Somehow, they then changed their minds, deciding that the scorer, Fiona Worts, was offside.
There is no interpretation of the law that suggests it was even remotely offside. The official reason provided to Adelaide United was that Fiona Worts was offside because she was ahead of the last defender when Emily Condon took the shot that was parried by the Perth goalkeeper.
You cannot be offside if you’re behind the ball, even if the ball is passed forward. To be offside you must be in the opponents’ half and nearer to the opponents’ goal line than both the ball and the second-last opponent.
This has been the case since the law was first introduced. Either way, Worts was still in line with the last Perth defender anyway.
To add insult to injury for the Reds, Perth goal scorer Mie Leth Jans told media at halftime that she was disappointed that Perth had conceded a goal and the game was even at half-time. She had no idea that Adelaide’s perfectly legitimate goal had even been disallowed!
I have no idea how Adrian Stenta and the United bench stayed so clam after the decision.
I don’t like criticising referees. Having spent some time refereeing matches in the South Australian Amateur League last year, I have discovered a profound respect for their efforts. You could get every decision right for 89 minutes and then make a mistake and it’s the only thing everyone remembers and complains about.
Referees are human; they must make split-second judgement calls and there’s simply no way they can get it right every time.
And that’s why, at the highest levels of the game, we have the Video Assistant Referee (VAR) to overturn clear and obvious errors in near real-time. VAR is by no means perfect. But it is eradicating clangers from our game.
Unless you’re a female footballer playing in the top league in Australia; then you apparently don’t deserve VAR .
And I want to be clear, I’m not having a whinge because it happened to Adelaide United.
In the previous round, United should have had a penalty awarded against it for a foul against Newcastle.
An Adelaide player pulled the shirt of a Jets player outside the 18-yard box and continued to pull her shirt until they were inside the box, where the Newcastle player fell.
The referee incorrectly gave the foul outside the box (where the pull was initiated). Law 12.3 clearly states in that circumstance, a penalty should be awarded: “If a defender starts holding an attacker outside the penalty area and continues holding inside the penalty area, the referee must award a penalty kick.”
VAR would have seen this and informed the referee.
The Australian Professional League took the bold step of rebranding the game here under one banner: the A-Leagues.
It was a progressive move and a welcome one. For too long, the women’s game has been back-of-mind for those in power.
But again, there are some absolute glaring omissions from the women’s game. Not having VAR is near the top of the list. Critics will talk about cost, or that VAR requires more cameras and games to be played at better venues.
To them I say: if you’re going to spin a yarn about inclusivity and equality, do it right or don’t do it at all. Put your money where your mouth is.
Should Adelaide United miss a finals birth on the back of that horrendous decision, then the Reds would be well within their rights to request a ‘please explain’ from the governing body (if they haven’t done so already).
More importantly, it will be a crushing blow for those athletes who put on the shirt every week.
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