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Tuesday, 23 September 2014

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PETE ON THE BEAT: Pay the penalty

I AM grateful to the talking heads of Sky TV’s Sunday Supplement – this week it was the men from the Independent, Telegraph and Mirror – for confirming that I am not going bonkers.

Was it a dive; a stonewall penalty; or a ‘would have been a penalty if the player hadn’t moved his foot?’

Whatever you thought of referee Mark Halsey’s decision to award what turned out to be a match-winning penalty at Villa Park, you have to accept that double speak is now the language of football.

First we had Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert claiming, rightly as it happened, that “it was nowhere near a penalty.” Then Southampton’s Jay Rodriguez claimed that he did not dive.

Another Lambert – the one who scored from the spot, Saints’ Rickie – argued in front of the TV cameras that “it was a stonewall penalty”.

And finally, Southampton boss Ian Adkins, normally one of the game’s most measured observers, admitted there was no contact before adding bizarrely: “The defender stuck a leg out and if Jay had not gone down there would have been contact.”

Work that one out.

It was those men of the national press who stood up for Halsey, who manager Lambert claimed, would be embarrassed when he saw the TV.

Unanimously, the men from the media agreed that it was not one-look Halsey who should be embarrassed, but rather Joey (I didn’t dive) Rodriguez and Rickie (it was a stonewall penalty) Lambert who should be sharing the blushes.

The next thing you know you’ll have some people saying that Arsenal defender Laurent Koscielny’s rugby tackle on Manchester City’s Edwin Dzeko wasn’t a penalty.

And talking of rugby and penalties, did you see that Owen Farrell, son of a league legend turned top union coach, kicked TEN of them to help Saracens to an important European Cup win over French opponents.

They scored only one try in that 38-27 victory – their opponents scored three – but no matter... it’s penalties that count.

Now, either the rules of rugby union are far too complex for even top professionals to understand, or the players of Racing Metro are as thick as planks.

What other way is there to explain how a group of highly-paid professionals would give away TEN kickable penalties against a team that has the natural successor to goal-kicking machine Jonny Wilkinson in its ranks?

Once again, Sky TV comes to the rescue. It seems that in rugby union penalties – even penalty tries – are actually played for.

They are, according to Stuart Barnes “deserved” and penalty tries are on many a team’s ambitions.

The dictionary definition of a penalty may be “fine or other punishment attached to a defence” but in rugby they are apparently a reward to be earned.

But while football referees Halsey and Mike Dean had to suffer poisonous abuse from all corners of the ground, there was hardly a word of dissent over the awarding of all those penalties against the Frenchmen.

Perhaps it’s simply a case of c’est la vie?

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