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-= The Tributes of KEN ASTON MBE #46 =-
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“Judge, Jury and…”

By… Ken Aston MBE
Have you ever served on the jury in a criminal trial? If you have, then you will remember how strongly you were reminded by the defending advocate that you had to be sure "beyond reasonable doubt" of the defendant's guilt before bringing in a guilty verdict. In summing up, the judge would have directed you in the same way as a matter of law.

In considering the verdict, you would have reviewed all the evidence - mostly verbal - that was presented to you. One particularly important factor in the case would have been the motive for the alleged crime. That might be easy in the case of robbery, burglary, or fraud. But it might not be so easy sometimes in a case of murder.

The Point...

So what, you may ask, has this to do with refereeing a soccer match? Everything! As a referee you have to act much as the member of a jury does. The main difference is that you don't have as much time! Instead of the jury's hours or days, you have at most a couple or three seconds to review all the evidence - almost exclusively visual - consider motive, and then return your verdict either by whistling for "Guilty" or doing nothing at all for "Not Guilty."
It isn’t good enough to think that the player possibly or even probably committed the offense.

You must be sure!!!
Whistling means only one thing: that you are sure "beyond reasonable doubt" that an offense was committed. It isn't good enough simply to think that the player possibly or even probably committed the offense. You must be sure. If you bring in a "Guilty" verdict, then as judge you pronounce sentence, and indeed act as executioner to carry it out!
World Cup Examples...

You probably watched a number of matches in World Cup '98. Having read the above, how did you like some of the penalty calls? Not a lot? I do not propose to pinpoint matches or referees (for you can do that for yourself, if you wish), with the exception of Call No.1, which I liked - but very little!

Call No.1

An attacker in a general penalty area shot the ball towards goal. A defender two or three yards in front of him reached very quickly indeed and withdrew his hand and arm away from the ball, which nevertheless struck him on the arm. Penalty called, but no yellow or red card! It was impossible to attribute either motive or intent to the defender, yet the resulting penalty kick was crucial in the result of the game.

Call No.2

Call No.2 disturbed me a little. The ball was loose and running just wide of the goal, with the attacker chasing it and the keeper coming out for it. The keeper dove at the ball - which suddenly wasn't there, for the attacker had gotten there first and kicked it. The keeper's hands, now motionless at the conclusion of his dive for the ball, tangled with the attacker's leg and the attacker fell down. Penalty kick and yellow card for the keeper…and another crucial goal.

A Plea

If I were not so old and creaky, my dear colleagues, I would go down on my bended knees and beg you: "Please don't call a penalty when you think it's a penalty - only call it when you know it!"

Reprinted by permission from... American Youth Soccer Organization.

Article appeared in their... Fall 1998 "In Play" publication.

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