A Dutch court has convicted a football player to 100 hours of community service after a tackle on the football pitch. The victim, who broke his leg on two places, also receives 9.000 euro’s financial compensation for this physical abuse.
The judge realises the player is challenging an opponent for the ball. And although his intentions were good, court says this is not allowed. The reasoning: when a player makes a sliding tackle he takes a significant risk to harm his opponent.
The lower leagues in Dutch football start the upcoming weekend. Will it be okay for them to make some tackles?
100.000 tackles per weekend
Sports lawyer Richard van der Zwan is very surpised by this verdict. “Every weekend 100.000 tackles will be made on amateur football pitches during the weekend”, he says to newspaper de Volkskrant. “The chance you hurt someone like this is one in a million. Then there is no significant chance [that someone will get hurt].”
What are your thoughts on this situation?
It’s not unknown here in Scotland. In the early 1980’s Albion Rovers (my team) captain Jim Deakin had his leg broken by an Arbroath player during a league match. The player was found guilty of assault and fined, the Sheriff said he’d have been jailed if he though he’d set out to inflict the damage from the start rather than just being reckless.
Thanks for that update. Didn’t know about it. In Wales a player got sentenced in jail for one year after a horrible tackle.
I think that while a player going for a sliding tackle is taking a risk of breaking someone’s leg, the other side of the argument is also true- the player who is being tackled went out to play the game knowing that it might happen and his leg might be broken.
So for me, since both players know the risks involved in playing the game, I do not think that it is reasonable to fine someone for a unfortunate event.
Now the problem for referees especially is that this does not mean that ALL leg-breaking tackles are the same. Some are clearly not in the spirit of the game and are often attempts to hurt the player with the ball.
There are multiple levels to this problem. Warning: these videos are of a horrible tackle that ended a promising young player’s (Steve Zakuani) career at my favorite club, Seattle Sounders FC (in the USA).
First, watch this tackle (again, very harsh video, you can hear the leg “snap” as it is broken):
Horrible tackle, right? Straight red card. Mullan, the player who does it, was angry and lashed out, going straight at Zakuani and through him in an attempt to make a tackle that Zakuani would really feel.
So as a referee, our problem is that we might be called to give evidence in a court case. Was a tackle just a normal part of the game, and therefore not a tackle that deserves compensation or punishment?
And do we, as referees, want to be in the position of having to give our opinion on such a matter? How can we know what is in the head of a player? The LOTG are drawn up in such a way that we need not try to decipher that very much; we simply must referee a match according to what we see in front of us, not by our guess to a player’s intent.
(Of course, we know that we still often do try and figure out intent, because that is part of being a good referee and good player-management.)
Now, watch the same tackle, but in a longer video.
Do you see a problem here? The reason that Mullan was angry was he believed that he suffered a foul from a player, and as a result when the chance appears in front of him to retaliate against a Seattle player (Zakuani) he runs over and launches into a nasty tackle.
I bring this up because now, someone might be able to make an argument that the broken leg is at least partially the fault of the *referee*. If the referee stops play and calls a foul for how Mullan is pulled away from the ball, then he is not angry and does not run over and launch himself at Zakuani.
If this does not concern you as a referee, I think you must have very good insurance, or else maybe no money to lose in a lawsuit!
So this is a difficult situation. If this judgement becomes a trend, then I can see these two problems:
A) referees asked to give evidence whether a tackle was “normal play” or apparently so foul that it should not be considered part of the game;
B) referees held liable for injuries that result if they do not “call enough fouls” or allow a player to become angry on the pitch because the player feels he/she does not get a call they deserve.
Good addition to this topic. Much appreciated
Jan, I did read the full verdict by the Court in The Hague. The Court apparently ruled that the action by the defendant was done on purpose, which to me is still a questionable ruling.
However as this was a verdict by a High Court in the Netherlands the only step left is the Supreme Court of the Netherlands.
It is tricky, as a court is trying to sit on the chair of a disciplinary commission. If they had ruled just pay for the damage and get it over with, nobody would have complained. After all, it is covered by health insurance here.