Michael Malbranc: a mistake that costed him his referee career

I blogged about Irmatov who whistled for a foul and then still allows the goal which was scored afterwards. There’s a same situation back in the nineties in Germany: it costed referee Michael Malbranc his career.

Michael MalbrancWe need to go back to the 5th of August 1997. Referee Michael Malbranc was refereeing 1860 München versus Karlsruher SC in German Bundesliga in the Olympia Stadium in Munich. The score was 2-1 for “Die Löwen” (The Lions) the nickname of the club from Munich. It was the 88th minute when Abédi Pelé from the home team made an offence and referee Michael Malbranc whistled. The KSC attacker still kept going for the goal maybe less than a second after the whistle. The referee awarded the goal and the match ended in 2-2.

The referee never admitted his mistake. He said afterwards that “in his perception the whistle was after the goal was scored”, according to news website NDR. They also say Michael Malbranc was not allowed to referee matches on the two highest levels anymore. Only four months after Malbranc he resigned as a referee.

Check out the video about the incident. It’s in German, but you can hear when the referee whistled and where the ball was at that moment. If it’s not loading properly, you should start at 14 min and 30 seconds.


What can referees learn from this? Check out the case study about changing a decision as referee.

Change decision: Irmatov gives penalty … oh no, a goal

Ravshan Irmatov whistled for a foul in the Confederations Cup match between Italy and Brazil and awarded a penalty. Then he realised that another Italian player scored a goal immediately after he whistled. He choose to change decision and awards the goal.

Is that a correct call by the referee? Below an explanation based on the Laws of the Game, but first the video from that match.

“He has admitted he made a mistake,” said FIFA spokesman Pekka Odriozola. Below there’s an explanation why it was a mistake, so you could learn from that.

A short description of the situation: There’s a corner kick for Italy and players are duelling for the ball. Ravshan Irmatov sees an offence by a Brazilian defender in his own penalty area. Due to fans and commentators you might not hear the whistle, but you can see him pointing to the penalty spot. But he sees that the ball goes to an Italian player who has a clear shooting opportunity and he kicks the ball in the net.

The reaction of Italian player Chiellini shows that he thinks the goal is cancelled, but then he sees the referee pointing to the middle line.

But was that correct? No, because the referee already whistle for a foul. The Laws of the Game say that “the ball is out of play when A) it has wholly crossed the goal line or touch line whether on the ground or in the air; B) play has been stopped by the referee”.

The latter option (B) is why nobody could have scored. At the moment he whistled, Irmatov has stopped play and when play is stopped, nobody could score any more. That’s one of the basic rules every referee should know.

Change decision

But can’t a referee change his decision? Yes, referees can.

Uzbebistan referee Irmatov at the 2010 World Cup with Jubilani ball.

Uzebistan referee Irmatov at the 2010 World Cup with Jubilani ball.

The LATG say: “The referee may only change a decision on realising that it is incorrect or, at his discretion, on the advice of an assistant referee or the fourth official, provided that he has not restarted play or terminated the match.”

It does not mean that if he stops play, he can correct it by letting play continue for a goal being scored. What Irmatov could have done after allowing the goal, is changing that decision and still give the penalty he whistled for in the first time.

Read an interview with Ravshan Irmatov from this blog during the latest World Cup