Giving goals where there are no goals – Why Windass should not have walked

Dean Windass’s late lunge that got a red card at Valley Parade on Saturday against Sheffield United was many things – stupidly timed, ill judged and cynical – but it was not a red card offence.

The rules on automatic dismissals, a relatively modern concept in football, are clear. A player can be given a straight red card for two offences: violent conduct or a tackle that denies the opposition of a clear goal scoring opportunity.

The latter first: Windass’s trip was a good seventy yards away from the City goalmouth and in no way could be said to have robbed the Blade’s of a goal scoring chance. I’m not suggesting that they could not have build a decent move out of the fact that almost every Bantam was in their box and they were on the break but I am saying that that chance was a few good passes away and that when Windass intervened it was not a chance. The analogy is Leg Before Wicket in cricket which my understanding is cannot be given on a ball that may have swung back to the stumps. It has to be in line and heading at the stumps when it hits the batsman’s pad. The so-called professional foul rule works in a similar way.

So Windass could not have seen red for that.

Nor could his trip, albeit from a distance and totally stupid, be said to be violent conduct. Violent conduct governs punches and kicks like Kevin Phillips’s ill conceived boot to the backside off Franck Queudrue on Saturday. In the context of tackles it governs two footed lunges and waist high feet, which has nothing to do with Windass on Saturday.

You may have sat appalled by the fact that Windass’s trip robbed the game of open play that could have raised excitement levels or you may have been angered by Windass being so stupid as to put a tackle in in that position that late in the game that could have had this outcome. You may think that a tackle that trips a guy on the break is worth a red card or you may think that Windass lost his head against his former team but none of these points matter.

The rules are stated in black and white, there are no interpretations. Referee’s are not enfranchised to may poetic decisions to round off the story of Dean Windass and Sheffield United nor is he there to decide that Windass has killed a beautiful move that could have been so exciting had it got out of it’s infancy.

He is there to enforce the rules, not make his own. Which of the two infringements for an automatic red card did Dean Windass commit? He may be morally worth a red card and it may be apt punishment for his stupidity but those calls are not for the Referee to make.

What we saw on Saturday was the Referee overreacting to an on field incident and forgetting the rules he is there to enforce. To put it in context it was the Ref deciding on the outcome of an event based not on the event itself and how it should be dealt with in the rules but on the strength of his gut reaction to it.

It’s the equivalent of him seeing a great passing move that resulted in a shot just wide of the post and giving a goal because – hey – it would have been a great goal.

We would not accept that, we should not accept this.