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Behind the Whistle: A look at the big decisions

4 January 2023

The New Year brings with it a new feature for, as former EFL and Premier League referee Chris Foy will go through a selection of key match decisions from the action across the Sky Bet Championship, Sky Bet League One and Sky Bet League Two.

While many decisions made on the field of play are of a subjective nature, 'Behind the Whistle' will give supporters of EFL Clubs an insight into the decision-making considerations and also clarification of certain decisions to provide an understanding of how the Laws of the Game are interpreted.

A regular feature on following the conclusion of a matchday, Foy will be here to run you through some refereeing matters in the EFL.

Sky Bet Championship 

Blackburn Rovers 1-0 Cardiff City

Incident: Potential Red Card

Decision: Yellow Card awarded

I think this is an example of a decision that required evidence from the different perspectives of the refereeing team – the referee, assistant referee and fourth official, given their differing viewing angles.  

There is a genuine attempt to challenge for a bouncing ball, and the intensity of the challenge is probably mitigated by the low speed and degree of control. That being said, the point of contact is high with the leading foot on the upper thigh of the opposition player.

With the player’s safety in mind, I believe the better outcome would have been the issuing of a red card for serious foul play.


QPR 1-1 Sheffield United

Incident: Penalty appeal for Sheffield United

Decision: No penalty awarded

One of the key performance areas outlined at the start of the season was the maintaining of a higher threshold and not penalising minimal contact – this sits under that threshold and therefore a penalty was correctly not awarded.

Actions of both players involved in the challenge are considered and contact doesn’t always mean it’s a foul, playing on when there is contact is still a viable option. The best outcome from this incident was what the referee did at the time – allow the game to play on.

Incident at 6minutes


Sky Bet League One

Morecambe 5-0 Burton Albion

Incident: Goal scored by Morecambe - Potential offside decision

Decision: Goal given

This is one that raised a few eyebrows initially, but it is important to understand how deceiving camera angles can be, particularly for an offside decision.

As you can see in the clip below, whilst Morecambe 14 is in an offside position initially, he never became active as the ball was intercepted by a Burton Albion defender.

Once the ball was played forward towards Morecambe 17, he was very close to being in line with a Burton Albion defender. While he may have been very slightly offside, it was clearly a close call and assistant referees are encouraged to give benefit of the doubt to the attacking team in circumstances when doubt exists.

Due to the speed of the forward movement and given the Burton Albion defence was static at this point, it appeared to be significantly offside in real time, however, the judgment of offside is made when the ball is played as opposed to when it is received, leading to a very close call for the assistant referee.


Forest Green Rovers 1-3 Port Vale

Incident: 17 minutes of additional time

Decision: Two goals were scored in this period

When the fourth official raises the board to show additional time and it has ‘14’ displayed, there will always be a little bit of surprise.

In this instance, a serious injury resulting in play being halted for nearly 9 and half minutes, alongside the normal stoppages in play for cautions, substitutions and goals meant a minimum of 14 minutes added time was displayed.

One of the referees’ tasks is to act as timekeeper and it’s important to say that additional time is a ‘minimum’ – there was further time collected in added time, resulting in over 17 minutes of added time in total.

Additional time / Goals scored from 1minute

Sky Bet League Two

Northampton Town 1-0 Leyton Orient

Incident: Goal scored by Leyton Orient – potential offside decision

Decision: Goal disallowed for offside

As the Leyton Orient free kick is taken, Leyton Orient 23 is clearly in an offside position.

With the ball deflecting off the Northampton Town wall - as opposed to being deliberately played – it is correctly adjudged to be offside once the player becomes active by playing the ball.  

Incident at 1minute 10seconds

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