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Behind the Whistle: A look back at the key decisions from the EFL this weekend

24 January 2023

Despite adverse weather conditions reducing the EFL schedule at the weekend, on-hand to go through a selection of key match decisions from the action in the Sky Bet Championship, Sky Bet League One and Sky Bet League Two is former EFL and Premier League referee Chris Foy.

Although 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

Burnley 2-1 West Bromwich Albion

Incident: Potential foul for West Brom’s goal

Decision: Goal awarded (West Brom)

This is a subjective decision, requiring the referee to make a judgement call about the level of upper body contact, so you can understand that there will be opinions from both sides.

There is a higher threshold in place for fouls to be given, however, there is contact from the West Brom attacker with the Burnley defender which could have impacted the defender’s ability to jump and challenge for the ball.

This would have been a difficult decision to make in real time in a crowded box, however with the benefit of replays, I would say that in this instance I think the upper body contact has a consequence and the better outcome is to award a defensive free kick and disallow the goal.

Incident at 1minute 10seconds


Sunderland AFC 2-0 Middlesbrough

Incident: Potential red card for DOGSO (Denial of an Obvious Goal Scoring Opportunity) (Middlesbrough)

Decision: Red card and penalty awarded

I think the decision to penalise the defender is correct, and it is important to note that whether this particular incident was committed inside or outside of the ‘box’, it wouldn’t have impacted the result of a red card being issued.

A penalty and red card - the ‘double jeopardy rule’ - only comes into play if a penalty is given and the foul is a genuine attempt to play the ball – on this occasion, the challenge in question is an upper body offence and not a genuine attempt for the ball.

The debate around this decision was should it have resulted in a free-kick or a penalty, the speed and transition of the attack make this an extremely challenging judgement in real-time, and there are clearly very fine margins. With the benefit of technology and review, I think the initial contact was made outside of the box.

Incident at 1minute 5seconds


Watford 1-1 Rotherham United

Incident: Penalty appeal (Watford)

Decision: No penalty awarded

I think the correct decision was made here – the defender makes no action to challenge and the contact occurs from a tangle of legs through the normal actions of both players. I don’t believe this meets the threshold for a foul and a subsequent penalty being awarded.

Sky Bet League One

Barnsley 3-1 Accrington Stanley

Incident: Penalty appeal (Accrington Stanley)

Decision: Penalty awarded

In this incident, I think the Accrington Stanley attacker does well to get his body in front of the Barnsley defender. The defender then makes a challenge to try and win the ball which is very difficult to do that without making contact.

This is a decision I would agree with.

Incident from 1minute 20seconds


Shrewsbury Town 5-1 Cambridge United

Incident: Potential penalty (Shrewsbury Town)

Decision: Penalty awarded

This a subjective decision as to who makes contact with who but on balance I think once the defender commits to the challenge, with the speed of the action, and there is no contact with the ball the decision to award a penalty is a correct one.

Incident from 5seconds


Sky Bet League Two

Colchester United 0-2 Gillingham

Incident: Potential red card (Gillingham)

Decision: Yellow card awarded

I think this is another subjective decision that can split opinions once reviewed.

It is a high challenge by the Gillingham player and at the speed of it is a little out of control. Whilst full contact isn’t made, I think this incident could have resulted in a red card being issued.


Match Postponements / Abandonments

As with each season, some games up and down the country may be affected due to adverse weather conditions.

The role of the match officials is to determine if the pitch is playable or not, and with robust and effective pitch protection now required at every stadium, pitches often remain playable even during sub-zero temperatures or after heavy snow or rainfall.

Despite this fact, many clubs are faced with the prospect of postponed matches, either due to an unplayable pitch, or spectator safety concerns relating to the condition of the stadium itself and/or its surrounds.

Here is the process that each Club has to go through when assessing the condition of the pitch or areas surrounding the stadium.

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