Former top ref surprised by officiating of Sheffield United man's 'reckless' challenge on Leeds United attacker

Former Premier League referee Mark Halsey is surprised that no disciplinary action was taken against Sheffield United's George Baldock for his 'reckless' challenge on Leeds United forward Tyler Roberts.

Thursday, 8th April 2021, 10:41 am
RECKLESS TACKLE - Sheffield United defender George Baldock's challenge on Leeds United man Tyler Roberts could have been a red card says former Premier League referee Mark Halsey. Pic: Getty

The defender ended up giving himself a suspected concussion by going off his feet to tackle Roberts, in what Halsey described as a 'lunging' challenge. The collision sent Roberts tumbling through the air, while Baldock's head hit the Elland Road turf with considerable force.

Referee Graham Scott kept his cards in his pocket and Baldock was allowed to continue after treatment, but succumbed to the effects of the blow to the head a few minutes later and had to be substituted. VAR Jarred Gillett did not recommend Scott take another look at the tackle.

Halsey categorised it as a subjective incident, but felt it was worthy of at least a caution for Baldock and possibly a red card.

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"He's gone in, lunging, from the front," said Halsey, who retired from officiating in 2013.

"It's subjective but I was surprised that no disciplinary action was taken at all, at least a yellow card for a reckless challenge. A tackle that endangers the safety of an opponent or uses excessive force or brutality must be sanctioned as serious foul play. Now any player who lunges at an opponent in challenging for the ball from the front, the side or from behind using one or both legs using excessive force or endangering an opponent is guilty of serious foul play. But that is subjective.

"I think it was a reckless challenge, it's one of those you class as an 'orange' - an inbetween challenge. I was surprised there was no action taken whatsoever by the referee Graham Scott. VAR would have definitely looked at that challenge. If they came to the conclusion that it was a cautionable offence for a reckless challenge, they would not got involved. If they felt it was a clear and obvious error by Graham Scott, a serious foul play challenge missed by him, they would have recommended a review for him to go and look at it again.

"I don't think there would have been any complaints had Graham Scott saw that challenge as a red card. Minimum yellow card for a reckless challenge. Some will say red, some will say yellow, it's one of those on which people would have different opinions."

Leeds have been on the wrong end of a number of VAR decisions this season, including a number of offside calls that chalked off goals and drew criticism from Whites striker Patrick Bamford.

For Halsey, the technology has not been the issue.

"VAR this season has been consistently inconsistent," he said.

"VAR itself is not the problem, it's the personnel operating it. As we saw over the weekend in the Southampton and Burnley game, there were two penalty incidents. One, the referee Andre Marriner didn't give and I thought that was a penalty. It was reviewed and he gave a penalty. You look at Chris Wood's one, he's gone to head the ball, he's being held back clearly with his shirt off his back and had he not been held he most probably would have scored but VAR didn't recommend it for review. For me that was a clear error. We've seen it this season and people complain about VAR, not wanting it in our game, but it's not VAR, it's the personnel using it."

Getting consistency in the use of video technology is a job for Mike Riley, but Halsey has little confidence in the refereeing chief or the standards of coaching for officials.

"Mike Riley has got to take the blame for this, it's training and education from him and his management team," he said.

"It hurts me to say it but the standard of officiating through the leagues has been on the decline for a number of years. Don't get me wrong we've still got some good referees, Michael Oliver is by far our best referee, and we've got some good experienced referees, but good coaches turn average players into good players and good players into excellent players and it's no different with referee coaches. Unfortunately we haven't got the quality of coaches at the elite level for our referees."