Webb of deceit: is England’s top ref good enough?

Umarah Naz was feeling a trifle put out by Howard Webb's decision not to give Luis Suárez a penalty for an apparent foul by Arsenal's Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on Sunday.


Howard Webb
Webb… Going worldwide this summer (Image: Ronnie Macdonald)

Our resident Liverpool columnist Umarah Naz was feeling a trifle put out by Howard Webb’s decision not to give Luis Suárez a penalty for an apparent foul by Arsenal’s Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain on Sunday…

I really didn’t want write about this but the bitter Red in me has taken over my usual gracious self, not unlike Dr Jekyll over Mr Hyde.

The loss to Arsenal in the FA Cup would have been hard enough to take anyway, but when you know your team may well have had a result had it not been for the man in black, it makes it all the more tough.

Before I go on, yes, Howard Webb made poor decisions for and against Liverpool, amongst them a claim for a Steven Gerrard red card for a second bookable offence that wouldn’t have been totally outrageous.

However, that foul came moments after a strong penalty appeal by the Reds was turned down when Luis Suárez was fouled by Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain. Hence, it could be argued that the referee knew he had erred and attempted to cancel out his previous mistake by making another.

Many believe that Webb lacked the courage to give that penalty as it came just a few minutes after he had already awarded Liverpool a penalty, which saw Gerrard coolly halve the deficit. Nevertheless, the timing should be irrelevant.

The only possible explanation in Webb’s favour could be Suárez’s exaggerated movement while falling to the ground which may have been construed as a dive on his part.

Howard Webb was, after all, only a few yards away and it was clear that contact was made and Suárez was fouled. Only he can explain why he waved the appeal away leaving the Merseysiders pleading with him.

My point here isn’t just to berate Webb for robbing us the chance of a replay (had we taken one or two more chances we may have won anyway) but to ask why his mistakes seem to go unnoticed by his employers.

Despite this and many other high-profile errors, he was voted the best referee in the world recently by the International Federation of Football History & Statistics and most worryingly will be on the plane to Brazil in June.

The Howard Webb questionable decision list makes for horrific reading, from showing too much leniency in the 2010 World Cup final (aka the Kung Fu World Championships) to sending Andy Carroll off for having arms.

When Samuel Eto’o tried to break Jordan Henderson’s leg at Stamford Bridge in the third minute, he stayed on the pitch to score the winning goal.

Add to that list a stonewall penalty Liverpool should have been awarded versus Chelsea and many many more inexplicable decisions.

Maybe I’m just really thick and am missing the point, but forgive me for feeling slightly aggrieved that this man represents this country in world football.

A country that boasts the best and most exciting league in the world; a league that players all over the world would give anything to play in and millions of fans follow passionately.

We have the biggest clubs, highly talented players, most successful coaches and the best fans in this country and we should certainly show the world that we have the most competent referees too. It’s time for the FA to show that our profile abroad matters to them too.