The View From 116

Another long weekend without football in the PSL. This one has felt particularly long with Bafana only involved in friendly action and a lack of competitive world cup qualifiers shown on our local TV. It has left me thinking back on the last competitive game with Free State Stars for an unusually long time. The game that was completely turned on is head by the red card to Grant Margeman. The red card that was awarded for reasons we still do not know.

For each PSL fixture, SAFA head of referees Peter Sejake receives the referee and match commissioners report within 48 hours. These match reports are assessed by the officials and further action can be taken, including the suspension of underperforming referees. We have also been the victim of this in recent times when Roger de Sa was retrospectively punished for an altercation with officials during the MTN8 semi-final with Bidvest Wits.

The Free State Stars game was televised and these reports could have been scrutinised alongside the match recording. This was a long weekend with Human Rights Day on the 21st March so perhaps we can give the officials some leeway, but by Friday surely these reports would have been assessed. We can assume that somebody in the PSL knows the reasons for the red card. Referees are not obliged to detail the reasoning behind their decisions, but a category is given for each card issued (e.g., dissent, time wasting, deliberate handball etc.). When I asked the PSL, some of our local football journalists and even AjaxCT’s usually excellent twitter feed I did not get a single reply.

It seems incredible that the coach could not be given a clear answer on the night, that journalists have not asked the authorities, and the PSL itself does not have a system for informing fans of the details of such events post-match. It is possible all these guys know the reason. Grant Margeman probably knows the reason. The coach may know, but does not want to talk about the reason. The journalists may know the reason, but not want to alter already posted match reports. The coach, the journalists and the PSL officials all attend the games for free. We are the paying customers. We paid to watch a game that was altered completely by a controversial decision. Nine days later we still do not know what happened.

As I said last week, this would not bring back the points. It would not change the outcome of a frustrating night, but it would provide some closure on the events that led to considerable unrest in the stands. The perception at the moment is that a clearly injured player was sent off for taking too long to leave the field. This is outrageous. Something else may have happened, but we do not know. Although the outcome of the game cannot be altered, it is important to hold the referee to account. This week we have seen referee Joseph Lamptey banned for life by FIFA after the crazy award of a non-existing penalty in the Bafana v Senegal world cup qualifier. How do the paying supporters know something similar did not happen in the Free State Stars game?

Because we have been left with the impression that Margeman was sent off for time wasting, many supporters have felt that the second booking should be appealed by the club. There is an appeal process in the PSL that is occasionally used by clubs. Earlier this season Bidvest Wits appealed a red card to Xolani Mlambo in an MTN8 game, but were unsuccessful. It is actually very rare for a red card to be rescinded in South Africa and the PSL tend to only consider cases of mistaken identity. This differs from other leagues in the world where red cards can be rescinded if a review panel finds that a referee has made a mistake. In fact in the EPL there have been so many appeals that the authorities had to bring in a ruling over ‘frivolous appeals’. If an appeal is considered to be irrational the player involved may have their original ban extended further. Some famous names have been affected by this – including Rio Ferdinand at Manchester United. This is a policy that has been now been adopted elsewhere in the football world, such as the MLS.

I cannot recall a player receiving an extended ban for a frivolous appeal in South Africa, but the chances of an appeal succeeding are so slim that it not worth the effort to appeal a card. Unless of course it was a case of mistaken identity. We just do not know, and that is the problem.

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