Garth Crooks has taken aim at both Jurgen Klopp and his Manchester United counterpart, Ole Gunnar Solskjaer, after the pair criticised the refereeing rule changes.
Premier clubs had been informed prior to the start of the season proper that referees would not look to blow the whistle for minor matters, in order to improve the flow of the game.
“It would appear Jurgen Klopp and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer are up in arms about the rule changes this season which allow referees a certain leeway in their decision making,” the 63-year-old told BBC Sport.
“Officials have been encouraged to play on when physical contact occurs between players but is not necessarily a foul.
“Meanwhile, both managers believe the game is now in danger of becoming too physical.
“When I saw the comments I thought it was a misprint. The game becoming too physical? The game is in danger of becoming hilarious.”
Changes in refereeing followed from the European Championship, in which officials were encouraged to intervene less in games, an adaptation evidently welcomed by the BBC Sport writer.
“Regular readers will know how frustrated I became about players who went to ground at the slightest touch. Most of which came about because of the false assumption that if contact was made in the first instance, then a foul had been committed,” Crooks added.
“This was not always true. Football has always been a contact sport. While no-one wants to see injuries, unfortunately it is an occupational hazard and sometimes unavoidable.
“Players must have the ability to compete fairly and honestly and not be penalised for merely competing, otherwise the contest becomes sanitised and sterile.”
While in principle we at the Empire of the Kop would agree that there is a need to protect the flow of the game and not penalise contact in a sport where it is inevitable, we would certainly question the lack of nuance around the situation.
We can accept that minor challenges – or “trivial matters”, as contact that shouldn’t be penalised has been described – shouldn’t invite intervention, however, moments where players are quite literally wrestled to the turf, as occurred against Burnley, shouldn’t be ignored.
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