When the command of the Spanish referees reviewed last season, they concluded that they had fallen short with the red cards. They explained that some had been left “in limbo”. They believed that they should have protected the players more from some too hard tackles. They also thought that it was necessary to bring order to the bench area. The Technical Committee of Referees (CTA) collected these concerns in its circular at the beginning of the course, and something changed. Last weekend the first two-thirds of the League calendar was completed, in which the refereeing rigor was doubled. The Spanish championship has returned to red levels not seen for more than a decade, in the 2009-10 season. And that despite the fact that the number of yellow cards has not changed.
There is no European League in which more are expelled. On the last day the border of one hundred was crossed, leaving the bench staff out of the count of 33. The 103 red cards seen exceed the 89 of the entire last season and stand out in the European context. In France they have 73; in Italy, 43; in Germany, 31; and in England, 22.
Not only is there no other case with more expulsions in any of the other major European championships, but there is also no other case with more in the entire past season. France then stayed at 103.
The jump is remarkable. According to Opta’s records, last season the referees showed an average of 0.23 red cards per game in the League, a rate similar to that of the other championships, and in particular, in line with that of the UEFA club competitions (Champions , Europa League and Conference League), who sent off 0.20 times per game. However, this year the rate has almost doubled in Spain, reaching 0.41 red cards per game, while European competitions have hardly moved from where they were: they now register 0.19 per game.
The head of the Spanish referees, Luis Medina Cantalejo, president of the CTA, sent circular number 3 to his people at the beginning of the course with the conclusions of the pre-season seminars. In addition to explaining the latest modifications to the regulations, the document points out its concern about the laxity of the previous season: “Referees must protect the physical integrity of the players and penalize this type of action with the corresponding red card when they are carried out using excessive force or putting the adversary at risk of injury / physical integrity”.
At the end of the text, Medina Cantalejo refers to the disciplinary rampage on the wings: “Respecting referee decisions is part of the Laws of the Game and is the essence of football,” he says. “During the previous season, some behaviors in the technical areas have been identified that must be redirected immediately, as it damages the image of football and the competition.” All this was repeated in public and in talks with the coaches and footballers. Last year at this point, 27 people had been expelled from the benches, and this time there are 33, 22% more.
But the increase in expulsions on the field has been greater, particularly for insulting the referee. They have tripled: from the three last year at this point to the nine that are in this one. Last season they accounted for 5% of the total, and now, 10%.
The great disciplinary change in Spain seems related only to the reds. The rhythm of the yellow cards remains stable: last year five were shown per game, and this time five are also shown.
The jump in expulsions can be considered a Spanish anomaly at the European level. If we look at the data for the group of these referees who whistle in Spain and in European competitions, it can be seen that the frequency of their expulsions has tripled in both scenarios.
This group of judges, the most highly regarded among Spaniards, last season used the reds half as much as the average, both in Spain and in Europe. Del Cerro Grande, Gil Manzano, Hernández Hernández, Mateu Lahoz and Sánchez Martínez showed 0.11 per Champions League and Europa League game last year, when the average was double, 0.20. This course the Spanish have tripled in Europe, 0.31, while the average has remained at 0.19.
The transformation of the elite referees in the League, where they were the most restrained, has been even greater. Last year, as in Europe, they were in the middle of the average, 0.12 red cards per game compared to 0.23. But in this one they have jumped to match the rest, and they get 0.38 per game, almost at the average of 0.41.
In the CTA, the increase in expulsions is not disturbing, in which they hardly find fault. They consider that the red ones correspond to the actions of the footballers and coaches, and with the precautions they decided to take at the beginning of the course.
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