Celebrate among yourselves and keep your shirt on

So did Peter Walton REALLY have to show West Ham’s Frederic Piquionne a second yellow card for his goal-celebrations against Everton? No…and yes. Welcome to the subjective land of the laws of football.

FIFA guidelines state: ‘Leaving the field of play to celebrate a goal is not a cautionable offence in itself but it is essential that players return to the field of play as soon as possible. Referees are expected to act in a preventative manner and to exercise common sense in dealing with the celebration of a goal.’

So despite the common belief that running to celebrate a goal with supporters is a mandatory yellow card, that is not necessarily the case but the guidelines add: ’While it is permissible for a player to demonstrate his joy when a goal has been scored, the celebration must not be excessive.’

Let’s not get into the law that says leaving the field of play without the referee’s permission. That would open up not so much a can of worms as a barrel-load.

Journalists, players, managers and fans want consistency from referees but that is impossible because what one referee might see as a cautionable offence, another might not. Most of the laws are based on the opinion of the referee and as in life, people have different views on the same situation. What one referee regards as excessive another will consider acceptable. The laws are not always black and white.

Personally, I go along with Gerard Houllier who said that the best way to celebrate a goal is for the scorer to run to the team-mate who has laid on the chance. Too many celebrations these days are negative – the cupped ear or finger over the mouth – rather that what should be a moment of absolute joy.

I have sympathy for Walton because no matter what most of my FWA colleagues apparently believe, celebrating with fans does present a potential danger. Jubilant supporters can be injured climbing over seats in an effort to share a hug or a high-five with the goalscorer. I remember being at the Valley when Manchester United scored and in the mayhem to celebrate with the scorer there was such a rush of bodies that a Charlton steward sustained a broken leg. Had the player stayed on the field this would not have happened.

Thankfully such acts are rare but they can happen so Walton can justifiably claim he was acting in a ‘preventative manner.’ Emotions run high after a goal and by sprinting to the crowd a player can, albeit unwittingly, present a potential danger. Remember, the laws apply to football around the world at every level and many stadiums are not as securely built as those in England.

Sadly, as we saw at Stevenage the other week when a player was struck by a supporter during a so-called good natured pitch invasion…it takes only one bad guy to spoil things.

The penny should have dropped by now that excessive celebrations can bring a yellow card but players still remove their jerseys after scoring, thus earning the most brainless of cautions which goes towards a potential suspension.

Servette midfielder Paulo Diogo scored against Schaffhausen, then jumped into the crowd to celebrate. On the way, he managed to catch his wedding ring on a fence and tore off the top half of his finger. To add to his pain, he was also cautioned for excessive celebration.

Those who believe a Half Monty celebration is part and parcel of football…the International Football Association Board made the removal of a shirt after goalscoring a mandatory yellow card for three reasons. Firstly, football is a world-wide sport and in some countries a bare male chest is considered offensive for religious reasons. Secondly, the undergarment players wear often bear the logo of the manufacturer, giving them free ‘advertising’ on television which does not go down well with those sponsors who have paid for the privilege. Thirdly, messages such as ‘happy birthday mum’ have become boring.

The lawmakers are either protecting the safety of supporters and players or killjoys, depending on your view. But if you know running to the crowd or taking off your jersey will bring a yellow card, whether you agree with it or not, why do it?

Celebrate among yourselves chaps and keep your shirts on.

Christopher Davies

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