If only the Premier League officials could enjoy some press perks

Mark Bunn throws off his gloves in disgust following his red card at Sunderland. Picture by Paul Che

Mark Bunn throws off his gloves in disgust following his red card at Sunderland. Picture by Paul Chesterton/Focus Images - Credit: Paul Chesterton/Focus Images Ltd

It’s fair to say Sunday was not a dull day in the football calendar, especially at the Stadium of Light.

Not every game – or indeed, many games – involving Norwich City have finished with a list of controversial incidents to pull apart so long, they were still being dissected when we arrived back in the fine city on Monday afternoon.

Working in the ground through a game like that is fantastic. You find yourself figuring out the ebbs and flows of the match, while getting to the bottom of the major talking points people are already discussing on the outside.

You get a very strong sense very quickly of what is going to be doing the rounds once the fallout from the game does arrive – be it frustration at a ridiculous decision or backing for an inspired refereeing spot.

It is a privileged position to be in the press box for that – and an incredibly useful one.


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Without almost instantaneous television replays to make up for doing the rest of the job – writing coherent sentences on a laptop, posting comments on our match coverage, answering questions, updating Twitter, finding the latest scores elsewhere and then watching the actual shape of the game on the pitch as well as what happens in the dugouts – it would be too easy to miss something or get it wrong.

Controversial moment number one in Sunderland on Sunday came with Mark Bunn’s sending off. I missed Michael Turner’s shocking header back, but looked up in time to see Bunn rush out and meet the ball – not being entirely sure it hit his arm.

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Immediately attention switched to the referee – and I think just from their body language you can soon tell which card, if any, the man in black is about to produce.

There was the usual protest, unhappy players and kerfuffle that follows most red cards – before Bunn walked to the dugouts, threw off his gloves in fierce anger and disappeared down the tunnel. The delay was nothing special, the game carried on soon after.

The point is before Bunn had left the pitch, the press box had already seen several replays from all manner of angles to get a real handle on the incident. And once those yellow and green tinted specs are put to one side, there can be little argument over Chris Foy’s decision – and City’s subsequent failed appeal.

We had the same benefit and process with Sebastien Bassong’s handball, and more importantly that of Danny Rose. We had proof City should have been awarded a penalty before they had taken their wrongly awarded free-kick.

And it wasn’t just at Sunderland either. As soon as replays of Callum McManaman’s tackle reached the DW Stadium press box – and wider viewing public – everyone was baying for a red card; again, barely 10 seconds after Massadio Haidara hit the ground.

So just imagine a cupboard at the ground that had the same TV feed, watched by someone who knows the rules and can speak to the referee during the game.

“Chris, Danny’s handball was in the area.”

“Mark, Callum has got to go for that tackle.”

Forget goalline technology solving one incident every six months. A fifth TV official would solve it all.

I know this isn’t the first time I’ve banged this drum. It’s just that the drum is so big and glaringly obvious, it’s hard not to keep hitting it.

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