Former Chief Referee in Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp’s ‘disturbing’ conversation with Craig Pawson and transparency over Leeds United appeal rejected

No harm – former chief umpire Keith Hackett said there were doubts about the decision-making process when Pascal Strwick was sent off during Leeds United’s game with Liverpool. Pic: Getty

Hackett says he can understand why the decision to send Strwick was made, although he has since noticed an inconsistency in judging in tackles such as the one that left Harvey Elliott with a dislocated ankle.

He can also find out why Leeds is appealing. They confirmed their appeal on Tuesday afternoon, and on Wednesday morning it emerged that an independent committee of the Football Association had rejected it.

Hackett told The Yorkshire Evening Post that the way the decision was made bothered him – the sight of Klopp entering the pitch and the ambiguity surrounding his conversation with Pawson. Klopp later insisted he had said nothing of the importance.

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“What worried me was the actual process,” Hackett said.

“The natural instinct of a referee when he sees a bad challenge is to blow the whistle so hard, as I understand it, Craig Pawson didn’t. I’m sure he was then in contact with his fourth official [Andy Madley]. It has been my concern for several months now that we often see coaches entering the pitch either to shake hands with the referee or to protest a decision, and that, to me, is a worrisome part of the process.

“That conversation took place between Klopp and the referee, and we will not be privy to what was said.

“The manager may have just said he is concerned about his player but there are professionals, doctors, high-level paramedics and an ambulance as well as the club’s own medical teams. My concern was for the manager to come and have a discussion.

“It wasn’t a good sale; it left some element of doubt.”

Strick had the ball but Pawson, letting play until the medical team rushed in, ultimately decided to show Leeds a red card, deciding that the intensity of the challenge endangered Elliott’s safety.

Hackett suspected the severity of the injury was a factor, when it shouldn’t be.

“We know that when a player shoots himself from the ground, as this player did, he can’t stop, he can’t change direction and he’s out of control,” he said.

“This endangers the opponent. What we now have in law is ‘endangering the safety of the player’ which opened the door to interpretation. There is no doubt that the player who did the challenge was moving quickly. Excessive force has been met and then it is up to the referee to decide if Was it out of control or not.

“The outcome affected the judgment in the process, where in fact it shouldn’t really affect the decision.

“I’ve had non-Leeds fans suggest the referee didn’t go off. He didn’t. Unfortunately, you look at the results and suddenly change your mind. You shouldn’t do it, you’re building it on the same method of intervention.”

The nature of the appeal process means that clubs will oppose it, Hackett feels, to overturn the decisions.

“I sometimes get anxious about the whole process,” he said.

“It is an independent committee, as I understand it, made up of a former player, ex-manager and referee. What they listen to is the attractive club, in this case Leeds, who have to send in a very carefully detailed video and commentary, and strictly adhere to the law. It comes down to the facts of the law as it is. It is written, So did they see in this a serious incident of evil tampering and what was their defense?

“Do they have a judgment, an expert to advise them on terminology? This is not a criticism of Leeds, this is what I see often. Given the speed of disciplinary proceedings, they have a limited time and if you are to effectively redo the judgment on appeal, the committee itself must be 100% satisfied. Almost for error.

Then you have to rely on the knowledge of the three people sitting in judgment. What are their skills? Is it a fair and just plate?

“I think, in fairness to the FA that has tried to strike some equilibrium, the club making the appeal should have substantial grounds for appeal.”

Hackett saw grounds for Leeds’ appeal, an area to explore with doubt about the decision.

He said, “I did not see any hatred or aggression from the player.”

“I was going to talk about the law and decorate it with a video focusing on the players’ reaction. We didn’t witness any hostility. All I saw was a very expressive picture of Verggen van Dijk with his arm around Strwick, comforting him.

“That’s where the element of skepticism comes in. Leeds could have gotten shots from I don’t know how many angles – there are 22 cameras in that stadium. If you’re smart enough, you make a frame by frame storyboard.

“We’re back to the limited time they have to get that appeal, get the broadcast footage and substantive evidence, focusing on the law.

Where can I prove error in the law? Can I say in the appeal that the referee is likely to have been affected by Klopp’s entry into the field of play? Why was he allowed on the field of play? It makes a picture of three people sitting around a table. I was not surprised that Leeds would appeal to this scenario.”

The FA has not made any statement on Leeds’ appeal, but written reasons are likely to follow within days.

Hackett believes clarity is vital, particularly in light of the controversy over “light” arbitration and inconsistency, combined with the risk of leaving players like Struijk confused about what is and isn’t legally challenging.

“The thing I would like to see is transparency in the process,” he told YEP.

Are they coming out with a statement explaining why Leeds failed their appeal?

“Hopefully clarification will come quickly. We have seen play continue after similar challenges of this nature have not resulted in an injury, even since this incident.

“We are in the fourth week, we already have two managers explaining concerns about the challenges we face.

“Two things have to happen. Mike Riley has to have the directors to have a discussion.

“Referees must be directed in order to achieve consistency in what is and is not acceptable, and within clubs, there must be an understanding of the difference in interpretation of Law No. 12 – the difference between a careless challenge, a free kick only, a reckless challenge, a yellow card from a free kick, The challenge of excessive strength, red.

“They have to understand that when they get off the ground, they are likely to endanger the opponent.

“That should result in a red card but there is a contradiction, as we’ve seen this week. I’d like to bring in a referee, bring the players around the table, get some movie clips and ask the referee ‘Is it yellow?'” Is it red? Is this acceptable?”

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