FOOTBALL Federation Australia has admitted the match officials erred in one of the crucial decisions that prompted Ernie Merrick’s post-match tirade after Newcastle’s 2-all draw with Western Sydney last Friday.
Merrick was issued with a “show cause” notice on Tuesday and given seven business days to explain why he should not face a code-of-conduct sanction for labelling the performances of referee Peter Green and Video Assistant Referee Strebre Delovski “a disgrace”.
Newcastle felt aggrieved after conceding two goals from dubious penalties, and having another disallowed when Jets defender Jason Hoffman was controversially ruled to have fouled Wanderers goalkeeper Vedran Janjetovic.
On the FFA’s official website, in a video segment entitled “The Whistle”, the governing body said Delovski had incorrectly overturned Green’s decision to rule play-on after a hand-ball incident involving Jets defender Nikolai Topor-Stanley.
According to the laws of the game, a hand-ball penalty should only be awarded if the incident was intentional.
“FFA has determined the ball ricocheted off Marcelo Carrusca into the arm of Topor-Stanley from a short distance, and this was an unexpected ball,” FFA said.
“Taking this into account, the referee’s decision to play on was not a clear and obvious error and the VAR should not have intervened.”
Referees boss Ben Wilson told the Newcastle Herald the VAR’s other two decisions on the night, overturning goals to Hoffman and Western Sydney’s Chris Ikonimidis, for offside, were both correct.
“We got two right and one wrong,” Wilson said.
Jets chief executive Lawrie McKinna was hopeful FFA would take the admission of error into account when deciding what sanction, if any, to impose on Merrick.
“We’ve got a few points that we’ll highlight in our submission, and that [the Topor-Stanley penalty] is one of them,” McKinna said.
“We accept that Ernie’s broken the code of conduct and overstepped the line, but we’ll be putting a case together and see what happens.
“The fact they have admitted on their own website that there was an error is quite encouraging.”
Jets attacker Andrew Nabbout said players would appreciate some clarity on how the VAR system was supposed to operate.
“Obviously some of the calls were a little bit questionable,” Nabbout said.
“But at the end of the day, it’s the referee who’s running the show.
“That’s what we were a little bit confused about, because on a couple of decisions he had actually made a decision to give the goal or not, and then we waited to see what the guy up top [VAR] was saying.
“So there’s a little bit of confusion at our end about who’s actually going to make the final decision.”
Nabbout said he regarded the VAR as “a positive thing” but it needed to be applied consistently.
“There can’t be any grey areas going into the finals … as the season’s progressed, there has been a few games where there have been calls made in grey areas,” he said.
“I think that’s where everyone has to be on the same page.
“We have to state what it can be used for and when it can be used.”