Lets get a grip on grapplers' says Keith Hackett

Published on 8 July, 2014 
By: Mark Williams

Keith Hackett, former boss of England's match officials, insists referees have a duty to the game to clamp down on the holding and pulling that blights nearly ever corner kick or attacking set-piece.

"Let's get a grip on the grapplers - and the only way is to award penalties," said Hackett. "Referees in Brazil can set a high-profile example to the game as a whole - and if the correct sanction is applied it would soon stop this nonsense worldwide."

Hackett admits that will take courage from both the referees and FIFA.

When Howard Webb made such a call in Euro 2008 he was engulfed in uproar and then ditched from the tournament.

Webb, England's man in Brazil, went home before the knockout phase after awarding Austria a stoppage-time penalty for shirt-pulling by Poland's Mariusz Lewandowski on Sebastian Prodl.

The Poles were furious and Webb was reportedly subjected to death threats. Although UEFA supported Webb over what he called "the only decision that could be taken", his initiative was not taken up by other referees.

The suspicion persists they fear a backlash on that scale and potentially a lack of support from above.

But Hackett said: "I do believe referees have the courage to enforce what is a clear law of the game. No change to it is needed.

"I do wonder, though, if they are getting enough support and direction from above on this issue.

"Right now, something that nobody wants to see in football is going unchecked. I would appeal to all referees in Brazil to put a stop to the nonsense of holding, pulling and blocking.

"All they do at the moment is stop the corner or free-kick and give a warning. That only slows the game down.

"I say let the kick be taken and then penalise those who are committing fouls with the ball in flight.

All referees have to do is point to the spot.

"I firmly believe that if this is done early in the tournament - and there will be plenty of opportunity - that teams would get the message and a better competition would result."


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