Chelsea’s 2-0 defeat of Hull City at Stamford Bridge on Saturday was not only notable for the result, which saw the Blues put last weekend’s defeat to Newcastle United behind them – putting further pressure on Steve Bruce in the process – but also for the performance of referee Chris Foy.
The match official from St Helens dismissed Hull’s Tom Huddlestone for an ugly lunge on Felipe Luis but had earlier decided not to send off Chelsea’s Gary Cahill for what looked like simulation and a potential second booking. Hull boss Steve Bruce was less than impressed and the decisions have been discussed by experts and others around football.
Cahill’s theatrical fall inside the Hull box left Foy with a decision to make. It was clear that no Hull player had touched the ball, therefore the challenge on Cahill was either a penalty or a dive. Foy gave neither decision, opting to continue with a goal-kick. Some managers and fans would have been happy for the referee to wave play on and for them not to concede a penalty but, in this case, Bruce was incensed. Foy had already set his stall out, booking Willian and Diego Costa for simulation earlier in the game and clearly trying to send a message that such unsportsmanlike conduct would not be tolerated on his watch.
When Cahill went to ground, Foy had the opportunity to really show what he, and his fellow referees, think of diving. A booking is one thing; it might make a player tread a little more carefully or see them miss a future game through suspension. But a sending off is something else. Had Foy given Cahill the second yellow card he would have sent a clear message that diving is just as much of an offence as any other misdemeanour that would have warranted a second yellow.
In this case, Foy, maybe swayed by the home crowd, by the reaction of the players or by the spectre of Jose Mourinho – with whom he was involved in a joking post-match chat, gave the clear message that, whilst diving may be a bookable offence, it is not taken as seriously as a late challenge, for instance. Any good work that Foy had done by booking Costa, who was among the goalscorers, and Willian was all but wiped out by the decision to keep Cahill on the field. If nothing else, fans expect consistency and this was not on display here.