Clear and obvious?

I wasn't able to watch the game against KC live, but was following along online when the Marshall red card was handed down. Within minutes, the video appeared online and let us all see the call.

video of Marshall foul

I want to address what seems to be a common misconception about the notion of "clear and obvious". People seem to think that for a call to be reviewed via the VAR process that it must be clearly, obviously a red card- and that therefore the VAR shouldn't have had Toledo review the play, because for many, the contact that Chad Marshall made wasn't clearly a red.

But there's two parts to a foul and a card. First is whether there was contact and a foul at all in the first place. When the play happened, Toledo let play continue; by not calling a foul, it tells us that he either thought there was no contact OR that it was so small and "trifling".

(Side note: "trifling" is a word that used to be in the official referee guidance; though it's been removed, refs are still taught to not call trifling contact/actions unless they need to bring the temperature of the game down.)

The VAR, on the other hand, watched the play- and to them, there's clearly contact between Marshall's foot and Russell.

So play continues for another 45-50 seconds, and then there's a foul upfield that stops play. Toledo immediately goes to start reviewing the earlier foul, as is proper, because during that time the VAR was probably communicating with the on-field crew and telling them "there's definitely contact, you need to review this".

And THAT is the clear and obvious error that spurs the review.

Marshall foot

From there, now that Toledo sees the contact, he must decide whether it's worth a red card or not. This is the second part of the decision-making process; he must apply his judgement to what he (now) sees.

I am not going to judge his call either way, but the fact that it was reviewed tells us that professional refs who have spent way more time doing this than any of us have think it could be.

I can see it going either way. From one angle, it's pretty clear that Marshall makes contact; his leg is extended and nearly straight; and his studs go into Russell's leg just at the knee. That's pretty serious, even when it turns out to be light contact.

We can also see from the video that Marshall knows the guy is there. This means that whether he meant to cleat the guy's leg or not (I don't think for a moment he did) that he does need to play in a safe manner.

Anyway, the judgement call part of it- whether it's a red card, a yellow, or nothing- does NOT need to be "clear and obvious" for the VAR process to kick in.

What did need to be obvious is a clear and obvious error in seeing whether there was contact at all. It's really easy for referees to not see contact; in this case, Marshall's foot is possibly shielded from Toledo's view by Russell's other leg. There's also 20 other players running around the pitch that can block a ref's view (believe me, it's far more often than you'd think that a ref can't see something clearly) so we cannot hold Toledo too horribly responsible for maybe missing it the first time.

At any rate, the fact that it's not a 'clear and obvious' red card is NOT a reason for it to not be reviewed. In this case, the "clear and obvious" part that was likely missed was whether there was contact and a foul in the first place.

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