Train wreck at Loftus Road: Chris Foy must be suspended, Premiership must investigate

I have a rule that serves me well in life:

Never ascribe to treachery that which can be adequately explained by mere incompetence.

That said, sometimes the world of sports presents us with instances where it’s very, very hard not to suspect something sinister at work. Such was the case earlier today at Loftus Road in London, where referee Chris Foy put on an appalling display that pretty much single-handedly awarded Queens Park Rangers an upset victory over visiting Chelsea.


  • In the eighth minute, Chelsea center back David Luiz lightly bumped Ranger Heidar Helguson in the box on a high bouncing ball. Helguson went down like he’d been blind-sided by a wrecking ball. Despite the fact that the average Premiership match features 20-30 plays in the penalty area with more egregious contact than this, Foy inexplicably awarded QPR a penalty kick, which Helguson converted for a 1-0 lead.
  • A few minutes later on an attack down the left side, the Blues’ Jose Bosingwa and Sean Wright-Phillips of QPR were side by side on a Ranger through ball. As is usually the case on such plays both players had arms and hands involved in jockeying for the ball. Bosingwa earned the inside track and played the ball as both men went down. Replays revealed no grounds for a foul call of any sort on either player, but Foy blew the whistle and showed Bosingwa a straight red card.
  • Later in the half Didier Drogba executed a two-footed tackle that was perhaps ill-advised, but with only about a half step-in before contact (and given that the pitch was obvious slick) it was hardly the sort of full-throated lunge that EPL officials have been instructed to punish with banishment. Nonetheless, off went Drogba. In a match that was being competently and fairly officiated this decision could have been accepted, although a close review of the replay indicated that a simple caution might have been more appropriate.
  • The second half saw no fewer than three or four plays that, if the standards employed in the first half were applied consistently, would have found Chelsea on the penalty spot. Twice (at least) David Luiz was clearly held (as in, both the defender’s arms were wrapped around him on balls into the box) and once he was knocked down in the process. Another time center midfielder Frank Lampard was tripped as he went for a cross that could have potentially tied the game. In a game officiated by the standards Premiership fans are used to seeing, none of these fouls might have been called (although the Lampard trip was clear – still, we’ve seen worse go unpenalized). However, in all of these cases, the QPR players were guilty of worse than what was whistled against Chelsea in the first half.

A horrible call? Happens to every ref who ever lived. Two horrible calls? Sure – everybody has their really bad days, too, if they do it long enough. But six, seven, eight horrible calls, all favoring one team? At some point you can’t help leaning forward on your stool and saying “wait a damned minute.” Today’s officiating performance was just such a moment, as Chris Foy turned in a performance so blatantly inept it would have embarrassed a ref who was officially on the take. (Or perhaps Foy has a personal grudge – has John Terry slept with his wife?) There is little in Foy’s record to indicate any particular issue with Chelsea, but then again, there’s also nothing that would have helped us predict this degree of incompetence, either. So what was going on?

At this point, I should qualify my analysis with some observations.

  • Yes, I’m a Chelsea fan. That makes me want Chelsea to win, but my fellow Rocky Mountain Blues Supporters’ Clubbers will tell you that I’m fair in evaluating calls. When Fernando Torres was sent off for a ridiculous two-footed lunge a few weeks ago I not only didn’t protest it, I applauded the official and rained abuse on the stupidity of our star striker. And in this game, I didn’t bitch overly about the Drogba red. I can look at the replay and say it ought to have been a yellow, but I can also argue that the red was fair.
  • I used to be a ref. I never called games at the pro level, but I did call ~1,000 games at lower levels (everything from rec to scholastic to competitive club). So when I make observations about things like what an official was in a position to see, for instance, it’s at the least a moderately informed opinion. The baffling part about today’s game is that in all the plays noted above Foy was in perfect position to see what happened. If he’d been screened or out of position, that might explain things.
  • Finally, if you doubt my objectivity, let me merely say that: 1) the television analysts (who, despite desperate attempts to remain as objective as possible) were unanimous in the opinion that Foy was in error; 2) there are replays, one assumes, going up on YouTube even as we speak. (Here’s a link that should help your search.) By all means, don’t take my word for it. And 3) The Manchester United supporter sitting next to us in the pub was shaking his head and wondering what the referee was doing. If you don’t know your Brit football all that well, this is analogous to an Alabama fan complaining that Auburn got screwed. Do what you will with this.

The Soccernet match report, by the way, is embarrassing even by “sports journalism” standards, playing it straight as though there were no controversies about any of the calls (or subsequent no-calls). If you think the ref got it right, say that, but don’t pretend there’s no elephant on the pitch. That makes you look stupid. I expect better from British reporters, honestly.

In the end, expect a lot more coverage of this dumpster fire in the coming days. I’ve seen sadder displays of officiating, but they’re usually reserved for university intramural matches. Chris Foy produced one of the four or five worst performances that I have ever seen at this level (far, far worse even than the infamous Koman Coulibaly debacle in the 2010 World Cup match between the US and Slovenia, to reference a game that American fans in particular are more likely to remember).

Foy isn’t a referee with a long track record of incompetence of this magnitude, but no ref capable of this degree of ineptitude can be allowed on the pitch, period. It’s harsh to call for a man’s firing, but at the minimum this display was bad enough that the Premier League has no choice but to suspend him and to conduct an investigation. If he is, in fact, this incapable he must be dismissed. And the failure to take action and examine such an outing in greater detail undermines the credibility of the entire EPL officiating organization. Some of these officials are among the best in the world and they don’t deserve to be tainted, even by faint association, with what Chris Foy perpetrated earlier today.

Also, the Bosingwa red card must be immediately rescinded.

15 replies »

  1. i would like to know which position neil warnock will get chris foy to play in there next match, as far as i’m concerned he should never be put in charge of another match !!!.

  2. This should be the worst officiating of the decade. Chris Foy should be taken to the nearest psychiatric hospital and be evaluated for psychosis.

  3. Nice article… completely disgusting watch the match. I stayed for the whole game at the tv knowing that the horrible decisions were only going to continue against Chelsea’s favour. it got to a stage where you realise the referee is not going to give anything in the right decision for Chelsea

    • McCoys: As I said, I can make that argument either way, and in truth that particular call didn’t outrage me on its own. I’d only say that all two-footers aren’t the same. Compare it to the one Torres got sent off on, for instance. That one was a full two or three step run in and a lunge. Drogba was very close in, had no velocity, it was a half-step, etc. Which is to say, not terribly dangerous, compared to the kinds of two-footers that the Prem is rightly trying to eliminate.

      I guess I’m noting it because given the way things were going with the ref I immediately yelled (and there were lots of witnesses) that it was going to be a straight red. Even the announcers (who were hardly Blues partisans) allowed that it was far from conclusive.

      In any case, I can’t argue with you about it. When you make that kind of tackle you’re within the realm of plausible red, and you should therefore not do it.

  4. Foy was so biased it was untrue. fair play to AVB sometimes you have to tell the truth whatever the result. The Fa as all the pundits will decide he Foy did nothing wrong but we the fans know. Foy was a Homer a cheat.

  5. Have to agree with you 100 per cent, Mr Smith. I am a Chelsea fan and I watched this game from Australia with my house-mate who is a Newcastle United supporter. We were both proud of the way Chelsea played despite the referee’s obvious incompetence and some unnecessary decisions made by Chelsea players. However, I and my house-mate both feel that Chris Foy should never, ever, ever officiate a Premier League game again. He is either a terrible ref or he was, dare I say it, biased against Chelsea. Now I know it seems farfetched but come on. He was so inconsistent, it got to a point where we gave up hope of Chelsea drawing with nine men to simply laugh at Foy’s decisions. We even started to make jokes about every Chelsea player who tackled a Ranger would soon be sent-off knowing Foy’s performance. Seriously, we both said we would not be at all surprised if there were allegations the ref had cheated. After all, what sport these days isn’t corrupt in some ways? It’s not a perfect world. Oh and to the QPR fans who threw the ball away several times, the Rangers players’ disgraceful holding in the box then acting all innocent and add in Neil Warnock’s post-game reaction saying it was the greatest win of his career, it just shows you what a disgraceful club we’ve got as neighbours. How can you call that a great victory Neil? You couldn’t even score against a team with nine-men and when you did score, it was a penalty that was half-saved. QPR – London’s Rejects since 1882.

  6. With television cameras situated everywhere nowadays, it is mystifying as to how Chris Foy can possibly get away with this outrages “Refereeing” in inverted commas as i do not want to classify this idiots decisions with other refs who are at most times great. It is clearly obvious that no matter what happened to the Chelsea players this pathetic excuse for an official, would not be giving many calls Chelsea’s way, at one stage it is clearly evident that Heidar Helguson wrestles Luiz to the ground and if you don’t believe any of these allegations you can merely visit the Chelsea website and look at the photo with the caption ‘spot the difference” another incident where luiz is clearly fouled by several QPR players, also while taking into account the penalty against Chelsea which 9 times out of 10 would not be given especially as Helguson pushes Luiz just before the incident a clearer foul than the penalty.

    Another big thing for me in the game was QPR’s pride at winning such a calamitous game, if i ever went out onto the soccer pitch and nearly lost to a side with 9men while my side had 11, i would be ashamed, i would grab my shirt pull it over my head and hurriedly walk into the dressing room not to come out before everyone had left.

    Anyway when all is said and done i believe Chelsea showed that they have a great deal of heart and are capable of doing very well under AVB, assuming no more bewildering refereeing, “Chris foys” or blunders.

  7. cant beleive the geatest league of all time has a first grade refreree like this piece of crapola
    sack him . get rid of him but ffs .. oh wait dont casue we won 10 million dollars between us so yuk yuk u fukwits lose. meh when i was a boy in london 40 yrs ago trains were set alight and footy wasnt the place to be for the family . well let me tell youn this after the discusting ref performace we dont have a league we have a debarcle and i wish i was younger to stick it to tthem. so disgusted . did anyone mention where this fukwit ref lived . juast curious grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr

  8. I watch EPL games just now n then, n Chelsea is just another team to me. But I totally agreed that this was the worst refereeing I ever saw. Why? Assuming all his decisions on yellow and red cards were correct, he was really inconsistent. Sometimes he would show a yellow card for a simple foul, when later, a similar or worst foul was taken as ‘fair play’. Anyone watching would be totally baffled. Eg. to a rugby viewer, when David Luiz was held and brought down in the penalty box, this was viewed as acceptable just as in rugby. But then, how to explain that the side charge by David Luiz and Helguson to each other in the box that led to a penalty was viewed as unacceptable to the referee? This must be a very strange game indeed!!

  9. I give up on the FA. I no longer care what happens after this, I won’t watch, I won’t follow.
    When managers sanctioned for “attacks” on refs for merely calmly stating facts and views, while refs get away with deciding the outcome of major competitions though nationally televised foul play… that is evil on an inconceivable level.

    I will look for the beautiful game elsewhere and let them rot in hell.