Central Coast Mariners have fired off a ‘please explain?’ communique to A-League referees adviser Strebre Delovski over the contentious officiating which saw three puzzling penalties awarded against them in Friday night’s controversial 3-2 loss to Adelaide United.
Match official Adam Fielding and video assistant referee Kurt Ams faced a social media blizzard - and the ire of the Mariners hierarchy - over their handling of the match, in particular the validity of all three spot-kicks (each tucked away by Tomi Juric for a hat-trick).
VAR had a big say in two of those penalties - upholding the first (a theatrical tumble by Stefan Mauk) and calling play back for the Reds' third (after a perceived handball at the other end).
Having crumpled at the feet of Ruon Tongyik for the first, Mauk crashed to the ground again after the merest of contacts with Joshua Nisbet for the second penalty in yet another bone of contention for the Mariners.
One in-house report of the game from an A-League referees official was damning, citing multiple misinterpretations, whilst Australian Professional Leagues commissioner Greg O'Rourke told The World Game earlier today that mistakes had been made, adding: “The problem with VAR is not the technology itself but its subjectivity.”
Mariners bosses believe the level of officiating was below the bar of acceptability for a professional competition.
Indications are O’Rourke will oversee a post-mortem which is likely to see Fielding - who also bizarrely booked Mariners coach Alen Stajic at the end as well as handing a red card to Kye Rowles - benched for at least a week, whilst Ams is also facing a spell in the sin-bin.
While supporting a benching of the duo, the Mariners believe there is a bigger picture at play, with the A-League - watched across multiple territories - needing to ensure greater consistency among match officials to avoid becoming a subject of ridicule.
In light of Mauk seemingly milking two soft spot-kicks, they are also lobbying for a crackdown on ‘simulation’ in what they believe would be a major innovation for the league.
They argue that players are “playing for penalties” and effectively hoodwinking officials, and are mystified how in the age of VAR, obvious errors by on-field officials are not overturned.
The league’s Match Review Panel could be one tool that might be used to retrospectively punish ‘simulation’.
But, as the rules stand, it can’t intervene on such matters if VAR has already been brought into play, even if it has erred.
The furore comes at a time when the A-League has been capturing attention - both at home and abroad - for its free-wheeling, refreshing football, with the high-flying Mariners fearing the game is now back in the headlines again, for all the wrong reasons.