Webb says play-acting can severely harm football and endanger players' safety



By Adam Higgins
Chief Football Editor 



Howard Webb (pictured in Premier League action) fears that too many players cry wolf opening the possibility of referees failing to respond in serious situations 


Leading referee Howard Webb admits his concerns that too many incidents of play-acting could endanger the safety of footballers.

The quick-thinking of FIFA match official Webb MBE helped save the life of Bolton Wanderers midfielder Fabrice Muamba after the 24-year old collapsed on the pitch during an FA Cup quarter-final clash with Tottenham at White Hart Lane in March. However he believes some players' tendency to play-act could cause referees not to react quickly enough.

Webb said: "If people cry wolf too often then there is a possibility we will not react as we need to do".

Muamba was effectively "dead" for 78 minutes after suffering a cardiac arrest on the field. However, the swift actions of Webb and medical staff on the scene has helped the player to make a remarkable recovery.

The 40-year old, who refereed the 2010 World Cup and Champions League finals, says it is vital referees are not criticised for stopping the flow of the game, if they are concerned about a player's condition.

"If we come under criticism for stopping the game too many times for doctors or physios to enter the field of play then maybe referees will be inclined not to stop the game," Webb added. "I think the message we are trying to get across is that it is always better for referees to be safe rather than sorry, not to take chances and for everyone involved in the game to understand that a referee's first priority is to look after the players in the game he is taking charge of. If he does stop the play, and it turns out to be nothing, it is not the referee's fault because his priority is the players."

The South Yorkshireman said that it was the decision of the players, rather than his own judgement, to ultimately abandon the game between Tottenham and Bolton after the ordeal. "The players pretty much decided themselves," he said. "They were clearly of the mind they did not want to continue."

Bolton's doctor Jonathan Tobin, who swiftly treated the stricken Muamba on the scene, said no decision had been taken about the midfielder's playing future having earlier thought the former England Under 21 international would not make it through the night. "It is still too early to be having those discussions," he said. "They will be decided by Fabrice and the cardiologists down in London. Once we got to the hospital and the cardiologists took over the lead of the care and I could take a step back, then everything just hit me. It was just awful. I was sitting in the corridor crying my eyes out. The stuff the guys did at the hospital was just phenomenal," he said.


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