The Football Association of Thailand's decision to suspend referee Sivakorn Pu-udom for one season for an "error" he made while officiating in the Kor Royal Cup match in February sparked a debate as to whether the action was too harsh.
The 27-year-old Sivakorn, a Fifa elite-class referee, was investigated by the association’s refereeing committee after allegations were made that the match between Buriram United and Muangthong United played on February 1 was fixed.
Buriram won 1-0 in a match which is traditionally a prelude to the new league season, pitting the league champions against the Thai FA Cup winners. Former Arsenal youth team player Jay Simpson’s strike sealed the win.
Sivakorn’s performance was called into question after he refused to give Muangthong a penalty for what seemed an obvious foul on former England international striker Jay Bothroyd.
Sivakorn has not officiated any domestic matches since the incident. While under investigation, he was also withdrawn from refereeing in AFC competitions at the request of Thai FA.
The association defended its action by citing rules that state a referee under investigation cannot take charge of a match either domestically or abroad.
On Tuesday, the refereeing committee concluded that Sivakorn was guilty of not awarding the penalty to Muangthong, who finished league runners-up last term but featured in the match after Buriram secured the domestic treble.
The decision to slap Sivakorn, widely regarded to have a bright future in the games, with a suspension has raised many eyebrows amid allegations of double standards.
General Shinnasen Thongkomol, the chairman of refereeing committee, felt the punishment was adequate since the panel considered the Kor Royal Trophy an important match. But many felt that the sanction, the harshest ever meted out to a Thai referee, was unjustified.
In fact, the committee’s decision looks ridiculous. Should we accept it, because does it not mean a referee can perform poorly in a match of little importance and escape punishment? Or would it not add more pressure on an official in charge of a “big” game since he would be aware that any mistake could lead to severe punishment?
At the same conference, Shinnasen cleared another referee Thanom Borikut of any wrongdoing for allowing Bangkok Glass’s goal to stand in a league match last weekend despite what seemed to be a foul on the Osotospa keeper in the build-up.
The chairman insisted that Thanom had indeed made the right decision while the referee himself said that he was generous in allowing play to continue.
Thanom’s decision held the game up for almost five minutes as Osotspa players protested fiercely before it ended 2-2.
It was the latest in a series of controversial decisions made by Thanom but the committee let him get away with it without even a reprimand. It’s no wonder that people questioned the committee’s criteria in judging both cases.