On September 30, 2023, Liverpool F.C. played against Tottenham Hotspur F.C.. For the third time this Premier League season, a Liverpool player received a red card in a game, followed by the issuance of an additional red card in the second half. Although Liverpool had won the two previous games, playing with a man down in this game resulted in an unfortunate loss. Four red cards in a single season is unheard of, especially considering that Liverpool received only eight across seven previous Premier League seasons, excluding red cards accrued this season
One of the red cards this season was overturned following the game by the Football Association (FA), and the one received in the first half of the game against Tottenham was also appealed, though this case was lost. All four red cards issued this season have been deemed controversial by fans and the media. While there are arguments for and against the issuing of the cards, the FA does not appreciate it when their refereeing is questioned for appeal. To add insult to injury, in the game against Tottenham, left winger Luis Diaz scored a goal shortly after the issuing of the red card to put Liverpool up 1-0, only for the goal to be deemed offside minutes later, further upsetting fans.
The Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) admitted they failed to apply the correct rules to this game, an admission acknowledged by Liverpool as well, making it obvious that the refereeing was sub-par throughout the Tottenham game. This situation was somehow made even more problematic by yet another controversial call made by the referees. The issuing of the red card was controversial, but negating Diaz’s goal by calling offside is one of the biggest mistakes made by Premier League referees since the introduction of Video Assistant Referees (VAR). Upon Liverpool’s request, (PGMOL) released an audio recording of the dialogue held when discussing the off-side call on the goal. In the recording, we hear the replay operator confirm that the goal is on-side and should count, though the VAR fails to inform the referee to overturn the no-goal call, and then claim they “can’t do anything” after the players had resumed play. The game ended 2-1 following an unfortunate own goal in minute 96.
If we analyze these various instances as isolated events, it could be chalked up to bad luck, however, the growing pattern of game-by-game punishment received by Liverpool appears malicious to many fans. If we rewind to April 30, 2022, we can see when the tides seem to have shifted against Liverpool. This was another Liverpool-Tottenham game, high in both tempo and intensity. Liverpool went up 3-0 in the first half. Then, at halftime, Liverpool Leftback Andy Robertson made a comment to the linesman, who reacted by elbowing him in the jaw. By minute 93, Tottenham equalized, followed by a winner scored in minute 94 by Diogo Jota to seal the game for Liverpool.
There was a huge uproar surrounding this altercation during the game and even more discourse related to the incident following the match. Liverpool’s team manager Jurgen Klopp expressed his outrage at the situation publicly numerous times. He was fined £75,000 and banned from two matches for claiming that the referee, Paul Tierney, had an agenda against Liverpool, a statement Klopp later retracted.
Having lost the Premier League by a single point on three occasions in the past 10 years, all three of which had controversial refereeing decisions made against Liverpool’s favor, this season has been nothing but disheartening following the continued controversial refereeing decisions thus far. In the face of these recurring injustices, Liverpool has done its best to persevere to victory, coming close at times. Fans must continue to endure these injustices and hold out hope that the referees will change their ways and their team will succeed.