Alex Greenwood: How harsh was second yellow card for Manchester City defender?

Man City v Chelsea: Alex Greenwood given second yellow card for time-wasting

Referee Emily Heaslip sparked controversy on Sunday when she showed Manchester City’s Alex Greenwood a second yellow card for time wasting.

Greenwood was sent off in the 38th minute of the 1-1 draw with Chelsea for taking 26 seconds to restart play with a free-kick.

Ex-England goalkeeper Rachel Brown-Finnis described it as a “ridiculous” decision, while fellow former Lioness Fara Williams called the dismissal “shocking”.

So was 26 seconds too long? We have taken a look at the data to find out.

There were six yellow cards for causing delays to play in the latest round of Women’s Super League fixtures.

Liverpool’s Melissa Lawley and Tottenham’s Ashleigh Neville had little to complain about after kicking the ball away, but what about Greenwood and the three others?

  • ‘Ridiculous’ red card mars Man City draw with Chelsea
  • Match report: Manchester City 1-1 Chelsea

England defender Greenwood, Liverpool’s Taylor Hinds and West Ham’s Risa Shimizu were all punished for taking too long over a free-kick.

Hinds was booked 26 seconds after the set-piece had been awarded, while Shimizu was given her yellow after 23 seconds.

However, the average delay between a free-kick being awarded and taken in the WSL season so far has been 34 seconds, while it was 32 seconds over the whole of the previous campaign.

Another West Ham player, Lisa Evans, was also penalised by referee Amy Fearn after 11 seconds for delaying a throw-in with her side 2-0 up against Brighton.

But the average time delay for a throw-in across the current season and the previous one has been 16 seconds.

Average time delay (seconds)
Set piece WSL 2023-24 (12 games) WSL 2022-23 (132 games)
Corner 35 34
Goal-kick 32 29
Throw-in 16 16
Free-kick 34 32
Penalty 66 67
Kick-off after goal 65 59

Why are referees punishing time wasting more often?

The head of referees’ body PGMOL Howard Webb said in August he was “determined” that officials would not “turn a blind eye” to bad behaviour from players and coaches this season.

Officials in the Premier League and EFL have been increasingly strict on dissent and time wasting as a result.

“People will have to understand that some behaviours that previously would have been managed or ignored will no longer be managed or ignored,” Webb said.

“It is important our officials recognise, understand and differentiate between emotion and passion, but for too long officials have not been able to make that differentiation too well or they have turned a blind eye to certain things, maybe thinking it was the best way to deal with it, not make a fuss and not draw attention to what might have been perceived as an error on the field.”

Following Sunday’s game, Manchester City boss Gareth Taylor called for “consistency” with refereeing decisions.

“It was 11 yellow cards and two red cards [in total] and it was not a malicious game at all,” Taylor added.

“I’m all about respect. It’s such a hard job for the officials, especially when you have players coming at you and maybe staff.

“But let’s move it a little bit slower because, if not, it will be an eight-a-side league unfortunately – if they are consistent.”

Heaslip’s decision to show Greenwood a second yellow card may have drawn widespread criticism from former and current players, then, but it seems like swift punishment is here to stay as referees attempt to clamp down on time-wasting.

Still, Greenwood can perhaps be considered pretty unfortunate to have been sent off for a delay which wasn’t much out of the ordinary, and for which plenty of players have escaped unpunished recently.

Crucially, though, her dismissal will act as a big warning to other players from now on.

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