Referee issues warning

Webb: Feigning injury could cost lives

May 24, 2012
By ESPN staff

Respected referee Howard Webb, speaking for the first time about the match in which Fabrice Muamba collapsed, has warned that players feigning injury could cost lives.

Howard Webb was the referee when Fabrice Muamba collapsed
PA PhotosHoward Webb was the referee when Fabrice Muamba collapsed

Muamba suffered a heart attack on the pitch during Bolton's FA Cup match at Tottenham and Webb brought the match to an abrupt halt to allow medical staff to treat the stricken midfielder, who eventually made a miraculous recovery in hospital.

However, Webb has warned that, in future, referees may be reluctant to stop the game so quickly if they believe that a player is "crying wolf'' - and any delay could have been fatal for Bolton midfielder Muamba.

Speaking at a FIFA medical conference in Budapest, Webb said: "I turned and saw Fabrice Muamba lying face down on the floor with no-one else nearby - this was clearly a major concern and clearly something more than a normal injury.

"The fact that he wasn't rolling around screaming in agony, the way he went down with no contact, meant immediately it was serious. And it was not only me - the players recognised it. You see William Gallas' reaction - an opposing player - immediately waving to the bench to come on.

"If the game had not been stopped within 20 or 30 seconds, that might have made a difference to his chances of recovery.

"One of our obligations as a referee is to try and observe fair play and keep the game flowing when we can. But, if players cry wolf too many times, then there is a possibility that maybe we will not react in the way we need to do based on what we saw there.

"If we come under criticism for stopping the games too many times for doctors or physios to enter the field of play then referees might be inclined not to stop the game.

"I'm not saying it's a particularly big problem but I have seen games stopped where players weren't as seriously injured as they would have you believe and that is an issue when you are dealing with something as serious as this.''