Bulls defender has red card rescinded

A-League Men Rd 25 - Macarthur FC v Sydney FC
Referee Daniel Elder shows Macarthur FC defender Ivan Vujica (left) a red card at Campbelltown Sports Stadium on Saturday night. Picture: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

Football Australia will thoroughly review the standard of A-League refereeing at the end of the season after admitting Macarthur FC defender Ivan Vujica was wrongly sent off in his side’s 1-0 weekend win over Sydney FC.

Not for the first time this season, a match official’s decision was widely panned when left-back Vujica was given his marching orders on Saturday night at Campbelltown Sports Stadium by referee Daniel Elder for a challenge on Sydney star Joe Lolley.

Both players had feet raised in challenging for a 50-50 ball, with Vujica collecting the ankle of Lolley but not with great force

Elder’s initial sanction of a yellow card for Vujica seemed sufficient.

However, video assistant referee (VAR) Lara Lee then got involved, suggesting to Elder to review slowed-down video footage of the incident.

Rather that stick with his original decision, Elder changed his mind and changed Vujica’s punishment to a red card despite even Sydney players telling him the Bulls player should not be sent off.

A-League Men Rd 25 - Macarthur FC v Sydney FC
Sent-off Bulls defender Ivan Vujica (centre) leaves the field after being consoled by Sydney FC pair Luke Brattan (second from right) and Rhyan Grant (right). Picture: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

FA referees boss Nathan Magill admitted on Monday afternoon that Lee “should not have intervened”, with Vujica having his red-card rescinded.

“After a thorough review of the incident, it appears that the video assistant referee has overly concentrated on the point of contact when determining the need for an on-field review regarding a possible red card,” Magill said.

“According to the laws of the game, the challenge occurred with normal playing intensity and speed, as both players were engaging in a typical motion to contest the ball.

“Although the contact was made at the ankle/lower shin, it was brief and occurred with the leg raised, which mitigates the severity of the force used.

“Considering the nature of the contact, the incident was handled appropriately on-field. Consequently, the intervention by the video assistant referee was unnecessary as the situation did not meet the threshold for a ‘clear and obvious error’, which is the standard required for video assistant referee intervention in the A-League.

“While it is recognised that this could have been addressed during the review, the decision to escalate from a yellow to a red card was not warranted based on the established criteria.”

Elder also sent off another Bulls defender, Tommy Smith, later in the match, again upgrading his initial decision of a yellow card to a red card after being encouraged by VAR Lee to study video footage of the incident.

Magill also announced an end-of-season “detailed review” of the A-League match officials team.

“The review will involve club football directors, club owners, match officials, the Australian Professional Leagues and Professional Footballers Australia,” he said.

“The goal is to ensure continued collaboration to support the A-League within the broader football ecosystem ahead of the 2024-25 season.”

Vujica is now free to play for fourth-placed Macarthur in the club’s final match of the regular season against Wellington Phoenix on Saturday night in New Zealand.