Leicester City produced the perfect tribute to owner Vichai Srivaddhanaprabha by sealing all three points in an emotional game at the Cardiff City Stadium, but referee Lee Probert has come under intense criticism following his decision to book Demarai Gray for his goal celebration.
The Foxes were playing in their first game since the horrific helicopter crash which claimed the life of the club’s owner and four other people last weekend, and Gray unveiled a ‘For Khun Vichai’ message on his undershirt after scoring in the 55th minute.
The 46-year-old match official promptly booked Gray for taking off his jersey and unveiling the message, leaving many football fans, including Soccer Saturday host Jeff Stelling, incensed.
Many felt Probert demonstrated a complete lack of understanding and common sense in booking Gray given the sensitive and raw nature of last weeks tragic events that has united the footballing world.
However, ITV/BBC football presenter Jacqui Oatley sparked a debate on Twitter after expressing her opinion of the incident.
“Harsh for people to hammer Lee Probert for booking Gray who ripped off shirt celebrating goal, with message ‘For Vichai’,” she tweeted.
Everyone going after Lee Probert as if 1. The league hasn’t told him he is to book as if it’s a normal game and 2. He clearly was happy for the player and the club. Done be quick to comment on what you don’t know #CARLEI #LeeProbert pic.twitter.com/CeMODj282C— Braden Maxwell (@BAMaxwell1) November 3, 2018
“Refs can’t decide on the spot which t-shirt messages are more poignant than others. Ref would’ve hated booking him but felt he had to. No win situation.”
She then added: "We all understand the emotion behind it, but what if a player next week rips off his shirt displaying a message for his sick brother? Does the ref read it and decide whether that’s more/less important than Gray’s emotions? Player surely expects yellow and feels it’s worth it."
Oatley’s tweet divided her social media followers with referee Probert backed by many.
In July 2004, Law 12 of FIFA’s rulebook was constructed which states, “Footballers who remove their jerseys during post-goal celebrations are to receive automatic yellow cards.”
This was to prevent political and personal messages from being broadcast on television along with players showing 'excessive joy' after scoring.
Despite the nature of the incident, in which joy was tinged with grief, Probert correctly followed FIFA protocols in spite of global recognition that he should have kept his card in his pocket.
Claude Puel’s players, who have been left visibly devastated by the death of the man they called ‘The Boss’, beat Cardiff City 1-0 on Saturday afternoon thanks to the second half goal from Gray and subsequently all celebrated together at the away end in a poignant moment.
Leicester’s squad and staff have now arrived in Bangkok for Srivaddhanaprabha’s Buddhist funeral which will last for seven days, although the players who traveled aren’t expected to remain for the entire ceremony.