Stuart Kettlewell calls for action on dangerous aerial challenges

Motherwell's Paul McGinn faces six weeks out after facial injury.

Motherwell boss Stuart Kettlewell wants referees to clamp down on ‘follow-through’ aerial challenges to prevent the risk of grave injury for players.

The call comes after Motherwell’s Paul McGinn was ruled out for six weeks after facial surgery following a clash during the game against Kilmarnock.

Kettlewell believes players are in danger even when there’s no intent from their opponent to cause harm, and that reckless challenges in the air need to be punished in the same way as tackles.

He said that he’s taken his concerns to the Scottish Football Association head of referees Crawford Allan and is hopeful for change.

“We speak about being responsible for your follow-through with ground challenges and I am seeing guys get red-carded for it,” Kettlewell said, citing Manchester United forward Marcus Rashford’s sending off against Copenhagen as an example.

“We have had two instances, one in the Aberdeen game with Brodie Spencer, and one with Paul McGinn, where our guy clearly wins the ball (in the air) and there’s a follow-through from the opponent.

“There is no malice in it, the player is not trying to hurt our player, but that must be a greater danger when we are worrying about concussion and long-lasting injuries.”

The Motherwell boss says he’s not just concerned with issues from games involving his own team but is alarmed by the potential to suffer injury even more serious than McGinn’s.

He said: “We are going to have to look into this situation as a game because we are really focusing on what happens on the ground but when you get into the realms of guys going full force, mistiming a header, and almost headbutting an opponent – it’s not deliberate but that’s essentially what is happening – then I believe we are running a greater risk of longer-term injury, concussions and, fingers-crossed it doesn’t come to that case, but much, much worse. We have to look at these aerial challenges.

“If you look at the one with Paul, I think it was Lewis Mayo, who is an honest player, he is genuinely going for the ball, but he misses the ball and headbutts Paul in the cheek.

“The officials told us at the time they gave us an advantage and we got a shot at goal, that’s completely inaccurate – the ball goes into the box, Kilmarnock clear the ball and we got a throw-in. There’s no foul.

“I find it amazing and I am going to urge everyone to take a look into that because in an age we are trying to make the game safer, we are seriously missing an aspect which could be potentially dangerous for players.”

After speaking to Allan at length, he’s optimistic his concerns have been listened to but Kettlewell also urged players to be mindful of the dangers when making challenges.

“Crawford was great, he took note of it, I don’t know if he had heard it explained exactly as I had done,” the manager added. I spoke to the match officials on Saturday where they really did take on board my concerns.

“But it’s important we action it. There is potentially worse coming if it’s something we don’t try to eradicate

“Every player is responsible for their actions. If you can’t win the ball, you might need to just hold your ground and see if you can defend the next phase.

“That’s two instances in the last three games where there have been significant blows to the head – one was a bounce ball and the other one was a throw-in.”

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