LONDON • Defending set pieces is in danger of becoming a farce in the Premier League because of new directives issued to referees regarding pulling and pushing inside the area, Peter Crouch has warned.
The Stoke City forward made his damning assessment after watching his team's 4-1 defeat by Manchester City on Saturday, a game in which two penalties were awarded by referee Mike Dean.
The first came on 27 minutes after the Stoke captain, Ryan Shawcross, was spotted grabbing Nicolas Otamendi's arm as he looked to make contact with a Kevin de Bruyne corner.
The other was given on 47 minutes after Raheem Sterling was deemed to have unfairly blocked Shawcross as he tried to run on to a corner from Joe Allen.
Both decisions are a consequence of instructions handed down to officials by their representative body, Professional Game Match Officials Limited, at the start of the season to clamp down on illegal contact during the build-up to corners and free kicks.
The measure has broadly been welcomed but Crouch feels it will lead to more problems than solutions.
"They (the referees) came in at the start of the season and said that there were going to be more penalties this year," said the 35-year-old.
"I think Ryan was pulled up in the media a few times about holding and stuff like that. Obviously the referee was dying to give that. Then it looked like he evened things up to be honest.
"If you're going to give penalties away like that, there are going to be a lot of penalties and people will be asking for consistency. If they're penalties, then you're going to be giving two or three a game and it's going to be a farce."
Stoke manager Mark Hughes has also called on referees to show consistency with regards to the enforcement of the new directive.
"Let's hope that now every time Mike Dean referees, he referees in the same manner," Hughes said.
Saturday's penalties are the only ones to be awarded as a direct result of the new guideline so far but Crouch feels that they will have an immediate effect on defending at set pieces.
"There's going to be no pulling or holding so you'd rather let him (the opposition player) have a header, which sounds ridiculous but that's the way the game seems to be going," he said.