Early Doors

FA more concerned with protecting its own than players

Early Doors

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With a Football Association as weak as this, is it any wonder super-rich England players treat national team calls with casual interest?

Rio Ferdinand’s withdrawal from the England squad upset many supporters, but there were valid medical reasons behind his absence, not to mention a concern about Roy Hodgson’s man-management; if there was ever a time to consult with a player or his club, now was that time.

Hodgson may have his own reasons for this modus operandi – perhaps he was looking to force Rio’s hand, to put the matter to bed – but the concern should really be about players who, with no fitness worries of note, have made themselves ‘unavailable for selection’ due to matters of simple ego.

Micah Richards and Paul Robinson are key recent offenders, with Michael Carrick and Jamie Carragher having done so and repented at various times.

But as the FA shows an almost pathological lack of backbone on a repeated basis, who can blame self-interested multi-millionaires for viewing this ramshackle organisation with nonchalant disdain?

One of this week’s water-cooler topics shines a light on the lack of power and control the FA has over its charges.

Hamstrung by its own rules, English football’s governing body says it cannot punish Wigan’s Callum McManaman for inflicting a possibly career-ending challenge on poor Massadio Haidara, a youngster who has not had the time in the professional game to rack up enough cash should his second Newcastle appearance be his last.

The FA’s statutes on discipline state that a player cannot be punished retrospectively if an official – any official, not just the referee – has missed an incident.

So while Mark Halsey’s view of the offending challenge was obscured by Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa, his assistant did see the horrific challenge yet – inexplicably – deemed it unworthy of further action.

The FA is so desperate to protect its employees that it will not countenance a challenge to match officials’ decision-making, even if it is clearly flawed or clouded by incompetence.

The thing is, the FA’s argument may technically be correct by its own terms, but it is also flawed.

This insistence that an offence cannot be punished if seen by an official has its root in FIFA disciplinary statute 77(a), which states ‘The Disciplinary Committee is responsible for sanctioning serious infringements which have escaped the match officials’ attention’.

This is all very well and good, but immediately after 77(a) comes – shock, horror – 77(b) which allows for ‘rectifying obvious errors in the referee’s disciplinary decisions’.

The FA would be well within its rights to overturn assistant referee Matthew Wilkes’s in-play decision to keep his flag by his side when McManaman launched into his horrendous knee-high challenge on Haidara.

But the FA – for all its bleating – is not remotely interested in upholding FIFA statutes, but merely “protecting the primacy” of its officials.

That line is given as a quote, because it is a quote – from FA chairman David Bernstein.

In 2011 Bernstein used that term while explaining the FA’s decision not to punish Wayne Rooney for elbowing Wigan’s James McCarthy during a Premier League match almost exactly two years ago.

In his explanation, Bernstein conceded that an official’s view of an incident could indeed be overturned in “exceptional circumstances” – as allowed by FIFA’s aforementioned law 77(b). But the FA had decided that Rooney’s action did not constitute “exceptional circumstances”, which had been cited when Ben Thatcher was retrospectively punished for his potentially lethal challenge on Pedro Mendes in 2006.

Clearly the FA also does not consider McManaman’s horror tackle “exceptional” enough to level a charge that would threaten the “primacy” of a linesman.

Furthermore, the wording of law 77(b) allows for “obvious error”; Wilkes’s failure to call McManaman’s lunge a foul is as clear and obvious an error as one can see.

It is rare that Sepp Blatter is praised on these pages, but in the aftermath of the Rooney incident he specifically advised the FA that, if desired, it could retrospectively charge a player if the referee or his assistant saw but misinterpreted a foul or instance of violent conduct.

That there is precedent with the Thatcher incident, and that the FA is rightly willing to exceed precedent for instances of discriminatory behaviour, further weakens the argument that the FA cannot punish McManaman – the reality is that the FA will not punish him.

Indeed, how would the FA react if a referee failed to dismiss a player for racially or homphobically abusing an opponent, despite having heard the insult? Would it continue to back its man? You have to say not, and with good reason.

With the exception of Wigan, who have acted disgracefully in collectively backing McManaman, absurdly claiming it was a fair challenge, the FA is on its own here.

Reda Maher - on Twitter @Reda_Eurosport



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