Two potential red card incidents on the same Premier League weekend. Both go unpunished by the match officials at the time. However, when the FA review both cases, only one gets charged. Both incidents were “off the ball” and both Yaya Toure of Manchester City and Craig Bellamy of Cardiff City appeared to have lashed out in a completely unprovoked and unacceptable manner. Therefore, with both crimes being relatively equal in their severity, their punishments should follow suit. The FA have once again a found a way to defy logic.
Of course, referees (and their assistants) can’t see everything and whilst they do their jobs to the very best of their abilities, it’s natural that they will occasionally miss something. If this happens and it becomes apparent to them that they have missed an incident unfold, such as acts of violent conduct which are red card offences and that is a fact, they can say so in their match report. Then, the FA can step in. They employ a three man panel of former referees and they analyse the video evidence before deciding whether or not to retrospectively ban the offending player. For this to happen, there must be a unanimous agreement (no such thing as a two to one majority verdict here).
So at least there’s some form of sense there, the referee wasn’t able to fairly punish the player so the powers that be above him can if they deem it necessary. Of course, if the referee did see the incident and still chose not to send the player off then the FA can’t and won’t intervene with his judgement. This is what happened last season when the FA didn’t retrospectively ban Wigan’s Callum McManaman for his horrendous tackle on Newcastle’s Massadio Haidara. However, this was not the case with either incident at the weekend involving Toure or Bellamy. In both cases, the referee said that he hadn’t seen it happen. Therefore, the FA panel was required. The same three men judged both incidents, yet Yaya Toure escaped a ban and Craig Bellamy is incurring the wrath of an FA charge and faces a three match ban. That’s quite baffling in all honesty.
The idea behind using a panel of former referees is to promote consistency. Well that’s clearly failed. Both misdemeanours share many similarities. They were both acts in which the culprits fully knew what they were doing. As I mentioned earlier, they were both “off the ball” and well away from the play as well as being unprovoked and unwarranted. Yet somehow, the FA and their panel have found a way to distinguish between them. Otherwise, they’d have punished both of them or neither of them. This would have also demonstrated some consistency on their part. However, as we all know, consistency barely exists in modern day football (if at all).
Whilst this may be a flawed parallel to draw, you wouldn’t see the same injustices in other walks of life such as a courtroom. Whilst it’s true that the jury can only make a verdict based upon the evidence put before them, let’s imagine that the same jury was called into two separate but almost identical cases where both defendants are charged with the same crime. This jury wouldn’t somehow decide one of the defendants to be guilty and the other to be not guilty, it’s simply not fair. The same goes for if and when a teacher has to deal with two naughty children who have both started a (separate) fight at school. The teacher wouldn’t punish one without punishing the other.
When referees are often criticised for their inconsistent decision making on the pitch, it perhaps comes as no surprise that a panel of three referees (albeit former ones) can’t find any consistency when making judgements even with the help of video footage. Referees, by and large, do their job very well. However, it’s decisions as strange and unexplainable as these that anger me (and many other football fans) as they don’t follow the pattern or a precedent that’s been set before. This is not about different interpretations of the laws of the game, this is black and white and they are acts of violent conduct which are undeniably red card offences if they were seen at the time. Therefore, if they are red card offences on the pitch, then they certainly are when off the pitch. Or is this too much logic to handle?