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A tackle, and a tangle of mixed statements
IT takes a particularly warped form of logic to conclude that if you’ve made a serious mistake, it’s better to do nothing than to try to rectify it.
Two wrongs don’t make a right, they just entrench and magnify the original error. So as Massadio Haidara completes his recovery from an injury that, thankfully, has not proved as serious as it appeared when Callum McManaman planted his boot into the young defender’s leg on Sunday, he can justifiably feel that he has been badly let down on two separate occasions.
The first was when Mark Halsey did not even award a foul for a tackle that was as bad as anything that has blighted English football this season; the second was when the Football Association refused to do anything about the error.
Quite how Halsey failed to note the reckless nature of the challenge is as baffling now as it was at the time, although the official’s view was impeded by Mapou Yanga-Mbiwa and whether we like it or not, mistakes happen.
Halsey made a serious error of judgement, but at least he can argue he only had a split second to make up his mind.
The FA spent the best part of two days debating their response to McManaman’s recklessness, only to conclude that it would be best to allow the Wigan attacker to escape unpunished.
No one is advocating a witch-hunt against a player making his first Premier League start, even if subsequent reports outlining a similarly dangerous tackle in a recent reserves game with Manchester City give cause for concern, but it seems utterly incredulous that after making such a clearly dangerous challenge, McManaman will be free to line up in Wigan’s next fixture.
The FA’s argument, which was outlined in a statement that was inexplicably released to sections of the press before it was sent to Newcastle United, has clearly been well-rehearsed.
FIFA’s dislike of rerefereeing incidents that were seen by an official is well-known, and the FA have been quick to use it as justification for a policy that was agreed with a number of key stakeholders, including the Professional Footballers’ Association, League Managers’ Association and Premier League, before the start of the season.
However, it is wrong to state that FIFA has issued a blanket ban against handing out retrospective punishments in scenarios such as Sunday’s.
When Wayne Rooney escaped punishment for an elbowing incident in 2011, FIFA president Sepp Blatter said: “If there’s violence, the national association can intervene and punish a player – this is permitted at the discretion of the national association. They can use video evidence in the discipline and control committee.”
Clearly, the interpretation of the word “violence” is open to debate, but there is sufficient leeway in Blatter’s comments for the FA to take a lead.
Why is it so wrong for the footballing authorities to accept that a referee sometimes makes an error?
Is it because they fear an official’s authority will be undermined if their decisions are overturned retrospectively? Well, I don’t see too many people holding Halsey in high esteem at the moment.
Other sports, most notably rugby union, operate an efficient system whereby key disciplinary issues can be reassessed in the week after they took place.
In rugby, clubs are able to cite opposition players they believe have committed a serious offence that was not adequately punished by the match officials. A committee meets, written and video evidence is assessed, and if necessary, an offending player can be suspended or fined retrospectively.
Does that diminish a rugby referee’s authority on the field of play? Hardly, given that they never come in for the kind of verbal abuse that is commonplace on the football field.
Some argue that retrospective refereeing could encourage match officials to ignore any contentious decisions on a match day, safe in the knowledge that they will be picked up on video at a later date. Hence, teams could suffer because their opponents are not reduced to ten men halfway through a game like they should be.
It is a regularly-voiced argument, but also an erroneous one. Referees are professional figures now; if they’re not prepared to make key decisions and get them right, they should be ushered out of the door.
Like the debate about goalline technology, the time has surely come for football to step out of the Dark Ages and accept technological assistance in order to ensure that errors like Sunday’s do not go uncorrected.
Otherwise, we are left with the situation we have now – a mess of amoral indecisiveness in which the FA are made to appear every bit as weak and damaged as Haidara’s knee.
SO Rio Ferdinand can’t play against Montenegro on Tuesday because of his “pre-planned training programme”, but he can fly to Doha for a lucrative punditry spot on al-Jazeera during this evening’s World Cup qualifier with San Marino.
There is no doubt that Ferdinand has been messed about by Roy Hodgson in the wake of the whole John Terry saga involving his brother.
But for someone who professes to regard international football as the ultimate honour, his conduct this week has been reprehensible. Forget the debate about whether Ferdinand remains interested in playing for England – Hodgson should end the matter once and all by refusing to pick him again in the future.
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