Well that was a surprise. Wayne Rooney’s appeal against his 3 match UEFA ban has been partially successful, with the ban reduced to 2 games, with the third suspended.
Whichever way you look at it, Rooney – and indeed Capello’s England - have been exceptionally lucky with the decision.
What was the basis of the appeal? He was sent off for kicking out and violent conduct comes with an automatic 3 match ban. Surely it was cut and dry wasn’t it?
So how did he manage it?
Please Sir I only kicked him a little bit? No Son, you either kick out or you don’t. You do its violent conduct.
Please Sir I’m really a rather nice young chap who although sometimes misunderstood, I have never been involved in any untoward behaviour before? Erm……...
It is believed that the FA may have argued to UEFA that this ban was indeed a harsher sanction than say the same ban at the qualifying stages, as it effects and potentially ends involvement in a major final for one of the world’s top players.
No doubt every player who has ever missed a major final through suspension now wishes that they had made such an appeal and faced the same committee as Rooney.
Clearly if this is true and the argument swayed UEFA, can we expect players to only serve suspensions in games of lesser importance going forward.
But whatever the reason, the FA, in their pursuit of “justice”, may very well have set themselves a very dangerous precedent.
In whichever walk of life an appeal is made, success must be based upon either an error in the charge/judgment or a plea for leniency due to mitigating circumstances. Neither applies here and yet UEFA have backed down and reduced the punishment.
Why, is anyone’s guess?
In our own domestic game, the FA has a strict, rigid policy, of a 3 game ban for a straight red card. There is no room for leniency or reductions on the ban. It is either rescinded in full or upheld in full. In fact should you choose to apply and the same is felt to be full of frivolity, the FA still have it within their power to extend the ban further.
Let’s play devils advocate and say here we are the middle of April 2012 with a handful of games to go. Both Manchester United and Manchester City are sitting pretty at the top of the tree, with only a hairs breath between them.
Rooney is on one of those runs he often goes on, where he’s scoring goals in for fun.
Then disaster strikes. Frustrations boil over and Rooney kicks out at an opponent. Straight red card, no complaints. What follows is an automatic 3 match ban. United are without their enigmatic talisman for 3 games of a title deciding run-in.
Will Sir Alex take it on the chin and congratulate those at the FA for their swift administration of justice? Unlikely! What is more likely is that he will highlight the international red card and the FA’s insistence that the punishment didn’t fit the crime and their subsequent winning appeal.
You see you can’t have it both ways I’m afraid. What’s good for the goose is very much good for the gander. And should Sir Alex or indeed anyone else choose to use this argument, you’d be hard pushed to disagree.
The FA will no doubt counter by arguing that there is provision within UEFA’s rules – and indeed precedent following the Arshavin case – to pursue such an appeal and they were only exercising their rights under the relevant jurisdiction.
But that can’t be the right answer surely?
The punishment should always fit the crime and if the rules don’t allow for that, then the law is an ass and must be changed.
Rest assured, Sir Alex and indeed many of the other top managers within English Football will be fully aware of the implications of the FA’s decision to proceed and ultimately succeed with this appeal and it is difficult to imagine that they won’t look to exploit the same for their own personal gain should the situation arise.
Will the FA maintain their stance or will they accept that there is an issue and review their policies? It’s long been argued that the current suspension process is too rigid and further flexibility in the time served by offending players should be in place, both in terms of increasing and decreasing matches missed.
I would hope for the latter but I’m really not holding my breath. Heads in the sand anyone?
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