Guest speaker Mar 2013: Mark Ives – “Discipline and the Way Forward”

Mark Ives is the Discipline Manager of the FA but his involvement in football is just about as wide as you can get. He has been with the FA for 12 years and Head of Department for the last 7 years. In this position he has been responsible for the introduction of the new caution report for which we are all most grateful and the new disciplinary system which he was going to cover. He has played football at Isthmian League level; he has been a referee for 27 years reaching level 2, which included 9 years as a National List Assistant Referee. He withdrew from that as it conflicted with his position at the FA but he still referees every Saturday and Sunday and he is also an FA Tutor and Assessor. Before joining the FA he was CEO of a County FA so he has seen the game in this country from almost every angle. Mark’s presentation was also wide ranging and he said he was going to look at six issues; Match Based Discipline, Reporting Misconduct, Personal Hearings, Wrongful Dismissals or Mistaken Identities, Social Media and then an Open Forum.

He started with the history of what happened across the country with regard to Match Based Discipline. There had been he said a different system for professional and local football and it also varied throughout the country. Many suspensions were based on number of days, which was not right as it was not an even system. ‘Number of matches’ suspension, which had been introduced was better and fairer. Also the suspension is now only from the type of football where the offence had been committed, e.g. Saturday or Sunday football. This, he said, only deprived that team of the player’s services. There is now no right of appeal on standard charges and could only be made for wrongful dismissal or mistaken identity. Only appeal backed by video evidence can be mounted so in local football personal hearings will be very rare. We were the only country in Europe to have the right to appeal. When you consider that out of 54,000 sending offs, there were 2.2% appeals and only 1.9% were upheld, this does not equate to a great injustice. Competitions can also impose suspensions and players signing for clubs.

Respect, Mark said, begins with the players. If a player shows disrespect after being sent off, he/she would be suspended from all football and for a longer period. Assaults on referees can have decrees of punishment and may be sine die, which means that they cannot request a review for 5 years or even 10 in some cases. If a team commits six disciplinary offences in one match, the club will be fined and action can be taken against the manager and the chairman of the club.

When it came to reporting misconduct, he said, accuracy was imperative, don’t pass opinions or exaggerate. There are changes coming in 2012/13 when there will be an online portal for reporting misconduct which should make it simpler. If you should have to attend a personal hearing it is nothing to worry about. Be professional, do not change your story and do not get flustered. There is now compulsory training and assessment for chairmen of the hearings and also a right to appeal to the FA and by the FA if they think a mistake has been made.

Turning to social media, Facebook, Twitter, Mark thought it was a good media when used correctly but a different matter if used incorrectly bringing the game into disrepute. That is if it was abusive, offensive, made direct or indirect threats or is about match officials which imply bias or attack their integrity or are of a personal  nature.

This included remarks about ethnic origin or colour, race, nationality, faith, gender, sexual orientation or disability. If someone sends you a tweet that includes anything of that nature and you re-tweet it to someone else you are still regarded as liable. People who set up ‘fake’ accounts are still liable and it could be considered a criminal act.

In the open forum, Mark was asked about the standard of disciplinary reports which he agreed was generally very poor. When told that this seemed in variance with our recent instructions on basic courses not to put any emphasis on them, Mark said he was talking to people in the FA about misconduct report training. He was also asked about some of the referees’ decisions that had been overturned, such as Anthony Taylor’s sending off of two players at West Ham for catching their opponents with high feet. He said that the panel consisted of a member of the FA Council, a club chairman and an ex-player or manager. They were asked to look at whether the referee had made an obvious error leading to wrongful dismissal. They did not interview or receive the referee’s report. They could have some guidance by someone conversant with the law but that person would not take part in their deliberations.

Mark was also asked why the very recent case of the Wigan player McManaman’s tackle in the game against Newcastle was not taken up by the FA as they had intervened in other instances where the referee had not seen the offence. He replied that there was an agreement with the leagues how to deal with these incidents. Although the referee Mark Halsey had not seen the offence one of his assistants had, so no further action could be taken. It would have needed to have been an exceptional case for them to intervene and although the injury seemed severe, the tackle, if seen, would have only resulted in the standard punishment. It only attracted so much attention said Mark because it appeared on Sky television in front of millions of viewers, had it been in League Two very little would have been said. The members of the FA responsible did not feel it there was sufficient cause to break the agreement. The last thing the FA wanted was to have to re-referee every game. There was another aspect, Mark said. Referees might refrain from making controversial decisions if they felt that they would be picked up later.

Discipline may have sounded a dry subject but what a full evening it turned out to be and we are extremely grateful to Mark to come and put over his subject in such a forthright and open manner.

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