The FA break their rules for Rooney
Regular readers of this column may remember at the beginning of the season I wrote about the introduction by the FA of new suspension rules for players sent off. The idea was that players at all levels of the game would be subjected to the same length of suspension for the same category of offences. This apparently was in response to complaints from clubs in the lower reaches of the game, that their players were often punished by longer suspension periods that those in the professional game after committing the same offence. One such offence was that of violent conduct, which is not unnaturally, considered as one of the worst offences. It’s just worth reiterating exactly what violent conduct is, as many people get confused between serious foul play and violent conduct. Serious foul play is really when a tackle goes wrong, in other words it can only happen when there is a challenge for the ball. Violent conduct on the other hand can happen at any time, anywhere, and against anyone. Some people still have difficulty in telling one from the other. Take the occurrence with Jimmy Kebe in Reading’s victory over West Ham in December. One newspaper report said that Jack Coillison was sent off as a result of his tackle on Kebe. However this was not a challenge for the ball, which had already gone. The West Ham player, frustrated and it was claimed humiliated by Kebe’s antics of pulling up his socks whilst the game was in play, attacked the Reading player with the intention of hurting him by kicking him on the shin and pushing him over. So this was quite clearly violent conduct. Another more publicised case happened when England played Montenegro in their qualifying game for the EURO 2012. Wayne Rooney failed to control a pass and the ball was taken off him quite fairly by Montenegro player, Miodrag Dzudovic. Frustrated and perhaps even humiliated by the action of the Dzudovic, Rooney lashed out at the back of his opponents legs. There was no way he could play the ball, which had already gone, so it could not be classified as a tackle but quite simply violent conduct, for which he was correctly sent off. In the FA’s new suspension rules, the punishment for violent conduct is to be banned from playing for three games in the competition in which the offence took place, at what ever level. However, the penalty for local footballers is that the new rules withdrew a player’s automatic right of appeal. Only just over 1% of appeals had resulted in the punishment being overturned and it cost money and effort to convene a disciplinary hearing, getting three members of the disciplinary board together, to hear the appeal. But in Rooney’s case the FA were no longer the disciplinary authority, instead it is their football team that Rooney plays for and his three match suspension would mean that he would miss the three games of the group section of EURO 2012. So what did they do? They appealed against the severity of the punishment, taking four lawyers to Switzerland, together with the England manager, to plead that Rooney is not really that kind of person and in any case his mind was all messed up, what with his father being arrested for illegal gambling. So despite his poor disciplinary record and the fact that he had clearly committed violent conduct, they succeeded in getting his suspension reduced to two games. The FA excused their action by saying that EUFA rules aren’t the same as theirs. We can only hope that Rooney plays in the third game and scores a hat trick to secure England a place in the knock-out section of the tournament. But will even that be enough to rescue the FA’s loss of integrity?