New suspension rules for players
Sir Alex Ferguson seems to suffer from some form of paranoia; he thinks everybody is against Manchester United, particularly the FA. He is still making noises about the two match ban on his star striker Wayne Rooney for the use of offensive language last season. As I said at the time, had he been playing in the Reading Football League his punishment would have been exactly the same. What has annoyed players in grass roots football, as it is known, is that professional, particularly high profile players often get lighter sentences than local players do for similar offences. Also, it could differ from county to county, so for someone sent off in Berks & Bucks, their suspension could be different if their club was in Oxfordshire. This has all changed with the introduction of new uniform suspensions announced by the FA this season. The idea is to have the same suspension rules applied throughout the game in England. Of course these new rules are for suspensions and not for fines. Obviously the fines for professional players would have to be much larger otherwise they would not be a deterrent. Even so, despite the colossal sums top players now receive, I doubt whether they will ever match the fine imposed on a NBA player in America earlier this year. He was fined $100,000 for an obscene slur at the referee after he had blown for a technical foul against him. There have been trials with the new system over the last three years and to start, it covers what is called open age football. For youth football (up to 18 years of age), there will be further discussion over the next year. The first rule is that players will be suspended for a set number of games and not for a set term period. Sometimes suspensions would cover periods like the summer, when there wouldn’t be any games anyway. The suspensions will now automatically start 21 days after the player has been sent off. This makes more work for the clubs, as it is up to them to make sure they know how long the suspension is, as well as confirming to their FA that they have told the player and to notify them which game or games the player will miss. These must be mandatory games e.g. leagues matches or Senior county cup games. One introduction that might cause some dissent is that players will no longer have the immediate right to appeal, but out of 54,000 sending-offs in the country last season, only 2.2% of players asked for personal hearings. The other big change is that the suspension will be for the type of football, for example for the Saturday or Sunday competition in which the offence was committed. The categories are Saturday, Sunday, Midweek, Veterans and Mid-week. This means that if a player is sent off in a Saturday League game he could still play for his Sunday league team, but if the Saturday team has a mid-week match he would be banned from that as well. However, if after being sent off the player commits further misconduct, e.g. abusing the referee, he will be banned from all football. If it is a serious offence, requiring longer suspension, then this can be appealed. Referees are always told not to worry about the punishment players receive as long as they do their job but sadly there are some referees who take disciplinary action against players on the field and then fail to report it. When discovered, the referees concerned are themselves suspended. Under this new scheme, where the clubs have to contact their FA, these recalcitrant referees are more likely to be found out. If these new rules work correctly, with uniform suspensions for all, it will at least relieve Sir Alex Ferguson of the feeling that Manchester United players are treated unfairly.