Yesterday we had, in the most ironic way imaginable, many commentators defying the baffling logic of the FA, with, of course… baffling logic. Amongst many, we had the Guardian and the Independent (no less) adjudging the FA to be a ‘shambles’ a ‘farce’ and a ‘chaotic mess’; Atkinson and his officials were hauled over the coals, and the ‘suits’ were deemed ‘slaves to Blatter’. And why? Because the FA and the PGMO had decided to stick by the rules, honour the laws of the game, continue to act in a way that was consulted upon with the LMA, PFA and various other football bodies (consulting the fans on this would just be stupid). Staggering!
Now of course, the matter wasn’t so simple; it never is when the moral acumen is brought to the fore. After all, it was a pretty stupid tackle from Balotelli (worthy of red every other time Atkinson referees), and a rather innocuous foul by Derry on the lightweight (!) Young. But instead of a calm and logical approach to the situation, with a reasoned response to the FA’s re-affirmation that a game should not, and would not be re-refereed, fans and journalists revelled, seeped in the verse of revenge and one-upmanship; and let’s not beat about the bush, iterated in a Balotelli-is-a-clown-infused, and I want more hits/followers (delete as appropriate) irate kind of way. In short, logic and common sense went out of the window; from up on high.
The argument was simply, “But Balotelli has studded Song he should be given a 9-game ban” – “Derry barely touched Young, we must let him off the hook”. Interesting. So lets just completely forget that we have the particular Law of the game (Law 5), the referee having sole authority on the jurisdiction of the game of football (worldwide) shall we? Let’s seek to re-officiate these games to elucidate justice! Honour! The right call! Where would the boundaries be set? How about we re-referee the entire league season?
I fancy Rio took the ball versus Newcastle and the score would have remained at 1-0. 2 points extra kind sir. I don’t think City’s 6-1 mauling of United at Old Trafford was justified because Clattenburg kicked off one minute late – laws of the game and all, right? Hilarity. And therein lies the key; rules and direction are key. Mason decreed Derry to have fouled Young (despite the offside). A slight touch, but a touch nonetheless and a decision made with honesty and integrity. What is so bizarre about a scenario whereby the FA have adhered to previously agreed legislation and a clearly defined directive as agreed by all?
On Derry-gate we had: “It quickly became obvious to everybody with access to the replays…” one commentator proclaimed without the slightest hint of irony. Even with said replays however, the panel, chosen to decide on the matter – a panel which includes an ex football league manager – decided that Mason had not made a “serious and obvious” error.
Knowing that we can’t include the faulty offside call in our analysis we have the following situation. Having whistled for a foul (and thus a penalty), Mason was left with only two options: Caution Derry if he perceived that the ball was played at such a pace that the on-coming Paddy Kenny was more than likely able to intercept and take the ball cleanly? Or, send him off if he deemed the incident to have been a clear denial of an obvious goal-scoring opportunity? I would suggest the vast majority of referees and/ or football ‘experts ‘ would conclude with the latter, therefore we are essentially back to where we started.
Then we had the note from the FA to say that Balotelli’s challenge on Sagna had been reviewed and retrospective punishment not given. Atkinson – the country’s best referee, and favourite for a European semi – saw the incident, but did not see the ‘full severity of the foul’. Clear, no?
The incandescent response to this from all quarters of the football landscape was incredulous to say the least.
Of course all of this hot air emanates from the rather all too predictable disdain shown en masse towards the FA, for various perceived misdemeanours down the years. Referees too, are an easy target, and often portrayed as the bad guys of the sport, the ‘power-crazy aficionados’. Not true in the slightest of course. That’s not to say the system will remain the same in the coming years; contentious decisions may well be reviewed and adjudicated upon according to set criteria, and the likes of Germany and France currently testing this approach. The likes of Ivanovic will continue to be brought to justice retrospectively for ‘off the ball’ discretions. But refereeing, lest it be forgotten, is by its very nature imperfect (refereeing is a combination of science and art and makes the sport what it is in my opinion), but nonetheless there is a framework to which the game has worked towards now for some years; a framework that has meant we uphold the virtues of the beautiful game, and work with its imperfections wherever they may arise.