Spare the rod, spoil the child
I’m going to start this blog with some definitions courtesy of the Chambers English Dictionary (1988) as it is big, red and the fact that it has faded makes it seem trustworthy. It is also the biggest book in my house which gives it added gravitas. Given that I’m starting by quoting a dictionary my spelling better be IMPECABLE today
Punish – to cause (someone) to suffer for an offence: to cause some to suffer for (an offence): to inflict punishment.
Punishment – act or method of punishing: penalty imposed for an offence: severe handling.
Responsible – liable to be called to account as being charge or control.
Now let’s take a look at some recent events in Football.
Ryan Babel has been fined £10,000 by the FA for a retweet of a picture of Howard Webb in a Manchester United shirt after the award of what some might call a controversial and others might call a soft but technically correct penalty, as well as the unquestionably correct sending off of Steven Gerrard.
Rafael Da Silva has now been charged by the FA for improper conduct after his sending off against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday.
Wayne Rooney shouted directly at the referee “fucking wanker” and has received no charge.
Theo Walcott has admitted to taking a dive against Leeds and has again received no charge.
So, how do I feel about these four things?
Well, I think two should be handled together, as they relate to the same incident – the sending off of Rafael Da Silva. I’m not going to comment on whether I thought Da Silva should have been sent off or not. The referee made the decision that he thought was correct based on the information available to him. Rafael appeared to question that decision, and by rights, as long as he does so in a respectful manner has every right to do so. Personally I didn’t see anything in his reaction to justify a further charge when compared with the reactions of any other Premiership player to being sent off this season.
Is it right that players react badly to decisions? Maybe not. But I’d rather a player cared about the match and a simple “fuck off” of disbelief is probably the nicest thing that Mike Dean heard that match.
The fact is thousands upon thousands of obscenities are uttered up and down the country every single weekend after thousands upon thousands of decisions. If the FA is to charge Rafael for this then they need to be bold, to say “here is our line in the sand, naughty words – YOU SHALL NOT PASS” (giving Sir Ian McKellen a role in the FA would be a work of Machiavellian genius in my opinion).
To charge Rafael but to allow Rooney to scream “fucking wanker” in Mike Dean’s face seconds later without punishment is a little bit beating your child for stealing sweets and then standing idly by when their brother gets caught joy riding.
IF the FA is to make an example of Rafael in this way, it absolutely beggars belief that they then failed to charge Rooney on the same grounds. Rooney’s behaviour was far, far worse. But still, hardly an exception to the rule when it comes to reactions to decisions. I don’t think it is just Rooney who has benefited from this, the FA have other favourites, including Terry and Gerrard, which is odd considering they are the players who young English kids will rightly or wrongly be viewing as role models. When they display that kind of dissent after a decision not directly relating to them it should be punished further.
I personally think the FA have set themselves a precedent that they will now have to stick to or forever be accused of an anti-United bias – at least by United supporters. Everyone else will still point to Fergie time and the number of penalties given away at Old Trafford.
In summary, I think if the FA stick to the precedent that they have set with this then fine, but if Rafael is being dealt with in this way and others are doing far worse, then this is unacceptable hypocrisy and Rooney, and many others are very lucky that it is not their actions that have been justifiably punished.
Theo Walcott taking a tumble, then admitting it – partly I’m glad Walcott has admitted it.
Although my interpretation of his confession wasn’t one of a man full of remorse for what he had done, someone vowing not to do it again, no matter how great the temptation. No the impression I got was of a little kid desperate to impress the big boys “hey lads, I’ve just tried smoking” – “yeah give a shit, we’re doing crack now”.
If diving is smoking then I don’t know what Football’s equivalent of doing crack would be, maybe moving the World Cup to a winter date because you didn’t read ANY of the information about the potential hosts other than their budget?
To say it was big of Walcott to admit it is taking it a bit far. It would have been big of him to stay on his feet. But I personally don’t see the need to retrospectively punish him for it. I’ll refer you to my earlier definition of responsible – Theo has admitted he was responsible and considering the fact Arsenal weren’t awarded a penalty and young Theo has irreversibly damaged any chance he had of getting questionable penalty decisions awarded in his favour ever again then I think the FA has done well to publicly avoid this one but I would like to think that in a different world they could send round some very, very tough looking people to remind Theo Walcott of the potential consequences of “crossing the family” again.
So lastly we get to Ryan Babel and his Twitter faux pas, for which he was fined £10,000.
Opinion on this is going to vary greatly. Some will tell you that to be fined a day’s wages for making implications against the impartiality of the referee is a ridiculous punishment that certainly is not “severe handling”. Others will tell you that £10,000, for pressing the Retweet button, is an extremely good example of “severe handling”.
I can see both arguments and to be honest I think the punishment just about fits the crime. Babel didn’t Photoshop the image himself, he was just angry with the result, found the picture funny and retweeted it. But his actions have consequences which he is responsible for and rightly there should be a punishment.
The fact is that top level Football is a grotesquely wealthy environment for a lot of people now, and so whilst £10,000 is a large chunk of my yearly salary it is a drop in the ocean for some of the people involved. But to punish Babel any further would be ridiculous when you consider that the Spanish FA was fined £44,750 for the racial abuse of several England players during a friendly.
Now when you think about the actions committed by the four individuals that I have highlighted, and you think about the relative injustice of it all, please, retain your perspective, and remember that whilst the FA may seem inept, they are just a small clumsy child compared to the giant blundering idiot that is FIFA when it comes to disproportionate punishments.
Oh and just in case anyone was wondering, the Chambers English Dictionary 1988 defines the “snood” as “A Scottish badge of Virginity” and has no mention of the word “merked”. Simpler times.
You can follow Hayden on twitter @elhaydo