Kompany incident Shows How Rules Are Open To Interpretation

When certain big decisions in football matches depend on the viewpoint of a single person, there are always going to be arguments, heated debates and disagreements. Michel Platini would have it no other way, arguing against the introduction of video technology as it would deprive fans of contentious decisions, injustices and other controversies that many want to see eradicated from the game, but that he (and others no doubt) think make the game what it is.

Not that video technology would have helped Vincent Kompany during the FA Cup match against Manchester United. Even after the event there is no consensus on whether the decision was harsh, though most people seem to think it was. I will be accused of bias naturally, but I thought it was ridiculously harsh. Seen live there was disharmony at the award of a free kick. When the red card came out there was disbelief, and that horrible feeling in the pit of your stomach when a football match that started with such high hopes disintegrates almost immediately into a living nightmare. When Ryan Giggs can “scissor” Aguero soon after and receive no caution at all, you are left to wonder what is going on.

But ignore the ignorant outpourings from footballers and commentators alike who seem to have no idea of the rules in the sport that pays them so handsomely. There is no written ruling on studs showing or raising your feet/leaving the ground, as most will be aware. There is no consideration to be made on how badly injured the footballer on the receiving end of the tackle may be, or how much contact was made. This is all irrelevant, up to a point. The referee has to decide of excessive force was used by the penalised player, and if an opposition player was put in danger. I considered the tackle to be clean, and I thought Kompany was in control throughout, though he did jump up first and went in harder than necessary (some will argue), but United were in danger of breaking on goal, so Kompany may have been more resolute in winning the ball fully. Anyway, others may disagree – the camera angle from behind shows a textbook challenge, the angle from closer to what Chris Foy will have seen makes it look worse than it probably was. Referees are told that both feet leaving the floor for a tackle is an invitation for a caution, as at this moment the player has in their opinion lost control, but if the other player is not hit then that is where it should end. We can only guess at what Foy think he saw.

The appeal by City was always doomed to failure – decisions like this are never overturned unless there is a clear error (nevertheless, about a quarter of appeals are successful), which judging by people’s arguments on Twitter, this wasn’t. As Mancini pointed out, Kompany has effectively missed five games because of one clean tackle, having been sent off early in the game, and having previously been dismissed for two bookable offences. Tough break. But the FA are not corrupt, biased, or part of some conspiracy theory that goes right to the top (god), they simply back their referees, which in theory is no bad thing. If there are a spate of poor red card bans being upheld, then we have to look at the source – are our referees good enough? But that’s a debate that could go on for years.

Of course people will claim that the FA were happy to appeal against a three-match ban for Wayne Rooney when he kicked out at an opposition player whilst in an England shirt, and were delighted when the ban was reduced. But I think I’m right in saying their argument was not that the offence wasn’t worthy of punishment, but that three match bans for internationals are excessive considering the scarcity of games. It is not a valid comparison.

“All we want is consistency!” is the cry heard after every debatable decision, as videos are posted online showing Rooney getting away with decapitating a fellow professional. But that’s the thing – you can’t have consistency for decisions that are subjective, that are down to the interpretation of the incident by one man in black. Like judging what is a deliberate handball is or what is preventing a clear goal-scoring opportunity, many of the rules of the game contain grey areas open to interpretation. This isn’t a failing of the rule-book, there really isn’t any other way to do it. You can’t have a clear rule for every single type of foul or discretion. We’re stuck with inconsistency for ever, and that’s just the way it is.

The fact that a footballer will now be banned for four games after a tackle that won the ball whilst barely touching another person seems ridiculous, and on the surface it is. But after the FA turned down appeals by Nenad Milijas and Joey Barton recently, this particular appeal was always doomed to failure. The fact that the majority of people who have seen the tackle think the red card was harsh is not enough to overturn it in the eyes of the FA, who are keen to back referee’s decisions. Rather than claiming the world is against us and the FA has it in for our particular team, we will just have to admit that sometimes things don’t go your way.

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