What do Emmanuel Adebayor and Steven Gerrard have in common? The answer, essentially, is that they both have arms. Not a particularly difficult thing to achieve, really, I’ll grant you, but they have both used those arms against an opponent on the football pitch, recently. Though one of them was punished and the other got off without charge.
I’m not one to go for conspiracy theories. I don’t, for example, believe that there is some sort of alien species that is in control of the planet via the medium of radio waves. Neither am I persuaded by the idea that, if you play Let It Be backwards, then you’ll hear The Beatles documenting their control of global warming. I remain firmly unconvinced by the theory that including fluoride in water causes an addiction to Shredded Wheat.
So, as such, I don’t also go for the idea that the Football Association of England is biased towards the top four clubs in the country. Though, for somebody who doesn’t go for that conspiracy theory, I can’t deny that there is enough evidence for the most right-minded people to be swayed over to that line of thinking.
Bearing that in mind, I feel that I have to pose the question: What in the name of Graham Poll’s whistle does Steven Gerrard have to do to get himself a retrospective ban? Swinging elbows is alright, as is two-finger saluting the referee… Before long, he could be killing kittens and stealing the mascots’ lunch money. And that’s a slippery slope argument if ever I’ve seen one.
While I may sit here and type that there is no conspiracy against Manchester City, you can understand how a large proportion of my fellow Citizens could come to that conclusion. In both of the recent Gerrard incidents, the FA have reported that the referee had seen the offences and decided that there should be no further punishment. And, for that reason, the FA cannot impose a further punishment.
This is all well and good, until you consider that Emmanuel Adebayor was shown a yellow card for his celebration when he scored against his former club and was then, retrospectively, handed a three match ban. Did the referee not see the celebration but show him a yellow card for something else? Apparently, yes – time wasting was the official response.
Was that celebration seriously deemed to be time wasting? Odd, given that it was no longer than any most other goal celebrations and, as we learnt at Old Trafford earlier in the season, sometimes goal celebrations can be added to the end of games, depending on the referee or how many Manchester United need to score to win the game, of course.
Wind back to autumn 2006 and Manchester City vs. Portsmouth. Pedro Mendes, then of Portsmouth, was, for want of a better word, assaulted by the then City full back Ben Thatcher, as they competed for a loose ball a yard from the touchline. Thatcher received a yellow card, followed by a retrospective eight match ban. I was under the impression that this was the incident that forced the FA’s hand into changing that rule, but it seems not.
I’m not in the slightest condoning what Thatcher did nor am I arguing that he should not have been retrospectively banned. But I am asking the question why one can be banned and another cannot – I appreciate that the severity of the incidents is different, but that shouldn’t matter, should it? Surely, if you can increase Thatcher’s yellow card for that offence, then you can increase Gerrard’s nothing for his two offences?
City recently made their excuses and left the FA Cup at the Britannia Stadium. It’s a difficult place to go to and win and, for City, that was a task made even more difficult when Emmanuel Adebayor palmed off Ryan Shawcross, catching the defender on the shoulder as he tried to win the ball from the City striker, using an open hand and with no malice.
It’s been different decisions from different referees in different games, but those decisions have all been based on the same rules. Gerrard now receives no ban and can continue to help his team rescue their season (his team that have looked less than average when without him, incidentally), while Adebayor was banned for four games, thanks to the previous three match ban he received after being booked ‘time wasting’ and not for his celebration.
That’s Gerrard of Liverpool, from the established top four, and Adebayor of Manchester City, from the group of challengers. The theory that the FA are looking to protect their biggest earners suddenly doesn’t look as stupid as the theories about the moon not existing. It does sometimes feel like there’s one rule for one and one rule for another.
I refuse to go along with the idea that clubs outside the top four are more harshly punished, however. If that were the case, Rio Ferdinand would not have been banned for his elbow on Hull’s Craig Fagan. Incidentally, I bet Rio was delighted to see Gerrard get away with his little disagreement with Michael Brown. Almost as much as my mate Tim was to see that the Liverpool midfielder was allowed to indicate to the man in the middle how his hand would look if he lost his thumb, ring finger and little finger: Tim, as a fourteen year old playing junior football, once told a referee that he had “made a bloody wrong decision” and was sent off for abusing a match official.
Though, there being no conspiracy against the non-top-four teams isn’t a good thing if the only other option is incompetence. If the many discrepancies in the application of the rules of football, by both the sport’s governing body and the match officials themselves, aren’t intentional, then it must be the result of a series of mistakes. That’s more mistakes than you’d find on a Dick Cheney hunting trip – it takes a special something to accidentally shoot a man in the face.
I can understand referees making mistakes because of the speed of what happens in front of them – perhaps the referee didn’t see the elbow, for example. But, in that instance, if the video evidence reports back that he has seen wrongly, then the FA should make it right, instead of hiding behind excuses that are flimsy at best. If anything, all that does is add fuel to the conspiracy fire.
Written By David Mooney