On Tuesday it was announced that Newcastle United manager Alan Pardew had been penalised by the Football Association with a seven match suspension and a £60,000 fine for his headbutt on Hull City’s David Meyler.
Pardew has accepted his punishment, the heaviest ever sanction placed upon a Premier League manager, and told the club’s official website “I deeply regret the incident and again wholeheartedly apologise to all parties for my conduct, which I understand was not acceptable.”
In an ideal world, the verdict should have dissipated the furore and intense media scrutiny which the incident attracted.
In reality however, the inconsistency in the FA’s judgement has only served to further the discussion over the matter and raise huge question marks over their decision making process.
Pardew deserved to be punished for such a ridiculous action and English football’s governing body were correct to establish an independent regulatory commission to review and sanction accordingly.
But where has this punishment of a seven match ban, three of which prevent the Newcastle manager from entering the actual stadium, and a £60,000 fine actually come from?
The severity of the judgement was left in the hands of the three man panel after the issue was declared by the FA to be “non standard”. In the governing body’s view, this meant that the punishment could be determined solely from this individual case and not from precedent.
But why is this the case? In 2007, Kidderminster Harriers manager Mark Yates was handed a four match ban and a £35o fine for headbutting Exeter City striker Lee Elam. Surely a precedent such as this cannot be ignored?
Obviously the level of the fine should be adjusted accordingly to match the relative riches of the divisions, but why should the severity of the ban be greater for Pardew?
Pictures from both incidents does not reveal any greater malicious intent or physical action to suggest a greater ban on that basis.
So does that mean that Pardew has been delivered a heavier punishment because he is the manager of a high-profile team in the Premier League? A consistency in sanctions should be maintained across all the tiers of English football, no matter how many people view it on their television screens.
How much of a role did Pardew’s prior misdemeanours have to play in shaping the commission’s decision? The Newcastle manager has previously been banned for shoving a match official and was recently charged by the FA for directing foul language at Manchester City manager Manuel Pellegrini.
Without an explanation from the commission, it would be wrong to just assume that these incidents did indeed add to the severity of the punishment.
Most importantly though, the fact that Pardew has been sanctioned to a greater extent than Nicolas Anelka was for his controversial quenelle goal celebration reflects horrendously upon the FA.
Fined £80,000 and banned for five matches, the West Brom striker was punished for a gesture which he claimed was a show of support for his friend and comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala, but controversially carried anti-semitic undertones.
With Jewish groups condemning the perceived weakness of Anelka’s punishment and Labour MP John Cryer labelling the FA as “pathetically spineless”, the outcry is likely to continue after the revelation of Pardew’s sanctions.
Inadvertently, English football’s governing body has outlined that a headbutt is worse than anti-semitism.
Football fans and journalists have taken to social media to highlight this remarkable inconsistency.
The scenario is similar to the outrage caused by UEFA’s fine of Nicklas Bendtner at Euro 2012 in comparison to their punishments for racism.
While the Arsenal striker was fined £80,000 for displaying Paddy Power branded underwear in a goal celebration, Bulgaria were fined in comparison a meagre £34,000 for racist fan behaviour in an international fixture.
The FA have likely not yet felt the full repercussions for their respective punishments of Anelka and Pardew.
To avoid looking like clowns again in the future, a consistency in the severity of punishments needs to be established across all levels of English football.
Aside from the comparison to the quenelle, Pardew has been punished more severely than Yates for an almost identical offence with no justification as to why.
If the decision making process was perhaps more transparent, maybe it wouldn’t look like fines or match bans have been selected at random.
The announcement of Pardew’s punishment, just like the decision over Anelka’s sanction, should have firmly ended the media frenzy surrounding both events. Instead, the FA’s mishandling of both incidents has led them to inadvertently suggest that a headbutt is worse than a racist gesture.