This weekend saw Suarez bite Ivanovic on the arm, an action he has apologised for without providing any explanation for what possesses any rational human being to bite another. It is widely accepted that he will receive a lengthy ban once the FA review video evidence – that is, unless an official tells the FA that they saw the bite, in which case the FA will declare that they can take no further action and Suarez will go unpunished. It is this that allowed Jermain Defoe to escape a ban for a similar bite, and more recently prevented Callum McManaman being punished for an awful challenge on Massadio Haidara.
The FA’s Position
The FA claims that it is unable to review incidents which the match officials have already made a decision on, due to a rule put in place to prevent undermining the authority of referees by “re-refereeing” matches. It can only review incidents which are not seen by the officials.
Why the FA’s Position is Nonsensical
Firstly, and most obviously, claiming that you are unable to take action because of a rule that you invented and have the power to amend is obviously ridiculous. There is no FIFA regulation at work here that the FA is required to abide by, it is their own decision that they are claiming to be restricted by.
Regardless of who made this rule, it is still easy to show that it is contradictory. One half of the rule claims that referees are perfect decision making machines – that if an official sees an incident, he or she will make the correct decision in 100% of cases. It’s incredibly simple to disprove this theory:
My argument is, if a Premier League official sees the above incident and decides that it is a legal challenge, not reckless or dangerous, and that play should continue, then that official is not fit to work in the Premier League (or indeed at any level of football) until an urgent and thorough re-education is completed. The FA’s “rule” as it stands not only accepts the above decision, but actively protects the official in question.
The FA’s position is contradictory because it allows for the fact that officials may not see an incident at all. On the one hand we are told that referees are perfect decision making machines, and on the other we are told they can’t be trusted to be looking in the right direction. This doesn’t make sense. Either you go completely in the direction of trusting referees and having no reviews, or you admit that three (or five) human officials are not able to see and make perfect decisions on every event on a football pitch, and those 40-odd high-definition and ultramotion cameras that Sky Sports bring to each match might offer some more conclusive evidence.
How to Fix it
I’m not asking the FA to undermine the authority of officials. 99.9% of decisions made can remain in the hands of the referee, and we can continue to moan about offside calls in full acceptance of the human element of those decisions. I’m asking for the 0.1% – the biting, the career-threatening fouls – to be reviewed and given the punishment they deserve, regardless of what the officials on the day may or may not have seen at full speed from 40 yards. It is not bringing the game into disrepute or undermining the officials to see such obviously disgraceful acts receive the punishment they deserve – on the contrary, it undermines both the authority of the officials and the credibility of the FA for these players to escape punishment.