Why the FA’s disciplinary panel raises more questions than answers

Good day to you, I suspect it could be a short blog today simply because there’s nothing much going on.

It seems the lads had their Christmas party last night. I suspect it was a relatively easy night in terms of the old boozeahol, but nevertheless they seemed to get into the spirit of things. Lukas Podolski dressed as the Incredible Hulk, Per Mertesacker as Captain Jack Sparrow, but in the absence of any other pictures, Santi Cazorla as Super Mario might be one of the best things I’ve ever seen.

It’s right up with the Cesc hiding behind Jens picture from a couple of years back (which might have been the end of season bash). I have no idea who or what he was hiding from, but I think if you were going to duck in behind anyone, Jens would be a decent choice. I imagine him explaining to any potential attacker exactly what would happen to him if he tried.

Anyway, hopefully they had a good night and things like this do help foster team spirit, as we know. Nicklas Bendtner’s Instagram video from earlier in the day was funny too. A new tradition was born, where the new signings and youth players have to sign a Christmas carol. I’m not 100% Ozil knew the words but he looked like he was having a good time anyway. As did Emiliano Viviano who seems to be having a great time on his gap year.

All of which should get everyone pulling in the same direction ahead of the Chelsea game and the gansey-load of fixtures we have to play subsequently. Might as well get the laughs in now because it’s serious business from the weekend on. Super serious.

The only bit of news really is that Jack Wilshere has accepted the FA charge for ‘an offensive and/or insulting and/or abusive gesture’, but as we revealed yesterday, there’s an issue. Under this new disciplinary panel, the FA are pushing for a two game ban when, in the past, this kind of incident has been a one-game offence.

So, we’ve accepted the charge but disputed the punishment, and a hearing later today will decide his fate. It does open up some questions though about the new panel and the processes that they follow. The biggest of which is: on what basis do they decide which incidents in a game are worth a second look? Far be it for me to suggest it’s trial by media, but in the immediate aftermath of the game, it was the finger which was highlighted and that’s what they’re looking at.

Now, I’m not defending it, or condoning it, and whatever punishment they decide, we’ll have to live with. If we’re setting a new precedent and all subsequent offensive gestures and/or insulting and/or abusive gestures are given a two game ban, then there’s very little we can do about that.

But, the desire for this kind of panel to be set up wasn’t borne out of incidents when players got away with giving the crowd the finger. Far from it. It was incidents like this, the Callum McManaman challenge on Newcastle’s Massadiao Haidara, which are the ones which caused outcry. And rightly so. That there was no mechanism in place to deal with dangerous and/or violent and/or reckless play simply because a referee had seen an incident was, frankly, ludicrous.

Time and time again the FA wheeled out this excuse about how FIFA rules prevented them from reviewing incidents which referees had seen and dealt with. Of course, it turned out it had nothing to do with FIFA as other associations in other jurisdictions were capable of retrospectively punishing bad tackles. It was all to do with the FA not being willing to do it, and hiding behind a made up rule.

So, now that they’ve quietly done away with that, it’s a shame that the Wilshere incident has made the whole process look a bit tawdry. Why is it, for example, that a dangerous tackle from Yaya Toure on Olivier Giroud was not deemed sufficiently worthy of a second look by this panel? Is it because nobody really mentioned it in the press conference afterwards? It wasn’t worthy of replays and tut-tutting so it’s not worthy of a disciplinary review?

This isn’t a tit for tat thing, by any means. I think Yaya Toure is a brilliant player who monstered us thoroughly last weekend, but if the FA panel are going to spend their time dealing with trivialities like Wilshere’s middle-finger while ignoring the kind of incident they (should) have been set up for, then it’s hard to see what the point is.

Maybe football ought to adopt a system like rugby, where each opponent can cite incidents in games which they would like the panel to look at. As it is, there’s no real transparency to the system. We don’t know what might be reviewed, what the decision making process is, and as the Wilshere challenge to the two game ban shows, there’s confusion from the clubs about what the levels of punishment are for.

It seems ridiculous to me that genuinely violent conduct, like a punch or a headbutt (or indeed a leg breaking tackle), can result in as little as a three-game ban, while a finger to the crowd gets you just one game less. Of course you don’t want to see players making those gestures, but in the grand scheme of things, the suggested punishment doesn’t really seem to fit the crime.

Hopefully these are just teething issues for this panel, and over the next little while they’ll hone their practice to bring about a fairer system which sees appropriate and sensible judgements made. However, I won’t be holding my breath.

Right, that’s that. Back with the last Arsecast before Christmas tomorrow. Till then.