There were many puzzled faces up and down the country after hearing Joey Barton’s lenient punishment following his brutal attack of his then City teammate, Ousmane Dabo. Essentially, he’s been given a six match ban and a £25,000 fine. He will face a further six match ban if he’s up in front of the disciplinary panel again sometime during the season. Six matches from Newcastle’s next game at the weekend will see Barton out of action for 45 days.
This got me thinking, what measuring stick do footballing authorities use when dishing out punishments?
Rio Ferdinand was informed in September 2003 that he was one of a handful of players who had been selected at random to complete a drugs test at the end of the training session. Rio left Carrington without doing the test but remembered later in the day. He returned to the training ground but he was told it was too late. The following day he went for an independent drugs test where the results came back negative.
The FA weren’t interested, banning him for eight months and fining him £50,000. In those eight months, he missed a total of twenty-one games for United as well as England matches in Euro 2004.
Are you telling me that forgetting a drugs test deserves four times the ban as beating the crap out of a team mate? Let’s not forget, with his assault on another City teammate, Jamie Tandy, where he stubbed out a cigar in his face, as well as his assaults which have lead to jail time, Barton is a repeat violent offender. Yet the FA were far softer on him than Rio.
If you think the incidents aren’t comparable in nature, then look at Christian Negouai who missed a drugs test in the same year as Ferdinand. The FA dished out no ban and a £2,000 fine.
Then there was Adrian Mutu who failed a drugs test the following year, yet the FA gave him a 7 month ban and a £25,000 fine. Of course, Mutu’s name has been in the press more recently following appeal after appeal against what he owes Chelsea in compensation, following the losses they suffered because of his ban. However, it must be noted this massive sum of money he has been ordered to pay his club has nothing to do with the FA’s punishment for the offence.
Where is the FA’s logic? If a player is guilty of an offence, then what dictates the varying punishments? Whilst I agree some action on Rio should have been taken, even though his test the following day came back clear, I can’t get my head around why his punishment was so much more severe.
It’s not just punishments for drugs test the FA are inconsistent with, though. Jeremie Aliadiere was recently sent off for raising his hand to Javier Mascherano in a Liverpool vs Middlesbrough match back in March. However, the incident was provoked by Mascherano, who first grabbed Aliadiere’s face. The Boro player responded with a petulant slap. Fine, Aliadiere had to walk for that, but why was there no punishmed for Mascherano? It was this question which lead to Middlesbrough appealing against the red card.
However, the FA were not prepared to rescind the red card, they did not deal with Mascherano’s involvement in the incident, and instead slapped another match on to the ban, meaning he would miss four games, claiming the appeal was “frivolous”.
Whilst there was no way Aliadiere could be allowed to get away with slapping an opponent across the face, Boro were simply looking for justice in the situation. If Mascherano wasn’t to be punished, then neither should their player. With red cards being appealed seemingly every week, this was one of the rare few that actually warranted an appeal.
Michael Essien is one of many players to appeal a red card, after he was sent off against Derby last season. His appeal was turned down, yet just the three match ban stood.
“Only recently Chelsea’s appeal against Michael Essien’s three-match ban was rejected but not considered frivolous,” said the chief executive, Keith Lamb. “It appears that there is one rule for the big boys and another for the rest of us.”
Another foolish decision by the FA was their reaction to Gary Neville’s injury time goal celebration against Liverpool a couple of seasons ago. He was fined £5,000 for his celebration (some £3,000 more than the City player who missed a drug’s test!) after Rio scored the winner.
“I would have been apologetic if I had run up to one of their players and tried to belittle them, but this was a celebration,” said Neville. “You are caught up in the moment and for a few seconds you go bananas. I laughed when I heard someone say it was not the behaviour of a 30-year-old because they are probably the same people who have accused us of lacking passion in recent games.”
Neville appealed the fine but the FA turned this down. “I do not think it constituted improper conduct or bringing the game into disrepute, which is why I am appealing the FA decision,” he then said. “I know people say £5,000 is nothing to a Premiership footballer, but I’d have contested the fine if it was 50p. My goal celebration against Liverpool at Old Trafford has been blown out of all proportion. To accept it would be to admit guilt and my punishment sets a bad precedent at a time when people say that there should be more interaction between players and the fans.”
Fair enough, if the FA want to punish goal celebrations, then we will have to accept that, whether Neville agrees or not. However, the FA had nothing to say about a goal celebration that took place just a weekend prior, after Robbie Fowler ensured United would lose on derby day following a last-minute goal. He celebrated directly in front of the away fans, feet away from them, holding up his five digits to represent the five European Cups of Liverpool. United fans obviously went bonkers, but maybe Fowler’s celebration, purely done with the intention of winding up the fans, wasn’t ‘improper’ enough. How do they judge it?
The topic of spitting is something which has arisen more recently, with a relatively unheard of Chelsea player, Slobodan Rajkovic, receiving a ban from the sport after he spat at a referee. The Serbian youngster, who is currently on loan with Steve McClaren’s side, FC Twente, was sent off in the Olympics in their match against Argentina. Disgusted with the decision, he wrongly spat at the ref. His punishment? A twelve month ban from all competitions.
Then we have Fabien Bathez who spat at a referee when he was playing for Marseille in 2005, after running over to the referee to confront him. He received a three month ban from the French Federation disciplinary committee.
In Australia, Dino Djulbic was sent off in the 20th minute for spitting at the referee and was handed a five match ban from Football Federation Australia.
The list goes on and on, with there being piles more examples I haven’t even touched upon. Whether it’s drug tests, spitting, goal celebrations, red card appeals, beating up a team mate, or any other wrongdoing, it seems to be hit and miss as to whether a player will be punished severely or leniently.
As the examples I’ve shown from the FA prove (and there are many others I’m sure people will be able to name), even one football governing body can’t make their minds up on punishments. How then are we supposed to find global unity?
The conclusion? For some players, spitting at a referee is worse than failing a drugs test. Some players can appeal bans, whilst others are deemed frivolous and handed a longer ban. For some players, celebrating a goal is worse than missing a drugs test.
So what does this make Joey Barton? Bloody lucky!!