Manchester United’s 4-0 victory over Wigan at the weekend should never have been the source of much controversy. In footballing terms, it was as routine as you could get. The league leaders comfortably saw off what was an ultimately poor Wigan side with Wayne Rooney getting on the score sheet. That is where Rooney’s contribution should have ended. But it didn’t. Instead, Rooney felt that elbowing Wigan midfielder James McCarthy was a necessary piece of thuggery. That is all it can be described as. Off the ball, Rooney casually jogged past McCarthy and smashed his elbow into his face leaving the latter clutching his head.
Referee Mark Clattenburg, no stranger to mystifying decisions, gave a free kick to Wigan having allegedly not seen the incident properly. Football fans worldwide winced but hoped that the FA would step in and discipline Rooney for his unacceptable behaviour. It hasn’t panned out that way, and why is nobody really surprised? What has happened is that Rooney has been pardoned of any wrong doing by an increasingly incompetent set of footballing authorities. Yes, indeed. That incident we all saw which would land you in a police station if you did it on the street was ruled fine and dandy.
Refereeing incompetence is an issue here as well, but it is not the key one. Clattenburg (henceforth known as Clatterthemifyouwantburg) has saved the FA a lot of hard work by reporting that he believed he acted appropriately at the time of the incident. FA rules state that they cannot enact disciplinary action against a player for a pitch incident if the referee believes he acted appropriately regarding said incident. Technically speaking, pulling out a 9mm and kneecapping an opponent on the pitch is beyond the FA’s disciplinary procedures if the referee deemed a yellow card sufficient.
Joking aside, this state of affairs is not good enough. As fans of the English game, we should be able to look towards the game’s governing bodies expecting an efficient, fair and impartial source of authority. Instead, all we see is an increasingly incompetent bunch of fools who are terrified of angering the big clubs and administer judgements in a laughably haphazard way. One of the Oxford definitions of sport is “a person who behaves in a good or specified way in response to teasing, defeat, or a similarly trying situation.” Rooney’s response to the trying situation of the football pitch was to elbow somebody in the face. If the FA wishes to uphold the fairness that defines sport he should be punished.
But he won’t be, that is the problem. The FA is infamously inconsistent in their judgements. For a lot of outraged fans of opposition clubs, they are even accused of being partial to Manchester United and at the whim of Sir Alex Ferguson. Their inconsistency has been evident on a couple of occasions in recent months. Ex-Liverpool player Ryan Babel was charged with improper conduct by the FA for posting an amusing mocked up picture, on twitter, of referee Howard Webb wearing a Manchester United shirt after his dismal display in their FA Cup tie. A few days later, Arsenal’s Jack Wilshere tweeted about how terrible he thought the referee was in a game in which he featured. The FA didn’t bat an eyelid.
In another incident, the Premier League fined league new boys Blackpool the sum of £25,000 for making 10 changes against Aston Villa in November. According to their rules, fielding weakened teams compromises the integrity of the English game. This rule isn’t that much of an issue, but it becomes one whenever teams like Manchester United and Arsenal consistently field weakened teams in the Carling Cup, and often the league itself, without so much as a tap on the shoulder from the authorities. It is almost as if the footballing authorities are afraid to confront the bigger clubs, and like a playground bully prefer to pick on the small kid instead.
This is simply not good enough. The Premier League is arguably the best football competition, perhaps even the best sporting competition, in the world. It deserves a far better set of governing authorities than the inconsistent, borderline biased, that we currently have. Wayne Rooney could have seriously hurt James McCarthy on Saturday, and the FA’s mere shrugging of the shoulders due to some ill construed rule brings shame upon the beautiful game. English football, in my opinion, is the best in the world. It’s just a shame those who hold the power within it are a laughing stock.
The first statement your eye is drawn to upon logging onto the FA website is: “UNITE AGAINST THE UGLY SIDE OF FOOTY.” It’s a real pity they can’t actually adopt these high minded sentiments.