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Sweet FA

So, the Football Association has handed Manchester United’s Patrice Evra a four game ban (and a £15,000 fine) for his part in a post-match scuffle – alleged racist remarks from a groundsman, resultant handbags at dawn – at Stamford Bridge.

This happened on 26th April 2008. If you’re counting, that’s nearly 32 weeks ago.

You have to wonder exactly what the FA has been doing all this time. For sure, the wheels of footballing justice have been spinning like a medicine ball in quicksand.

It’s not as if this is the first time the FA has made the proverbial oil tanker look nimble and responsive. Its recent history is not exactly glorious, with the charge sheet including:
– The very late, very over-budget completion of Wembley Stadium (compare that to the on-time, on-budget completion of Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium)
Sven-Goran Eriksson‘s off-field antics, both bedroom and boardroom
– The Faria Alam affair, which brought down chief executive Mark Palios
– The bungled recruitment of Luiz Felipe Scolari, and the subsequent hollow claims that Steve McClaren was first choice all along
– The Tevez/Mascherano transfer affair, which remained uninvestigated for months (the FA’s fault), only for the independent panel to deliver a verdict which virtually everyone who isn’t a West Ham fan agreed was monumentally unfair (not the FA’s fault, admittedly)

Even now, the repercussions of the FA’s indecision over this last event are still being felt, with West Ham appealing against the £30m compensation they were recently ordered to pay Sheffield United, the team who were relegated as a result of West Ham not receiving a points deduction and Tevez being allowed to continue to play. (Of course, it just added insult to injury when Tevez then scored the goal against Man U which kept West Ham up on the final day of the season … and then promptly moved to Old Trafford.)

So, what, exactly, has the FA done recently? Well, we have the ‘Respect’ campaign for referees, a PR stunt which fails to address the two key issues, namely:

1. Referees make too many big mistakes. (Yes, they’re only human but many errors could be alleviated or at least corrected after the fact with technology already in use in other sports such as rugby and cricket.)

2. They are then not held accountable for their errors. (Refs are not automatically required to explain their decisions, or to reverse them when video evidence clearly demonstrates that an error has been made. Yes, I know that in some cases the FA’s own rules prevent referees from correcting errors, but as a justification for not righting a wrong that really is pretty feeble, isn’t it?)

The common perception is that English football is governed by an organisation which spends more time worrying about its image and explaining why it cannot make a decision than it does actually making decisions. The Patrice Evra case is, sadly, not an isolated example; it’s just another addition to a burgeoning file containing citations of inaction and, in some cases, downright incompetence.

Now I’m sure that running the FA is a thankless job – there are millions of us out there who are all too ready to dissect every decision or non-decision it makes – but it has to be said that those in charge over the past few years have done very little of significance which we can actually thank them for (the appointment of Fabio Capello being one).

The fact is that smoke and mirrors just doesn’t cut it when 99% of football fans would agree that you have delivered sweet FA.

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About Tim
Father of three. Bit of a geek. That's all, folks.

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