After Yaya Toure was left off the hook for his kick on Norwich striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel, and Craig Bellamy’s three-game ban for his incident with Swansea’s Jonathan De Guzman, the Football Association has been under a lot of criticism. In the case of Yaya Toure, I am not sure how he escaped any type of fine or ban. It was clear that Toure attempted to kick van Wolfswinkel when he was not in the play. At the same time, van Wolfswinkel deserved a ban for embellishment. Cardiff boss Ole Gunnar Solskjaer claims that Bellamy’s reputation is to blame for his three-game ban. For anyone that has seen the video, it is clear that Bellamy’s reputation did not take a swing at De Guzman’s head.
In May 2013, Telegraph Sport revealed that English football’s stakeholders had agreed to trial a three-man panel of former referees to review on-field actions committed by players. Before I go any further, I would like to pose a question: why did it take this long to form a panel like this? Questionable actions happen on the pitch on a weekly basis in my opinion, and the referee does not always get it right, but I digress. Graham Poll of The Daily Mail broke down how the process works, which I would like to provide some analysis of my own.
- Anyone — a club official, referee, fan, my dog, your dog — can alert the FA to an incident they feel should be punished but the officials missed. This applies to the top four divisions. I understand that you want to get the call right, but keep it simple. Only club officials and referees can alert the FA. If it takes a fan to alert the FA about something they missed or got wrong, then they do not deserve to have that job.
- When a complaint is made to the FA, they look for footage of the alleged incident and then refer it to a panel of three former Premier League referees: Steve Dunn, Alan Wiley and Eddie Wolstenholme. I have no problem with having referees on the panel (more on that later), but like Dan mentioned on Soccer Yanks Podcast 32, these three guys refereed during a time when the sport was much more lenient. After spending nine years in the Football League, Steve Dunn refereed in the Premier League from 1995-2006. Alan Wiley refereed in the Football League from 1991-1994 before moving to the Premier League in 1995, and retiring in 2010. Eddie Wolstenholme spent nine years in the Football League, until he moved to the Premier League in the 2001, and retired in 2003. With the exception of Alan Wiley, the other two referees are too far removed from the game to experience the way it is played today.
- The referee who missed the incident is not part of the process. This is the only part of the process that the FA got correct. Don’t give the referee a chance to fix his mistake. Howard Webb has asked the FA before to explain decisions to the media, and the FA turned him down. Although it is a stretch, I feel that the FA needs to allow this.
- The three ex-referees do not sit together or confer. The video is posted on a secure website and each panel member uses a password at home to access the clips. The FA realizes that cell phones exist, right? Just because the FA requires the refs to not sit together or confer does not mean they won’t contact each other and discuss it. We all know that the FA is not corrupt, right? RIGHT?!
- Each then reply to the FA, stating whether, if they had been the referee and seen the incident as they have on the replay, they would have taken no action, shown a yellow card or sent the player off. Okay, I lied earlier. I like this part as well.
- Only in cases where all three men state that they would have dismissed the player does the FA then charge the offender. The members of the panel do not know how the other two voted but can obviously tell that the other two have also said it should be a red card if the player is charged. This is where my biggest problem lies. The vote has to be unanimous in order to charge the offender, amongst a group of just three.
- The concept of a panel is a great idea. However, there needs to be more than three individuals on the panel. Put multiple, or maybe even all, current referees on the panel. Make it a requirement for all referees on the panel, with the exception of the referees working the game involved, to vote on the incident.
- The panel can vote on red card, yellow card, or no action. In order for the majority decision to take effect, it will require at least 75 percent of the vote. If the most popular choice does not reach 75 perfect, the decision that the referee made on the field will stand. Ensure that almost anything in the game can be reviewed, as long as it’s submitted by a club official or referee.
- Put a system in place that punishes repeat offenders. For example, if you are involved as a suspect in an incident and are given a red card, you get a one-game ban. For each additional red card you are given after review, your ban doubles. After a three- or five-year period, review each player’s file and wipe their slate clean if they have not been the suspect of a reviewable incident in the recent past.
Is this system perfect? Absolutely not, but no system is. Please, Football Association, I graduate from college in May, and currently do not have a job lined up. Hire me. I can make this system better. If you would rather save your money, then just take this as advice. Steal it, copy it, do whatever you want with it, but I am begging you: make this system better. The players deserve better. The fans deserve better. The beautiful game deserves better.