Football Association sanctions show just how behind the times the archaic organisation is.
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In 1956 an autobiography was published with a chapter titled ‘The Average Director’s Knowledge of Football’. It consisted of a single blank page.
Len Shackleton, the former Newcastle United and Sunderland striker, nicknamed “The Clown Prince of Football”, was renowned for his humour both on and off the pitch yet, 55 years on, that blank page of football still resonates with the majority of football fans and footballers.
The Football Association, quick to prove Shackleton aspersions correct, have warned players about their future conduct with improper comments made on Twitter and other social networking sites.
Former Liverpool striker Ryan Babel, now at Hoffenheim, last month became the first player to be sanctioned for comments made on Twitter when he was fined £10,000 for posting a mocked-up picture of referee Howard Webb wearing a Manchester United shirt.
As trivial as it may have appeared for some, The FA’s sanction did seem to tie in with their ‘Respect’ campaign.
An FA statement read: “The FA has issued clarification to participants relating to the use of social networking sites, including, but not limited to Twitter, Facebook and internet blogs. Participants should be aware that comments made on such sites may be considered public comment, and that further to FA Rule E3, any comments which are deemed improper, bring the game into disrepute, or are threatening, abusive, indecent or insulting may lead to disciplinary action. Comments which are personal in nature or could be construed as offensive, use foul language or contain direct or indirect threats aimed at other participants are likely to be considered improper.”
This was supposed to be a defining message, one that put to rest any doubts as to what sanctions there were for players who used social networking sites to air their grievances at the officials, authority or fellow professionals. But this did not happen.
Many questioned why Jack Wilshere, the Arsenal midfielder, was not given a similar fine to Babel’s following his criticism of ‘inconsistent refereeing’ in the aftermath of his side wasting a 4-0 lead in the 4-4 draw at Newcastle United.
There was no significant difference between the two incidents. In actual fact, it could be argued that Wilshere’s comments were worse as they undermined referees as a whole.
Those who were bemused as to how Wilshere escaped punishment for his comments were soon provided a sufficient explanation when it transpired that he would be making his full debut for England versus Denmark.
Heaven forbid The FA have a player representing the country who is being publicly reprimanded for stepping out of line. We know from experience that The FA would rather sacrifice success for their own self-engrossed reputation. Andy Carroll, the Liverpool striker, was due to be named in Fabio Capello’s squad for the Euro 2012 qualifier against Montenegro at Wembley only for The FA to deem his inclusion as inappropriate because of reported misdemeanours in his private life.
You wonder what Shackleton would have made of the state of The FA today but, from this latest inconsistentcy, you get the feeling that page would remain as blank as it has been for the past 55 years.