A new FA policy regarding retrospective action has allowed Chelsea striker Fernando Torres to escape punishment for an apparent eye scratch on Tottenham Hotspur defender Jan Vertonghen during Saturday’s Premier League clash at White Hart Lane.
The incident, which took place in the first half, was part of a running battle between the two players and culminated with Torres’ ejection for a second bookable offense in the 81st minute.
On that occasion Vertonghen fell to ground as the two players clashed, and after picking up his first yellow card shortly after the restart, Torres received his marching orders. He’ll serve a one-match ban as a result.
But he will receive no penalty for a potentially serious collision in which he appeared to scratch Vertonghen in the face.
The FA’s decision, handed down on Tuesday, claimed that one of the match officials had seen the incident, “albeit not in its entirety,” and as a result of its policy, which was introduced in July, it can take no further action.
“From the start of the 2013-14 campaign,” the directive reads, “where the referee’s view of an incident has been completely obstructed and the assistant referees or fourth officials are not in a position that they could be expected to judge the challenge...the FA will be able to take retrospective action.”
But with one of the officials having had at least a partial view of the incident, the governing body was powerless to intervene.
In other words, it was hamstrung into inaction by the semantics of its own directive. And that needs to change.
By the FA’s own admission, the official in question did not see the clash “in its entirety,” yet it must refrain from involvement because of the black-and-white nature of its retrospective process.
The thing is, the video evidence exists without the FA officially taking it into consideration. The fact that it has been observed by media, fans and players would seem to reveal a disconnect between the organization and the reality on the pitch.
There is a grey area that the FA has created in the language of its edict, and while working through it would be in everyone’s interest, the FA, for the moment, is unable to do anything about it.
Thankfully, the retrospective action process can always be amended (as it has been on several occasions previously), and given the speed and force of video and technology, it would hardly be surprising if the portfolio was opened again next summer.