Sunderland’s appeal against the red card shown to Michael Turner for an elbow on Gareth Barry during the game against Manchester City last weekend has been rejected by the Football Association.
To add insult to injury, the FA has increased the ban from three games to four—based on the apparently frivolous nature of the appeal. A statement on the FA's official website read:
"Turner claimed that the standard punishment is clearly excessive, but this was rejected by the commission and the defender will now receive a four-match ban—increased by one game as the commission felt the claim had no prospect of success—starting with immediate effect."
Anyone that has seen the challenge will see this ban as harsh. Turner only had eyes for the ball, and didn’t lash out at Barry. The Sunderland defender didn’t throw his arm into the face of Barry, he didn’t stiffen his elbow, or even arch his arm in an aggressive manner.
There was definitely contact, and it probably hurt, but that in itself doesn’t make the challenge malicious or violent.
Steve Bruce was furious after the game and openly criticised Andre Marriner, the matchday official, as well as referees' chief Keith Hackett—to whom Bruce complained about Marriner’s performances in the past.
“I'm absolutely seething, because I actually did write to Keith Hackett about six weeks ago complaining about Andre Marriner's performance when he sent off Kenwyne Jones," Bruce told Sky Sports .
"I sent him a DVD of the Jones incident when he pushed off West Ham's Ilunga. The following week I see where Chimbonda, I don't want him to be punished, playing for Blackburn catches someone in the face and only gets a yellow card.
"I pointed that out and didn't hear anything about it. I do question whether it's worth it. The sending off, the penalty, they are a joke. Now we could have defended better as a team, but my team have given me everything they've got.
"All you need then is the referee to do his flaming job. Everybody in the ground could see as far as I'm concerned that both players, Barry and Turner, went in the shuddering challenge. Michael's done one thing and looked at the ball.
"He's not tried to intentionally elbow anyone. I hope he looks at it and says 'I was harsh there I've got it wrong', but I doubt it."
Bruce is right, the ban is a joke. But there are ways to submit an appeal, and raging against the referee after the game will let off some steam—but it won’t help your chances; though it may well redirect the fans' disappointment with the result away from the manager and the team.
That may well be the real motivation, or Bruce might just be feeling the pressure himself. But the reality is Sunderland are slipping down the table, and supporters won’t accept the referee is to blame forever.
Sunderland now have to turn around their fortunes, without the services of Turner, with a defence that already looks suspect.
This could be a episode Bruce lives to regret.