The FA Must Act Now To Stop Violent Play

Steve KunzerContributor IMarch 5, 2010

STOKE ON TRENT, ENGLAND - FEBRUARY 27:  Ryan Shawcross of Stoke City is sent off by Referee Peter Walton for a challenge on Aaron Ramsey of Arsenal during the Barclays Premier League match between Stoke City and Arsenal at The Britannia Stadium on February 27, 2010 in Stoke on Trent, England.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images

I wanted to write today about something other than the now infamous incident from the match last week between Arsenal and Stoke.

Unfortunately, the English media and it's many idiotic pundits refused to allow me to move on. Instead, the world of sports media is jumping up in defense of unacceptable violence in football. "It's traditional", they say; "that's football", they gush, with glee at the picture of an Arsenal team unable to cope with typical 'English' brutishness.


Mark Lawrenson proves what an awesome moron he is as he writes about the weekend's match between Arsenal and Burnley: "What happened to Aaron Ramsey last week will have no impact on them at all. Players get injured all the time, it just gives a chance to someone else and is part and parcel of football.

"Of course it's a nightmare for Arsene Wenger, but he needs to remember William Gallas's tackle on Bolton's Mark Davies which could easily have broken his leg. Football is far cleaner now than it's ever been and you hardly see any bad tackles."

Do I really need to point out the utter idiocy in almost all of his comments? It's not difficult:

  • No impact? As we all know, not least from the many comments coming out of the Arsenal camp since Saturday, the impact will be to galvanise the team and spur them on.
  • Part and parcel of football? No—that sort of violent tackle causing serious career threatening injury is not in any way acceptable as part of football.
  • Remember Gallas' tackle? Well we can examine that if you want, it wasn't a great tackle but watch it again and you'll see he didn't go in wildly swinging, he went for the ball (unlike Shawcross).
  • Could easily have broken his leg? No, it couldn't, by a long way. It was foot to foot for a start, and Gallas' leg was not raised high and scything out at Davies' leg.
  • Football is cleaner now? Maybe, but does that mean it's clean or just cleaner than something that was very dirty. No measure given, no qualification, no stats, and probably not true. If anyone thinks it true, show the statistics that prove it and I will believe.
  • You see hardly any bad tackles? Unfunnily enough Arsenal have seen three bad tackles/breaks in the last few years. And Shawcross, the perpetrator last week has committed at least two breaks, and a number of multi-week injuries over the last few years.

In summary—Mark Lawrenson is at best, misguided, and (a) hasn't done any research at all to support his argument, (b) is looking at football with rose-tinted history lined glasses, where the world is all roy-of-the-rovers with nobody getting hurt, and (c) unable to form a cogent argument to support his false assumptions.

Continued Recklessness

Apparently Ryan Shawcross has learned nothing from last Saturday's events, nor the event of two years earlier where he broke Francis Jeffers' ankle. This article explains his intention to continue going in hard.

Stuart Holden (of USA and Bolton) had his leg broken in a reckless challenge by Nigel de Jong of Man City as explained here .

Should I also mention this story where a Sunday league player has been jailed for a remarkably similar tackle breaking a mans leg?

More Stupidity

I also read a comment from one of the Burnley players saying they would go in hard on Arsenal. To cap that, Brian Laws, Burnley's manager stated in an interview his intention to play rough against Arsenal.

All of the above, and many more simply demonstrate that last Saturday may as well not have happened. It should have been a loud warning to the FA and the Premier League's other clubs.

Reading around some of the general football forums the comments are mostly along the lines of "Shawcross did nothing wrong", and "it was a 50/50 ball", which is wasn't.

How many of those spouting this kind of nonsense actually watched the tackle again, really analysed it? Almost certainly very few. It may be true that seeing it happen against your own player makes you interpret it in a certain light though.

It will be interesting if it happens to some other teams to see how their fans react. Not that I'm hoping for another such nasty 'accident', but it is inevitable unless some attitudes change.


Like many Arsenal fans I am heartily sick of trying to argue a case that Arsenal fans understand easily, but the media simply don't. There is a 'traditional' element in football that eulogises macho violent behaviour. An element that believe a "man's sport" must be played aggressively. Skill hardly has a place in their world.

Speculate along with me momentarily: If Arsenal was a franchise, in the way that NFL teams are, they could move. Moving to France or Spain, would enable them to receive the kind of protection from officialdom that would allow them to play a skillful game.

It would also allow them to avoid the kind of lumping violent play inflicted upon them in England. It's difficult to imagine any Arsenal fans wanting to lose Arsenal in this way, but then no Arsenal fan wants to lose their players one at a time to crippling injuries.


The FA need to act now before it happens again, and before legal action is taken that sends another player to prison for assault on the field of play. The consequences of not acting are so much more severe.


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