In light of this past weekend’s Premier League fixture with Bolton hosting Tottenham, where Spurs’ substitute Tom Huddlestone stamped Bolton’s forward Johan Elmander with no booking or even a free kick awarded, pressure on the FA to hand out retrospective punishments may be growing.
Referee Chris Hoy stated that he did not see the challenge.
Under FIFA’s officiating rules, the FA is not allowed to go to video evidence because the match officials also did not see the incident and,therefore, cannot retrospectively investigate the case to deliver any punishment.
In another case, in Wednesday’s fixture featuring Newcastle and Blackburn, Joey Barton appeared to punch Blackburn’s Morten Gamst Pedersen in the ribs. Referee Mike Jones apparently did not see the strike, but the FA charged the midfielder with violent conduct on Thursday.
The consistency of the ruling is in serious question considering the number of questionable tackles and fouls to date, not just in England’s top flight, but also in other leagues around Europe.
What is stopping the FA from reviewing Huddlestone’s tape? What makes Barton’s case more of a foul that commands additional investigation? Sight of the foul should have no bearing whether or not retrospective bans can be handed out. If a player has wrongfully fouled someone or is attempting reckless challenges to the point of an opposing team’s protest, the overseeing federation should be required to conduct a full investigation on the matter.
In Huddlestone’s case, there is absolutely no question that his actions were intentional, likewise with Barton’s strike. However, investigating cases like Nigel de Jong’s legs-breaking tackle on Hatem Ben Arfa or Andy Wilkinson’s challenge on Moussa Dembele require meticulous attention.
Protecting the players from serious and reckless injuries should be a premier concern for FIFA, the FA or any football federation in any country. The NFL has taken measures to ensure better player safety by implementing concussion recovery tests and issuing fines and suspensions for helmet-to-helmet contact. Translating and applying legislation to the football pitch to try to manage player conduct and eliminate danger and recklessness should be paramount.
Although the argument that some tackles and fouls are simply a part of the game, if the association wishes to eradicate threatening challenges, handing out retrospective bans and bookings can assist with that cause.