25 August 2006

Thatcher, Mendes, Gallagher

What a horrid, horrid tackle. If you haven't seen it, check out the video. Fortunately it sounds like Mendes will be OK.

If that's all there was to it, I wouldn't bother to comment, other than perhaps to wish Mendes well. But what's interesting to me is the controversy over how to punish Thatcher. See, the problem is that he received a yellow card from referee Dermot Gallagher. According to the FA's inscrutable rulebook, that means that his punishment has been dealt with, making it very difficult to punish him further.

Gallagher has a history of misjudgments like this, as I've commented previously. Once again, the FA is in agreement with me and have sent Gallagher back to the Colaship. Again. One might ask why they haven't learned their lesson with Gallagher, but nevermind that for now. Perhaps the third time is the charm.

But the larger question is, why is the FA so stupid about this rule? Regardless of Gallagher's failings, it's easy to imagine how a referee can miss an isolated call like this. If he sees it from the wrong angle, it looks less damaging. Or he just makes a mistake. Why in the world should that limit the FA on video review?

I'm a firm believer that the referee's decision is final... when it comes to the game. So there's no way that a match should be replayed or a result changed based on a reevaluation of a referee's call. Nor am I a fan of in-game video review. But neither of these points has anything to do with punishments that extend beyond the game itself. And this is an ideal example of a situation where the FA should have full authority to mete out punishment.

There are clearly major issues with the way soccer is officiated and judged. Beyond this sort of thing, you also have:I don't want to get into all this today. But this is one example of a way in which video evidence can really help out the FA, without any negative impact to the game. Perhaps the Ben Thatcher incident will be enough to cause a change. We can only hope.

And a final note. Reports indicate that Greater Manchester Police pursuing a criminal investigation of the incident. I find this sort of thing rather troubling. There may be some cases, involving serious injury, where it's warranted. But I would be very reluctant to involve police in any more cases than absolutely necessary.

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