Writer: Tim Stillman
Date:Tuesday April 10 2012
Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli has, quite amazingly, escaped any further charge after a horrendous knee high tackle on Alex Song. During the first half of the Gunners 1-0 win over City, Balotelli raised his foot, with the ball grounded, and stamped down on Song's kneecap. Fortunately, the Cameroonian's foot wasn't planted, thus avoiding serious injury.
It was widely expected Balotelli would serve an extra punishment, having been eventually red carded in the game for a series of reckless tackles. But the F.A, who have also upheld Sean Derry's controversial red card at Old Trafford earlier in the day, have ruled that no action can be taken because one of the four officials saw Balotelli's tackle.
A statement on the F.A. website read, ''Retrospective action in relation to the incident involving Mario Balotelli of Manchester City and Alex Song of Arsenal, which occurred in the 20th minute of Sunday's game, will not be taken.
'Where at least one of the officials has seen the coming together of players retrospective action is not taken, regardless of whether they have seen the full extent of the challenge.
'Retrospective action can only be taken in scenarios where none of the match officials saw the players coming together.
'The normal scenarios in which retrospective action is taken are for 'off-the-ball' incidents.
'Retrospective action was introduced for off-the-ball incidents where there was no contest for possession and could not be deemed to be re-refereeing an incident.
'In agreement with FIFA, this is how 'not seen' incidents are dealt with retrospectively in England.
'It is a policy that is agreed with all football stakeholders.'
But funnily enough the policy magically didn't apply under enough media pressure when Ben Thatcher was only booked for an assault on Pedro Mendes in a game between Man City and Portsmouth in 2005.
The supposition that one of the four officials saw the incident in question, but did not think the offence worthy of so much as a free kick, has to raise serious questions about that particular official's ability to officiate at this level. The first thing a referee is taught on a referee's course is that their first responsibility is to protect the safety of all participating players. That official was in dereliction of that duty if he felt Balotelli's tackle was a fair one.
It seems the F.A. and its band of increasingly laughable dinosaurs hide behind a number of convenient factors. They allege that retrospective punishment undermines the authority of the official. But surely harbouring an atmosphere of mistrust by upholding the infallibility of referees does an awful lot more to undermine them. I think most supporters recognise in their calmer moments that officials have an unenviable job and mistakes are likely and understandable. But by arrogantly refusing to admit and correct errors when presented with the chance, they simply fuel disrespect from fans and players alike. LD.
Date:Tuesday April 10 2012
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