Wayne Rooney's Elbow Highlights the FA's Flaws

De Jong'd

According to some reports, the Football Association could look into a possible suspension for Manchester United's Wayne Rooney following an elbow to the head of Wigan Athletic's James McCarthy during their league match on Saturday. (Andy Hunter, The Guardian) Referee Mark Clattenburg saw the incident and actually gave a foul, but the FA could still get involved based on what Clattenburg writes in his report.

This reminds me, of course, of the infamous Hatem Ben Arfa incident.  Ben Arfa's tibia and fibula were both broken last October following what can generously be described as a hard challenge by Nigel De Jong of Manchester City.  Referee Martin Atkinson famously claimed to see the incident and declared the tackle legitimate, which meant that the FA was unable to even review the incident, much less hand out any punishment as the result of an investigation.

The inconsistency between the handling of the two incidents is regrettable, but the more disagreeable facet of this circumstance is the revelation of the scope of the referee's power and responsibility.  The Football Association goes to great length to protect its referees, as many commissions should and do.  However, it seems as though they are too afraid of offending their own officials' sensibilities.  Video reviews of controversial plays to determine necessary punishments for rules violations or dangerous actions do not necessarily undermine the credibility of the referees, in my opinion.  Instead, such an action would communicate to fans, players, and teams that they are more interested in being correct and just than they are blindly affirming a call that may or may not have been right in the first place. 

In fact, I believe that by essentially placing the decision of whether or not a video review is even warranted in the hands of the referee, they are hurting their employees more than helping.  Had the Association reviewed the De Jong tackle despite the insistence from Atkinson that no wrongdoing occurred, we probably wouldn't remember almost five months later who the official for that match was. (Well, we might.  That was a one goal game that was decided by a dubious penalty that was called and an obvious one that wasn't.  I'm not bitter.)

I hope the Football Association does review the Rooney incident, not because I harbor any ill will toward him or Manchester United, but because I'd like to see a new era where reviews are made based on merit and not on a referee's match report.  I'm not holding my breath or anything, but it would be nice.

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