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By Tony Attwood
As anticipated Mikel Arteta has been charged by the FA concerning his behaviour in describing the issue of the Newcastle goal.
Now in most circumstances, the media reports forthcoming hearings neutrally, which would mean simply saying that he has been charged for his comments made at the time. But this is not normal times, because this is Arsenal and so the Guardian, on occasion a fairly reasonable source of reporting on most matters says he has been charged “over VAR rant after Arsenal’s loss to Newcastle.”
Describing what he says as a “rant” implies that he did something wrong and thus is guilty – and that of course is announced before any hearing has even started!
It is interesting to compare the language used there with the language used in the headline “Chelsea facing FA and Premier League probe for possible FFP breaches.” Notice the use of “possible” and compare and contrast with “rant”. Chelsea has “possible breaches” (infinitely more serious than a few sentences from Arteta), while the Arsenal manager was engaged in a “rant”. We know the verdict way before the trial starts.
Thus Mikel Arteta will come before a kangaroo court and be found guilty and fined vast amounts, as well as being banned from the touchline. The Chelsea investigation on the other hand will take rather a long time, and will be ignored by the media.
The trouble is with Arteta’s punishment which is certain to follow there is no real indication of what the limits are on it. And as the Telegraph says, “The Football Association will seek tough punishment for clubs who criticise referees, after charging Mikel Arteta for his rant in the wake of Arsenal’s defeat at Newcastle United.”
And there’s that word again.
Plus the League are lining up a new set of sanctions, which could be rushed through in order to punish Arsenal. For it is said in the Telegraph that, “regulatory action will be taken against clubs if they support managers who criticise referees.”
Now even the League is out to get Arsenal with something like a points deduction, although it is just slightly possible that the League will see how awful retrospective laws look, and dump all the bans and fines etc on Arteta this time, and just warn the club about future conduct. (You will recall that a new penalty was introduced in 1990/1 when Arsenal were deducted two points for failing to control their players in a match against Manchester United. That two-point penalty had not been used before, or since. It was just for Arsenal).
The formal statement from the FA alleges that Arteta’s “comments constitute misconduct as they are insulting towards match officials and/or detrimental to the game and/or bring the game into disrepute. Mikel Arteta has until Tuesday to provide a response to this charge.”
FA rule E3.1 states: “A participant shall at all times act in the best interests of the game and shall not act in any manner which is improper or brings the game into disrepute or use any one, or a combination of, violent conduct, serious foul play, threatening, abusive, indecent or insulting words or behaviour.”
Of course it would be a perfectly reasonable defence to say he has acted in the best interests of the game, exposing referee incompetence – except the case is being heard by… the organisation that appoints the body that appointed the referees.
That action against the club is very much in keeping with the actions of Professional Game Match Officials Limited, the secret society that runs refereeing. It is in total contrast with the approach in Germany, for example, where immediately after the match a referee can be in a TV studio discussing his or her decisions in relation to a game.
It is also possible that PGMO will charge Mikel Arteta with sarcasm after he said in one interview, “Please ask me about Var because today it was good,” Arteta said. “I hope that I’m on TV saying the referees are so good and I’m completely with them and being very constructive… And with the red card, yes. Thank you for asking me. The Var was right. The referee was right. Really good decision. Really positive from Mikel to speak about that… Good decision.”
Adding to the approach in which a decision is made before the hearing Martin Cassidy, the chief executive of Ref Support UK, said this month that the Spaniard’s comments were “very worrying for me and the game in general”. He added that Arsenal’s statement was “nothing other than an infantile moan”.
Now Ref Support UK describes itself as a “respected charity committed to the support of referees.” So here again we have a judgement of guilt before the hearing, which again reduces the credibility of the organisation that puts out such a statement.
The hearing will of course be organised by PGMO who will be the prosectuing council, the judge and the jury in such a case. Ref Support UK might care to reflect on that fact as they wonder why the credibility of referees is now so low in English football, compared with football in Germany.
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