By Tony Attwood
The assault on Bukayo Saka last night has quite rightly caused some protests, even from the normally referee friendly media.
Aubameyang has already said he couldn’t believe that James McArthur wasn’t sent off for his challenge on Saka. And indeed even the normally Arsenal-negative Daily Mirror commented on the situation by saying “Crystal Palace midfielder McArthur kicked through the back of Saka in the closing stages of the first half, with the Gunners youngster failing to return for the second period as he was forced off injured.”
They continued by noting that “Responding to a video of the challenge on Twitter after the match, Aubameyang wrote: “How is that not a red? I had not seen it like that from the field.”
This at least is one tiny step forward, although now, under the rules imposed on the Premier League by PGMO, Auba can be charged under rule E3(1) which states that players “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 …”
Now we might remember that Steve Bruce was displeased with the decision taken by Michael Oliver, in relation to a penalty awarded for handball, and said, “It was a joke decision. I have to ask the question, would we have got it? In my opinion, he (Oliver) couldn’t wait to give it.”
He was then charged under the E3 (1) rule.
So ‘bringing the game into disrepute’ is the only issue one can be done for when questioning a referee’s decision.
Here however the referee made a game-changing decision by not sending the player off. And saying that does not question the integrity of the referee, and nor does it necessarily imply the referee is motivated by bias.
As others have pointed out before, this rule has been used in cases of indecency, racism and homophobia – and all quite reasonably. But expressing an honest opinion that the referee is wrong is not something that should be invoked as a reason for disciplinary procedures.
In effect, as others have pointed out before me, “Rule E3(1) appears to conflict with an individual’s Article 10 right to freedom of expression” and it is on this point that the FA has regularly and openly attempted to use Rule E3(1) to ensure that it protects the members of the PGMO.
But because of the pressure of PGMO to control every aspect of the game, and to protect themselves from all criticism, we now live in a world in which the freedom of managers and others to express their points of view has been restricted – with the compliance of an ever compliant (when it comes to refereeing) media.
Of course that does not mean that managers and others should be free to say anything they like, and most certainly does not mean that managers etc should be free to express racist or homophobic notions.
But because of the ludicrous way in which they whole of Premier League football kowtows to the whim of the PGMO, and because the UK media will not say a thing against PGMO, most people connected with the game are prohibited from pointing out how terrible that foul was, how badly misjudged the referee’s decision way, and how Palace were encouraged by that yellow card.
Mikel Arteta said that he could not understand why VAR didn’t look at the incident, and again we might well ask the same question.
Still there are always some who will excuse the referees. But even former referee Mark Halsey said that McArthur was “extremely lucky” not be be sent off, adding “The Crystal Palace midfielder was late on the challenge, had no chance of winning the ball and booted Saka in his right calf at the end of the first half.”
The question then arises what will happen as a result of this?
The answer of course is nothing. And that tells us all what the real problem is. Because the message is that a tackle of this nature can be got away with, in certain circumstances.
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