Can it get much worse for football’s governance? This week has highlighted their ineptitude at handling a number of different issues and their disregard for fans’ interests.
As ever, the football machine begins to really get going in the approach to the weekend and the showpiece event this time around is the FA Cup and its semi-finals at Wembley.
While the FA Cup has undeniably lost some of its relevance and importance, most fans of the game will get at least a little bit excited by the prospect of the latter round and will hope for moments of compelling drama.
There is no doubt that both the Merseyside and London derbies on show will offer another thrilling chapter in the competition’s story, but the thrills will be felt at odd times.
Firstly, the meeting between Liverpool and Everton will take place at 12:30 on Saturday, which is absurd really.
You would always hope the travelling for fans going to the games is taken into consideration and, considering the fans are coming from the same place, it should be even simpler to schedule kick-off for a more convenient time.
There is a rule in television deals for British football that stipulates no televised game can be shown in the traditional 3pm slot so that the attendance of lower league games is not affected.
That is fair enough when it comes to a Premier League game, but the only exception are the FA Cup and Scottish Cup finals. Where would be the problem of including the semi-finals in these dates?
The other factors behind the scheduling were from Police requests and the fact that Liverpool do not play in the April 15 – the anniversary of the Hillsborough disaster.
Those are two perfectly reasonable, understandable and acceptable reasons for restricting when the game will take place, but the television rule becomes ludicrous in this case.
Fans of the two sides face leaving exceptionally early to make the kick-off, or shelling out to pay for an overnight stay in the most expensive city in the country.
The second leg of their journey doesn’t get much better as they will be heading straight back to the Liverpool area at around the same time that people will be leaving the Grand National race meet at Aintree.
It makes it even more frustrating that Manchester City’s tie with Norwich will be kicking off just 15 minutes later – so the television audience will already be lessened somewhat, which is as bad for the FA as it is for the broadcasters.
The FA aren’t only culpable when it comes to the scheduling of two of their most important games of the season, their disciplinary procedures have been undermining the authority they fail to assert most of the time.
The case of Shaun Derry’s red card and Ashley Young’s dive (that’s what it was, no question) being compared to the failure to charge City’s Mario Balotelli for his atrocious ‘tackle’ on Arsenal's Alex Song last Sunday.
Derry’s red card was upheld because the FA could not possibly admit that a referee was conned by a piece of cheating – the annoyance over their failure to act with some sense was compounded by watching replays that showed Young to be offside.
Referees and assistant referees make mistakes, they are human, there is nothing we can do about it, but that does not mean certain situations can be rectified afterwards.
QPR, who are battling relegation, went down to ten men and watched on as Manchester United got a double advantage in the match.
They were punished unjustly and felt the consequences immediately, so the FA would not be undermining the match officials by overturning the card and making Derry available for their next match.
With Balotelli’s case it is close to lunacy; they could not punish him because one of the officials had ‘seen’ the incident and an they claimed tied hands due to a FIFA agreement to avoid ‘re-refereeing’ incidents.
But he did it? Balotelli’s actions could have broken Song’s leg and there is no doubt about it. Where could there possibly be any misinterpretation?
If one of the officials had actually seen it then the Italian striker would almost certainly have been sent off, otherwise you would have to seriously question their ability to do the job they are being paid for.
It is not ‘re-refereeing’ when you act on something that an official has not seen properly, even if from where they are standing they see nothing wrong with and the truth of the matter is unarguable.
The FA were not helped by FIFA’s response shortly after the ruling that said the English governing body was free to change their disciplinary procedures in the summer so that they are able to act on incidents such as the one at Emirates Stadium.
The FA are concerned about creating a precedent on going back over old decisions, but it would not be the case they fear if something as obvious as Balotelli’s indiscretion were to be reviewed afterwards.
Where would be the problem in showing the officials the incident afterwards and asking if they has seen it properly because, as was said previously, a case like this one could not be interpreted in any other way.
However, the FA aren’t alone in their haplessness as UEFA are most probably leading the way when it comes to incompetent governing bodies.
There was outrage when Arsene Wenger was fined £37,000 and banned from the touchline for three games after criticising the referee following Arsenal’s 3-0 victory over AC Milan last month, while Porto were fined just £16,700 for their fans’ racist chanting in a Europa League match against Manchester City – Balotelli can’t avoid publicity, he was one of those abused.
They further embarrassed themselves this week by fining Manchester City £24,740 for arriving back onto the field ‘up to 60 seconds’ late after half time in their next Europa League tie against Sporting in Lisbon.
The ridiculousness of this compared to the punishment they handed out for racist abuse from fans is almost difficult to believe, especially when it comes little over a week later.
UEFA’s stance on racism is good, they put a lot into publicising their Unite Against Racism campaign, but they are seriously out of touch when it comes to punishment.
We must not ignore the fact that they are actually doing something about it, which is more than can be said for other governing bodies, but they will be judged on their disciplinary procedures as a whole.
In the fines they have handed out UEFA are giving out the message that they believe appearing a minute late after half time is 50 per cent worse than fans chanting racist abuse.
No one in their right mind would believe UEFA officials actually think this, but it just shows how out-dated their punishments are and how much more the protection of their product takes up their time over addressing a more serious social issue.
They also appear out of touch with the most important people in all of this – their audience. The outrage that has erupted from these decisions leads us to see that many believe UEFA to not have any clue about what many spectators want and what they find important.
It is no wonder UEFA seem clueless when the world governing body, FIFA, seems to be fighting one fire after another caused by allegations of corruption, incompetence, insensitivity towards key issues (racism is also a weak point for Blatter’s boys) and the mudslinging that has commenced since Blatter’s decisive grab for power at the last election.
It is hard to believe that the long serving president of the most influential body in football has become a laughing stock in many places.
Look back at the myriad blunders, injustices and incompetent rulings we have to endure; now think about how much this games means to you and billions of others; it is not ideal is it?
Football is being run by buffoons and, with each passing day, becoming more and more out touch with the people who make it what it is – fans.
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