WHAT’S that disappearing over the horizon faster than a coward in a Western? Ah, that’ll be the Respect initiative.
And to think that all it took was a red card for one of the Big Four.
Chelsea captain John Terry’s sending off for rugby-tackling Manchester City striker Jo at Eastlands on Saturday fell into the “harsh, but not outrageous” category. And given that the appeals process is there, I can understand why Chelsea decided to use it.
What has followed since falls into the “weird, if not downright ludicrous” category. Chelsea’s appeal appears to have been based on the suggestion that Terry was not the last man when he hauled Jo to the floor. Terry was not the last man, but that doesn’t matter. A player is sent off for a professional foul if he denies an opponent a clear goalscoring opportunity illegally.
Did Jo have a clear scoring chance at the moment he was fouled? Probably not – he was only about five yards inside Chelsea’s half at the time.
So the terms of the appeal weren’t terribly clear. But then referee Mark Halsey muddied the waters even further by confirming to the FA that he hadn’t sent Terry off for a professional foul anyway. He had sent the Chelsea captain off for serious foul play. The implication of that is that Terry would have been red carded for that foul if he had committed it anywhere on the pitch.
On that basis, the FA were left with little option but to overturn the decision – although it does rather leave the sense that Terry has escaped suspension on a technicality.
But if Terry was wronged, it seems that means the referee must be punished. So rather than take charge of a glamorous Premier League match this weekend, Halsey will now be forced to miss his Sunday lunch to referee the League Two almost-derby between Chester and Shrewsbury. (Where, even if he gives the best performance of his career, he will get a whole load more criticism from both sides for: a) Acting like a big-time Charlie, b) Failing to make any allowances for the fact that League Two players are more physical than those fancy dans in the Premier League, and c) Failing to make any allowances for the fact that it’s an almost-derby.)
There is a part of me that would like to see such punishments meted out to Premier League players for red-card offences. So, the next time a Chelsea player gets sent off, rather than suspend him, instead force him to miss a Champions League game to turn out for Brentford against Exeter.
It’ll never happen, though. Instead, we’ll just get the arguments, and the appeals, and the abuse.
Ah yes, the abuse. That has come from Sir Alex Ferguson, incandescent that Terry has now been cleared to play for Chelsea against Manchester United this Sunday.
Ferguson, speaking at a press conference yesterday, pretty much accused referees’ boss Keith Hackett of bias.
“My information is that Hackett told Halsey to rescind the red card and he would not do it,” Ferguson said.
“If it had been a Manchester United player, Hackett would never have done this for us.”
We’re barely a month into the season, and already the FA’s sweeping Respect initiative, along with the Premier League’s ‘Get On With The Game’ campaign, are on very shaky ground.
But did anyone ever think it would really work anyway?