The FA announced on Tuesday that savage, potentially leg-breaking tackling is perfectly fine in the Premier League. Manchester City striker Mario Balotelli will face no retrospective action for his stamp on Arsenal’s Alex Song on Easter Sunday at the Emirates. Referee Martin Atkinson reported that he had in fact seen Balotelli’s challenge and adjudged it to be satisfactory, ruling out the prospect of further FA action against the City player. For anybody to deem that kind of tackling acceptable is staggering. There is simply no debate here: he should have been sent packing.
Earlier in the season, Super Mario was given a four-game ban for an apparent stamp on Scott Scotty Parker. Admittedly, when watched in slow motion, that incident looked bad for the City striker. But you could still argue that the retrospective action taken by the FA was harsh, since only Balotelli really knew if he set out to hurt Scotty. Yes, it looks bad, but there was still no way anyone could say absolutely yes or no on this one. So, many people will be left scratching their heads as to how Balotelli’s possibly accidental challenge on Parker warranted a four-match ban, while his thoughtless, definitely intentional stamp on Alex Song was regarded a perfectly good tackle by the powers that be.
QPR midfielder Shaun Derry has hit out at the FA after they rejected his appeal against his sending off at Old Trafford on the same afternoon. Derry was of course unfairly sent packing thanks to blatant a dive by Manchester United midfielder Ashley Young, who was incidentally, offside at the time of the “offence” anyway. Anyone other than Sir Alex Ferguson or the FA would surely have to agree that this “foul” and red card should not stand? It was yet another remarkable decision from the governing body of English football, while no reason was given as to why Derry’s appeal was turned down. The only thing you can conclude is that the FA is sending a clear message: diving is to be encouraged, while dangerous and brutal tackling is also welcome in the Premier League. Maybe the FA just felt sorry for Mario ‘Why Always Me’ Balotelli and City, with the big-spending club’s title aspirations looking doubtful.
With all the clamouring for technology, managers and supporters do accept that referees are not out to get them. Well, some of them do, some of the time. They are able to acknowledge that Lee Mason and Martin Atkinson made honest mistakes at Old Trafford and the Emirates respectively. With the tempo of a Premier League football match, the odd lapse can be understood, if not condoned. But for a group to watch these incidents back, in slow motion, time and time again, and still come to the same ludicrous conclusions is incredible. Are they deliberately trying to get a rise out of everyone?
What do the officials at the FA even talk about all day? It certainly doesn’t seem to be the small matter of the vacant England managerial post and how they can go about topping the last spectacular cock-up.