This week, we've learned that Vincent Kompany will serve a four match ban after his rejected appeal of his red card during Sunday's FA Cup Third Round Manchester derby tie at the Etihad Stadium. If I'm being honest, it isn't really too much of a surprise that the FA's panel turned the appeal away. And don't get me wrong here, I think Kompany was very wrongly sent off and the decision should have been overturned. But what I think should happen and what I expect to happen are two entirely different things and, unfortunately, I was correct on the latter.
Though it seems to be, on the whole, only United fans who disagree with me on the former, too.
If Nenad Milijas's red card against Arsenal was turned away by the panel, then the City captain had no chance. As the video shows there, Milijas wins the ball. It isn't dangerous. He doesn't use excessive force. In fact, he barely uses any force: the only reason his studs are showing is that it's impossible not to show studs when stretching in that manner.
And that brings us on to Kompany. Who was right to have been sent off because he used both feet, right? Well, this being football, of course it isn't quite as simple as that. For a start, the tackle is made with a scissoring motion (not that type of scissoring, you dirty minded individual!) where Kompany's right foot played the ball (with the side of his boot, I'll add) and his left foot doesn't. His left foot is there simply because it's attached to his hips; it's part of his body position. It doesn't catch Nani, it doesn't play the ball.
But the point stands: He used two feet. Two feet equals red card.
Kompany was sent off for 'serious foul play', according to the referee's report. The problem I have here is that the laws of the game deem serious foul play to be the severity of a tackle and not the number of feet used in making it. In fact, here is the ruling (under Law 12: Fouls And Misconduct) in full:
“A player is guilty of serious foul play if he uses excessive force or brutality against an opponent when challenging for the ball when it is in play.
“A tackle that endangers the safety of an opponent must be sanctioned as serious foul play. Any player who lunges at an opponent in challenging for the ball from the front, from the side or from behind using one or both legs, with excessive force and endangering the safety of an opponent is guilty of serious foul play.
“Advantage should not be applied in situations involving serious foul play unless there is a clear subsequent opportunity to score a goal. The referee must send off the player guilty of serious foul play when the ball is next out of play.
“A player who is guilty of serious foul play should be sent off and play is restarted with a direct free kick from the position where the offence occurred (see Law 13 – Position of free kick) or a penalty kick (if the offence occurred inside the offender’s penalty area).”
FIFA Laws Of The Game, Law 12: Fouls And Misconduct
The closest we get there to the good ol' two-footed challenge argument is the phrase “using one or both legs”. From reading that law, we can determine a couple of things: One challenge can be one-footed and dangerous, while another can be two-footed and safe. The key to whether a player should be penalised for serious foul play comes in the opening line: “A player is guilty of serious foul play if he uses excessive force or brutality against an opponent when challenging for the ball when it is in play.”
I've not found anything else in the laws of the game that says a player must be dismissed if they use two feet when making a tackle. It's all about the force of the challenge. So, having cleared that up and looking back at the tackle Kompany made on Nani, there is surely no chance that the Belgian defender has used “excessive force”, is there? Nani barely even flinches; that's how much force Kompany didn't use.
What sticks in a lot of fans' throats, however, is the role that Wayne Rooney appears to have played in this whole drama. The referee, not to be confused with an Olympic cyclist, did appear perfectly happy to play on after the challenge. He didn't look like he was going to blow the whistle and do anything, that is until Rooney gesticulated in his direction, pointing out that two feet were used.
The whistle was blown, the red card was shown, Kompany took the walk.
It's perhaps alarming to think that a referee would be influenced by a player on the pitch in such a manner and, as such, I'd prefer to believe that Chris Foy made his mind up independently. Of course, Rooney's gesticulations may have pointed out that the defender used two feet, but it's up to the referee to decide on the sanction. That's what I believe has happened.
What alarms me about that scenario, though, is that would mean neither the players nor even the referee don't fully understand the rules, especially in relation to serious foul play. The assumption is two feet equals red card, which isn't true. Brutality and dangerous play equals red cards. While it's possible Chris Foy has decided that it was dangerous during the game, I just can't believe he's seen it afterwards and stuck to his belief.
Somehow, the panel has come to the same conclusion, despite video replays from various angles. That's less surprising, however, given the number of incorrect red cards that are upheld, correct red cards that are overturned, severe challenges not dealt with because the referee showed a yellow card at the time, incidents ignored because they weren't in the referee's report, arses mixed up with elbows, etc...
It didn't take long for Rio Ferdinand and Wayne Rooney to take to Twitter:
By the way how can there be any debate about the red card yesterday?? You leave the ground with a #2footTackle = Red card #fact
@rioferdy5, Rio Ferdinand
Funny how people think i got kompany sent off. Im not ref. i didnt give red card. But it was a clear red card. 2 footed tackle
@WayneRooney, Wayne Rooney
Ignoring the bit about the laws of the game and two-footed tackles, which I've covered repeatedly so far, I'd like to flag up something about the latter of the two tweeters up there. Who the fuck is Wayne Rooney to comment on 'getting someone sent off', given his history with Ronaldo during the 2006 World Cup? Who the fuck is Wayne Rooney to take the moral high ground over a red card, given the reason why he will miss the first two games of Euro 2012?
And, also, who the fuck are the FA to appeal an act of brutality from Rooney in an international match – and kicking another player is an act of brutality – and successfully have that suspension reduced to two games from three, while upholding a tackle – which wasn't excessive or brutal – and leaving that suspension intact? The can of worms was well and truly opened.
Don't get me wrong, however, I'm in no way accusing Rooney or the FA of being corrupt. Nor am I accusing them of cheating. Nor even favouritism. However, I am accusing them of hypocrisy and double-standards, that's all.
And this brings us to Rooney's orchestra conducting towards the referee. During the week earlier, Roberto Mancini was roundly criticised for his imaginary card waving towards the fourth official when he felt Martin Skrtel should have seen red (for what it's worth, I disagree with the City manager on this point, but that's not for now). Rooney has received very little by way of criticism.
But what's the difference between shouting something like “ref, he should be sent off” and waving your hands, and shouting something like “ref, he should be sent off” and waving an imaginary card? Both are somewhat 'ungentlemanly' in their actions, but only the latter appears to rile the watching public.
And what's more, there are two key differences: Mancini didn't get what he wanted, while Rooney did. And Mancini apologised for his heat of the moment outburst after the game. If you're waiting for an apology from Rooney, I suspect you'll be waiting for a very long time; I wonder if Rooney would feel hard done to if he were in another Ronaldo circa World Cup 2006 incident or if he'd still feel justified in his actions?
In the end, though, there's not a lot we can do to change the situation. Kompany will serve a four match ban, Chris Foy (like any other referee) will make incorrect decisions, the FA's review panel will continue to make baffling rulings and we all just have to get on with it. However, it isn't nice when your team is up against it for 80 minutes because of a poor decision and then is given a subsequent kick in the knackers when they are further disadvantaged because of a poor decision when dealing with the original poor decision.
Following the defeat to Liverpool, I have no desire to see Johnson suspended for that tackle in stoppage time. He won the ball, didn't touch Lescott, but did go in with two feet. For that, if the argument is that it was overly forceful, I would prefer a yellow card and a free kick awarded. He's not done any damage to an opponent, after all.
The annoyance is that this challenge has gone unpunished, while Kompany's challenge last weekend – which wasn't as forceful or as dangerous as Johnson's – has resulted in a four match ban. City received a blow on Sunday when that red card came out of Chris Foy's pocket and were dealt another on Tuesday when the FA's panel didn't overturn the decision. If the panel don't punish Johnson, City have been dealt a third blow, simply thought inconsistency.
However, the point still stands, I don't want to see Johnson punished. I want to see Kompany reprieved. We all know this isn't going to happen, but it's these sorts of inconsistencies that make a mockery of the FA and it's no wonder why the battle for respect towards the referee, towards the other officials and towards the FA themselves is so difficult to achieve.
The precedent has been set with Kompany. I won't hold my breath that precedent will be followed.