This season has seen a spate of incidents of players or managers either manhandling or threatening match officials. Not one of them has been treated as severely as Keith Stroud, the referee effectively banned for the rest of the campaign.
This was for a mistake. A bad mistake. But no-one was endangered. The spirit of the game was untarnished and its reputation unharmed. Compare Stroud’s unfortunate aberration with the behaviour of some of the game’s participants – and the way the Football Association has treated them with a relative slap of the wrist.
Will the “punishment” of the latest offender, Hartlepool’s Liam Donnelly, be any different?
Donnelly chased down referee Dean Whitestone at Leyton Orient on Monday. He was cautioned but then squared up to the referee before being sent off. Previous penalties this season suggest he will receive an extra suspension of only up to another three matches.
That’s what Aston Villa’s Leandro Bacuna was given for shoving an assistant referee. It doubled his three-match ban for the sending off – but was it enough? Blackburn’s Hope Akpan received only ONE extra game for pushing a referee and being sent off.
Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger could consider himself fortunate that he was merely removed from the touchline – for four matches – for laying hands on a fourth official. Keith Stroud’s “crime” bears no comparison. He had a brainstorm that meant he failed to apply the laws of the game in the penalty fiasco at Newcastle early this month.
There has to be accountability and You Are The Ref experts have no complaints over a suspension. But 28 days? Up to eight matches missed? Ending his season and forcing him to stew on his mistake for an entire summer?
Stroud also carried the can for the other three match officials, also culpable but suspended for just 14 days.
YATR’s Dean Mohareb has spoken out along with other members of the team.
“Keith’s treatment is unbelievable compared to suspensions handed to players and managers,” said Mohareb.
“When is the game going to protect officials?
“They are an easy target as they won’t stand up on these matters for fear of reprisals.”
Keith Hackett said: “The FA is all shout and no action. I thought at the start of the season, with the emphasis on dissent, that they were going to really clamp down on physical abuse of officials.
“Where is the Respect campaign?
“What evidence do they have for supporting grassroots officials when unacceptable behaviour in the professional game is allowed to go unchecked?”
More discussion on these issues can be found in this week’s Ref Show.