Newcastle say FA disciplinary process ‘not fit for purpose’
McManaman escapes punishment as FA insists it cannot re-referee matches
James Perch of Newcastle United checks on Arouna Kone of Wigan Athletic at the weekend. Photograph: Alex Livesey/Getty Images
Newcastle United have labelled the Football Association’s disciplinary process “not fit for purpose” and demanded a change in the rule that enabled Callum McManaman to escape punishment for his wild challenge on Massadio Haidara.
The Wigan Athletic midfielder was spared a three-match ban for violent conduct when one of the match officials at the DW Stadium, understood to be the assistant Matthew Wilkes, informed the FA he had witnessed “a coming together” of the players.
That admission alone prevented the FA from taking retrospective action against McManaman. Adding insult to Haidara’s injury for Newcastle, the FA later charged the assistant manager, John Carver, with misconduct over his part in the half-time melee that followed McManaman’s tackle.
The Wigan coach Graham Barrow has also been charged with misconduct.
The referee, Mark Halsey, informed the FA that his view of the incident was blocked by a Newcastle player but he would have dismissed the 21-year-old had he witnessed the challenge.
Halsey has received intense criticism following Wigan’s 2-1 win on Sunday but, contrary to reports, he has no intention of quitting the game. Halsey’s fitness meets the levels required for a Premier League referee.
The FA insists it cannot re-referee matches and must strike a balance between retrospective punishments and undermining the authority of match officials. It is prepared to re-examine its disciplinary rules, however, if there is an overwhelming demand within the game for change.
For Newcastle, the McManaman incident should prompt an overhaul of the rules on retrospective action. Derek Llambias, Newcastle’s managing director, said: “We are disappointed to learn that the FA is not going to charge the Wigan player.
“We were first notified of this decision by a national media outlet who received notification from the FA confirming the decision. This was prior to anyone from the FA having the courtesy to contact the club to let us know.
“It is clear from this decision that the current disciplinary procedures are not fit for purpose.”
“We will now be making a strong representation to the FA and the Premier League to see how a more appropriate, fair and even-handed disciplinary process can be introduced at the earliest opportunity to prevent incidents of this nature going unpunished in the future.”
The technicality that reprieved McManaman followed “consultation with the game’s stakeholders in the summer,” according to the FA.
In a statement explaining the decision on the Wigan midfielder, the FA expanded: “It was agreed that retrospective action should only be taken in respect of incidents which have not been seen by the match officials.
“Where one of the officials has seen a coming together of players, no retrospective action should be taken, regardless of whether he or she witnessed the full or particular nature of the challenge. This is to avoid the re-refereeing of incidents.
“In the case of McManaman, it has been confirmed that at least one of the officials saw the coming together, though not the full extent of the challenge. In these circumstances retrospective action cannot be taken. The principal objective behind the not seen policy is to address off the ball incidents where match officials are unlikely to be in a position to witness misconduct.”
That latter point explains why the FA circumvented their own rules to charge Ben Thatcher with serious foul play, and ultimately ban him for eight games, after he was initially booked for elbowing Pedro Mendes in 2006.
Tackling is viewed differently to off-the-ball incidents. Llambias has also taken exception to comments from the Wigan chairman, Dave Whelan, that the tackle on Haidara was legitimate.