MANCHESTER, ENGLAND - APRIL 08: Shaun Derry of Queens Park Rangers brings down Ashley Young of Manchester United to concede a penalty during the Barclays Premier League match between Manchester United and Queens Park Rangers at Old Trafford on April 8, 2012 in Manchester, England. (Photo by Alex Livesey/Getty Images)
The FA had three disciplinary decisions to make today. And by its own rules, it got them all absolutely right ...
By my reckoning, Queen's Park Rangers were shafted in four distinct ways on Sunday. As their captain Shaun Derry trudged disconsolately from the Old Trafford pitch, and Ashley Young picked himself up, the following quickly became obvious to everybody with access to the replays:
1. It wasn't a foul;
2. It was a dive;
3. It (probably) wasn't even a clear goalscoring opportunity;
4. Young was offside anyway.
Bad decisions -- even ones as bad as this -- happen. And while the old bromide of things even themselves out over the course of the season is probably nonsense, we all assumed that the Football Association would be able to deal with it on appeal, and so ensure that the impact of a bad decision is limited to one specific game; that refereeing cock-ups remain as isolated as possible. Which is why the decision of a "Football Association regulatory committee" not to rescind Derry's red and accompanying suspension was, in its own quiet way, one of the more inexplicable moments of the season
The FA's reasoning was ... well, less than clear. . But helpfully, two more decisions quickly followed to clarify things. First, Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic was charged with violent conduct for punching Wigan's Shaun Maloney off the ball, then secondly, Manchester City's Mario 'You Don't Have To Be Mad To Work Here, But It Helps!!!' Balotelli was reprieved from the prospect of a nine-match ban for his hilarious moment of #studbanter with the kneecap of Arsenal's Alex Song. Unlike the Derry incident, the FA saw fit to furnish us with a statement on this decision, which read as follows:
Retrospective action in relation to the incident involving Mario Balotelli of Manchester City and Alex Song of Arsenal, which occurred in the 20th minute of Sunday's game, will not be taken.
Where at least one of the officials has seen the coming together of players retrospective action is not taken, regardless of whether they have seen the full extent of the challenge.
Retrospective action can only be taken in scenarios where none of the Match Officials saw the players coming together. The normal scenarios in which retrospective action is taken are for ‘off the ball' incidents.
Retrospective action was introduced for off the ball incidents where there was no contest for possession and could not be deemed to be re-refereeing an incident.
In agreement with FIFA, this is how ‘not seen' incidents are dealt with retrospectively in England. It is a policy that is agreed with all football stakeholders.
There you go, then. Nothing they could do.
As an aside, "All football stakeholders" is a lovely phrase, isn't it? Presumably it doesn't include fans, or representative bodies thereof, unless there was an email or consultation I missed. Mind, I suspect that the idea that "stakeholder" should be extended to include "poor sod who puts up with the whole clusterBADWORD" has literally never occurred to the majority of the FA's component parts. But that's beside the point.
Also beside the point is the 'agreement with FIFA' part, which has been tacked on to deflect some of the blame for the benighted system away from the FA toward Sepp Blatter and his Jolly Junketeers. Yet Scotland, a country not a million miles from Wembley and with a conveniently similar language, has a 'compliance officer', with a brief to review contentious decisions and non-decisions, including ones already seen by the referee. Not perfect, perhaps; certainly not foolproof and perhaps even silly in its own way. But presumably not done in defiance of the evil FIFA micromanagers and their vicious, discipline-system dictating ways.
The point begins with that word "re-refereeing". (It's quite fun to say in a broad Scottish burr. Try it. Unless you're at work or something.) The FA are telling us that the appeal mechanism is not there to reverse, amend, or otherwise deal with incorrect decisions, but just to make sure that anything that hasn't already been refereed, can be refereed. Apparently, refereeing an incident is a one-shot process, like losing one's virginity, and as such QPR simply couldn't be un[snip -- SB Nation Decency Ed.].
And the point ends with "regardless of whether they have seen the full extent of the challenge". Particularly with regardless. This means that it does not matter if the decision has been taken without complete knowledge of the extent or seriousness of the incident. Seeing a bit, or seeing something that isn't there, is enough. So when one referee completely misses the salient details of Balotelli's challenge, and another completely misunderstands/invents (as you like) the extent of Derry's, the FA can't be interested. The rules won't let it. You know how we thought the appeal process was for dealing with mistakes? It isn't. Only oversights. What's seen can never be unseen, even if it wasn't seen at all, or only imperfectly, through a Tomas Rosicky darkly.
Perhaps it's for the best. We spend a lot of time and energy bemoaning incorrect decisions: hands are wrung, brows are furrowed, fingers are wagged. Perhaps now we can all relax, safe and secure in the knowledge that however wrong a decision is, the FA, by their own policies and procedures, simply unable to allow itself to give a toss.