We learned in the week that United and Bristol Rovers have been charged by the FA following their match at the Kassam for 'failing to ensure their players conducted themselves in an orderly fashion and/or refrained from provocative behaviour'. Here is our take on the situation.
When the news broke last week, early reaction from fans of both sides was incredulous and there was even some confusion as to which incident the charge was relating to. The charge in fact referred to some innocuous pushing and shoving after a poor challenge by Robbie Hall – an incident so trivial it did not even merit a mention in the official Match Report on the OUFC website.
The referee dealt with it at the time, handing out a yellow card to Hall for the initial challenge and taking no further action for what was essentially handbags, which seemed to be a sensible decision. The referee's assessor, however, appears to have led a rather sheltered existence and clearly took offence at the pushing. Having seen the video again online, it seems obvious that the incident was a minor one and that worse happens every week up and down the country without any of the clubs involved facing bizarre FA charges as a result. By the same measure, Macclesfield can presumably expect a charge from the FA for their remonstrations with the referee at the end of Saturday's match.
Does this really deserve an FA charge? (video from the Oxford Mail)
The issue here of course is not the fact that the FA see fit to charge clubs for their players' poor behaviour during a match – sometimes an incident is serious enough that an FA charge is necessary (such as this fight involving all 22 players in a match between Macclesfield and Wycombe last season). Rather the problem is that the rules, in this case, have not been applied sensibly. The referee dealt with it sufficiently at the time and this FA charge has blown what was really just a minor scuffle out of all proportion. It may not come as a surprise to those who are familiar with the FA, especially given the shenanigans surrounding Wembley Stadium and the national team, but once again we see a lack of common sense being applied to the governance of the game.
Another issue is in the wording and interpretation of the rules. Anyone who has seen the incident can see that it is not deserving of an FA charge, but both Bristol Rovers and Oxford have been left with little choice but to accept the charge and suffer what is likely to be a £1000 fine. The fine may not seem much, but that is still a thousand pounds that could have been better spent elsewhere. Had the club appealed against the charge and (as seems most likely) lost, they would likely face a greater punishment, which leaves the club somewhere between a rock and a hard place – facing a fine for a ridiculous FA charge with very little chance to defend themselves. This from an organisation still bleating about being hard done by concerning Wayne Rooney's 3 match UEFA ban for kicking an opponent.
The cub should be applauded for its stance on this, making it known in their official statement that they disagree with the charge, while acknowledging that there is little point appealing against it because the odds are stacked against the accused club in these instances. Sadly, despite the club's decision to make representations to the FA about the legislation, I suspect it will make little difference in the halls of the FA – perhaps if one of the Premier League big boys were to make the same complaints they would be taken more seriously.
It's just a shame that the lack of common sense from the FA and some of its employees have managed to distract, once again, from the real business of playing football.Follow @TBFUTH