Here’s something I wrote last week for WSC Daily.
It’ll be very interested to see if Andy Carroll gets the same level of justice this week that Wrexham’s Steven Wright got last October. If he doesn’t the silent discrepancy in the disciplinary system will be exposed once more.
Carroll’s red card against Swansea yesterday was very harsh, and if justice is done his suspension will be overturned. However, players at the lower levels don’t get access to that sort of fair treatment.
Look at what happened yesterday. Chico Flores took a ride on Carroll’s back, the striker got frustrated and as Flores came to ground behind him he had a sneaky little swing with his arm. He intended to catch him and get some of his anger out, but in a crafty way which looked accidental and would avoid sanction. The contact he made wasn’t significant and didn’t make contact on Flores in the face, so the reaction was completely artificial and designed to exaggerate the foul. But it was a foul, it was intentional, and it did merit a yellow card.
Sam Allardyce is appealing (a sentence few have ever had the occasion to type.) According to the way the disciplinary system works, his appeal should fail. To successfully overturn a decision you need to show clearly that the referee’s version of events in his match report doesn’t tally with what actually happened. One would assume the report will say Carroll intentionally swung his arm at Flores and hit him in the face, and that’s exactly what happened. The strength of the contact made simply doesn’t come into it.
Despite that, Carroll will probably get his ban rescinded. That’s purely because he plays in the Premier League. The outcry in the media over Carroll’s dismissal was loud and immediate, and Allardyce wisely used the platform available to him to pronounce how farcical the decision was. The footage of his previous clash with Flores only helps to cast the Spaniard as the villain.
This process does not occur further away from the limelight though. In the more shadowy areas of our game, where there is no national outcry over a referee’s decisions, such circuitous justice will not be served.
Take the example of Wrexham’s Stephen Wright. In October he was sent off for his part in an altercation with Edgar Davids. Davids has recently retired, claiming he was being victimised by Skrill Premier referees, but anyone who watches that level of football regularly would counter that a record of six yellow cards and three reds in nine games this season was a fair reflection of his approach to the game and a swaggering belief he was entitled to do as he wished. He’d picked up two reds and seven yellows the season before; not bad considering he joined the campaign three months late.
His first dismissal of the season came in a home game with Wrexham. The incident came two minutes from the end of a match which Barnet were leading 1-0. Wrexham won a free kick on the edge of the Barnet area and the Dutchman picked the ball up to prevent a quick kick being taken. Wright ran in and tried to grab the ball off him, receiving a particularly violent elbow in the face.
BT Sport’s coverage showed Wright receiving a bloody patch-up in the changing room and he subsequently needed stitches inside his mouth and a skin graft. His manager, Andy Morrell, suggested he had lost consciousness for a while after Davids’ attack. He also got a four match ban.
Wrexham appealed, and clearly had the moral high ground. But what they didn’t have was a media uproar. The fury of the Wrexham Leader isn’t going to make a disciplinary panel quake. Without that extra pressure, there was no reason to disagree with a referee’s report which said he’d run towards Davids to snatch the ball off him. So, although Wright did get one game shaved off his ban, he still had to sit out three games essentially being punched by a celebrity. And it wasn’t even Cheryl Cole, poor bloke!
Perhaps we should fall back on the wisdom of history’s great minds to understand this discrepancy. Albert Einstein suggested “In matters of truth and justice, there is no difference between large and small problems, for issues concerning the treatment of people are all the same.” Which is true, but the difference between the treatment of Wright and what will surely happen to Carroll suggests it’s one rule for those in the limelight and another if you dwell in the shadows. Perhaps a more apposite analogy comes from another giant of the Twentieth Century: Bill Cosby.
Parents are not interested in justice, they’re interested in peace and quiet.
Parents and disciplinary panels: essentially they’re the same thing. The last thing the authorities want is to put resourcs towards managing a media backlash. That was never going to happen over a Skrill Premier red card, but if a Premier League player gets a campaign going, they’re going to jump.
Of course, nothing will be done about this discrepancy in justice, thus proving my point. It exists because the media drives the agenda, so only the top end of football matters. And that’s why the likes of Wrexham simply aren’t going to get the level of justice they ought to.