Wednesday 21 February 2018

Barton has competition when it comes to losing the plot

Richard Sadlier

Richard Sadlier

Four games for elbowing Carlos Tevez,another five for kicking Sergio Aguero, and another three on top of that for attempting to headbutt Vincent Kompany. It was a costly few moments in the career of Joey Barton, but a ridiculous over-reaction from the English FA.

Barton knew in advance of last week's FA hearing he would have to serve a four-game ban for the red card he received for retaliating on Tevez on the final day of the Premier League season.

The other two incidents occurred after the card was issued so they were outside of the referee's jurisdiction. In stepped the FA to ensure justice was seen to be done, resulting in a total ban of 12 games and a fine of £75,000. I do not have any issue with the punishment for the Tevez incident, obviously, but it beggars belief that the FA deemed his behaviour after that to be worthy of an eight-game ban.

The reasoning behind it makes little sense either. The chairman of the FA's Regulatory Commission stated after the hearing: "There are rules of conduct that should be adhered to, and such behaviour tarnishes the image of football in this country, particularly as this match was the pinnacle of the domestic season and watched by millions around the globe."

So there it is, the importance of the game and the viewing figures it attracted were considered in the ruling, which makes it all the more laughable. I'd be curious to see how the same incident would have been dealt with had it happened in a game of little importance or with less global interest, or perhaps involving a player of a lesser profile.

The severity of any incident should be judged solely on the details of what actually happened and not on the sensitivities or the numbers of those watching. And citing the protection of whatever he believes the 'image of football' to be, the chairman is setting a worrying precedent. It could be open season on lengthy bans from now on if he perseveres with this noble quest. But we know that won't happen either.

It struck me as a little odd that they dealt separately with each incident involving the different players. If I'm involved in a brawl of any kind, I would not expect each strike (or attempted strike) to be dealt with individually. I'm sure he used foul and abusive language too as he walked off the pitch shouting at Mario Balotelli. Why not do him for that too? And the global audience the FA is so keen to impress would have been well aware of Carlos Tevez's behaviour towards Barton before the match officials got involved, but no action was taken against him. This was despite the referee telling the Commission that he would have given Tevez a red card had any of the officials seen what he did at the time.

Barton obviously deserves punishment for losing his temper and acting out in the way he did, but his behaviour did not warrant this. The FA didn't need to take account of the fact that Barton has made fundamental changes in his life when sentencing him, but as the suspension seemed to reflect a view they were dealing with the Barton who drank, fought and ended up in jail maybe they should have.

More than any other in the Premier League, he is arguably the player most discussed for non-footballing reasons. It's hard to imagine where he'll go from here as QPR appear ready to exclude him from their 25-man squad for the coming season. Any effort to

offload him will have to wait until January because of his ban, a task made all the more difficult because of a reported wage of £80,000 a week. With three years left to run on his deal, paying him to leave would cost millions. His behaviour and relative mediocrity would be obvious deterrents too.

The club announced it is carrying out an internal investigation into his behaviour during and after the incident. Barton posted on Twitter after the game that a team-mate encouraged him to get a Man City player sent off as he left the field, but he admitted to the Commission he made inaccurate Tweets regarding the sending-off.

Sacking him for gross misconduct may be the result, but the legal ramifications of doing so are unclear. It would have to be shown beyond any doubt that he behaved in a manner unacceptable for one in his position.

And considering some of the behaviour which has been tolerated in recent years, proving that in court would be virtually impossible.

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