FA Cup - Babel charged over Webb Twitter pic

Mon, 10 Jan 17:49:00 2011

Ryan Babel has been charged with improper conduct for mocking up a picture of referee Howard Webb in the aftermath of Liverpool's FA Cup exit to Manchester United.

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The Netherlands international used his Twitter account to criticise Webb and post a mocked-up picture (below) of the official wearing a United shirt, after the World Cup final referee awarded the home side a first-minute penalty and sent off Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard.

Babel apologised soon afterwards but the FA have decided to make him the first Premier League player to be brought to book over the use of Twitter.

Babel also wrote: "And they call him one of the best referees? That's a joke. SMH."

SMH is an abbreviation for "shaking my head" but the 24-year-old since added: "My apology if they take my posted pic seriously. This is just an emotional reaction after losing an important game. Sorry Howard Webb."

Punishment for Twitter rants are common in other sports, with Kevin Pietersen among several cricketers to fall foul of the ECB for comments made on the website.

But Babel is no stranger to using the site for vent his spleen, having criticised former Reds manager Rafael Benitez last January, and he is not the first Liverpool player to court online controversy this weekend.

On Saturday, defender Glen Johnson, who missed Sunday's game as his wife had gone into labour, launched an attack on TV pundit Paul Merson after he criticised his performances for the Reds.

Ryan Babel has been charged for mocking up a picture of Howard Webb in the aftermath of Liverpool's FA Cup loss to Manchester United. - 2 "Comments from alcoholic drug abusers are not really gonna upset me and who is Paul Merson to judge players, he was average at the best of times," Johnson wrote. "The only reason he's on that show is coz he gambled all his money away. The clown!"

A number of people complained that Johnson had brought up Merson's former drug problems and the comments were soon deleted.

Back to Sunday - and new Liverpool manager Kenny Dalglish called Webb's penalty decision a "joke" and also disputed Gerrard's dismissal, but his son Paul, the former Newcastle striker, went even further via his own Twitter account.

He claimed: "Fergie has his puppet Howard Webb on a piece of string."

He also made fun of Webb being given an MBE at the start of the year, adding: "Howard Webb MBE. Manc of the Busby Empire."

PA Sport

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