Jan Molby

Grey areas in violent conduct laws must end

Jan Molby

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People have been comparing Luis Suarez’s 10-match ban for biting to Jermain Defoe, who bit Javier Mascherano back in 2006 and escaped with just a yellow card. To me that isn’t a good comparison, as deciding not to ban Defoe at all was completely the wrong decision. He should have been sent off seven years ago and you cannot really use that as a straight-up comparison.

There is, however, an issue with how the FA decide on the length of suspensions.

Suarez getting 10 games, for me, is too much. I definitely feel they were punishing the man and not the isolated incident. Personally, I would have issued a six-match ban.

The standard ban for violent conduct offences is three games, and though the club and Suarez felt that would have been enough, I do not. Biting another person is such a pathetic and abnormal thing to do, and so I would have doubled it to six – but nothing more.

You would think by now, in 2013, that we would have more sophisticated precedents for the myriad of offences we see, unfortunately, on a semi-regular basis. Unfortunately, everything is still lumped under the generic ‘violent conduct’ banner and thus leaves plenty of wriggle room for authorities.

This wasn’t just violent conduct, for instance. This was inhumane behaviour on a football pitch and if we had set guidelines on such variants, you’d probably find we would have a set ban length of five or six which would not be argued or waited upon – and certainly, not 10.

The FA are allowing themselves to almost make their rulings on the fly, and we need things to have more clarity than this going into each case. We should all know exactly what punishment to expect as soon as a footballer commits any given offense.

If they want to be able to add extra punishment on for somebody, like Suarez, who has previous and constantly finds himself in trouble for a host of things, then fine. Other sports do it. But even that possibility should have guidelines and boundaries which are clear for all to see.

As it stands, authority figures just gather after each incident and make a decision on an eclectic series of factors. I’m not saying the FA are not trying to be at least a bit consistent, but they are doing whatever they feel is right on the day each time and it does not always compare well.

Liverpool themselves are awaiting more details about the decision before they elect whether or not to appeal. Regardless, I think they have grounds to request at least a slight reduction as it is a little over the top.

Compare this incident with Branislav Ivanovic to Callum McManaman’s horror challenge on Massadio Haidara. On one hand, you have an offender performing a very reckless version of a professional football challenge versus an offender BITING someone else. On the other hand, there’s a victim who only received a bite mark on his arm versus a victim who almost had his career ended.

The FA can also be interpreted as implying that Suarez biting someone is a bigger offence than when he was found guilty of racially abusing Patrice Evra. It’s another inconsistency which leaves them wide open for criticism.

The different views people can take are so varied, and to have them all as one under the violent conduct umbrella is doing nobody any favours.

Like with the goal-line technology debate, some people claim to prefer having that ‘grey area’ in place for the drama. But this argument just does not hold water.

If we can get as many decisions right as possible using technology, then we must have it in place. And off the field, we need something similar to keep punishments on a fair scale.

Football is not designed simply to give people something to debate in the pub. It’s a sport and should be as fair a competition for sportsmen as humanly possible.

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