Manchester United’s inspiring comeback on Saturday – yet another revival from a club that has engineered countless others in the past two decades under Alex Ferguson – was meant to spur the league leaders into a final dash to the finish line, With Arsenal dropping points at home, it gave Manchester United the luxury of being able to win the Premier League even if they lost away at the Emirates.
But, predictably, this being English football, the real story is rarely enough to satiate the baying masses. Rooney swearing directly at the camera was ‘not seen by the referee’ and therefore open to review by the FA, who deliberated over the video evidence on Monday and after initially appearing to let the incident slide by, chose to charge Wayne Rooney for ‘using insulting or offensive language’.
Over the weekend the common consensus amongst football bloggers and journalists seemed to be that swearing at the camera, while unacceptable, was hardly worthy of FA’s time when there were far graver matters to look at – especially the weekly cases where FA’s rule to not review incidents where the referee has ‘seen the incident’ .
Why did Fergie blast Scudamore for talking up the ‘Respect’ campaign? Mainly because neither the Premier League nor the FA are doing anything substantial to improve referee decision-making (either through improved regulations that see aggressive protests get penalised or through video reviews of key incidents, regardless of where the referee was looking at that point).
Respect for the referee’s position is a given. Respect for his decisions is another matter, and it needs to be earned through proper sanctions and improved decision-making.
At least Rooney (more likely his PR advisers) had the common sense to realise that he’d made a mistake and released an apology after the game. The FA could do with better PR of their own – or at the very least they could stop applying the cosmetic quick fixes and start dealing with the core issue head-on. Referees need the authority and the support to make the right decisions on the pitch. If that’s not provided, a lot of people, and not just United fans, will tell the football authorities to just ‘fuck off’.
It’s also worth asking why Rooney swore into the camera – it’s not the first time he’s been followed by it after scoring a goal, and it’s not like he’s never gone to the camera himself. His comments seem directed at the cameraman, not necessarily at the camera (a good point made by Zonal Marking here).
It’s also worth asking why the FA is acting on this – because it’s become a media issue, forcing the FA to act? Or because it’s more dangerous to football and society than Essien’s two footed tackle against Stoke the same day? Or because the FA feel that not penalising Rooney for the ‘elbow’ was a mistake worth rectifying, and since the ref had seen that incident but not this one, they could take action?
At the end of the day, the FA need to take the right decisions to improve the ratio of right decisions taken by referees. They’re not going to do it by refusing to act when a ref gets it wrong, or by getting it wrong when the ref doesn’t see it.
As things stand, Rooney will plead guilty to the charge, express remorse and get a fine. He should have been fined in the first place and had the chapter closed this morning. But with the FA feeding the media, it’s going to go on and on.
Rooney Swearing Video