The FA has passed down it’s judgement on Joey Barton, and he has been suspended for a total of twelve games for his misdemeanours in the last game of the season against Manchester City. The first four games of the ban cover the sending off for violent conduct, plus an extra game ban for it being Barton’s second sending off of the season – every time a player gets sent off more than once in a season in England, they have an extra game added to their suspension for eqch subsequent dismissal. In that respect the other games are for the two incidents after referee Mike Dean produced the red card – kicking out at Sergio Aguero, and attempting to headbutt Vincent Kompany. From the outset, it appeared that there were two likely ways that the incidents would have been treated.
The first was that each offence would have been treated as another act of violent conduct worthy of a sending off, and therefore would have been treated like Barton’s third and fourth red cards of the season, bringing a five game ban for the kick and a six game ban for the headbutt, meaning that Barton could feasibly have been suspended for a total of fifteen games. The second way was that because Mike Dean did not produce subsequent red cards, the kick and attempted headbutt would be treated as incidents of violent conduct, each one worthy of a three match ban, making a ten game suspension in total. In that respect, the punishments fits in the middle of the likely range that Barton’s ban was likely to be, and therefore a fair, rather than harsh or lenient punishment.
The second way that the incident was treated, also allows for other circumstances to be taken into account, and the most likely one in this instance, appeared to be Barton’s previous behaviour. As well as being sent off six times in his career, Barton has already been found guilty of violent conduct twice by the FA – he was banned for six games for assaulting former Manchester City team-mate Ousmane Dabo in 2007 (which also saw him handed a fourth month suspended sentence), and for another three for punching Morten Gamst Pedersen in 2010. However, if the comments made by (unnamed) Chairman of the Regulatory Commission after the hearing, are anything to go by, Barton’s record wasn’t taken into account. However, one thing – not normally taken into account – was. The importance, and viewing figures of the game. The unnamed chairman stated: “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” – and that’s a concern.
As it is suggested that Barton’s ban was increased because it was the last game of the season, and a title decider. Does this mean that had Queens Park Rangers been playing Wigan Athletic orSunderlandin January, and Barton tried to “take one of their players with me” (as he delightfully put it on Twitter), would his ban really have been shorter because there was less interest in it around the world?
One could argue that when it comes to bigger games, there is more pressure to behave, and act as role models, but when it comes to people looking to Barton as a role model, that ship has long sailed. Instead, the concern from the Regulatory Commission appears to be that Barton may have damaged the selling power of the brand, and made English football appear violent to those around the world, and that this had an influence on the bans handed out. In saying this, the Regulatory Commission have almost turned the role model argument on it’s head, essentially suggesting that if you do this lower down the pyramid, or even in parks football that you will not get a ban this long, because you won’t be being watched by a global audience of millions. And in a nation where the FA continually find themselves crying out for more people to take up refereeing, because of the numbers that drop out because of the treatment they receive at Sunday League level, that is a much worse message to be sending out than anything Joey Barton did earlier in the month at Eastlands.
“All things are subject to interpretation whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.” – Nietzsche
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Apologies to Friedrich Nietzsche.