The Rational Ref

FA must act against belligerent bosses

Fines are not enough to stop managers behaving badly; let's have more cameras and microphones to shame them in public

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 16 January, 2014, 8:03pm
UPDATED : Thursday, 16 January, 2014, 8:03pm

With great power comes great responsibility - try telling that to soccer managers who moan mercilessly, coaches who complain caustically and players who protest pathetically.

According to former FA chairman David Bernstein, managers are setting a terrible example with their behaviour on the touchlines. "It has been especially noticeable in recent weeks, but it is an ongoing issue and it is a terrible example for their players, let alone the general public. I think it is time managers assumed a much greater level of responsibility for their behaviour," said Bernstein.

Liverpool manager Brendan Rogers, Manchester United manager David Moyes and Stoke City manager Mark Hughes are only the latest examples of managers behaving badly. How pathetic to see 50-year-old Hughes hurling his coat up in the air like a spoilt baby throwing his toys out of the pram. This kind of infantile behaviour and insulting attitude does not appear to be letting up anytime soon.

The FA fined Hughes and Rodgers £8,000 (HK$101,000) each and Moyes was asked to explain his comments about "having to play the referees" after Manchester United's defeat to Sunderland.

Although the FA is seen to be taking action, its sanctions lack disciplinary weight and fail to safeguard the game's image

Although the FA is seen to be taking action, its sanctions lack disciplinary weight and fail to safeguard the game's image. An £8,000 fine does little to dent a hole in a premiership manager's pocket, let alone impact on his future conduct.

Even the powerful Alex Ferguson, who was well versed at coercing and intimidating match officials saw little need to demonstrate "great responsibility" as a premiership manager. This is despite the fact that in the last decade of his managerial career he was charged five times, fined £65,000 and received 11 touchline bans for his attacks on match officials. The FA's feeble methods clearly do not work.

If managers and players behave like juvenile delinquents, they should suffer the consequences of being disciplined in a manner that would make them mend their ways. All good parents understand this principle.

Surprisingly, there has even been a backlash against Bernstein's level-headed comments with the League Managers' Association (LMA), led by chief executive Richard Bevan, closing ranks. The LMA said: "We believe [Bernstein's] comments are misguided and unhelpful. It is important to recognise that managers in professional football contribute significantly to the success of the game both on and off the field. Having spent their lives dedicated to the game, they value it, are committed to seeing it continue to grow and to contribute to its future direction."

The LMA has reacted as though managers are being unfairly attacked. If only the LMA would substitute "referees" for "managers" in their statement, they would be enlightened to the contributions and responsibilities that match officials offer to the game.

Fortunately, some premiership managers have come out in support of Bernstein's comments. Arsenal's Arsene Wenger said: "I go along with that and I have some work to do on that front as well."

Manchester City's Manuel Pellegrini said: "I think it is very difficult to be a referee and I respect them. The players are always trying to cheat because football is cheating."

I think it is very difficult to be a referee and I respect them. The players are always trying to cheat because football is cheating
Manuel Pellegrini

As luck would have it, a solution has spontaneously appeared from unwitting Newcastle United boss Alan Pardew after he felt obligated to apologise for his verbal abuse of Pellegrini last week.

At a Manchester City throw-in, Pardew petulantly kicked the ball away from Pablo Zabaleta and Pellegrini criticised the Magpies manager. Pardew responded by calling the 60-year-old Chilean a "f****** old c***". TV cameras picked this up, which was then broadcast and distributed widely on social media websites.

It was this public exposure and personal embarrassment, and not the fear of a possible FA sanction (which the ineffective FA decided against anyway), that compelled a contrite Pardew to say: "I hear that what I said has been picked up and I apologise for my comments. I have said I have apologised for that particular word."

But which one of the three does he deem to be offensive? Therefore, the solution must be public exposure. We know fines, suspensions and touchline bans do not work, so let's sound them out instead.

Pardew, who likes to give the superficial appearance that he is a polite, clean-cut and mild-mannered manager, was clearly humiliated and mortified when exposed as an uncouth and foul-mouthed character.

There is an ever-increasing number of cameras around the pitch capturing every angle to help reveal the truth about refereeing decisions, so let's also have a similar amount of microphones to capture all the crass sounds and verbal abuse that expose the nasty truth about managers and players who disrespect the game. Public shaming works.

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