Common sense isn’t something the Football Association are often credited with possessing, as demonstrated by their decision not to punish Callum McManaman.
The young Wigan Athletic forward caused a storm on Sunday afternoon, when his reckless challenge on Massadio Haidara left the French defender writhing in agony on the DW Stadium turf. It remains to be seen how long the Newcastle United player will be absent for, but it wouldn’t be a surprise if he faces a lengthy spell in the treatment table.
Mark Halsey’s line of vision was obstructed so he didn’t get a clear view of the incident and it went unpunished, when several watching at home and in the crowd instantly deemed it worthy of a straight red card. But as one of his assistants did see the challenge, the FA announced on Tuesday that no action would be taken against the player.
McManaman has shown great promise for Wigan this season during their run to the FA Cup semi-finals, and Sunday marked his first Premier League start. He is clearly well thought of by his employers, with both coach Roberto Martinez, and club owner Dave Whelan, leaping to his defence in the aftermath of his challenge: he isn’t, they assure us, that type of player.
And to be fair, there is no reason to doubt them. This isn’t a player who has been around for years and has earned a reputation as malicious; this is a 21-year-old, desperate to make his mark on the game, who, if anything, was probably just a little too eager on Sunday: you could even say he had a ‘Paul Gascoigne FA Cup final 1991’ moment.
But even if it is only right to give McManaman the benefit of the doubt, there is no escaping the fact that his challenge was, quite frankly, horrific.
The FA, though, announced on Tuesday that they will not be taking any action against the Latics player, due to the fact one of Halsey’s officials had seen the incident.
An official statement on their website read: ‘Where one of the officials has seen a coming together of players, no retrospective action should be taken, regardless of whether he or she witnessed the full or particular nature of the challenge. This is to avoid the re-refereeing of incidents. In the case of McManaman, it has been confirmed that at least one of the match officials saw the coming together, though not the full extent of the challenge. In these circumstances retrospective action cannot be taken.’
How many times have you heard pundits, even club officials, bemoan a decision, but to also acknowledge that they understand how difficult the referee’s job is? In fact, how many times have you, as a supporter, done the same? Unlike those watching on television, referee’s get just a split-second to make a judgment during a game which, over the years, has become progressively quicker and, let’s be honest, prone to gamesmanship and cheating?
So, with that in mind, why can’t certain incidents be re-refereed?
It all boils down to common sense. Nobody wants an entire game to be re-refereed; nobody wants a rethink of that dubious award of a throw-in midway through the first half; nobody is even asking for that clearly offside goal to be wiped out. But when it comes to something so clearly wrong as McManaman’s challenge, then why not take retrospective action?
The counter-argument is that doing so would undermine the officials.
But would it?
No more so than when a player successfully appeals a red card handed out by a referee and had their suspension rescinded. Reaching this conclusion is saying to a referee that his decision was wrong. So why can’t the FA, on the McManaman incident, do likewise and tell Halsey and his team that, on this occasion, they got it wrong? Or is that too much like common sense?