Scandal brings the game into disrepute. Does stating the truth do the same?

As a sport, football has rarely enjoyed a clean reputation, particularly when compared to the gentleman’s game of rugby.

Whether it’s the hooliganism that dogged much of the 1970s and 80s, the ‘Scommessopoli’ match-fixing scandal in Serie A, or the recent spate of racist incidents, football’s image has become increasingly tainted over the years.

These issues though are complicated and will take a good deal of time and effort to combat, but there are other issues within football which apparently bring the game into disrepute too.

And Aston Villa manager Paul Lambert is the latest person to have fallen foul of this, after he was given a one-match touchline ban and an £8,000 fine by the FA for “language and/or behaviour amounting to improper conduct”.

This follows comments he made after Villa’s 5-0 drubbing at City, when he forcefully suggested that the decision to award the hosts first penalty was the wrong decision.

After the game, Lambert said: “I haven’t a clue what [assistant referee Adrian Holmes] saw. We were well in the game – we had a foothold in it, and that is a big thing coming here but the penalty was a really shocking decision.”

His language is admittedly strong and he could have softened the impact of his words by suggesting the decision was “poor” or “wrong”, but his words aren’t false and to punish him for this opens up the question whether he is really bringing the game into disrepute? Or, in fact the FA are doing the same by silencing what appears to be the obvious truth?

The incident in question concerns the decision to award a penalty against Andreas Weimann for handball, although the replay clearly shows the ball did not strike the player anywhere on his body.

In this case Adrian Holmes, unfortunately got it wrong. There is no shame in that, as his job is one of great pressure, observing a game played at great speed and frankly he must be a glutton for punishment for choosing to undertake it, so he should be applauded for his bizarre desire to officiate.

And like many of the players and managers, he – along with countless other referees and linesmen and women – too makes mistakes, in a game that is sometimes happily defined by such whoopsies.

So, the decision to punish people who then speak out against they perceive to be officiating mistakes has a Stalin-esque feel to it, as if sweeping away the critique makes everything better.

Instead, it only serves to give the impression that the officials are the technology that the authorities are seemingly frightened to introduce.

And while they should be protected from overt abuse, they should also be treated as fallible humans, who are capable of making mistakes, so that when a mistake is made they can be treated with the same level of tolerance afforded to players and managers – unless of course your name is Roman Abramavich.

Then at least the pressure can be lifted off these poor souls who allow us to enjoy the game and they can be allowed to make mistakes, however unfortunate they may be, without the FA feeling the need to gloss over the truth that everybody has already seen on TV.

Tags: Aston Villa, Corruption, Manchester City, Paul Lambert, Premier League, referees

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