FA amends retrospective action rule, but what does it mean?


News today from the high tower of The Powers That Be revealed some earth-shattering changes to their dusty, decadent legislation.

Said earth-shattering changes, like one may, having observed long enough, deduce, were shockingly, anything but. The official release on the same read as follows:

From the start of the new season, The FA will reserve the right to take retrospective action when match officials are not in a position to fully assess a ‘coming together' of players.

There you have it — a sweeping implement that threatens to change the modern game, as we know it, in absolutely no way whatsoever.

According to present FA Rules & Governance regarding 'Not Seen Incidents', retrospective action is applied in all cases otherwise worthy of punishment missing from officials' post-match reports, implying the official was unable to spot or suitably observe the incident in question.

So what does the addendum mean? For starters, it gives FA a policy-preservation backdoor, in that they can exercise the applicability of retrospective action where the official in-charge admits (or, if you believe in the FA's ability to coerce, is made to admit) he wasn't able to observe an incident enough to affirmatively establish intent, and/or subsequently recommend punishment or action.

The FA gathered a lot of flak last season after Callum McManaman went unpunished for an absolutely flagitious tackle on Massadio Haidara, minutes after the 20 year old came on in what was only his fourth appearance for Newcastle. The Association's atrocious handling of the incident caused them to pile the heat on themselves, especially after they admitted desisting acting due to one match official later notifying them of having partly seen the incident.

The present, modified ruling, while on the face of it, is presented as a brave attempt to rectify potential mistakes of a similar nature, in essence, it's no more than a tool the FA could use at convenience, to insulate itself from raging clubs and media storms, by calling for footage re-examination wherever it saw potential for a fracas upon forfeiting the chance to do so.

Unfortunately, the FA's insistence in projecting referees as the ultimate power-bearers means we're unlikely to see a significant change in the way an instrument as impactful as retrospective action could be used to effectively cull violent conduct from the game*, anytime soon.

*Including stamping out incidents like Aguero's maniacal lunge on David Luiz in the FA Cup.

It took a very publicly unsavoury racket to force the Association to reluctantly shift its stance, and while there may be praise in some circles of how the FA have taken a 'decisive' step toward enforcing better discipline across England's many leagues, the only impression I get is of a laboured amendment brought about by an organization browbeaten into doing so.

It's a change, sure, but unless the following months throw up evidence to reflect an actual disciplinary improvement brought about by judicious use of it, it's no more than one purely cosmetic in nature.

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