The FA's Dereliction of Duty

There are many beautiful and wonderful things in this world that are badly let down by those charged with their stewardship. The Football Association of England, however, staked their strongest claim yet for leadership of that clubhouse with their cowardly and despicable failure to throw the book at Wigan Athletic's Callum McManaman for his brutal attack on Newcastle United's Massadio Haidara.

Some out there may not have seen the incident in question. Here it is, in all its hideous splendor:

I cannot fathom how a sane and just person can see this footage and come to the logical or moral conclusion that nothing untoward has happened. I cannot wrap my mind around how an intelligent person can arrive at a conclusion other than that this was a deliberate attempt to injure a fellow professional.

We have all heard the litany of excuses that come with the territory here - hell, as Arsenal supporters that song is well overplayed for us. He's not that kind of player. He's a good, honest kid who was just trying to win the ball. He was just a few seconds late, he couldn't stop in time. Alternatively, you can read Wigan Athletic owner Dave Whelan's odious defense of the player, a marvel in cognitive dissonance when you recall that the man saw his own career cut short in similar circumstances.

Yeah, tell it to Eduardo...or Aaron Ramsey...or Abou Diaby. That's just on our team, in the last few years. All suffered grotesque injuries as a result of horror tackles like this, and none have been the same since. They all have had their livelihoods affected by needlessly violent play.

That isn't to say that legitimately mistimed challenges don't happen - far from it, you might see 20 of them in an average game. The difference is that those challenges rarely result in injury to either player. At worst, they'll warrant a talking-to or a yellow card if it's been persistent from one party.

What you see in the GIF above is a calculated attempt at the old "reducer". You will hear this term lionized by the usual suspects, chiefly older players and the media types that fell in love with the sport decades ago. Ha ha, wasn't it great when Graeme Souness almost ended that guy's career? Ho ho, wasn't it excellent when Roy Keane did end Alf-Inge Haland's? Boys will be boys, right lads?

It's hard to be surprised at how this keeps happening when we've made a cottage industry out of putting these men up on pedestals.

Admittedly, my first thought is that the perpetrators are mainly psychopaths who do it out of some nefarious machismo, a need to make up for lack of innate ability, or both. Naturally there are times where that is the sum total of the explanation. I think that may oversimplify it though. Given that the villains in these cases are often British, I wonder if there isn't something infesting the grassroots of the game where the need to opt for the reducer is deliberately instilled into young players.

Unfortunately, football players now are far stronger and faster than their counterparts of the 70s or 80s. The same reckless tackle that may have given an opposing player a bad bruise and second thoughts now gives them a year on the shelf with a fibula in tatters.

Ultimately though, these tackles exist because they are tacitly endorsed by the guardians of the game. The FA has a long and storied history of insularity, arrogance and short-sightedness - the national team's current woes can arguably be traced back to decisions they made in the early part of last century, especially their smug belief that no one else in the world could teach them anything new. Then, you know, this happened.

It is one thing to be a failure when it comes to the 11 dolts in Three Lions kit and their risible output. It is quite another to inadequately protect the players under your care due to what is perceived to be political expedience, despite the fact that these empty blazers have all the gravitas of a mailroom clerk.

Their excuse for not reviewing the footage was the sort of flimsy technicality that would make the sleaziest ambulance-chaser embarrassed for his profession. One linesman thinks he saw part of the incident, so no action can be taken so as not to "re-officiate the game." What a rich vein of stupid this is!

First, remember how I mentioned the increased speed of the game a few paragraphs ago? That doesn't just have consequences for unlucky femurs - it has also made the game much harder to effectively adjudicate. That is true even for the best referees, let alone a habitually substandard one like Mark Halsey who would have been put out to pasture ages ago if there weren't a dearth of quality match officials.

Compounding the problem is that the fossils at the top of FIFA have had their heads firmly in the sand on this issue. This effectively prevents the national bodies from straying off-message. However, other leagues do allow for retroactive video review of an incident after a match has ended. This starts from the sensible notion that referees are fallible, and some actions deserve punishment regardless of whether the official got it right the first time.

Basic common sense, as ever, eludes the FA much like German, Argentinian or Brazilian shots on goal elude their goalkeepers.

It isn't just that, though. That lack of common sense forms a toxic alchemy with the arrogance of infallibility, the insularity against readily-available technology and the small-but-potent chorus of voices who gallingly find nothing wrong with these tackles.

I don't know if anything short of a generation-and-a-half of the game's powers dying off before we see the easily-implementable changes that would prevent this from happening. In the meantime, these incidents will continue unabated...all with the FA's intangible seal of approval.

The cowards don't even have the minerals to own their incompetence.