LONDON – West Ham was left with enough egg on its face to make omelettes for its entire squad. The club’s appeal against an appeal to try to find a loophole that would enable Andy Carroll to get off his red card ended in predictable failure, leaving the club with a six-figure legal bill.
Had West Ham been successful, the Football Association’s disciplinary system, hardly the best in the world, would have been left in chaos with clubs queuing up to appeal against unsuccessful appeals. The Hammers must have known they were doomed to failure, the fact that they proceeded with a second appeal against Carroll’s dismissal merely underlining their desperation and reliance on a striker who has spent more time on the physio table than the pitch since his arrival from Liverpool in August 2012.
We are not talking Luis Suarez or Sergio Aguero here, Carroll has played only four games this season without scoring, yet as West Ham battle against relegation, a player whose main strength is his strength (legal or otherwise) suddenly became indispensable.
The suspicion is West Ham was attempting to use delaying tactics by threatening legal action over the F.A.’s disciplinary procedures, hoping Carroll’s three-match suspension could be put on hold until a decision was eventually made. In fact, it took three days for the F.A. to reconfirm the original verdict and Carroll’s suspension started Friday.
To recap, Carroll was sent off by Howard Webb, England’s premier referee, for violent conduct as he clashed with Swansea’s Chico Flores. The general opinion was that the decision was harsh, though harsh is not incorrect. Flores’ reaction was disgraceful, the Spaniard falling to the ground holding his face when Carroll’s arm had only brushed the top of his pony-tail.
This prompted West Ham to appeal for unfair dismissal, but last Tuesday a three-man independent regulatory commission upheld Webb’s decision. While what Carroll did was hardly violent in the true sense of the word, in law violent conduct is “striking or attempting to strike” another player, and the West Ham striker swung out with an arm at Flores.
The regulatory commission’s verdict should have been the end of the story, but West Ham joint-chairman David Gold threatened to take legal action following the club’s failure to have Carroll’s ban overturned. The F.A. agreed that an arbitral tribunal, which few knew even existed, would make a final ruling on the matter on Friday. It is believed to be the first time an arbitral panel has become involved and its thoroughly sensible verdict means other clubs will be reluctant to follow a route that would quickly have become football anarchy.
An F.A. statement said: “An independent arbitration tribunal convened under F.A. Rule K has dismissed a legal challenge brought by West Ham United and Andy Carroll in relation to the red card received by Carroll in the match against Swansea. The independent tribunal resolved that there was no serious issue to be tried and also awarded the F.A. its costs.”
Virtually every referee’s decision is subjective and an opinion cannot be right or wrong. It is an opinion. We can disagree with the referee and often do, but he is the sole arbiter of law.
Sympathy was initially with Carroll — until the ill-fated second appeal at least — the widespread view among commentators, football writers and fans was that it should have been a yellow card at most.
The reaction of an opponent, whatever the level of simulation, is irrelevant. Did Carroll commit violent conduct as defined in the laws? In the view of Webb he did, the referee supported by two appeals commissions.
Nemanja Vidic has announced he will be leaving Manchester United this summer for “a new challenge, but not in England.”
The Serb’s spin is understandable, but the bottom line is that United did not offer the defender, whose contract runs out this summer, a new deal. Great servant and captain he has been, the 32-year-old has played only 52 games over the past three years due to ongoing injuries. Vidic, who won 15 trophies in eight years, had no option than to leave Old Trafford.
His departure is widely expected to coincide with the retirement of Rio Ferdinand, 35, who is also out of contract at the end of the season and is likely to be offered a role as a TV pundit. Vidic and Ferdinand have been the best domestic defensive partnership in recent years and Sir Alex Ferguson’s plan was to groom Chris Smalling and Phil Jones as heir successors.
However, David Moyes will have to look elsewhere to replace at least one of Vidic and Ferdinand because their would-be replacements are not good enough.
Christopher Davies was a longtime Premier League correspondent for the London Daily Telegraph.