Richard Hercock: Change required as disciplinary system fails to punish sinners

Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho
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Listening to Jose Mourinho over my Sunday morning cornflakes I could have been forgiven for thinking Burnley’s Ashley Barnes was Hannibal Lecter.

Mourinho sat on the sofa for Sky’s Goals on Sunday show to criticise heavily the Clarets player after his studs-up tackle on Chelsea’s Nemanja Matic went unpunished.

Video replays show it was a nasty challenge, and to rub salt in the wounds Matic’s reaction at jumping up and pushing Barnes to the floor earned the Blues defender a red card from referee Martin Atkinson.

Put your club allegiances to one side. Barnes deserved a straight red card – and was lucky to escape punishment for an earlier challenge – as did Matic for his reaction. No matter what instigated it, you cannot raise your hands to an opponent.

But Mr Atkinson is human – like all referees – and he makes mistakes. He also missed a deliberate handball which should have brought Chelsea a penalty, and dismissed Diego Costa’s call for a spot-kick after he was pushed over. Personally, I thought the latter was Costa looking for contact, rather than intent from the defender.

But it is what happened this week that bothered me more.

I do not want to get in a witch-hunt here involving Barnes. He is just the sample case.

But the Football Association subsequently ruled Barnes would face no disciplinary action for his challenge, claiming retrospective sanctions were not needed as Atkinson had seen – and judged – the incident live.

Yes, but he got it wrong. Seriously wrong. We are not trying to undermine officials, we just want appropriate punishment for the crime.

The fact Barnes is free to play for Burnley against Swansea at Turf Moor today, while Matic misses the League Cup final at Wembley tomorrow is simply wrong.

A statement, released in five parts on Twitter, explained: “In the vast majority of challenges for the ball, no retrospective action is taken as the incident has been seen by the match officials.

“Retrospective action introduced as a deterrent for ‘off the ball incidents’ (eg kicks, stamps etcetera) committed out of sight of officials.

“Whole game is in agreement that, in vast majority of cases, match officials are best-placed to deal with incidents to avoid re-refereeing. In line with this rationale, FA confirm no further action in relation to Ashley Barnes as incident was seen by the officials.”

To avoid such issues, surely we must have a commission who monitor such incidents, and have the power to hand out retrospective punishments if the referee gets it wrong.

Otherwise, it only increases the pressure on officials, in the face of intense pressure from the managers and media.

Obviously, another way around this would be to introduce video replays where the fourth official on the touchline could review flashpoints. How about each side gets three referrals per game, where they can review penalty appeals or calls which see ‘goals’ chalked off?

Something has to happen. The current system is just not working.