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By Matthew Handley
Proposition- Tom Ough argues that a sin bin would be fairer than suspensions
This year, the European Championships will implement a minor change to their suspension system that will lead the way in modernising football discipline. The yellow-card amnesty will be enacted from the quarter-final stage, and reflects a similar change at the 2010 World Cup. In most cup competitions, innocuous yellow cards can lead to suspensions at the crucial semi-final stage as well as the final, but this greatly oversteps the mark in many cases.
Of course, sometimes, when an offence makes the difference in a match, the suspension is justified. Michael Ballack’s professional foul in the 2002 World Cup semi-final against Turkey prevented a certain goal, and offences of this significance merit the penalty of being banned for the next round. But in the main, it is a series of smaller indiscretions that lead to suspensions. Chelsea’s Branislav Ivanovic, Raul Meireles, and Ramires, in picking up a series of yellows, did not offend nearly so badly as their captain John Terry. Here lies the difference: a straight red card, incurred for serious foul play or unfairly preventing an opponent from scoring, is a world away from a small number of yellow cards accrued for minor offences. The appeals system is reasonably effective in ensuring that players do not suffer the consequences of unmerited cards, but does not address the fact that the suspension system as a whole is largely unjust.
Arsene Wenger argued recently that ‘it would be better to take the punishment on the day, and give the advantage to the team that has been offended against’, and although he was talking about the Premier League, this certainly makes sense with regard to European football. Why should Bayern be advantaged, for instance, when it is against Barcelona and other teams that Ramires has picked up his yellow cards? And why should Barcelona not benefit? A yellow card has little influence on the match in which it is wielded.
Wenger’s proposition of a sin-bin system makes much more sense. The team against whom the foul has been committed benefits, the perpetrator is punished, and the affair does not detract from the spectacle of the semi-final and final. Provided that the penalty of a straight red card for the worst offences remains, such a system for lesser, but nevertheless considerable, foul play, the sin bin is the way forward. Until then, the biggest nights in European football will remain tainted by a system that is ill-conceived, outdated, and unjust.
Rebuttal- Matt Handley thinks suspensions are important in cup competition
l. Manchester United v Chelsea. Penalties. With the score locked at 4-4, John Terry steps up with the chance to win European football’s top prize for the Blues for the first time. John Terry; Mr Chelsea, the archetypal English centre half, the last bastion of masculinity. John Terry; who in 2001 drunkenly taunted American tourists about 9/11, who parks in disabled people’s spots, and, at the time of the match, it is alleged, was engaged in an affair with his teammate’s girlfriend. John Terry missed. Manchester United won. I laughed.
Fast forward 4 years to the Nou Camp, and Chelsea are tied 1-1 on aggregate against European Champions Barcelona, in a tie more delicately poised than a Jenga tower on top of a Buckaroo, John Terry makes the egregiously stupid decision to knee Barca forward Alexis Sanchez in the back. In a match in which Chelsea are already massive underdogs, Terry decided to risk the fate of his team’s entire campaign on a petulant assault. He was sent off. Good. It was a clear act of violent conduct, and he had to go. He’ll now miss the final. Good.
Obviously I’m happy first and foremost because I think John Terry is a nasty little man and I’m glad that he won’t have the chance to make up for his Muscovite howler from last time around. But, more seriously, it’s only right that players who jeopardise their team’s chances of winning through abject stupidity are prohibited from the glory that comes with a final appearance.
What’s more, some actions are simply too stupid to be punished exclusively within the confines of the match. Take Mario Balotelli’s stamp on Scott Parker’s head earlier this year; this was an action that put a fellow professional’s safety in risk and set a shocking example to young fans. It was only right, that in turn, he was made an example of too.
But what about Ramires, Meireles et al who’ll miss out because of picking up one too many yellow cards. Well boo-fricking-hoo. They knew the rules, and shouldn’t have got booked. It’s these sorts of dramas and controversies that make the game so exciting; who wasn’t exhilarated when Branislav Ivanovic looked as if he didn’t know whether to burst into tears or claw Geoff Shreeves’ face off when he was told he wouldn’t be able to play in the final! Suspensions make necessary examples of players for stupid behaviour, add to the drama of the sport and keep John Terry from doing what he wants. Long may they continue.