England and Manchester United striker Wayne Rooney has had a busy 24 hours. Last night, he failed to make a telling impact as United lost 2-1 to FC Basel and crashed hilariously out of the UEFA Champions League. By this morning he was sitting alongside Fabio Capello at a UEFA hearing, appealing for a reduction in the three-match ban handed out for his red card against Montenegro, picked up for kicking out at Miodrag Dzudovic.
Rooney has been on a mission to have the ban reduced since his dismissal, obviously frustrated that his petulance had ruled himself out of all three of England’s Group D matches at UEFA Euro 2012. His appeal has been successful, and the ban reduced to two games. He will therefore be available for England’s third group game, against Ukraine, after sitting out the matches against France and Sweden. The third game is suspended for four years, during which time Rooney must avoid a dismissal in a UEFA international.
So, was it the right decision?
Without going into the details of the appeal (because I haven’t bothered to research them), I think it’s justifiable. Others do not. In the Premier League Rooney’s offence carries a clear three-match ban, and would not be shortened by appeal. Many people on Twitter and elsewhere have already slammed UEFA’s decision to reduce the suspension on the grounds that “violent conduct” (not a UEFA-recognised concept, as it happens) is a three-match ban offence, and that the governing body has somehow buckled in bowing to Rooney’s wishes.
I’d argue that international football is a different beast to domestic football, and a three-match ban for one’s country is a much harsher punishment than it is during a 38-game season. I haven’t checked the figures but I think bans of that length at international level are quite rare. Indeed, Andrey Arshavin’s case in 2008 has been cited; he picked up a two-match ban for a similar offence in Russia’s final qualifier for the European Championships, so it’s not as if there’s no precedent here. The decision is not “wrong”?
And let’s be realistic. Outside the labyrinthine rules, away from the black-and-white of it all, Rooney didn’t exactly assault Dzudovic, did he? A three-match ban for wafting a foot out in a childish manner is harsh, regardless of whether it occurs at the beginning or at the end of qualifying. Take the example of Francesco Totti, whose ban for spitting in World Cup 2006 was – you guessed it – three matches. A different governing body, but an international comparison nonetheless.
I’d be interested to see whether UEFA’s rules define violent conduct as a three-match offence, so if you think Rooney’s suspension should have been upheld please feel free to leave the wording or a link in the comments. For now I’ll just be satisfied with the fact that missing an entire European Championships group stage for that kick would have been a might unfair. As Matt Dickinson pointed out in a tweet earlier, two matches is UEFA’s tariff. What’s all the fuss about?
(Photo credit: nasmac via Flickr)