Time to iron out flawed Match Review Panel

-

The A-League’s Match Review Panel is in the news again this week following retrospective action taken against Perth Glory skipper Jacob Burns for an incident with Central Coast Mariners man John Hutchinson at the weekend.

Burns picked up a two match suspension for his actions after he appeared to exert unnecessary downward force on Hutchinson’s leg, a charge that Glory are outraged about.

For his part, Hutchinson retaliated and kicked out at Burns, picking up a yellow card from referee Adam Kersey.

In many people’s eyes, and indeed by the laws of the game, this is as bad as what Burns did and should have resulted in the player’s dismissal for violent conduct.

This article is in no way an effort to defend the actions of Burns or an opportunity to hang Hutchinson, rather an attempt to put into words the frustrations of many supporters when it comes to the MRP and maybe plant a seed with regard to improving the system.

Under the rules set down by the MRP, if the referee is deemed to have seen an incident and dealt with it on the field then it cannot be reviewed retrospectively, unless there is an “Obvious Error” made (more on that later).

This isn’t the first time this season that a player has gotten away lightly for what is normally a red card offence, with Western Sydney Wanderers man Jerome Polenz escaping with just a caution for two terrible challenges in consecutive weeks.

First up there was the lunge on Sydney FC man Richard Garcia, which was followed up with a petty “man up” Twitter jibe from Polenz, and just a week later Adelaide United’s Aber Mawil was chopped down in similar fashion.

Polenz was booked on both occasions so was deemed to have been dealt with on the field by the match official.

In a league where officials are not professional and have this season struggled with the basic law of offside at throw ins, this is simply unacceptable.

Section 3.5 of the FFA A-League Disciplinary Regulations states:

“The Match Review Panel…(b) may rectify Obvious Error in the Referee’s disciplinary decisions, arising from A-League Matches as specified and in accordance with these Regulations and the FFA Statutes”

This means that if a referee has gotten something so wrong that it’s simply unfathomable, the MRP can step in and take action.

Which poses the question – why can’t this be extended to all decisions, not just the outlandish ones?

At the moment, “Obvious Error” only allows for red cards to be challenged by clubs, and was an avenue explored by Melbourne Victory in 2011 when Matthew Foschini was dismissed by Ben Williams against Brisbane Roar.

However, Victory’s ban was deemed to be “frivolous” and the player received a second game ban on top of his initial one. Victory would also have had to pay to mandatory $500 fee just to lodge the appeal.

Getting back to the Burns/Hutchinson incident, a quick read of the Red Card section (6) of the disciplinary regulations tells us that Kersey was wrong to only issue the Mariners captain with a yellow card for kicking out:

“A Red Card is issued by a Referee to a Player for the commission of the following sending-off offences specified at Law 12 of the Laws of the Game: R2 – violent conduct”

With this in mind, it is clear to me that the “Obvious Error” rule should be extended to more than just red cards and retrospective action should be permitted if a referee has not adequately dealt with an incident on the field.

If both Burns and Hutchinson are deemed to have committed the same crime, i.e. violent conduct, then it’s obvious that the punishments should be the same.

Earlier this year the A-League referees threatened to strike if they did not receive a raise in salary, and in September the governing body met their demands to the tune of a 19% increase.

Meanwhile, the clubs and your average fan are seeing zero bang for their book with the overall standard as questionable as ever before.

Of course, the A-League isn’t the only league that suffers from the ridiculousness of the MRP with the Premier League also adopting a similar format.

In March this year, Wigan Athletic’s Callum McManaman was guilty of a horror tackle on Newcastle United’s Massimo Haidara. While referee Mark Halsey missed the incident, one of his assistants said he partly saw it and took no action, meaning no further action could be taken.

Since then, the English FA have said that the exceptional circumstance rule, which was used to cite Luis Suarez for biting Branislav Ivanovic, can now be used for on-the-ball incidents.

With that in mind, it’s time the A-League got its own house in order when it comes to the MRP and simply do the right thing by its supporters.

After all, they “power the game”, right?

Enjoy this content? Support The Football Sack

Due in part to COVID and lack of current sponsorship we are at risk of not having the funds to continue running The Football Sack. If you enjoy our content and support our work in training talented young writers, please support us with a donation. If every reader contributed just $3, our funding would be covered for over ten years.

DONATE

Learn with us

mm
Neil Sherwin
Neil has covered the Perth Glory and the Hyundai A-League for five years and is one of Western Australia's most knowledgeable football journalists.

Latest Articles

Love your football?
Subscribe to our weekly football wrap. During the season we'll send you all the week's football action straight to your inbox.
* indicates required