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Fri 20/10
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Question of the Week

What is more important, result or style of football?

Style of Football


Justice Was Done - Fact Or Fiction?

By: Bill Osborne
Date: 21/12/2003

I am not a supporter of Manchester United but I am not amongst those who loathe and despise them because of their riches and success, which in actual fact, brings some respect for, and prestige to, English football.

And I support their claim that the decision to suspend Rio Ferdinand for eight months is incompatible with the offence he committed. In fact I would go a step further in saying that Ferdinand received very little justice from either the FA or FIFA in deciding his penalty.

Rio Ferdinand has never been linked to drug taking of any sort, nor had the FA any reason to suspect that he was. The drugs test, which he missed, was a part of the normal routine tests carried out on footballers.

Ferdinand failed to show up for the test, but did have one 48 hours later, which was clear of any indications of illegal substances which, in real terms, means that all Ferdinand did was cause some administrative problems by virtue of the test being re-arranged. By doing so he was guilty of an offence therefore the FA had every right to penalise him.

And that is where the matter should have ended. Ferdinand would have received his punishment, the FA would have been satisfied and the club would have had to live with that. But the bumbling bureaucracy of the FA failed to act swiftly and allowed the whole issue to become a full-blown national and international media circus, which involved the whole world of football.

Firstly, the FA failed to protect Ferdinand from having his name revealed before the outcome of the second test, which is a clear breach of their standing procedures.

Secondly, they seemed incapable of forming a disciplinary committee to hear the case against him within a reasonable time. (Had he been red carded during a match he would have been dealt with within a week or so).

It was these delays that caused Ferdinand to undergo a trial by the media and public opinion with his name in the international headlines, before the FA had even charged him.

So slow was the FA to act that FIFA became involved slating the FA for its inability to bring the case to a swift conclusion. This also gave Sepp Blatter, no friend of European football, to gain an opportunity to use the affair as another means of putting the squeeze on the FA who spoke loudly but ineffectively and sought to dampen some of the criticism by issuing a statement saying that new procedures would be in place by "next summer." (That soon?)

Unfortunately for Ferdinand, the new CEO of the FA has put himself as the champion of the anti drugs campaign and as Ferdinand was the first footballer to be in the spotlight since the new incumbent arrived at the FA, it seems he automatically became the initial "we will set an example" victim.

So in a combination of errors and bureaucratic bungling by the FA, Ferdinand not only paid the penalty for the offence he committed, but going by the length of his suspension, it appears that the FA have not only tried to appease Mr Blatter but to also cover up their own shortcomings.

Rio Ferdinand had the right to be treated fairly and justly whoever he played for, but it does not appear that he has been accorded those rights.

It would be fitting therefore if Manchester United and Ferdinand abandoned any hope of receiving justice from the FA and took their case to the High Court with a high probability of winning their case based on the way the FA handled the situation.

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