Association chief executive Mark Palios said today it is time to move on from
the Rio Ferdinand debacle that has consumed English football for the past
latest statement has been taken as a conciliatory retreat from an earlier declaration
indicating that the F.A. was out for blood and would seek revenge against
Professional Footballers Association leader Gordon Taylor, who has been highly
critical of the F.A.’s conduct throughout the affair. Taylor was just doing his job, many believe his criticisms
were justified, and any F.A. attempt at vengeance would be highly inadvisable.
and the rest of the F.A. still have not explained why, in declaring Ferdinand
ineligible to play against Turkey, they acted unilaterally in a manner which
drastically departed from established procedures and principles of fair play just days before the match and thereby threw the England team into turmoil.
is time to move on. But only
if Palios and his colleagues at the F.A. take with them some lessons from the
horrendous hash they made of things last week.
Palios’s latest statement says “we need to ensure that we learn from
this experience too.” He is right
for virtually the first time in the whole shambolic affair.
will find his job—including the tremendously important task of safeguarding
the game from drugs—much easier if he takes to heart these three points.
The first two are based on fundamental fairness or due process, as it is called,
while the third rests on common sense.
The players—or, more accurately, their representative organisation,
the P.F.A.—must be consulted before changes are made in the
The disciplinary process must meet basic standards of fairness.
In all but the most extraordinary circumstances, a player must be
afforded a hearing at which he may defend himself before sanctions of any sort
are imposed on the player. If
extraordinary circumstances justify a temporary suspension even before a hearing
is held—and failure to take a drug test arguably might be such an
extraordinary circumstance—then players should be given clear advance warning that that
will be the consequence in those circumstances.
The week before an international match—whether or not it is a
critically important one, as the game in Turkey was—is not the time
to impose changes in the disciplinary process which carry an immediate impact
on the England team.
F.A., led by Palios, failed on all three points last week.
That the F.A. still has not taken in any of these points is indicated by
the portion of his “time to move on” statement which says:
people have questioned whether we have at any point stepped outside our due
process for disciplinary decisions. I can confirm that we have not. Our
decision to exclude Rio was a policy decision in our role representing
'England team' affairs and was not part of the formal disciplinary process.”
kind of dissembling word play is disgraceful at this point. It says, in effect, that a suspension or other sanction is
not part of the disciplinary process—and therefore need not meet due
process--when Mark Palios (or any other F.A. bureaucrat) unilaterally says it
isn’t part of the disciplinary process but rather a policy decision.
is akin to an earlier semantic attempt to justify the F.A.’s rush to judgment.
The F.A. had not suspended Ferdinand, we were told.
It had merely instructed the team’s coach not to select him for the
F.A. obviously believes England fans are a naïve and gullible lot.
We think fans are acute enough to recognise that a suspension is a
suspension and that discipline is discipline whatever names the F.A. gives
them in its continuing frantic efforts to justify the unjustifiable.
latest rationale for the F.A.’s circumvention of due process is a breathtaking
and highly threatening assertion of autocratic power. The F.A. makes policy decisions in virtually every area of
football, including Premiership affairs. Taken
literally, Palios’s statement gives the F.A. the power to impose discipline “as a policy decision” outside the
normal disciplinary processes whenever it
pleases. We hope the statement was
nothing more than an effort to save face and is not to be taken literally as the F.A.’s assessment of its power.
all means, Palios should move on. The
entire football community, Taylor included, will move on, too, if Palios takes
the lessons with him.