FA admits referee mistakes, but refuses to fix them
Burnley's Ashley Barnes stuck his studs high up into the leg of Chelsea'sNemanja Matic over the weekend, for which he was not sent off by referee Martin Atkinson. Barnes wasn't booked at all in the match despite numerous dangerous challenges, but Matic was shown a straight red for his reaction to almost getting his leg broken. This was the cherry on top of a terrible refereeing performance that featured a couple of missed penalty shouts.
Atkinson will be given the week off from officiating Premier League matches, as he should be. This is commonplace when referees have bad weeks. But it also raises a question -- if the Premier League acknowledges the mistakes their referees make by kicking them off games, what's the argument against expanding retroactive punishment?
According to the FA, basically, if the referee has seen an incident and indicated in their post-match report that they saw it, the FA will not take retrospective action against a player even if a call was almost inarguably wrong. There's an exception for when a referee admits they were not in the best position to see an incident, but it's rarely used.
The rationale behind this is that the FA don't want to undermine their officials. If Barnes can be charged with violent conduct after the fact, even though Atkinson said he saw the incident clearly and declined to give more than a common foul, he may have less authority over players in future matches. That could also potentially damage a referee's confidence in their calls as they make them.
But if that's the reason for not allowing retroactive punishment, why are officials knocked down a level after having a bad game? Doesn't that cause the same problems? Whether a referee is barred from officiating Premier League matches during the round following an incident or their call is overturned retrospectively, the result is the same -- the authority of that referee will be undermined in the future because the FA is acknowledging they performed their job poorly.
Barnes should be banned for three games for his tackle on Matic. Taking that action doesn't undermine Atkinson's authority any more than booting him to the lower leagues does.