The rulemakers at the FA are to blame for the Matic fall-out

The nonsensical FA rules are to blame for the Nemanja Matic situation and Jose Mourinho’s angry response is totally understandable.

It is often said in football that unfortunate luck and dubious decisions even themselves out over the course of the season.

But the bad decisions that went against Chelsea in the draw with Burnley on Saturday were so extreme that to balance them out before May is likely to be virtually impossible, short of referees actually kicking the ball into the opponents’ net in a few of the remaining games.

Another claim often made about questionable decisions is that they always go the way of the big clubs. Well, the experiences of Chelsea have exposed that as a myth this season.

Soccer - Jose Mourinho File Photo

“Football is about emotions and clearly Nemanja Matic had a reason to lose his emotions.”

Jose Mourinho

Jose Mourinho has talked of some sort of campaign against Chelsea. I have no idea whether anything deliberate is going on but any objective observer would have to accept Mourinho has a point this season.

From the first weekend of the season, when Diego Costa was fouled in the penalty area at Burnley and booked for diving, a string of strange decisions have gone against Chelsea.

There have been a host of further clear penalties not awarded. Among them Cesc Fabregas being brought down at Southampton, two players pinned to the ground in judo-like holds while trying to attack a corner at Old Trafford, and a pair of clear offences – one an obvious handball and the other a definite push – in the first half of Saturday’s match, also of course against Burnley.

Those three matches have all ended in draws, so converted penalties could have brought an extra six points, turning a handy lead in the league into a huge one.

And then of course there was the incredible pace with which Diego Costa was hauled to justice by the FA for his stamps against Liverpool.

The decision may have been right but the manner of his trial and sentencing was in marked contrast to the indifference shown to plenty of other players who have been up to questionable activities on the pitch.

Most recently of course the FA has announced it is unable to do anything about Ashley Barnes’ appalling challenge on Nemanja Matic that prompted the Serb’s retaliation and red card against Burnley. It may well not be under its interpretation of the rules – but then don’t the rules need changing?

Costa has been denied a number of clear penalties
Diego Costa has been denied a number of clear penalties

Retrospective punishments are used to address issues that have not been dealt with properly at the time – but only if the officials have admitted they haven’t seen them.

So what about episodes that have been seen by the referee but have also not been dealt with properly at the time? The Barnes tackle would seem to fit perfectly into that category.

Martin Atkinson, a top international referee, didn’t even give a foul against Barnes for the challenge that saw him place his studs into the shin of Matic.

Pretty much every pundit who has commented on the incident was scathing of both the tackle and Atkinson’s interpretation of it.

The view is close to unanimous that the Burnley player committed an awful foul and should have been sent off. But because Atkinson says he saw what happened the FA claims it can do nothing.

Why should that be? It makes about as much sense as the bizarre idea that you can’t appeal against a yellow card. So if a referee books a player for diving, looks at a replay after the game and sees they clearly didn’t dive, the caution cannot be undone – and of course it could be a yellow card that means that player missing an important next game through suspension.

In a world in which replays are used to deal out bits and pieces of justice but wilfully ignored for other incidents because that’s what the rules say, you end up with little justice at all. One incident gets reviewed and another doesn’t.

As long as this ludicrous situation remains so unnecessarily in place, you will always get managers and fans complaining about unfair decisions.

The football authorities have made a rod for their own back by embracing bits of technology and not others. So don’t blame those who moan. Blame those who make up the rules.

James Clarke is the author of Moody Blues: Following the second-best team in Europe

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