Brentford v Barnsley. It should be a huge game for so many reasons. It will be a huge game for so many reasons. Yet, at the same time, one can’t help but feel it has been somewhat overshadowed by Friday’s news about Alan McCormack. Specifically, for anybody who has been living under a rock for the last 24 hours, that the midfielder has been awarded a five match ban (amongst other punishments) after being found guilty of using abusive language towards an official against Cardiff City back in April.
In typical vague fashion, the FA Statement simply says that he, “Used abusive and/or insulting words towards a match official in the 52nd minute of the game against Cardiff City on 19 April 2016, contrary to FA Rule E3(1). ”That it was what they deem , “An “aggravated breach” as defined in FA Rule E3(2), as it included a reference to gender.”
The response from Brentford was an equally factual one, acknowledging the punishment whilst adding, “We are awaiting the written reasons for the verdict and neither the player nor the Club will make any further comment on this matter until they have been received.”
What he has been found guilty of saying remains, officially, a secret. There are enough theories out there in cyberspace without wishing to warrant further conjecture on that subject.
All we know for sure, is that the ban takes immediate effect, starting with today’s game against Barnsley and including the local derbies against Fulham and QPR amongst those in the period.
So…. OTT? Fair? Is Alan a foulmouthed pig or was it something said off the cuff under the pressures of a live game environment and totally out of character?
The answers to the first two remain a matter of individual opinion whilst only the player himself could answer that last one. Everybody who watches him knows how much Alan wears his heart on his sleeve when playing for the Bees. How badly he wants to win. How much the opposition must fear him. How much he is a firm fan favourite.
Regardless of whether it is out of character, and it’s easy for me to say this from my safe position as numpty on the terrace rather than somebody in a live game environment, you can’t get away with abuse these days. And rightly so, quite frankly.
This isn’t the ‘70s when homophobia and racism were deemed acceptable. When the idea of a woman playing football was seen as something laughable. That she was somebody who belonged in the kitchen and ’the other room’ (although the President of Nigeria begged to differ last Friday).
Like it or not. Out of character or not. The FA are doing their level best to engender an attitude of respect amongst players and supporters. They have been for some time. Fans know this. Managers know this. Players know this. Attitudes have changed for the better amongst so many although, sadly, others are still dragging their knuckles through the ground.
Has Alan been made an example of? How has this suddenly come to light in October, from a game that took place in April of last season? When the player wasn’t even booked at the time. Surely one of the officials would have reported this to referee Stuart Attwell? How have the FA now heard about this and from whom? Yet, at the same time, if it did happen then they have no choice in having to take follow up actions.
This is a huge ban and if nothing else Alan would seem to be patient zero when the FA have decided to clamp down hard. Yet, also, they’ve now drawn a line in the sand which I’ll be very keen to see how strongly they enforce ongoing.
At the same time, if this is a path they are going down then further clarity on what happened and how would probably be no bad thing from the FA. Just so that there is no doubt as to where that line is – for players and fans.
The reaction of supporters seems to be, largely, that the player has done the wrong thing. That the ban is a heavy one and that we’ll all miss him on the pitch. Massively. Yet also there are still a few who seem to think that this sort of behaviour, whatever the catalyst, is acceptable.
That, for me, is the saddest thing about all of this. They’ve had the benefit of time to think.
Quotes I’ve seen from supporters on social media include:
Bullsh*t. It’s a man’s game . She needs to grow a set, or officiate womens’ games.
The punishment is totally disproportionate and smacks of political correctness
All the whiter than white males condoning @almc16 ?? Get a life? Something said in heat of moment in a game of football – support our player.
It’s an attitude we still see in patches in the stands. Only last weekend at Newcastle one of my friends, as a reaction to politely asking the group behind him to stop using homophobic language was told, amongst others things: “F@ck off, you que*r c@nt” and ‘It doesn’t matter, it’s football’
It’s football?! It’s. Football.
Wow. As though that’s any justification for hurling abuse that won’t even be heard by the players and officials it was directed at. That doesn’t even have the ‘excuse’ of being uttered by somebody on the pitch who would have been in the heart of any incident.
We all shout at the ref, at players and even at each other sometimes.The clear difference being we don’t all shout sexist, homophobic or insulting abuse.
Thankfully, this attitude is something very much in the minority at Brentford. At least, that’s the way it seems to me. Only on Thursday, the club joined the EFL in their campaign to stamp out anti-social behaviour in the stands.
Ironic? Coincidence? Pre-emptive? Whatever the timing, as somebody who brings a three year old to home games at Griffin Park it is something that can only be endorsed.
Equally though, it’s something that by and large I think we already do really well on.
We’ve got a great family at Brentford. I’m proud to be part of a club where supporters do get along and, whilst getting caught up in the heat of the moment, don’t normally cross the line.
Whatever the ins and outs of this case, and I doubt we’ll ever know the full facts, it seems clear we’ve moved into a new phase of football. Abuse officials – pay the punishment.
Will the FA have the guts to see this through?