Callum McManaman: Is a rule change on agenda for the FA?

By Gordon FarquharBBC sports news correspondent
Callum McManaman's tackle on Massadio Haidara

The rules the Football Association applied in reaching its decision over were subject to review last summer, before the start of the 2012-13 season.

They'd been in place for some time, since Fifa relaxed its rules over reviewing incidents that had not been seen by the officials at the time.

The primary focus was to punish violent conduct of the "sly elbow" kind that the television cameras were spotting but sometimes the referee was not.

The FA's rules allow the match official the opportunity to revisit an incident that was missed, and be given the chance to decide what action would have been taken had the infringement been seen at the time. The referee could still decide the matter would not be a sending off or bookable offence, and no further action would be taken, thus retaining the match official's authority.

As things stand, the rules say the FA can only revisit a tackle like the McManaman challenge in the 2-1 win over Newcastle on Sunday when it has not been seen by any of the match officials. For clarity, that's the referee and his two on-field assistants, plus the fourth official, who is entitled to contact the referee during play to bring violent conduct to his attention.

McManaman tackle sparks angry fracas

On this occasion, one of the officials (understood not to be the referee Mark Halsey), did see the incident in question, thus placing it beyond the scope of the FA's rules, and it did not satisfy the "exceptional circumstances" clause, designed to catch such unusual incidents as Ben Thatcher's elbow on Pedro Mendes in 2006.

McManaman, 21, who was making his first start in the Premier League, got a slight touch on the ball before following through and catching Newcastle defender Massadio Haidara on the knee and thigh.

Haidara was taken off on a stretcher. The 20-year-old defender had a scan on Monday, although the swelling around his knee meant no firm diagnosis could be made.

Wigan chairman Dave Whelan has said McManaman's challenge was not reckless, comments which "disappointed and surprised" Newcastle managing director Derek Llambias. He has described the FA's disciplinary process as "not fit for purpose".

However, the rules as applied by the FA had agreement of the game's principal stakeholders. The Premier League, Football League, League Managers' Association, Professional Footballers' Association, representatives of the National Game board at the FA and the match officials' body, PGMOL, all had a say in the review of policy last summer.

The overriding principle is that games should not be "re-refereed" by video afterwards. The FA's thinking is that sporting justice is best served by the officials making the right decisions in real time. In other words, when a player deserves to be sent off, he should be there and then, thus giving the team infringed against the benefit of playing against 10 men, and therefore a competitive advantage.

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The FA believes the system employed in some other sports, especially rugby, of having a citing committee to review incidents after the game could lead to match officials being less willing to make big decisions over red-card incidents at the time, thus denying immediate sporting justice.

They would also presumably be keen to avoid their governance department facing a Monday morning workload of dozens and dozens of incidents to review, with the subsequent disciplinary hearings and appeals that would overburden their resources and lead to any notion of sporting justice being thoroughly diluted.

The FA stresses that all its rules are reviewed within the game collectively, at the end of each season. It seems clear that they could be amended for 2013-14 in a way that would ensure a tackle of the kind seen at the weekend could be revisited to ensure the punishment was seen to fit the crime.