Uefa choke = Uefa joke

In the most unsurprising story since Cristiano Ronaldo moved to Real Madrid, Uefa have overturned their own ban on Arsenal striker Eduardo.

The Brazil born Croatia striker had been banned for allegedly diving to win a penalty in Arsenal’s one-sided Champions League qualifier against Celtic.

As predicted here on Thoughtsport Arsenal appealed and quelle suprise the ban was over-turned.  Uefa choked it.
Now I’m not saying Eduardo should have been banned – the evidence was borderline at best – but Uefa chose to draw their line in the sand and should have stuck by it.

Instead they look more lilly-livered than David Beckham pulling his sore toe out of a tackle and allowing Argentina to score in the 2002 World Cup.

The status quo is restored: the big clubs know that no matter how loud Uefa crow about tackling this and doing something about that, they can ride roughshod over any rules (or rulings) they don’t like and do as they’ve always done – namely whatever they want.

Uefa President Michel Platini’s latest crusade is against clubs “doped with debt” as some put it.  Don’t be surprised if, by the time this comes to being enforced, it’s heavily watered down and then completely ignored by the clubs who, as ever, will find ways around it.

Well done Uefa, what a brave stand that was.  It lasted less than two weeks.

Appealing but not surprising…

So Chelsea say they will “mount the strongest possible appeal” to the transfer ban imposed by Fifa.

Arsenal are appealing against Eduardo’s ban too.

Both bans will be reduced (you read it here first).  Don’t be surprised if the words “suspended” appear too – but sadly not of the banning variety, more of the ‘suspended sentence’ type.

Remember that scene in the Indiana Jones movie?  Indiana runs after the sword-wielding natives with his gun… until they realise he has no bullets, and chase the terrified Indy into the distance.

Remind you of anything?  Fifa and Uefa shout loudly but have no bullets…

Chelsea’s ban: It will never stick

So Chelsea have been banned from buying players for the best part of two years: story on BBC Sport website.

At first – and not purely because of an anti-money, anti-big club mentality – most football fans will think “Good” – non-Chelsea fans anyway.

But does anyone expect this to stick?  I certainly don’t.

If Chelsea did, as Fifa says, induce a player (Gael Kakuta) to break his contract then they deserve to be punished.

For too long football has been about the size of your bank balance and not the size of your talent.  Any time a smaller club has something good (a player, a manager even a physio) it’s only a matter of time before a bigger club comes knocking – or more often they don’t even knock, they just take.

It happens at all levels of football.  It’s not limited to Premier League clubs, bigger clubs further down the pyramid just pass the treatment on down the ladder – much like a playground bully is usually bullied themselves.

But it’s just the big clubs throwing their weight around.  Would Kakuta have been tempted to leave Lens by say Scunthorpe or Darlington?

Can you imagine how that conversation would go?  “Gael – want to come and play for us?  You’d have to take a pay-cut and… Gael?  Gael?  Hello?  He hung-up…”

Toothless tiger

Much as with Uefa’s ban of Eduardo a precedent has been set.  Fifa have set their stall out, backing up their own rules with action.  All good so far.

The ban on Chelsea, announced today, forbidding them from registering players for two transfer windows (effectively until January 2011)and fining them €780,000 is a strong and determined stance.

Chelsea have 21 days to appeal.  If they don’t I will be flabbergasted.

The thing with the big clubs is they have big lawyers.  An appeal will be lodged.  All it will take is a few mentions of the Court of Arbitration for Sport; “restriction of trade” and so on.

Again, the precedent has been set.  Roma were punished similarly over the signing of Phillippe Mexes.  Their appeal saw the ban halved and the fine substantially reduced.  Don’t be suprised if the same happens here.

If it does the ban is effectively useless and Fifa, once again, shown as toothless in their attempts to prevent the big clubs bullying everyone else.

If Chelsea’s ban is halved they’re banned from just one window (this coming January 2010).  The January windows are usually a course of last resort for struggling clubs and/or those that have changed manager and need a change of personnel.

Any decent players are usually so tightly bound into a contract and/or Cup-tied for important European matches that the big clubs rarely do business in January.

Fining Chelsea a few hundred thousand euros is the same as the FA fining multi-millionaire footballers a few thousand pounds for breaching their rules.  A mere drop in a vast ocean.

It’s almost as if Fifa dish out hefty punishments knowing they’ll be reduced on appeal.

As any sports coach will tell you, feeling beaten before you even begin is the first step to certain defeat.

Eduardo: Scapegoat or smokescreen?

We’ve all seen and read (endlessly) about Eduardo’s ‘dive’ against Celtic in what amounted to a Champions League qualifier.

Much wringing of hands all-round.  “Diving.  Terrible thing.  We must stamp it out.” etc.  Uefa (under pressure from the media and Scottish FA) have made an example of the Arsenal striker – with a two match ban.

Gunners manager, Arsene Wenger, is understandably upset.  Much as we’d all like cast-iron honesty from all managers and players, did anyone expect him to do anything other than defend his player?

Precedent?

Uefa have, it would seem, set a precedent.  The next round of European matches will be extremely interesting.  Will all divers receive the same punishment?  Doubtful if not impossible.

The question I find myself wondering is why they have acted at all.  The pressure of the repeated media coverage has been cited but if that were the case every other refereeing decision would be treated in this manner.

The pressure applied by the SFA must have been key – big-wigs at Uefa being Scots cannot have hurt either.

Uefa President Michel Platini is an outspoken critic of video evidence.  Instead he advocates (and is trialling) a system of Additional Assistant Referees (AAPs) situated behind each goal.

What is this retrospective punishment of Eduardo if not trial by television?

The referee is hugely undermined and a precedent impossible to follow has been set.  It cannot be the answer.

Imagine if the incident had instead occured in the Champions League Final.  Eduardo dives (work with me  – assume Arsenal made it for argument’s sake); wins a penalty; scores and Arsenal win 1-0.

Under even more pressure, Uefa look at the video evidence and ban Eduardo.  Meanwhile, the Croatian is sat amongst his team-mates on a open-top bus tour of north London with the Champions League trophy.

Would you risk diving to win the sport’s biggest club competition?  Many (many) players would.  What’s a two-match ban to a place in history?

Additional referees are a far better answer.  Punishment would be instantaneous and results would stand, with authority.

If Platini supports this view, Eduardo’s ban is at best sending mixed messages – at worst it’s just a smokescreen – doing something for the sake of being seen to do something.