Rio Ferdinand was bannedfrom football for eight months by the FA and fined £50,000 after he failed to show up at a drugs test. Ferdinand was one of the four United players selected at random to be tested for drugs in September 2003. The players were required to stay after training to take part, but Ferdinand claims he forgot, and left the training ground, only to go out shopping in town. Missing a drugs test can be equated with testing positive, to a certain extent, as although his guilt was never proven, neither could his innocence. Although submitting follicle testing the next day, where he was shown to be clean, this evidence was thrown out. The ban was slapped on him, United’s season was left in tatters, then England were dumped out of Euro 2004 in the summer after massive defensive errors.
Whilst a seemingly harsh punishment on our forgetful defender, the ban was eventually accepted with the club acknowledging that Rio had made a “serious mistake”. The FA wanted to make an example of United’s expensive superstar and dealt with him in the same way they had done previously with Mark Bosnich. However in the case of Bosnich, he tested positive for cocaine and claimed he had “no regrets”. We can then compare this to the case of Christian Negouai (who?) the former Manchester City midfielder, who Keegan claimed was “the most exciting player” he’d ever signed and cost them £1.5 million back in 2001. He also missed a drugs test in the same year and his excuses for not giving a urine sample were as weak as Rio’s. One story suggests he had to pick his mum up from the airport, whilst another reason given was because the test was scheduled during the time of Ramadan, when Muslims cannot drink water during daylight hours. Fair do’s, the FA couldn’t have expected to force him to break the fast, and maybe I should have asked more Muslims before writing this piece, but surely Muslims take a leak during daylight hours when fasting? He was to serve no ban and was fined a meagre £2,000. Why? Because he was a Manchester City nobody and Rio was a Manchester United star.
Gary Neville is a passionate player and one we are very fortunate to have as our captain. They’ll be no transfer requests from Nev and no delays on contracts like we have seen of Chelsea and Liverpool captains over the past few years. When Ferdinand scored that last minute header in front of the Stretford End back in 2006, Gary Neville ran to the away section holding up his badge. He is the subject of a lot of abuse whenever we play the dippers, similar to what Gerrard is on the receiving end of when the two sides meet. The injury time winner lead Neville to celebrate like all reds that day, and his passion and love for the club should be applauded.
To put the incident in to context, the weekend before the Liverpool game, it was the Manchester derby at the council house. We had a bad game, conceded soft goals, and Ronaldo was sent off for a lunge (and making no contact) on Andy Cole. Ruud pulled a goal back with fifteen minutes to go, and despite being down to ten men, there was hope we could put things right and go on to score the equaliser. However in injury time, Robbie Fowler scored City’s third and condemned us to derby day defeat. He ran in front of the visiting United fans holding up his four fingers and a thumb, representing the five European Cups his former club, Liverpool, had won. He was looking for a reaction, bragging on Liverpool’s European history (to which he had contributed nothing), mocking the United fans, and incensing hatred. Did the FA take any action here? No.
Gary Neville would then be forgiven for feeling as though holding his badge to the Liverpool fans was no worse. Greater Manchester police had nothing to say about Fowler’s celebration, but they kicked up a right stink over Neville’s. The FA slapped Neville with a £5,000 fine, some £3,000 more than the City player who missed a drugs test. “I would have been apologetic if I had run up to one of their players and tried to belittle them, but this was a celebration,” said Neville. “You are caught up in the moment and for a few seconds you go bananas. I laughed when I heard someone say it was not the behaviour of a 30-year-old because they are probably the same people who have accused us of lacking passion in recent games.” Neville appealed the fine but the FA turned this down. “I do not think it constituted improper conduct or bringing the game into disrepute, which is why I am appealing the FA decision,” Neville said after the failed appeal. “I know people say £5,000 is nothing to a Premiership footballer, but I’d have contested the fine if it was 50p. My goal celebration against Liverpool at Old Trafford has been blown out of all proportion. To accept it would be to admit guilt and my punishment sets a bad precedent at a time when people say that there should be more interaction between players and the fans.”
So the FA are in to making examples out of big stars, but seemingly, only big stars who play for United. Robbie Fowler is a household name in English football but there was not even a mention of his celebration.
Now we turn to Chelsea, who have been charged, yet again, with failing to control their players, after Essien’s harsh red card at Derby. In the past seventeen months, Chelsea have been dished out with this same charge a massive five times! The last charge came in September of this year in reaction to the sending off of John Obi Mikel at Old Trafford. John Terry was seen trying to rip the red card out of the referees hand (although he was not dealt with any charge individually) as the other Chelsea players furiously surrounded the ref. They were fined £30,000. Before this, it was the League Cup final against Arsenal in March earlier this year, when three players were sent off and it kicked off big time. They were fined £100,000. Before this, they were guilty of the same thing in their defeat to Fulham in May 2006 after William Gallas was sent off. They were fined £10,000. The first incident in recent times was just a month earlier against West Brom when their players angrily surrounded the ref following a foul by former red Ronnie Wallwork. So, on average, they’ve failed to control their players once every three months, and the FA deem the best action is to dish out fine after fine. It doesn’t take a genius to work out the fines aren’t making a blind bit of difference to the poor fashion Chelsea conduct themselves on the pitch.
Before the angry opposition start, I know United have not been completely innocent of this charge themselves in the past, and we all remember the iconic photograph of Roy Keane in referee D’Urso’s face. However, not to my memory, has any team, United included, been guilty of repeating such poor behaviour over, and over, and over again. Surely the point of the FA charge and fine should be to prevent players from doing such a thing again. I’d like to think Ferdinand will never be stupid enough to miss a drug’s test again, and unfortunately, Gary Neville won’t be likely to stick it to the scousers if we score an injury time goal against them (if John O’Shea goal last season is anything to go by, when Neville just stuck to celebrating with Van der Sar in front of the United fans). But surely by now Chelsea have proven that the FA charge and fine means fuck all to them and they will continue to behave as they do regardless of the rules.
It begs the question, when will the FA make an example out of another teams’ players? Who knows what the next step is… longer suspensions? Docked points? One thing I do know is that if it was United players who failed to control their players, on average, once every three months, the FA would be taking much more severe action then dishing out another pitiful fine!