Will Wenger and Ferguson’s touch-line bans serve any purpose?


Sir Alex Ferguson Media BlackoutThere has been some talk in recent times (granted mostly amongst pretty niche circles) as to the effectiveness of touchline bans. It’s worth a discussion in light of a couple of high-profile bans recently levelled against a couple of top Premier League managers. Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson recently picked-up a five-game touchline ban for untoward comments made towards referee Martin Atkinson. The comments themselves followed United’s 2-1 defeat to Chelsea at Stamford Bridge. They weren’t overly derogative and they were retracted almost immediately, so a five-game touchline ban seems a little harsh. But, that is, I suppose, beside the point.

We’ve also learnt recently that Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger will face a one-game touchline ban in the Gunner’s next European game, following the use of “inappropriate language” against referee Massimo Busacca. Usually so calm and controlled, Wenger was angered by Busacca’s decision to send off Robin Van Persie for having a shot after an official had blown for offside. It was, without doubt a bad, bad decision and I’m not surprised that Wenger was absolutely furious.

Whilst a one-game ban may not sound like much in comparison to Ferguson’s five-game touchline ban, UEFA are slightly stricter in their enforcement of these bans than the FA. The ban means that Wenger won’t have access to the dressing rooms, the tunnel, or the technical area in his side’s next European game. Measures will also be taken to ensure that he has no means of communication with his team throughout the game’s duration.

Fergie, however, over the course of his five-game ban will be able to sit in the stands communicating his thoughts and tactics down to his assistant manager, who in turn will communicate his ‘will’ to United’s players. All that will be missing, it seems, is Ferguson’s actual presence – but United should be as well prepared and well marshalled as ever. An exercise in futility if I ever saw one.

Despite Wenger’s ban being significantly better enforced, he should still be able to adequately prepare his troops for the game before hand. He is, after all a meticulous tactician and will ensure everybody on the pitch knows exactly what they are doing. Furthermore, his assistant coaches will be primed and prepped for every eventuality. Whilst I could see the ban being a problem were it stretched out to a number of games, a one-off just doesn’t seem to provide much of a thorn in Arsenal’s side.

The less said about the fines that go along with these bans, the better. Alex Ferguson has been fined £30k for his ‘outburst’ whilst UEFA will pocket £10k from Arsene Wenger. Punishing a man on a seven-figure salary a five-figure fine is about as effective as slapping a reticent teenager on the hand with a marshmallow twizzle. I’m not suggesting that the FA break out the rulers, but clearly, something has to be done – there has to be a punishment that managers actually fear to encourage them not to act out of turn.

The FA needs to act soon – by at least embracing the UEFA model of ‘managerial-bans’, otherwise they’ll be continually viewed as an impotent, enfeebled and incompetent force by managers and fans alike.

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  • john says:

    fergie gets a 5 match ban for saying we need a fair ref and saying the ref was unfit but wenger gets only a one match ban for calling a ref a joke

    • Harry Cloke says:

      Different standards, and as I hope I’ve made clear over the course of the article, different standards of enforcement.

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