When Jürgen Klopp received a red card for an understandable, but over-the-top, verbal tirade against the linesman during Liverpool’s 1-0 victory over Manchester City last month, most assumed he would receive at least a one-match touchline ban as a result. Surprisingly, an independent regulatory commission decided against a suspension, announcing only a £30,000 fine for the outburst that Klopp himself admitted was unacceptable.
While it looked like that lenient decision was the end of the saga, the Football Association are determined to take a stand (for once), and they have appealed the decision to not suspend Klopp after reviewing the commission’s report.
In a vacuum, ignoring the circumstances that triggered Klopp’s unfortunate reaction, it doesn’t seem to be an unreasonable stance. Klopp did go too far, and typically you would expect there to be more extreme consequences than a simple fine. However, it’s impossible to separate what the German did to earn the red card from the on-pitch officiating decisions that prompted his reaction.
Klopp was infuriated at the officiating crew for ignoring a blatant foul against Mohamed Salah for at least the third time in the match. In this case, the challenge in question happened directly in front of the linesman that the manager would ultimately confront, yet he opted to not signal a foul to the match referee.
That’s enough to send most managers into a rage all on its own. Add in the fact that English referees have consistently refused to award Salah clear fouls over and over for years, and who can honestly blame Klopp for finally deciding he’d had enough?
Now, this still doesn’t excuse how Klopp reacted. He went too far, and still probably deserved to spend a match or two in the stands despite the extenuating circumstances. However, the FA deciding to push back on the independent commission’s decision is laughable given that they continue to ignore the problem that ultimately created the entire situation.
Officiating in the Premier League is plagued by inconsistencies and poor, inexplicable decisions. VAR is a mess, nobody knows what is or isn’t a handball, and borderline red card tackles often don’t even receive yellows. It took years of Mohamed Salah being taken out and dragged down only for referees to wave play on for Klopp to finally snap as he did against Manchester City.
All the while, the FA has done absolutely nothing to address the officiating problems that are obvious to literally everyone who watches matches on any kind of regular basis. They refuse to discipline referees for poor performances and blatantly incorrect calls. Hell, they almost always refuse to even acknowledge said blatantly incorrect calls, and usually if they do acknowledge them, it’s just to find some absurd way to defend them.
If even a fraction of the effort the FA puts into protecting referees from any criticism was instead put into protecting players from incompetent refereeing, English officials would be the gold standard in the sport. Instead, they take no action to try and improve the state of their referees and instead try to secure stronger punishments for those who boil over with frustration at their incompetence.
Another aspect of this that would be hilarious if it weren’t so infuriating is that the specific FA rule Klopp was charged with breaking is for “comments which are improper, which bring the game into disrepute, which are threatening, abusive, indecent, or insulting.”
The FA is choosing to pursue punishment for Klopp for breaching this rule while completely ignoring a marked increase in chants about the Hillsborough Disaster over the last year or so, chants which are most certainly improper, threatening, abusive, indecent, insulting, and bringing the game into disrepute.
Liverpool and its fans have spent months begging the Premier League and the FA to do something to try and curtail these chants and punish those responsible, but those pleas have been universally ignored. Apparently, comments which are improper, which bring the game into disrepute, which are threatening, abusive, indecent, or insulting are only a problem when they are directed at referees.
Jürgen Klopp certainly got off light for his outburst at the linesman during the match against Manchester City. His red card was deserved, and a fine really wasn’t enough. However, the FA appealing an independent panel’s decision while they flat-out refuse to do anything about the consistently horrendous refereeing that triggered Klopp’s rage or weekly fan chants that do much more harm than anything he did is infuriating, though unsurprising.
Poor officiating and hateful, disgusting chanting are but a few of many real, pressing issues the FA could be directing their time and efforts towards. Putting up a fight to get Klopp suspended while continuing to ignore nearly all of those issues is not a good look.