Example that must be followed

George Graham's punishment should set a precedent, argues Ken Jones
Click to follow
The Independent Online
If it was always ridiculous to suppose that the Football Association would run the legal risk inherent in banning George Graham for life, the 12-month suspension they imposed on him yesterday is a clear statement of intent.

Whatever the moral issue in allowing for the fact that the former Arsenal manager had not committed a criminal act, once they found him guilty of misconduct the FA were bound to exercise their authority.

The embarrassment felt at Lancaster Gate last season when the Tottenham Hotspur chairman, Alan Sugar, successfully challenged the deduction of League points and expulsion from the FA Cup, ensured that Graham's case would be conducted outside normal disciplinary procedures.

In setting a precedent (it was thought in some quarters that Graham would at worst receive a hefty fine and a suspended sentence) the FA now had the responsibility of investigating thoroughly any rumours or mis- conduct that may have been brought to their attention.

There have been enough suggestions of ongoing sleaze to make English football's ruling body nervous, and it is unlikely that Graham stands alone with his financial misdemeanours. If those suggestions are to disappear from the game in this country, the campaign must not stop here. The decision reached yesterday was unquestionably a serious blow for Graham, who became quite remarkably confident that the team of legal advisers employed at considerable expense would succeed in clearing his name.

However, a year's suspension hardly suggests the end of Graham's career in football management. A month ago, and subject to being cleared this week, he was approached by a chairman in the Premiership. The chairman displayed more interest in the five major trophies Graham won at Highbury than the charges brought against him.

Assuming that Graham chooses not to appeal, he now has plenty of time in which to reflect on why he chose to put at risk the opportunity of becoming the most successful manager in Arsenal's history.