The Professional Footballers' Association has demanded more consistency from referees in the wake of Dermot Gallagher's suspension from the Premiership for not sending off Robbie Keane on Saturday.
The Leeds striker escaped with only a yellow card when he pushed the Manchester United midfielder David Beckham in the face, although Middlesbrough's Paul Ince was dismissed for a similar scuffle with Sunderland's Niall Quinn last week.
The Football Association's decision to temporarily remove the official from the Premier League list sparked a worried reaction at the PFA's headquarters. The players' union is concerned that its members face a lottery when they lose their cool, like Keane did in the draw at Old Trafford and Ince last Monday. Gallagher only booked Keane and will now face the FA referees' manager, Philip Don, where he will be informed of the length of his suspension from the top flight.
"When there are two incidents that are largely similar in terms of physical contact, they should have similar outcomes," the PFA chairman Barry Horne said. "If there was more consistency, it would give clubs, managers and players less room to complain."
The FA was unhappy with Gallagher. Adrian Bevington, an FA spokesman, said: "It is disappointing that Dermot Gallagher did not correctly interpret the situation involving David Beckham and Robbie Keane in Saturday's game between Manchester United and Leeds United. Dermot Gallagher will be required to discuss this incident with the Select Group Referees' manager [Philip Don].
"He [Gallagher] will not be offered appointments for a period to be determined by the Select Group members, on behalf of the Professional Game Match Officials' Board."
The flare-up came 24 hours after the referees' committee sanctioned Mark Halsey's decision to dismiss Ince following his altercation with Quinn.
The FA underlined its support of Halsey's understanding of 'violent conduct' – an offence the governing body believes Keane was guilty of in the incident with Beckham.
"In the incident involving Paul Ince in the Middlesbrough versus Sunderland match, we believe Mark Halsey was correct in his interpretation of the law regarding violent conduct," the spokesman added.
"This incident was viewed and discussed by the Select Group Referees' at their training meeting last Friday. The referees and their management were in full support of Mark Halsey's decision."
Gallagher's temporary demotion comes after Paul Durkin and Neale Barry were both forced to officiate in the Football League last weekend.
Durkin, who failed to send off Chelsea's Graeme Le Saux for a two-footed lunge on Leeds' Danny Mills, took charge of Luton's 3-0 Third Division victory over Swansea.
Barry officiated in Stockport County's 4-0 thrashing by Millwall, after receiving low marks from referees' assessors.Reuse content