The Football Association will charge Javier Mascherano with improper conduct today after Steve Bennett's report into Sunday's match between Liverpool and Manchester United yesterday drew attention to the player's refusal to leave the pitch having been sent off.
Mascherano, now in Egypt with the Argentina squad, remains indignant about Bennett's decision to dismiss him a minute before half-time, maintaining that he had "asked the referee what was happening." He said: "I did not swear, I was not aggressive and I did not confront him. When he showed me the second yellow card and sent me off I could not believe it." He says he has apologised to his team-mates.
But Bennett has detailed the player's refusal to leave in the "extraordinary incidents" section of his match report, triggering video analysis by the FA's football regulation department today and, under the FA's fast-track procedures, a probable charge under FA Rule E3 this afternoon. It is highly likely that Mascherano will miss Liverpool's league match at the Emirates and Blackburn's visit to Anfield, with a fine – based on his earnings – also possible for his failure "to leave the field in a timely manner". Considering that Watford's Jon Eustace incurred such a charge for taking 63 seconds to leave the field after being dismissed in a match against Stoke earlier this month, Mascherano's conduct – with Xabi Alonso leading those who tried to keep him away from Bennett – seems an open-and-shut case.
Liverpool will have 48 hours to respond to a charge but, with Mascherano already missing Sunday's Merseyside derby, any hearing before an FA independent regulatory committee is unlikely to take place before next week.
The commission will judge the case on its own merits and not take into account the debate on respect for referees, but the FA considers Sunday's events, along with the behaviour of Chelsea's Ashley Cole at White Hart Lane last week, to be a timely reminder of an issue which it wants a system in place to deal with next season. "If ever the issue of respect needed bringing to the public attention, some of the incidents over the last few days have underlined the fact that... players need to address this," said an FA spokesman.
Mascherano's conduct, which followed a first half during which he persistently harangued Bennett, led the Portsmouth goalkeeper David James to call for examination of what he said was a "very important, but... very complex" issue. James said: "We in the Premier League, or any professional footballer in the game who appears on TV, are all role models. But you are dealing with the influence that has on kids, who should also be using their parents as role models.
"It starts with the players because they are on TV, and then you have to go grassroots. I found going through a well structured youth team with an apprenticeship, if you have a strong coach or manager who will demand respect among your peers and to officials, that should hold you in good stead when you become a professional. But really for kids at home, the parents should be the role model."
The Professional Footballers' Association chief executive, Gordon Taylor, called for an exclusion zone around referees to stop dissent. "It is time managers and players did accept a responsibility because what happens at the top level happens lower down," he said.
Taylor believes the FA has to do more as part of a campaign to underline to clubs that attitudes must change, but the FA insists that its Respect campaign, already being introduced at grassroots level, is to be pushed to the game's higher tiers by its chairman Lord Triesman.Reuse content