There is an element of those who classify themselves as supporters of the England team who are predisposed to taking a pleasure in the many and various disasters that befall our benighted national team and if they involve Wayne Rooney, well, so much the better.
Red card against Montenegro and a three-match ban? Good. He's an idiot. He deserves it. Ban him for longer. Actually, don't even take him at all. England have got exactly what they deserve. Those same people will regard Rooney's appeal in Nyon, Switzerland, on Thursday against his three-match ban at Euro 2012 as the self-regarding act of English football's most over-indulged superstar. They would be wrong.
Precedent and common sense dictate that Rooney's ban should be reduced to two games, leaving him eligible to play in England's final group D game against Ukraine on 19 June. Rooney has done some daft things in his time – and has paid for them – but this punishment does not fit the crime.
Precedent first. The case most commonly cited in Rooney's favour is that of Andrei Arshavin, who received a two-game ban for Euro 2008 when he was sent off for Russia against Andorra in his country's final qualifying game for the tournament. The similarities are hard to ignore.
Like Rooney's red card against Montenegro, Arshavin's dismissal was for a petulant kick at an opponent off the ball. It was Ildefons Lima whom Arshavin kicked, an Andorran who, with his brother Toni, became well-known to England players over their four games against Andorra in qualifying for Euro 2008 and last year's World Cup finals. The Limas were technically way out of their depth at international level so they compensated in other ways. But that's another argument.
Arshavin, according to the reports at the time (his case does not appear in the official Uefa archive), did not have to go to appeal. His two-game ban was the original punishment laid down by Uefa's control and disciplinary body, the same body that, in its wisdom, banned Rooney for three matches.
The other case that strengthens Rooney's appeal is that of Tom Huddlestone, sent off for England against Wales in the second leg of an Under-21 European Championship qualifier in October 2008. Huddlestone was initially given a three-match ban which meant he would have missed all three of the championship group games the following summer. Two months later it was reduced on appeal to two matches.
The point in Huddlestone's case, and that of Rooney, is that international football, and especially international tournaments, are a very different proposition to domestic football. Had Rooney committed the same offence in the Premier League as he did against Miodrag Dzudovic in Podgorica he would have been banned for three matches for violent conduct. But the Premier League is a 38-game season. Even the finalists at Euro 2012 will only play six games.
By their very nature, international tournaments are compressed and intensive. To reflect that, Fifa changed the rules at the last World Cup finals to create an amnesty on yellow cards after the quarter-final stage in order that players on one booking did not go into the semi-final fearing another caution would mean they would potentially be suspended for the final, as happened to Michael Ballack in 2006.
It is not a case of bending the rules to allow the best players to participate, it is about acknowledging that a five-week tournament unfolds in a different way to a 10-month league season with different pressures and demands on players. Yes, Rooney's offence was silly but to ban him, or any other player, for 50 per cent of a tournament is disproportionate.
Some have accused the Football Association of hypocrisy for appealing Rooney's ban given that had he committed the offence for Manchester United, the governing body would have given him an automatic three-game ban. It is a fatuous argument that does not take into consideration the difference between a domestic season and tournament football.
In the original judgement Rooney was cited for "assault" indicating the committee had charged him under "Misconduct of players", Article 10e in the Uefa regulations which allows for "suspension for three competitive matches or for a specified period for assaulting another player". Just as the FA used Huddlestone's previous good record to his favour at his appeal three years ago it has been suggested that Rooney's previous disciplinary record could count against him.
Again, the terms are puzzling. Rooney's disciplinary record at international level is the worst among the senior players in the England squad: two red cards and 10 bookings in 73 caps. But these are spread over almost eight years. Do cautions he picked up when he was a teenager still count now?
You have to hope that the representatives of France, Ukraine and Sweden – England's Group D opponents – who are part of Uefa's appeal committee do the decent thing and absent themselves from Rooney's case. Uefa's disciplinary experts have not covered themselves in glory of late, especially in the dreadful mess they have made in expelling FC Sion from the Europa League.
Should Rooney's appeal fail then he does have one more option: the Court of Arbitration for Sport in Lausanne. Franck Ribéry took his case there after he was banned for three games by Uefa for a reckless tackle on Lisandro Lopez in the Champions League semi-final and was rejected on appeal. He lost. It is at CAS that Uefa's embarrassing dispute with Sion is currently mired.
What the European governing body need to bear in mind on Thursday is that this is not a case of it cutting a star footballer down to size, or teaching Rooney a lesson. Its job is to administer a fair punishment which, for all the mistakes Rooney has made over the years, means a two-game ban rather than three.
Fifa sticks its head in sand over Qatar
One year on from the farcical vote that handed the 2022 World Cup to a desert nation with summer temperatures of up to 50C there is still no indication from Fifa as to how it plans to deal with this crisis which is coming down the track in little more than 10 years' time.
Qatar still believes that it will stage the tournament in the summer months despite the acknowledgement that stadium cooling technology is nowhere near the level of sophistication required. As for Fifa, including its president-in-waiting Michel Platini, who voted for Qatar, they blithely assume that the calendar will be rearranged to accommodate a winter tournament. Meanwhile, Sepp Blatter says nothing definitive on the subject. If it was depressing one year ago, it is much worse now.
Little room at the top for out-of-work managers
The very best to Aidy Boothroyd who took over last week at Northampton Town, three places off the bottom of League Two, but it shows just how tough the current jobs market is for British managers that the vacancy was filled by a man who was in charge of a Premier League club, Watford, little more than four years ago.
It took the sacking of Steve Bruce at Sunderland, and the runners and riders that emerged afterwards, to remind us that Alan Curbishley has not managed a club since he left West Ham more than three years ago. Mark Hughes and Steve McClaren will have to wait longer too for their return now that Martin O'Neill, previously 16 months out of work, has the Sunderland job. Those currently out of work will be asking themselves how far down the hierarchy they would be prepared to go.Reuse content