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FA bans Eric Dier four matches for entering stands to confront fan

The FA’s long-awaited ruling has finally come down, and it’s bad news for Tottenham.

Tottenham Hotspur v Norwich City - FA Cup Fifth Round Photo by Julian Finney/Getty Images

Tottenham Hotspur finally received a ruling from the FA for the aftermath of Eric Dier’s confrontation with a Spurs fan in the stands, 187 days after the incident took place. It’s not good news.

The FA ruled that Dier was found to be in breach of rule E3 for charging into the stands to confront a fan heckling himself and his brother after Spurs’ loss to Norwich in the FA Cup in March, and will be banned four matches with immediate effect and fined £40,000.

The FA committee’s full report and reasoning can be found in a statement here.

Since the ban takes effect immediately, Dier will be suspended for the following matches:

  • @ Bournemouth, Thurs. July 9
  • vs. Arsenal, Sun. July 12
  • @ Newcastle, Wed. July 15
  • vs. Leicester, Sun. July 19

He will be available again for Spurs’ season-ender at Crystal Palace on July 26.

There’s a lot to unpack here and we won’t get to it in a single article. However — and this is going to be an unpopular opinion, probably — four matches seems like a fair punishment. Few thought that Dier would skate entirely after this incident — there’s a reason why players don’t go into the stands, and the FA has fiercely policed that invisible wall between supporter and athlete during football matches! However, Jose Mourinho had stated to the press earlier that he believed that Dier’s punishment would be light.

Reading the report, the decision was made in part because Dier’s entering the stands was considered “threatening” to the fan who was the source of the original abuse towards Dier and his brother. It was noted that the fan, who scarpered pretty quickly on video footage as soon as Dier started heading up, felt afraid that Dier would physically harm him.

53. However, those states of mind do not exclude an additional or alternative and, for us, much more likely explanation: he was afraid. Namely, he felt threatened by ED’s advance towards him. He may well have been concerned also about others advancing on him including PD. But the gestures and words to ED demonstrate that he also felt threated by him. Abuse hurled from a safe distance is the cowardly equivalent of the offensive tweet cloaked in anonymity. As ED pointedly observed he has only ever been abused by spectators from the stands, on social media or from passing cars. This spectator, suddenly confronted by the potential consequences of his shameful actions, marshalled all the courage he could muster; and ran away.

The report then goes on to describe “the fork in the road” that Dier confronted, and that he made the decision to enter the stands, despite the fan making the decision to disengage from the situation by leaving the premises. The report goes on to say that the spectator was not himself punished for hurling abuse towards a player and members of his family. The club has yet to comment.

Fans online are upset on two fronts — first, that Dier’s ban comes after Arsenal’s Matteo Guendouzi was not punished by the FA for choking Neil Maupay after a match a couple of weeks ago, and that the decision came so far after the initial incident. However, the Guendouzi situation, no matter how acute the injustice, involved players on the pitch, while Dier purposefully broke the wall between the spectators and the athletes, a huge no-no. Meanwhile, the FA moves slowly at the best of times, and the COVID-19 situation and extended shutdown can easily explain why so much time had elapsed between the incident and the punishment.

Eric Cantona famously was banned nine months for karate-kicking a fan on the sidelines. In that context, four matches doesn’t seem so bad. However, it is unfortunate in that Dier had been playing very well since the reset and had established himself as a central part of Jose Mourinho’s defense. Spurs will now need to do without him for the next four matches, a stretch that includes the North London Derby, and it’s assumed that Toby Alderweireld will be the player to step in (which isn’t the worst outcome, to be fair).

Jose Mourinho is expected to hold a pre-match press conference in a matter of minutes. It’s likely that he’ll have a lot to say on this matter.