Sometimes there’s no justice in football. Today, the FA issued Tottenham Hotspur Women midfielder a two match ban for “successful deception of a match official” after a review of an incident with Manchester United’s Ella Toone that took place late in the match between the two clubs last weekend.
Here’s a quick summary of what happened. In the 80th minute of the match, Summanen and Toone were involved in a collision. A foul was called on Toone after she barged into Summanen. After falling to the ground, Summanen’s legs got tangled in Toone’s resulting in also going down to the turf. Toone apparently took exception to the challenge and physically shoved Summanen back down with two hands while Eveliina was already on the ground. Summanen covered her face with her hands. The on-field decision by the match official, who had seen the incident, was to issue a straight red card to Toone, reducing United to ten players.
Here’s a video of the incident, as broadcast on The FA Player. Note that there is no VAR in the WSL.
The FA got involved after Manchester United appealed Toone’s red card. The decision came in two parts — several days ago, the FA announced that Toone’s red card had been rescinded after review, and she is immediately available when WSL play resumes this coming weekend. More inexplicable was the second part, which stated that Summanen was under investigation for “successful deception of a match official,” effectively accusing her of malicious exaggeration on order to get Toone sent off. Today’s ruling was the conclusion of that investigation.
So let’s be clear about what just happened here. The video clearly shows that Toone saw the red mist and shoved Eveliina to the ground after the legs got tangled. Toone clearly reacted with anger and shoved her down because she thinks that Summanen committed a dirty tackle (she didn’t). That is, according to the FA’s own rules, the definition of violent conduct.
A reasonable person can conclude after viewing the video of the incident that two things are true: Ella Toone crossed the line by shoving Summanen back down to the ground, and Summanen play-acted a bit in the aftermath. You can also make a cogent argument that since Toone did not put her hands to the face of Eveliina, her behavior might not warrant a red card offense for violent conduct. I find that argument less than compelling considering the shove took place while Summanen was already on the ground and was done with aggression and intent.
But what is emphatically NOT reasonable is to then turn around and issue Summanen a two match ban for simulation. For starters, it assumes that the red card would not have been issued had Summanen not covered her hands with her face, an assumption that not only cannot be proven, but which also shows a callous lack of trust in the decisions of the match official who made the call in the first place, especially after she had time to assess the situation and confer with her assistant referees. The incident took place directly in front of the fourth official.
But Dustin, you say, isn’t putting your hands over your face when you weren’t hit in the face “deception”? Yes, by law. But this is also a situation that happens in almost every match, most egregiously in the men’s game. Players are CONSTANTLY exaggerating contact, especially inside the opposition’s box while trying to ‘earn’ a penalty. The few times that those infractions are flagged, the offender is given a yellow card for simulation. You almost NEVER see players retroactively punished for it, much less banned two matches. If the FA wants to lay down a marker, well fine, but they damn well better start enforcing this across the board and consistently. I have zero faith that they will do so.
By law the FA cannot retroactively issue a yellow card to Summanen (likely the deserved punishment when all is said and done), so they instead they suspended her, a decision that feels capricious and draconian. The end result of the FA’s decision-making process is that Toone, clearly an aggressor in the incident, walks away with zero punishment while Summanen, who was literally shoved, is suspended two games for acting. By taking these actions, the FA is basically making a statement that “deception” in the wake of violent conduct is of higher importance and severity than violent conduct itself.
It’s absolutely ludicrous.