Arsene Wenger is facing a ban and a suspension for pushing Martin Atkinson. Ever so slightly. Hardly. In the 95th minute. Oh, why am i pretending? It was in the 95th minute and it was slight but it wasn’t correct. Wenger was wrong.
Sure he was pained by a 95th minute equaliser, which manager wouldn’t? That doesn’t legislate for the push. Let me clarify my position. Fundamentally, at base, the push is understandable and i believe the rules should have room for leniency. It is a passionate game and such a delicate action, like what Wenger did, is hardly worthy of the type of vitriol that followed. Empathy is a virtue not a fault. However, considering the possible implications were we not to follow the rules, it is only right that Wenger should be reprimanded and disciplined.
If he were not the precedent would be set. What would be next? Mick McCarthy pushing the referee when Wolves are denied a penalty at White Hart Lane? Avram Grant pushing the assistant referee when Chelsea score a fourth goal against his team? Once this pattern became established and the norm something else might next appear and the boundary that persists in maintaining a semblance of order in our game, what is permitted in the game and what isn’t, would become even more blurred. The game is not perfect as it is, there are players that dive and those that aren’t totally committed, however it functions reasonably well. Once a manager can push a referee and not worry about being disciplined the gateway is opened. Should the manager be somebody as recognisable and headline worthy as Arsene Wenger, all the more so.
This isn’t a case of the end is nigh and we need to save it before it is too late. Far from it. In terms of on field antics (or just off the field – as in Wenger’s case) the game is probably in it’s most healthy shape since it’s inception in the honourable days where running fast was probably forbidden (turn of the last century). Nevertheless, occasionally a stance has to be taken. Again, this isn’t a time for parables. I’m not preaching. This isn’t a 400 word remix of ”all it takes for evil to reign is for good men to do nothing”. No. Nothing as dramatic as that. Only it can’t be right that Wenger can push a referee, even as slightly as he did, and get away with it.
Indeed players, in the heat of the moment, often do the same. Remember Roy Keane and his army charging the referee, a storm of red shirts bullying, several seasons ago? Everybody knew it was wrong and the players had taken it a step too far. The professional game just doesn’t work without officials. We disrespect them at the expense of our game. It is the same here. The push was slight. It was in the 95th minute. It was understandable. None of that makes it right.