For Townsend, who spent the 2012-13 season with both Tottenham Hotspur, his first professional club in his career, and Queens Park Rangers, who he spent the second half of the season on loan with, after joining in January. He played with both clubs in the Premier League and the FA Cup, and also featured for Spurs in the Capital One Cup, alongside three appearances in the Europa League for the Lilywhites. It will be in one of these competitions that Townsend will have been charged with betting on, however the charge is not thought to be anywhere near the serious level of match-fixing that is still rife in some parts of the world.
So, now we know the context, we can move on to look at why I think a ban of this length in unjust.
John Terry has been Chelsea’s captain for many years now, despite being disliked by many football fans around the world. Comes with the job, I suppose. But also with the scandals he has been involved in. A few years ago, it came out that John Terry had been sleeping with the girlfriend of Wayne Bridge, another former Chelsea defender, as well as good friend of Terry. Secondly, in October 2011, John Terry was accused of racial abuse towards Anton Ferdinand (brother of Manchester United defender Rio Ferdinand) at QPR’s Loftus Road. It was a match marred by this incident between Terry and Ferdinand (who was playing for QPR) and also two red cards for Chelsea in a 1-0 win for the R’s. Post-match, he was charged with racist abuse, and ended up being taken to court for it, as well as his hearing with the FA.
So, based on the fact that Townsend got a four month ban for betting offences, how much would you expect John Terry to receive after this incident? Six months? Seven? Well you’re wrong. He only received a four match ban, as well as being stripped of the England captaincy. Why can betting offences be considered worse than racism in the world of football? I don’t think they can. I think it was just that the FA didn’t want to lose John Terry from the England squad, as he has played such a large part for England in recent years, so gave him a much lesser ban.
Don’t forget, during Terry’s ban, he was still able to train with the first team, and play for the reserves. During Townsend’s ban, he won’t be allowed to train with the team, or play at all. He is completely banned from all official footballing activities, meaning when he does return from his ban, he will be badly out of shape, and unfit to play for his team. Hardly seems fair on him for committing a much lesser offence than John Terry did.
Another example of bias involving the FA occurred just a week before the Terry incident at Loftus Road. However, this one happened at Anfield, when Manchester United came to play. Luis Suarez has been a controversial figure since his move to England from Ajax in January 2011, but this was one of his worst incidents. In the Manchester United side that day was French left-back Patrice Evra, and it was between him and Suarez that the incident supposedly happened. It is unclear to many what was actually said, but rumours say it was a word that is a socially acceptable in South America (where Suarez originates from) but not over here, in England. After the match, much like Terry, Evra placed a complaint towards the alleged abuse he received from Suarez, and the process kicked off from there. Whatever was said, it certainly caused a stir in the football world, and two months later Suarez was given an eight-match ban, which was then extended to nine after Suarez was caught putting his middle finger up at Fulham fans in a televised 1-0 victory for Fulham at Craven Cottage. Given the time of season it was in, this was about six weeks, which is still much less than Townsend.
So this raises the question to me: why does racism on the pitch result in a much less ban? It makes no sense! Racism is something that is wholly unacceptable, both in and outside of football, whereas betting is almost always accepted (however not in some cultures, usually in honour of religious beliefs). So by that logic, shouldn’t both Terry and Suarez have received longer bans than Townsend? I think so, and I’m sure I’m not the only person with this view.
Thankfully, in the last couple of years, much more action is being taken to try to eliminate racism in football. FIFA have formed a new committee in recent months to try and deal with racist incidents, including threatening longer bans and bigger fines for teams whose fans are found to be chanting racist songs, either to the players, or to the opposition fans. This is a problem still rife in Italy. It can only be every couple of weeks that a team is fined for racist abuse in Serie A, with Internazionale being one of the culprits in 2013. It even got to the stage in a friendly match involving AC Milan and Pro Patria (a Serie D side) where Pro Patria were shouting so much racist abuse at the Rossonneri, that Kevin-Prince Boateng led his team off in protest, becoming the first player to cause a football match to be abandoned due to racism.
Since that incident, Boateng has been chosen to become the first member of FIFA’s anti-discrimination committee, coming after the incident at the Stadio Carlo Speroni (Pro Patria’s stadium). Much more effort is being put into modern football to wipe out racism from the game, but we have to face up to the fact that it is going to be very tough. The old mentality from decades ago is still present with some of the game’s older fans, and there is stigma about “racist clubs” attatched to some clubs such as West Ham United.
So getting back to the point of the article: my opinion is that the FA is slightly biased, mainly towards English players, which is why Terry’s ban was shorter than Suarez’s. I don’t think in the modern world of football this should be allowed. There shouldn’t be one set of rules for one set of people, and another set of rules for another set of people. It’s unfair on at least one of the parties, and should be stopped before the problem gets any worse.