Once again the weekend of Premier League action left us with one negative talking point. This time it wasn’t a bad tackle or a poor refereeing decision (although Everton fans will be the latest to question the lack of goal-line technology in football), it was Manchester United’s Wayne Rooney letting his anger out and swearing at the camera for everyone watching the football on TV on Sky Sports to see. Predictably various pundits and fans have joined one side of the debate or the other, with some saying that what was being shouted at Rooney by the West Ham fans was far worse, while others point out that’s no way for ‘role models’ to behave. However, I just have one question to ask: what would be the popular response if it had been Joey Barton?
This is the question that talkSPORT’s Stan Collymore seems to be asking every week. Whether it was after Jonny Evans’ tackle on Stuart Holden, Wayne Rooney’s elbow on James McCarthy or the Man United striker’s most recent misdemeanour, Stan always likes to contextualise the argument by looking at the punishment likely to be given if Barton was the one in the wrong. It’s obviously contagious as well as now I find myself doing exactly the same, although the answer is pretty much always the same – they’d have thrown the book at him!
We all know the history of Joey Barton – he’s been a bad boy. You might think that this is enough for him to be treated harshly by referees and to have abuse shouted at him for 90 minutes whenever Newcastle play away from home. While he has behaved impeccably this season, other than one incident involving Morten Gamst Pedersen, he can’t undo what he’s done in the past and thus a lot of people think he deserves everything he gets. But if Barton is going to be treated one way, then surely in the name of consistency, every other Premier League player should get the same treatment too.
This is where the ‘If it was Joey Barton…’ scale of punishment comes into force. Wondering how to punish Rooney for swearing? Well, just imagine if it was Barton and then make your decision. Dangerous tackle that ended Holden’s season – if that was Joey showing his studs then surely a five-game ban is a minimum? Blatant elbow on McCarthy – that’s the Newcastle midfielder’s season over and done with. I think you get you the point.
This is of course ridiculous, but to some extent so is the mere fact that pundits feel that individual players are treated differently. Regardless of the size of the club that they play for or the chequered history that they may or may not have, each incident should be looked at on its own merit and in turn an adequate punishment given. Rooney shouldn’t have sworn directly at the camera, but it’s hardly the worst thing we’ve seen on a football pitch and a stern telling off would surely do the trick?
Deciding how bad each event of misconduct isn’t easy to do, but the FA have plenty of rules that should ensure each misdemeanour has a recognised punishment attached to it. However, next time there’s a bad incident on the pitch I urge that before you decide what the punishment should be, make sure you play that same incident out with Joey Barton as the perpetrator. Perhaps this would be a way to get a bit of consistency in the game that people have been crying out for, although we might be seeing a lot more red cards and extended bans!