"Respect" campaign dealt a blow

The FA’s troubled “Respect” campaign was dealt a blow today as the number of MPs calling on the governing body to abandon it reached 15. The politicians are protesting the decision not to punish Chris Morgan, the Sheffield United defender, for the challenge which left Iain Hume, the Barnsley striker, with a fractured skull.

Amid much fanfare, the FA launched their “Respect” agenda at the start of the season in a bid to improve behaviour towards referees by players, fans and managers at all levels of the game. While the harassment of officials seems to have decreased in the top-flight, the credibility of a scheme aimed at boosting referees’ authority has been undermined by several high-profile errors from officials during matches that have led to predictably scathing post-match comments from managers.

Morgan elbowed Hume in the side of the head during a Coca-Cola Championship game at Oakwell last November but was only booked by Andy D’Urso, the referee, and the FA decided not to take any additional action. Barnsley were furious and have considered taking legal action against Morgan for the challenge.

In December, Eric Illsley, MP for Barnsley Central, tabled an Early Day Motion (EDM) calling for the FA to review that decision and Emily Thornberry, Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury, is the latest to back it.

The MPs’ statement reads: “This House views with astonishment the decision by the Football Association to take no further action against the Sheffield United player Chris Morgan following an incident during Barnsley’s match against Sheffield United on November 8, 2008.

“[It] resulted in the admission of Barnsley player Iain Hume to a hospital intensive care unit suffering from a fractured skull and bleeding to the brain;

and [the EDM] calls on the Football Association to review this decision and either to take action against what can only be described as violent conduct or to abandon once and for all its so-called Respect Agenda in view of the lack of protection given to Iain Hume and the complete failure of football’s governing body to deal properly with this issue”.

Hume, a Canada international, underwent emergency surgery and spent 24 hours in a Manchester hospital’s high dependency unit as a result of Morgan’s challenge and has only recently returned to non-contact training. He is unlikely to play competitively again this season. The FA decided not to punish Morgan further, concluding they could “only bring additional charges in the most exceptional cases and only if it can be proved beyond doubt that the actions of a player were a deliberate attempt to injure an opponent.”

TimesOnline, 9th March 2009

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Ian Wilkinson

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