Kirk Broadfoot has never been the sharpest tool in the box. After all this is the player who managed to injure himself attempting to poach an egg in a microwave, with the egg blowing up in his face. On the pitch, the mouthy defender makes up for what he lacks in skill by showcasing his colourful vocabulary to any one that will listen. So it was unsurprising to many that he has been caught up in a sectarian scandal which has now seen him land a unprecedented ban by the English FA. The Rotherham United player found himself in hot water when repeated comments he made to an opposition player were overheard by some fans who were appalled enough to report it. Broadfoot was reacting to Wigan winger James McClean who had won a free kick under dubious circumstances which Broadfoot later claimed was a dive. The two exchanged words with Broadfoot making several unsavory comments about McClean’s upbringing as a catholic. That was seen as a breach of FA Rule E3(1) which is about using abusive and/or insulting words towards a member of the opposition. Broadfoot also broke Rule E3(2) which involves a reference to “ethnic origin, colour, race, nationality, religion or belief, gender, gender reassignment, sexual orientation or disability”. Broadfoot was banned for 10 ten games, the longest ban ever handed down to a player for verbal abuse.
What is remarkable in this story is the disparity in which the FA dispenses its justice. They appear to have adopted different rules for different players depending on the offence even if all the offenses fall under the same rule section. For instance when Luis Suarez was found guilty of racial abusing Patrice Evra in a EPL match, he was banned for seven games. But when John Terry racially abused Anton Ferdinand in a game he received only a four game ban. In that case, the FA claimed that there was not enough proof, despite receiving a official report from Anton himself and various video angles of the game which clearly showed Terry ranting at him. Even though there was no sound on the videos, any amateur lip reader in the world could have deciphered what the Chelsea defender had said to his counterpart in the QPR back line. The then England captain only lost the captaincy of his country when the FA was pressured to do so by the public outcry over their lack of action towards Terry.
But in Broadfoot’s case, the FA decided to throw the book at him and then for good measure pushed the bookshelf over on top of him as well. A ten game ban is hardly on par with other just as scandalous offenses so why single out the beanpole defender? Away from the Premiership spotlight and subsequent world-wide interest, Broadfoot’s actions would have gone fairly unnoticed. He has slipped quite far down the footballing ladder since his glory years in the Glasgow Rangers defence and although already in possession of an alarming amount of Scotland caps; is as close as Denis Law or Kenny Daglish to adding to them. Hardly a poster boy for the FA to make its point on. But that did not stop the FA who decided to make an example of the player to show its tough stance on sectarianism, a crime so hideous in their eyes that it makes racism look almost acceptable. Broadfoot’s actions on the pitch were stupid yes and no there is no place in the modern game for sectarianism on any level but the FA’s punishment is ridiculous to say the least. Arguably racism is as bad and a larger problem in football not just in England but in other countries across the world most notably in Russia, the next World Cup hosts. FIFA’s attempts to “kick out racism” have been about as successful as Sepp Blatter’s attempts to convince the world that he knew nothing about the behind doors going ons at FIFA. Last week, Zenit St Petersburg striker Hulk claimed that racism in Russia is a weekly occurrence, his claim backed up by Emmanuel Frimprong who delivered his own answer to racist remarks thrown his way by flicking them the finger.
Broadfoot deserves to be punished for his crime but at the same level as everyone else. If you hand out a ten game ban for sectarian comments then the same should apply for racist ones too. Biting, mauling, punching etc should also receive notable time on the sideline as should pushing (albeit with a caveat that if the pushed party reacts like a kicked dog when they crash to the ground, then the penalty should be reduced – see Paolo Di Canio’s well publicized push on referee Paul Alcock). Broadfoot has accepted his ban however wants to tell his side of the story and has contacted his lawyers to do so. What exactly he said will not come out as the FA has taken out a confidentiality clause to prevent it being released. It is for this reason that Broadfoot has engaged with his lawyers to find a way around this clause and get his version of events out into the public. With a ten game ban, he has plenty of time to work out how to do just that.