On Sunday Manchester City went to the Emirates Stadium looking to close the ten point gap on their top of the table neighbours Manchester United. The prematch analysis was plagued by the controversy surrounding the “category A” seats for City fans priced at sixty-two pounds a head by Arsenal.
Many fans were boycotting the match in protest of the grotesquely high cost of the tickets, Kevin Parker of the City Supporters’ Group stated: “In 2009 a ticket to Arsenal was £32.50,” thus in four years the price has increase by nearly thirty pounds. Nine hundred of Cities allocated three thousand tickets were returned because they were not able to sell them.
Manchester City were able to see out a comfortable victory against Arsenal winning two-nil after Milner and Dzeko both struck in the first half. Controversy occurred after the final whistle though as the assistant referee John Brooks stated to Joleon Lescott that he and the Man City players should acknowledge the traveling support. “They’ve paid 62 quid over there, go and see them,” the assistant said to the £22 million defender (his transfer fee in 2009). Lescott and his teammates did indeed go over to applaud the away end, and I am sure that this would have occurred even without Brooks’ statement, yet the incident has become a social media sensation after it was caught on camera.
This is John Brooks’ first season in the Premier League, having assisted on a number of high-profile fixtures including Chelsea’s 5-1 win over Southampton in the FA Cup third round a few weeks ago. Obviously it wasn’t long before news of his comment had spread, after featuring on MOTD2 and spreading across various social media sites. Brooks’ comments attracted applause from fans and pundits alike but he soon felt the wrath of the FA and Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) who removed him from duty in the Tuesday night FA Cup third round replay between West Bromwich Albion and QPR, which ended with QPR winning one-nil.
Sadly it seems he has also been removed from officiating over the weekends Premier league fixtures with the PGMOL claiming he has been taken off duty to ensure Brooks was not subject to undue media pressure. This move by the refereeing body has attracted backlash from football fans, journalists and pundits, even Gary Neville expressing his opposition to the decision tweeting; “If that’s right about the Lino at Ars v city being dropped tonight it’s ridiculous!!” The PGMOL simply stated that they retain the right to change its officials at short notice if it sees fit.
So was it right for John Brooks to make these comments in the first place? He is a match official after all, an impartial employee, should he be immersing himself in the politics of the game? This is one argument that has been put forward for his removal from officiating at the Hawthorns. Are officials not supposed to have empathy for fans?
Brooks’ comments were nothing to do with the match itself but the controversy regarding Arsenal’s pricing of the away supporters seats. His comments were purely because he believes that the travelling Manchester City fans deserve respect from the players, for travelling two-hundred miles to the capital to see their heroes play, for providing support not only for this match but their continued allegiance to the club. It is similar to you reinforcing the manners of your mate, towards the catering staff in your Uni halls, disregarding the need of respect between the two parties in order to maintain good standing (or not to have spit in your food).
There would surely have been no controversy if Brooks’ had not mentioned the “£62” rather just telling the City players to applaud their fan but Brooks was simply stating a fact, the fans have controversially been over charged to watch the game (note the near thirty pound increase I mentioned before) and deserve their plaudits; they help finance the players wages through ticket sales, purchasing merchandise and so forth. If the FA fear that Brooks’ comments reflect badly on them, the backlash and support from football fans across Britain should persuade them; rejecting the views that PGMOL are protecting Brooks’ from media pressure as he is being supported by every article I have comes across. If he had not been heard on television there is no doubt it my mind that none of the Man City players would have brought up his statement post match.
The incident has simply spiralled out of rational realms. If it is the FA trying to protect Brooks (by removing him temporarily from his job?) or a pathetic attempt to punish him for they perception that he has damaged their image, I am not sure. With John Brooks being applauded by fans and pundits alike I cannot see a reason for his suspension. In my personal opinion it should not be an issue, he has my support (I know that means nothing but he has it nonetheless) and I hope the young man will be back in the game as soon as possible.
source – bbc sport
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This article was first posted on January 16, 2013