disciplinary services


In our latest news offering, we are pleased to report our involvement in the three biggest cases of the season so far, involving Liverpool FC’s Rafa Benitez, Sammy Lee and Manchester United’s Sir Alex Ferguson.

In a case which takes us back to the opening match of the season, Football Factors have been closely involved in the FA’s highly publicised disciplinary proceedings against both Rafa Benitez and Sammy Lee. Following the Tottenham v Liverpool fixture, both the Manager and Assistant Manager of Liverpool found their behaviour under scrutiny – Sammy for his argument with the fourth official, and Rafa for his post match comments and actions, which resulted in a charge for the latter consisting of three separate elements.

“My case was based on facts and Football Factors representation was invaluable. Fact.”
Rafa Benitez

At the subsequent disciplinary hearing Rafa was easily cleared of the first two allegations, as the statistical data pertaining to the referee’s performance proved that his comments were correct and therefore he could not be penalised for telling the truth. The third element of the charge can only be described as both petty and ludicrous. During the post match press conference when Rafa was asked about the referee’s performance he took out his glasses, looked at them, and placed them back in his pocket. All those present in the room including many members of the press laughed, sharing the light-hearted joke. Sadly, the FA was not amused. In a typical display of their stale sense of humour, this resulted in an attempt to penalise Rafa for what they considered inappropriate behaviour.

In this case, it seems clear to any rational observer that the FA was always doomed to fail – how is it possible to regulate and categorise such a gesture? Why pursue a charge against someone when there is clear physical evidence in the form of statistical research to prove their assertions to be correct? Suggesting that the referee needs glasses is surely the oldest joke in Football? Undaunted by the evidence stacked against them, and unperturbed by the absurdity of the charge, the FA allowed the case to proceed.

Despite the FA’s humour bypass, the Disciplinary Panel had its finger on the pulse and a clear understanding of the situation and fully accepted and recognised it was a non-malicious humorous comment. With our presentation of the case, they viewed the rule breach to be so minor that Rafa was given a warning for his conduct with no suspension or financial penalty. However, the FA were not so fortunate – receiving criticism from the Regulatory Commission for what can only be described as the FA’s blatant biased approach to dealing with one of the biggest names in football. Questions have to be asked as to why such a facetious charge was made against Rafa, when the same spectacle joke was made by a different manager on the very same weekend, and yet this other individual’s action was not deemed significant enough to merit a charge? It was a point which the Commission specifically referred to in their summing up of the case and left FA officials with very red faces.

As we have said time and time again, this case highlights the FAs inconsistency when dealing with disciplinary cases – and there are two specific points we should make: Firstly that if one action or comment is classed as an offence, and it is so significant that it warrants the potential for punishment, then anyone committing that action should meet the same fate. Yet here we have a clear case of prejudice against Rafa and secondly, as in cases such as this, the FA often seek penalisation of a club or individual, where the offence cannot be compounded with evidence, and is in fact so minor that it should not be classed as an offence in the first place. If it were not for the involvement of our organisation, many would fall foul of this irregular system, paying the price for a misinterpreted word or action taken out of context.

The FA’s botched attempt to take the first major scalp of the new season justly backfired and their failure, and our success, was compounded by Sammy Lee also being let off with a warning. Unbelievably, according to the report submitted by the fourth official, there was no recollection of what was actually said during the altercation in question thus proving the insignificance of the incident and the futility of the FA’s attempt to make a charge from it.

If anything, the FA learnt a harsh lesson in ensuring that when charges are brought then the evidence has to be there for them to ensure that any significant punishments are dealt out to the offenders or they face ridicule from the press and those within football as happened in these cases.