Graham Smyth: Justice for Leeds United's Gaetano Berardi but FA could have done everyone a favour after Millwall controversy
How much more dramatic did Tom Bradshaw’s descent from a standing position to the Den turf need to be to meet the threshold for a charge of successfully deceiving a match official?
The Football Association have done the right thing, the only thing they could do, in overturning Gaetano Berardi’s unjust suspension.
The red-card magnet did not deny the Millwall striker a goalscoring opportunity when he did whatever it is referee James Linington saw in the penalty area and did not deserve the marching orders he received.
Kalvin Phillips was in close enough proximity to the situation to be deemed a covering defender – Berardi was not the last man.
The FA tasked an independent regulatory body to review the incident, after Leeds United appealed, and it cannot have taken them very long to come down on the side of the Whites defender.
Yet, having reviewed the footage, apparently from an angle as yet not made public, they did not see enough in Bradshaw’s tumble to warrant passing it on to another panel.
When there is a suspicion that a player has successfully deceived a match official, the case is referred to an official ‘successful deception of a match official’ panel.
It can only be the case, therefore, that they watched Bradshaw pass by Berardi, take a step and then go down, and saw something the rest of us are not yet privy to.
They decided it was either indeed a foul and a penalty or a mere slip, perhaps.
A theatrical slip.
If the extra footage the commission has seen is strong enough evidence to clear Bradshaw of any suspicion, why not make it public and clear the situation up once and for all?
Football supporters at most clubs harbour feelings that their club is always hard done to when it comes to officiating and disciplinary decisions.
Leeds United are no exception, maybe even feeling more than most that the world is against them.
By putting out a video and a brief explanation of their findings in cases like this, the game’s authorities would do everyone a favour.
Leeds United could move on and come to terms, if not with the red card, then with the penalty award and Millwall’s first goal.
Bradshaw would be exonerated of any blame, the tag of diver would not stick to him like mud.
The clip of his tumble, Tweeted by Leeds United, has been viewed nearly 1,000,000 times.
What it shows is Berardi drifting across the back of the forward, who subsequently plants his left foot just fine, then takes a touch on the ball with his right foot as his arms flail and he begins his landing.
It is very difficult to imagine that any contact Berardi made, unseen in the publicly available camera angles, was sufficient to cause such a collapse in posture and balance.
We shouldn’t have to imagine, not when reputations are at stake, whether those of referees like Linington or players like Bradshaw.
Seeing is believing, after all.
The Elite Ice Hockey League had a good thing going when they took the decision to explain supplementary disciplinary decisions in slow-motion videos, accompanied by a voiceover and details of the exact rules being cited.
Supporters still dissented at decisions being made, but at least they were fully informed.
There was a degree of transparency in the decision-making process.
Consistency can be scrutinised when supporters are in possession of the full facts.
No one is suggesting that there is any kind of cloak of secrecy thrown over the FA’s disciplinary procedures, yet were you to conduct a straw poll outside the EFL’s 71 grounds, the majority might not be able to explain how and why the authorities come to their conclusions.
The media can help with that, and do.
The FA have a fantastic set of guidance notes to explain their various processes and a press office willing to steer journalists in the right direction at the appropriate times.
Yet they could go further.
In this case, not too much further. Just release this mystery footage of the hitherto unseen contact between Berardi and Bradshaw and, in so doing, close the book on an otherwise unfortunate, unnecessary episode.