Did the FA’s punishment fit the ‘robbery’ comment crime for Leeds United defender Pontus Jansson?

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Pontus Jansson picked up a one-game ban for his comments about referee Jeremy Simpson following the 1-1 draw with Brentford at Elland Road earlier this month - but did the punishment fit the crime?

Two of our writers Phil Hay and Joe Urquhart give their opinions on the incident... want to have your say? Let us know in the comments section below.

Leeds United centre-back Pontus Jansson.

Leeds United centre-back Pontus Jansson.

Chief football writer Phil Hay says...

It was going some to say, as Leeds United did last night, that the comments about Jeremy Simpson which earned Pontus Jansson a one-game ban were uncharacteristic. There are several attributes which define Jansson’s character and a tendency to speak his mind has always been one.

As a journalist you appreciate the honesty. Football is packed with people who say what they’re supposed to say, rather than what they think, and Jansson was like the rest of us in homing in on the way Simpson influenced a 1-1 draw between Leeds and Brentford. It was there for anyone in the ground to see, let alone a player within a few yards of him.

That said, some punishment from the Football Association was inevitable. You can visualise the suits in the FA’s office disapproving of the use of the word “s**t” on live television, as a schoolmaster disapproves of bad language in the corridor, but the misconduct charge against Jansson gave more heed to his claim that Simpson’s performance was the equivalent of “robbery”.

The integrity of a referee comes into question in that instance and the FA, understandably, will never have that. Leeds and Jansson knew that disciplinary action would follow and a guilty plea brought a one-match suspension and a £1,000 fine. The saving grace is that Jansson would not have started against Ipswich Town tonight anyway and the financial cost is relative peanuts to him.

That the centre-back had a sanction of some sort coming is not in dispute but was a ban appropriate? Leeds were right in one respect about Jansson’s characteristics: he has never been in front of the FA before and in two-and-a-half seasons in England he has never been sent off. He likes a yellow card but few defenders don’t. A fine might have sufficed and a fine would have quelled the annoyance amongst a fanbase who wonder if an agenda is at play. It genuinely isn’t, so far as anyone can tell, but the FA’s handling of the fallout from Brentford created a glaring contradiction.

It should be stated at this point that Jansson’s remarks and the headbutt by Sergi Canos on Gjanni Alioski midway through the second half are wholly unconnected. Jansson is unlikely to have seen that incident - taking place as it did in Brentford’s dug-out - and Simpson failed to spot it himself. But it is remarkable that three former match officials reviewed footage of Canos flicking his head at Alioski and could not agree that it constituted violent conduct.

As a result, Canos walked way untouched while Jansson takes a one-game ban for comments made to Sky in the heat of the moment. Given that the FA’s own disciplinary staff referred the Canos incident for review, the lack of unanimous decision must have surprised even them.

Leeds say they will now review their post-match interview procedures, although Sky’s insistence on speaking to players on the pitch immediately after the end of live games is a contractual agreement in the EFL’s broadcast deal and clubs are obliged to meet it. What was telling against Brentford was that half-an-hour after Jansson’s outburst, Adam Forshaw gave his own choice critique of Simpson which kept his nose clean and gave the FA no ammunition. Perhaps Forshaw is less combustive than Jansson. Or perhaps some time to let the dust settle helped.

There are boundaries when it comes to speaking about officials - boundaries which the FA sets - and Jansson strayed outside them. His guilty plea was an admission of that. Where this case runs aground is in the punishment fitting the crime, with Jansson and with Canos. Two different situations, two different outcomes. And nobody is quite sure why.

Football writer Joe Urquhart says...

Consistency; consistent behaviour or treatment.

The Football Association’s dealing with Leeds United’s fixture against Brentford, much like Jeremy Simpson’s refereeing on that fateful Saturday lunchtime, has been anything but. 

I don’t think anyone expected Pontus’ comments to go unpunished and, of course, he has an element of responsibility as a Leeds United player to conduct himself as such.

Jansson hasn’t been banned for swearing though, it’s the “robbery” element that has led to his issues with the authorities.

The FA and EFL, for me, are entering murky waters by banning players for airing opinions - where does it end? 

A fine would’ve been adequate and a fine would’ve been deserved. A ban? Ridiculous.

Again, it comes back to the word consistency. Sergi Canos aims a headbutt at Gjanni Alioski in the Bees dug-out and nothing is done despite clear video evidence - are we saying that Jansson could’ve attempted to headbutt Simpson during the same game and that would’ve been fine? 

Well, you’d have to ask the three man panel I suppose...

Transparency with these things always helps but is never something that is given by the FA. Simpson’s performance was well below par as the 30,000 plus at Elland Road would attest to and until the powers that be start to open a dialogue over referees and the processes in which they are properly assessed how can the average fan begin to understand.

Referees are human, we can forgive them of mistakes but to put them on a pedestal and say they can do no wrong is a wider issue that crops up from this whole Jansson debacle.

Yes, the Swede should’ve attempted to keep his emotions in check and, yes, he rightly faced punishment but the only consistent thing about the FA’s approach to the whole fixture has been how inconsistent they have dealt with it. 

Over three weeks it has taken for them to figure out the punishment, which certainly doesn’t fit the crime, and a little over 24 hours before a game in which Jansson was flying back from the birth of his baby girl Bella.

That, perhaps, is what leaves the biggest bitter taste for most Whites fans.

The FA; forever consistently inconsistent.