CRAIG NELSON COLUMN - Trial by Twitter
7:00am Saturday 22nd March 2014 in Sport
BURY’S defeat at Torquay United on Tuesday night marked the culmination of an interesting development in football and social media – trial by Twitter.
All the talk in south Devon leading up to the game was the 10-match ban incurred by Gulls midfielder Joss Labadie.
The severe sanction, which also carried a £2,000 fine, was dished out for violent conduct after Labadie allegedly bit Chesterfield striker Ollie Banks in a match in February.
It was an incident missed by referee Carl Boyeson, his assistants and fourth official.
Neither was it flagged up by Chesterfield, who never formally made a complaint to the FA.
The source of the allegation was a tweet posted on the Twitter account of Banks, the former FC United player.
The FA opened an inquiry based on its contents and went on to charge Torquay’s 23-year-old midfielder following an investigation.
Labadie denied biting Banks and Torquay launched an immediate appeal when the FA’s punishment was confirmed, delaying the ban so he could play against Bury, but they withdrew the appeal on the day of the game.
It looked like a big blow for the home side, effectively dropping a player who had scored the winner in their previous home match against high-flyers Rochdale.
Ironically, after all the fuss, Labadie’s replacement – club captain Lee Mansell – scored Torquay’s opener in a 2-1 victory.
My concern is that this chain of events could have far-reaching ramifications. It appears justice has been done in Labadie’s case, following Torquay’s decision not to pursue an appeal.
Why they did that or whether the player himself was happy with that decision is unclear, but if you go by the principle there is no smoke without fire then the guilty player has rightfully had his season ended early.
The problem with Twitter and other social media is there is often plenty of smoke and almost always no fire.
The FA has now set a precedent that every claim made by a wronged player will have to be investigated.
And that could open up a whole can of worms. If an innocent player is wrongly accused, their name could be dragged through the mud by a formal FA investigation, and mud sticks, even if they are found not guilty.
My view is that the onus should be on the clubs to make an official complaint on behalf of their player if a matter, such as one raised by Banks in this case, is deemed serious enough.
I think the FA has enough on its plate already being judge, jury and prosecution, without it becoming the complainant as well.