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The decision of the interim arbitration panel in West Ham United’s appeal against the sanctions handed to Andy Carroll illustrate that although the referee’s decision is final, Football Association (FA) sanctions can be delayed during key points in the football season. The club was not contesting the referee’s dismissal of Carroll during West Ham’s match against Swansea, but challenged the decision to impose a three-game suspension.
This season’s Premier League is shaping up to be one of the closest in recent history both at the top and the bottom of the table. West Ham is currently in 11th place, but it is just four points clear of the relegation zone. Thanks to the Premier League’s new broadcast deals, worth over £1 billion per year, relegation is scheduled to cost more than ever before in terms of lost broadcast revenue and parachute payments. The loss of a key player, such as Carroll, for three games could end up costing a club millions.
It is generally taken for granted that there is little point appealing FA player suspensions, as by the time that a full arbitration panel has convened and come to a decision, the suspension will have been served. West Ham’s appeal illustrates that there is a new route – apply to suspend the sanction.
West Ham’s circumstances were quite specific. The club was not contesting the referee’s dismissal of Carroll, but was challenging the decision to impose a three-game suspension. West Ham also had a number of key games coming up, so it – and the Premier League – were keen for Carroll’s suspension not to take place while the club’s case against the suspension was still to be heard.
It is therefore unlikely that we will see every sending off and subsequent suspension proceed to arbitration in the same way. For one thing, the rules would come into disrepute if clubs begin to abuse the procedure. However, for clubs increasingly pressured by on-field decisions impacting their revenue, it is welcome news that such a procedure exists.