Blackpool FC's Fine: The Premier League's £25,000 Wrongful Shaming

28 January 2011

Blackpool manager Ian Holloway. (Credit Image: © Action Images/ZUMApress.com)
When the Premier League adopted the policy of registering a 25 man squad plus youth system products, I thought the days of hearing about the Premier League fining teams over weakened squads were over. On Thursday, I was proven wrong, when Blackpool FC were fined 25,000 pounds for fielding a weakened side in their 3-2 loss at Aston Villa on November 10th.

I have to admit right off the top that my feelings on Premier League Rule E.20 changed from last season to this. Last year, with no squad caps, I felt the suspended fine Wolverhampton Wanderers got was about right. I know it sounds stupid, but at the time, I felt with no caps in place, one had to justify making so many changes. With no limits to how many players you could have registered, you should have already known who your best players were to play. If you strayed too far from that, the Premier League had a right to slap you in line.

The problem was, that wasn't being applied on a consistent basis.
  • On consecutive weeks in 2007, Liverpool fielded weakened sides in losses to Portsmouth and Fulham. The Premier League did nothing.
  • On the last day of the season in 2009, Manchester United, in preparation for their UEFA Champions League match with FC Barcelona, fielded a weakened side against Hull City. While Manchester Untied won, the Premier League did nothing.
  • On December 15, 2009, Wolverhampton Wanderers fielded a weakened team against Manchester United. The Premier League decided to take action and give them a suspended 25,000 pound fine.
When the rules changed this year, Premier League rule E.20 should have become yesterday's news. When teams registered their squads, and were approved by the Premier League, they gave teams their permission to play any player on that registered squad. Blackpool's team sheet that day did not have one player not registered on their 25 man squad. As they did all season long, they played one of the more entertaining games of the round. If it wasn't for their naivety they had shown in the early part of the season, the same naivety they showed on Tuesday against Manchester United, they would have earned a share of the spoils that day.

Ian Holloway was right in all the post-match interviews in saying he didn't feel he needed to justify his squad choices that day. They were registered players, approved by the Premier League when the squads were due, and they did not damn the Premier League in how they played. Most teams in the league could take a lesson in how Blackpool have played this season. They've played balls to the wall, without fear of losing. Every one of their performance, save their September 19th defeat at Chelsea, has been a breath of fresh air.

Everything about this fine Blackpool have received just reeks of political BS within the Premier League. Last season Wolverhampton Wanderers did the same thing, and their fine was suspended. Blackpool's punishment was worse. Now had the Premier League said this fine was because of Holloway's comments to the media once the game was over, I could understand that. However, to say it was because of the squad they fielded is unacceptable to me.

With the new squad restrictions in place, the Premier League needs to eliminate rule E.20 from their laws in time for next season, apologize to both Wolverhampton Wanderers and Blackpool FC, and rush Blackpool's obvious appeal through the system and over turn it. At least overturning the fine would make a good first step.

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FA Cup Third Round Thoughts: The Greatest Day in English Football

12 January 2011

Sergio Torres (Hidden) celebrates with fans after scoring the second goal for Crawley Town. (Credit Image: © Paul Childs/Action Images/ZUMAPRESS.com)
While it took four days for the third round of the FA Cup to be completed, the thirty matches of the FA Cup third round this past weekend completely engrossed me. When it was all said and done, it continued to reaffirm my belief that the FA Cup Third Round Proper are the best collection of game in all the English footballing calendar. From the upsets, to all the controversial calls that ended up not being all that controversial, to the beyond shocking decision, and the spectacular goals that leave one gob smacked, it’s one that I could talk about for hours. It’s something that takes me a while for me to crystallize my thoughts on, simply because I could talk about everything and end up with 3000 words.

While the initial third round draw left the public with only two ties they seemed to care about, I went hunting for the games that could produce upsets. While some may only care about seeing the big names advance as far as they can, the sooner they are out, the better the competition is to me. While I may sound like a hypocrite considering Chelsea’s success in this competition, I just love the little man in this competition. It also helps that Chelsea haven’t been the giant many think they are for too long (in reality Chelsea were mid table fodder until the late 90s).

However, the thing that annoyed me the most about this weekend was listening to the various podcasts I listen to. With the careless disregard to every other game other than Arsenal/Leeds, Manchester United/Liverpool, and Stevenage/Newcastle United, I almost wondered if they realized 29 other third round games were played this weekend. No excuses could be made for lack of highlights (the FA put up highlights for every game on youtube), and those who know their way around technology had highlight programs from ITV at their whim.

Sure, those were the three games with the most potential talking points, but to only care about the obvious when it comes to the third round of the FA Cup is missing out on the biggest point: this is the day the masses want to see the upsets. While I pay some attention to the entire football pyramid of England (thanks Soccer Saturday and Talksport’s Matchday Live), I don’t get engrossed in it to the degree I do on third round day.

So what were all the talking points from the third round? I think the better question is where do I start?

* Theo Walcott now has a reputation in my mind as a diver. It’s also his own fault I now have that opinion of him. While I was suspicious at the time it was a dive, to blatantly admit it in the public is just dumb. Sure, the linesman bailed the referee out with an already raised flag, the fact was he almost got away with it. While Arsenal ended up with a legitimate penalty not too long after, Leeds United were the better team over the 90 minutes, and with the fixture pile up now coming for Arsene Wenger, I’d fancy Leeds United at Elland Road to advance to the fourth round.

* Huddersfield Town and Bolton Wanderers took completely different paths in dispatching their non-league opposition. Huddersfield Town made sure Dover Athletic were out of it early, while Bolton Wanderers had to call in Kevin Davies and Johan Elmander off the bench to win it late. York City didn’t come too close to scoring, but Bolton should be embarrassed their fringe players couldn’t see off a Conference side. Dover Athletic would have had dreams of knocking off their League One opponent, but they were out of it after only eight minutes.

* If you have not see Lee Hughes’s second goal for Notts County in their 2-1 away win at Sunderland, find it and be amazed. While it seems Ince has found his level of management in the lower leagues (though I think he did not get the fairest of shakes at Blackburn), it had to make him personally happy to get one up on his old Manchester United team mate Steve Bruce.

* I hate to say it like this, because I have nothing but the utmost respect for Avram Grant, but it seems every time he’s in a ‘win or be fired’ situation, he wins. Sure, their win over Barnsley wasn’t convincing (or their 2-1 win over Birmingham City on Tuesday), but West Ham continue their season of advancing in cups. Now if they could only convert that into better league form.

* I guess this is as good a time as any to talk about Manchester United and Liverpool. Frankly, once the news broke that Roy Hodgeson left Liverpool and Kenny Daglish was coming in, there was no way in my mind Liverpool was winning the game. That said, I didn’t expect it to go down the route in which it did. I felt the foul on Berbatov was a penalty; yes, he made the most of the situation, but you’re clipped in the manner in which he was in the box, the referee is always right in pointing to the spot. As for Gerrard’s sending off, that was another call Howard Webb got right. Regardless of what Gerrard got first, if a player lunges into a tackle in the manner in which he did, the referee is going to send you off. Manchester United’s performance was the same performance they have had all season; just enough to get the job done.

* Great wins for Fulham and Everton over lower league opposition. Hopefully it will be the jump start for them to move higher up the table.

* I had to admit the reaction on twitter to my feelings on Chelsea’s 7-0 win made me laugh. Their performance against Ipswich Town should be taken with a grain of salt. After sacking their manager in the middle of the night, their interim manager then had to travel for the game, having no time to train with the first team. Chelsea unlocked the safe just after the half hour mark, and emptied the contents. Kalou and Sturridge will not carry their performance over into the league, and Anelka runs so hot and cold it’s hard to tell. The only Chelsea player that one maybe able to say is starting to look like their old self was Frank Lampard.

* I was very pleased for both Crawley Town and Stevenage for the scalps. It ensured that we will have at least six non Premier League sides in the fifth round. I have to admit I am happier for Stevenage fans for enacting just a little revenge on Newcastle United.

* Leave it to both the draws in both the third round and fourth round to give us the Sven Chronicles. I think Leicester City’s best chance of advancing was at home, and I don’t think Sven’s side has a prayer at the City of Manchester Stadium.

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Johnathan Starling, the self proclaimed 'most brutally honest man on the net, dishes out his own unique brand of opinions, and analysis on the Premier League, Bundesliga, and all things US Soccer.

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