As the Turkish Süper Lig draws to a close a record 16 match ban (i.e. the rest of this season and 14 games in the following season) has been given out to Barcelona loanee Arda Turan for pushing a match official during a heated 1 – 1 draw between İstanbul Başakşehir and Sivasspor.

After the linesman failed to give a freekick for a tackle on Turan, the player approached the official, exchanged heated words and pushed him. The referee saw the offence and immediately sent him off pursuant to Law 12 of the FIFA Laws of the Game which governs ‘Fouls and Misconduct’:

Sending-off offences

A player, substitute or substituted player who commits any of the following offences is sent off:

  •  denying the opposing team a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity by deliberately handling the ball (except a goalkeeper within their penalty area)
  •  denying a goal or an obvious goal-scoring opportunity to an opponent whose overall movement is towards the offender’s goal by an offence punishable by a free kick (unless as outlined below).
  •  serious foul play
  •  spitting at an opponent or any other person
  •  violent conduct
  •  using offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures
  •  receiving a second caution in the same match

The matter was subsequently referred to the disciplinary committee of the Turkish Football Federation which decided to hand Turan a 16 game ban – 10 for physically assaulting the official, three for verbally insulting him and a further three for threatening behaviour. This was in addition to a 39,000 lira (£6,772) fine. This beats the previous ban record in Turkey of 11 games, given to Raul Meireles for spitting at referee Halis Ozkahya in the 2012/2013 season.

Turan has made a name for himself both on and off the pitch for displaying particularly aggressive behaviour. Three weeks ago, he shouted threatening abuse at a journalist and back in 2015 he threw his boot at a linesman while playing for Atletico Madrid.

Accord with the FIFA Disciplinary Code?

Although this incident was dealt with by the Turkish Football Federation and not FIFA, Article 49 of the FIFA Disciplinary Code governs misconduct against match officials. Article 2 provides that the scope of application of the Disciplinary Code is that it applies to ‘every match and competition organised by FIFA’ but also ‘if a match official is harmed and, more generally, if the statutory objectives of FIFA are breached’.  Unsurprisingly, FIFA treats such matters incredibly seriously, however somewhat curiously, the minimum fine for spitting at a match official (12 months) is double that of assault (6 months):

1. Including the automatic suspension incurred in accordance with art. 18 par. 4, the overall suspension imposed on any person receiving a direct red card shall be for:

a) at least four matches for unsporting conduct towards a match official (subject to art. 53, 54 and 57-60);

b) at least six months for assaulting (elbowing, punching, kicking etc.) a match official;

c) at least 12 months for spitting at a match official.

2. A fine may also be imposed in all cases.

There are a total of 32 games in the Turkish Süper Lig which spans from August to May, which means Turan will not play in the Turkish Süper Lig until December 2018, around 7 months.

Parallels in the English Premier League 

Many remember that famous day in September 1998 when Paolo Di Canio shook the English League by pushing over referee Paul Alcock after an on the pitch brawl between Sheffield Wednesday and Arsenal players at Hillsborough. Di Canio was issued with an 11 game ban (including the three game ban for the red card) and a £10,000 fine.

In more recent history, 2005, Southampton’s David Prutton was given a 10 game ban and fined £6,000 by the Football Association for pushing referee Alan Wiley after being issued with a red card, again in a tie with Arsenal. Including the red, his total suspension period was 11 games.

A heavy sanction

In January last year, the English FA relaunched its Respect campaign, aimed at promoting respectful attitudes to match officials, particularly in grass roots football. It is unquestionable that abuse of officials in top-flight football encourages the same kind of actions further down the football pyramid.  A 16 game ban is harsh, particularly given the ways in which these offenses have been treated historically, however it is difficult to criticise the Turkish Football Federation for taking action against behaviour that everyone agrees is bad for the game.