It’s a golden rule – both explicit and unwritten – that you will not physically confront a referee or match official.
But after a barmy couple of minutes in Fulham’s FA Cup defeat to Manchester United, Aleksandar Mitrovic did exactly that.
Willian’s handball and Marco Silva’s touchline antics saw them shown their marching orders, while the Serbian was also dismissed after pushing referee Chris Kavanagh.
It’s essential that Mitrovic faces the full extent of the football rulebook, with a standard three-game ban simply not a sufficient deterrent to future incidents – some grassroots football leagues are folding due to a lack of match officials, so professionals in televised games simply cannot be treated lightly for an ‘attack’ on a whistle-blower.
Although precedents are limited, Paolo Di Canio was banned for eleven games after his shove on Paul Alcock back in 1998.
Mitrovic has been charged with violent and improper conduct following his dismissal, with an FA spokesperson confirming that the normal three-game suspension would be ‘clearly insufficient’ in this case.
“The standard punishment which would otherwise apply to Aleksandar Mitrovic for the sending-off offence of violent conduct that he committed towards the match referee is clearly insufficient,” the FA’s statement read.
“In addition, Aleksandar Mitrovic’s behaviour and/or language was allegedly improper and/or abusive and/or insulting and/or threatening following his dismissal.”
Silva has pled for leniency for his striker, commenting:
“I saw the image and have spoken with Mitrovic. It’s a moment where he needs to control his emotions. Of course, in that moment he pushes the referee but not in a so, so bad way. I hope that the people who decide do so with fairness.”
Fulham might not find out until after the international break how long Mitrovic will be banned for.
When Di Canio shoved Alcock over in a game between Sheffield Wednesday and Arsenal 25 years ago, the incident took on an almost comedic twist because of the staggered manner in which the referee went down to the ground.
But with studies confirming that youngsters watching on at home are more likely to ape the behaviours of the players they idolise, that episode was no laughing matter.
Di Canio was rightfully banned for eleven games, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if Mitrovic faces something similar given the aggressive nature in which he behaved before, during and after his push on Kavanagh.
Frank Sinclair and David Prutton were both banned for ten games for manhandling referees, while Cristiano Ronaldo was also given a five-match suspension when he pushed Ricardo de Burgos Bengoetxea in a Spanish Cup game while playing for Real Madrid – a reaction to having already been sent off for picking up a second booking.
Roma defender Rick Karsdorp escaped punishment after he pushed a referee after chaos ensued following the final whistle of a Serie A game – in fairness to the Dutchman, Massimiliano Irrati was standing on his foot at the time.