The Football Association have published the written reasons for Yeovil Town's appeal against the red card issued to Otis Khan, during January 2018. The winger was dismissed during the League Two home match against Chesterfield on Saturday 20th January 2018, for allegedly using physical force against referee Kevin Johnson, just after the Spireites had scored their winning goal in the 90th minute, gaining a 2-1 victory.
Three days after the incident, after the club had said they would appeal against the decision, the FA issued a statement confirming that the appeal had failed, but also that they were enforcing an additional two game ban for what they regarded as a frivolous appeal that had no prospect of success. Khan therefore served a five match ban for the incident, which included the FA Cup Fourth Round tie against Manchester United.
The FA have now published a full report detailing the sequence of events and the verdict of the panel that reviewed the club's appeal. The report starts by highlighting the rules and procedures of the Regulatory Commission, with the three man panel on this occasion comprising of former Middlesbrough and Blackburn Rovers winger Stuart Ripley (Chairman), former Chelsea and Southampton defender Ken Monkou and former West Bromwich Albion and Rushden and Diamonds manager Brian Talbot. In addition, Referee Advisory Panel member Alan Wiley was available to advise on the Laws of the Game, but not to give opinions on the specific incident.
The three Commission Panel members were given guidance as to their remit, which was as follows: "In order for a claim of Wrongful Dismissal to be successful the Player and his Club must establish by the evidence it submits that the Referee made an obvious error in dismissing the Player. The role of the Regulatory Commission is not to usurp the role of the Referee and to simply re-referee the incident".
The match referee's report from the game explained why he had dismissed Khan from the field of play. His submitted verdict said the following: "In the 93rd minute following a counter attack by Chesterfield from which they scored a goal, I was observing the goal celebration when a player came up behind me and said "oi you" and with that I felt forceful aggressive contact which made my right upper body/shoulder jolt forward. I turned around and Yeovil 7, Otis Khan, had come 60 yards up the field and was the only person around me. I asked him why did he do that, to which he replied "why was that not a free kick" referring to the start of the counter attack. I told Mr Khan his forceful aggressive contact was unacceptable towards a match official and I sent him from the field of play for violent conduct."
As part of the appeals process, Yeovil Town submitted a video, and a letter supporting their claim. The Regulatory Commission report noted that prior to the day of the Appeal, the Judicial Services Department of The FA telephoned Yeovil Town to warn them that their submitted video did not show the incident in question. The FA warned the club of the Regulations that allowed the Commission to increase the standard punishment if the appeal was deemed to be frivolous. They also reminded the club that they were entitled to withdraw their appeal, based on the additional information they were given, and asked the club to reconfirm their intentions in writing.
On the day that the Appeal was due to take place, the Football Association received an email from Yeovil Town at 15:09hrs that read as follows:
"Thank you for your phone call. We understand that the video clip sent to you does not show any evidence against the allegation from the Referee but the Player Otis Khan was desperate for the Commission to understand the circumstances which made the Player run towards the referee to question the decision and upon doing so he tripped and bumped into the referee. The Player wanted to highlight the circumstances, especially as there is no evidence to disprove the allegation. The Player wishes the Club to pursue this on his behalf."
As a result of the second communication from Yeovil Town FC, the Regulatory Commission went ahead with the Appeal. Having reviewed the Referees Report, the submitted video and the two communications from Yeovil Town, and the definition of "violent conduct" as it stands in the Laws of the Game, the Commission concluded that they could not form an opinion because the video footage did not show the incident:
"The Commission was not able to form an opinion as to whether or not the Referee had made an obvious error as the Commission was not provided footage of the moment the Player made contact with the Referee."
The Commission then referred to the Football Association rules for the Appeal which for the 2017-18 Season state:
"The evidence upon which the claim is founded (which must include a video and/or DVD recording showing the incident from all available angles), must be submitted by the Player concerned or his Club ... The claim will be determined based on video and/or DVD and written evidence only ... Once the claim is lodged with The Association it will confirm that the video and/or DVD shows the incident as reported by the Referee/Assistant Referee ... Prior to the commencement of the suspension, a Regulatory Commission will be convened to decide the matter on any relevant documentary and video and/or DVD evidence submitted."
The Commission therefore ruled that they had no means to prove that the Referee had made an 'obvious error' due to the lack of video footage, and therefore the Club's claim for Wrongful Dismissal was deemed to have failed. They then moved on to the nature of the punishment, reviewing the following from the FA Handbook for the 2017-18 Season:
"If the Regulatory Commission considers that the rejected claim had no prospect of success and/or amounts to an abuse of process, the Regulatory Commission shall have the discretion to increase the penalty up to twice the standard punishment set out in the Procedures."
The Commission concluded that the Appeal "had no prospect of success" due to the lack of video footage. They also concluded that as the Judicial Services Department of The FA had given the club an explicit warning prior to the hearing that the video footage did not show the incident that they regarded the continuation of the appeal as "an abuse of process".
As a result of these two factors, the Commission agreed to increase Otis Khan's suspension period from three matches to a total of five matches.
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