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Barry Robson’s late suspension created a bad situation

Robson of the Vancouver Whitecaps celebrates his goal against the L.A Galaxy during the first half of their MLS soccer game in Vancouver.

Barry Robson of the Vancouver Whitecaps celebrates his goal against the L.A Galaxy during the first half of their MLS soccer game in Vancouver, British Columbia July 18, 2012. REUTERS/Ben Nelms (CANADA - Tags: SPORT SOCCER)


On the subject of Barry Robson’s late-notice suspension and subsequent absence from his team’s big rivalry match with Seattle, let’s just start here:

Everybody looks bad on this one.

It’s a situation that never should happen again – and the solutions really aren’t a bit out of reach.

The situation is this: Major League Soccer’s Disciplinary Committee suspended Vancouver’s Robson for one game (and assessed an undisclosed fine) for “aggravated dissent” late in the team’s 2-0 loss Wednesday to FC Dallas. Robson kicked a ball at an assistant referee.

The Whitecaps learned Thursday morning that Robson’s naughty deed was under review. They learned Friday night, less than 24 hours before kickoff, that their important midfielder would be suspended. MLS announced the punitive measure Saturday morning.

Initial outrage was all about a suspension that allegedly occurred on the morning of an afternoon kickoff – but that cannon fire was slightly misdirected, because the information was not totally accurate.

It matters some that Vancouver learned of the suspension Friday night. Here’s the statement from MLS Executive Vice President Nelson Rodriguez, who oversees the Disciplinary Committee:

“Vancouver was made aware that the incident was under review on Thursday morning. All of the gathered evidence was only available to the Disciplinary Committee as of mid-day on Friday. Logistical and personal issues kept the Committee from convening in its normal manner which unfortunately delayed the final decision.

Though Vancouver was informed of the suspension [Friday] evening, the Whitecaps were kept apprised of the situation and the possibility of a suspension throughout the process.

We intend to work with the MLS Players Union to see if an expedited process can be agreed upon in similar circumstances in the future.”

This isn’t the first time something like this has happened. There have been times when players trained for days as part of a starting 11, got on a plane and then found out in some other city that they weren’t eligible, having been suspended.

Obviously, it should never happen this way. Period. There are elements in play that people don’t consider. Namely, that the players union has a big say in it, as this stuff is dealt with in the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

So MLS needs to get everyone in a room and agree to this: suspensions must be handed out 72 hours before kickoff. Honestly, it’s really that simple.

Players need to be accountable, clearly. But a suspension is a suspension; it doesn’t matter when they serve it. So, impose a 72-hour rule (or a 48 hour, if they prefer) and be done with it.

That said, Vancouver officials did know on the morning after Wednesday’s match that Robson’s actions were under review. Considering two previous, similar suspensions in 2012 (Brek Shea and David Beckham), they should not have been caught a bit off guard on this one.

One final thought on all this. It’s actually a reaction to Robson’s thoughts. The fiery Scotsman had this to say about the matter in the Vancouver Sun:

I think everybody’s looking on it knows that it’s all wrong. I can’t get my head round it. In Europe, if there’s a big derby game on the Saturday, say Manchester United and Man City, [United manager] Alex Ferguson gets a phone call at half-past eight saying Wayne Rooney can’t play? The whole bloody country’s going to be in an uproar.

“It was frustrating. It was a huge disadvantage and I feel sorry for the players and our club. What can I do? I’ve just got to accept what they say.”

Never mind the fact that someone needs to tug on Robson’s shirt and whisper quietly: “Hey, man, you know you’re not in Europe, right?”

Past that, Robson talks as if he is the victim! I guess you could see it that way – except that he’s exonerating himself of any responsibility. He does understand that he started all this, right? That if he had conquered the impulse to do something so juvenile in the first place, he wouldn’t have needed to sit out any matches at all, right?