One match was not enough. And now Virgil van Dijk will have to wait a little longer before wearing the captain’s armband again for Liverpool.
The Reds defender has been hit with another one-game ban and a whopping £100,000 fine after admitting the FA charge of behaving in an “improper manner” towards referee John Brooks in the wake of his dismissal at Newcastle United a fortnight ago.
It means the Dutchman will not be present for Liverpool when they resume their Premier League campaign after the international break at Wolverhampton Wanderers next Saturday.
But is it right that Van Dijk has been censured in this way? And does he have any reason to be aggrieved? Our ECHO writers have their say…
‘Swearing isn’t enough to be slapped with a mammoth fine’
Ian Doyle: The early-season clampdown on any sort of inconsiderate behaviour towards officials means there was never any chance of Virgil van Dijk not facing an FA charge.
And if that censure revolves around the Dutchman being angrily potty-mouthed, then the Liverpool skipper is bang to rights. He had no choice but to admit wrongdoing. Everybody saw and heard it.
In some ways, the bigwigs will have been delighted a player as high-profile as Van Dijk has given them the chance to make an example of someone so early in the Premier League campaign.
But for me, swearing isn’t enough to be hit with a mammoth fine, let alone a ban. Van Dijk is entitled to disagree with the decision, and it’s not as if he refused to leave the field once the decision was confirmed by VAR. Had he questioned the authority and impartiality of the referee, then that would have been a far more serious matter that merited a much, much longer ban.
Football is a high-pressure game played by adults and while nobody is suggesting officials deserve to have the air turned blue around them, industrial language happens. Just like in every walk of life.
The big question now is how consistent the FA will be with this. We’ve already seen in the Newcastle game alone that referee John Brooks wasn’t quite as keen to book home players and staff calling for cards as other officials have been, not least towards Liverpool.
But if come May players are still handed additional suspensions and six-figure fines for not being impressed at a major call going against them, then Van Dijk and Liverpool can have no reason to complain.
‘Conspiracy among referees to punish Liverpool simply untrue’
Joe Rimmer: Virgil van Dijk simply gave the FA no choice but to ban him and fine him for his reaction to the sending off at Newcastle.
The whole world saw what he said, and if they weren’t to act they would effectively encourage every footballer in the country – men, women and youth – to treat referees in the same manner. So a one-match ban is absolutely right. As is the fine.
But that won’t be a popular answer among some Liverpudlians – especially those who see their club at the heart of a conspiracy among referees to punish Liverpool at every turn. And while that is simply untrue, the FA can do so much more to stop putting fuel on the conspiracy theorists’ fire.
Howard Webb is trying with his Mic’d Up initiative but the FA must be seen to enforce their rules fairly. They’ve made an example of Van Dijk – and rightly so – but now they must do so with every footballer who uses similar language towards an official.
And they can go further. Time-wasting rules? Apply them universally or not at all. Kicking the ball away? Punish it every time or not at all. Fans rage because they pick up on the times their players are punished and highlight the ones opposition get away with, so the FA must ensure their referees aren’t missing anything. Using VAR if necessary.
And finally, they also must punish their own for wrongdoing. A simple apology can’t be enough when officials are spotted by the world aiming elbows at footballers – no matter what was said to spark the incident. A line was crossed. Aleksander Mitrovic served a lengthy ban for being physical with an official.
Van Dijk deserved to be punished. But the only way to stop conspiracy is consistency.
‘Van Dijk went too far’
Virgil van Dijk has to take his medicine after being handed an additional one-game ban by the FA following his behaviour when sent off against Newcastle United.
Let’s be honest, the Liverpool captain crossed the line. It doesn’t matter that referee Jon Brooks’s performance was enough to leave all those of a Reds persuasion pulling their hair out and screaming in disbelief, the Dutchman took his protestations too far.
Whether he agreed with the decision or not to dismiss him for his foul on Alexander Isak, mouthing off at officials and not immediately leaving the field won’t change anything. It’s not a sight we want to see in the game, especially not from the newly-appointed skipper, no matter how much you might sympathise with him.
For years, supporters took issue with how Sir Alex Ferguson’s Manchester United side regularly surrounded referees and aggressively remonstrated with officials. Now the FA are starting to punish guilty parties for such behaviour, such an outcome was inevitable.
In truth, Van Dijk should be grateful he only misses one more match. It could have been worse had the FA had wanted to make a real example of him. Having defeated Aston Villa so comfortably without him, at least his absence shouldn’t be decisive for a trip to Wolves.