In Depth

Ashley Barnes 'horror tackle': FA rules out action

Reaction was swift and vociferous to the FA's decision not to investigate Barnes' tackle on Nemanja Matic

The news that the Football Association will take no action over Ashley Barnes's horrendous tackle on Nemanja Matic has stunned many within English football.

Barnes' wild lunge at the Chelsea midfielder during Burnley's 1-1 draw with the Blues at Stamford Bridge on Saturday went unpunished by referee Martin Atkinson, and instead he dismissed Matic for his violent reaction to the tackle that Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho described as "criminal".

Mourinho wasn't alone in his view of Barnes' shin-high tackle. Speaking on Match of the Day, pundit Alan Shearer labelled it "horrific" and "dangerous", adding that he understood Matic's reaction "because Ashley Barnes could easily have broken his leg".

Yet despite the furore, the FA released a statement on Twitter on Monday afternoon in which they said there would be no retrospective action as the incident had been seen by Atkinson who decided it didn't warrant any sanction.

In a series of subsequent messages on the social media site, the FA explained their thinking behind the surprising decision.  

"In the vast majority of challenges for the ball, no retrospective action is taken as the incident has been seen by the match officials," declared the FA. "Retrospective action was introduced as a deterrent for 'off the ball incidents' committed out of sight of officials."

The FA's final word on the subject was: "The whole game is in agreement that, in the vast majority of cases, match officials are best-placed to deal with incidents to avoid re-refereeing."

Response to the FA's announcement was quick to come with former Premier League striker turned pundit Mark Bright tweeting: "If Martin Atkinson saw the Ashley Barnes challenge & thought it wasn't worthy of red card, then football is in grave danger."

Match of the Day presenter Gary Lineker was similarly nonplussed with the decision, tweeting: "So Martin Atkinson did see Ashley Barnes' tackle on Matic. Wow!"

Such has been the universal condemnation of Barnes' actions, that Burnley manager Sean Dyche felt obliged to come to his player's defence in an interview with the club's TV channel. Admitting that slow-motion replays made it appear an "ugly challenge", Dyche said it was a full-blooded tackle that was more a case of  "coming-together at an unusual angle".

Meanwhile Atkinson won't be taking charge of any Premier League games this weekend, instead acting as the fourth official for the match between Manchester United and Sunderland on Saturday.

The news comes amid a storm of criticism from former officials for his handling of Saturday's fiery clash at Stamford Bridge. Former Premier League referee Dermot Gallagher told Sky Sports that "quite clearly it was a red card", while ex-referees' chief Keith Hackett was scathing in his assessment of Atkinson's performance, described it as "incompetent" and "one of the worst" he had ever seen.

Chelsea have said they will appeal against Matic's red card in the hope that his three-match ban will be rescinded allowing him to play in Sunday's league cup final against Tottenham at Wembley.

Not everyone sympathises with Chelsea, however, with many Arsenal fans quick to point out that last season Mourinho wasn't quite so outraged when Mikel John Obi broke the shin pad of Gunners' midfielder Mikel Arteta with a nasty tackle that went unpunished.

"You know," sneered the Chelsea manager at the time, when asked what he thought of Arsenal's anger at the challenge, "they like to cry."

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