Why always him: Joey Barton‘s behaviour against Manchester City was undoubtedly unacceptable, however, other players haven’t been so heavily punished for similar examples of ill-discipline. (Image | Herald Sun)

Queens Park Rangers midfielder Joey Barton was yesterday (23 May) handed a 12 match ban for violent conduct during the clash with Manchester City on the final day of the season.

Barton was shown the red card after elbowing Carlos Tevez in the face, and then kicking out at Sergio Aguero and clashing with Vincent Kompany after he’d already been ordered to leave the pitch.

The Football Association (FA) chose to extend the original four match suspension by eight games, and issued a £75,000 fine to the QPR captain.

With the midfielder having been dismissed already when he lashed out at Aguero and Kompany, these incidents fell outside the jurisdiction of the referee, requiring them to be dealt with by the disciplinary panel.

The chairman of the regulatory commission said: “There are rules of conduct that should be adhered to, and such behaviour tarnishes the image of football in this country, particularly as this match was the pinnacle of the domestic season and watched by millions around the globe.”

Will Barton stay at QPR?

Many have speculated as to the future of Barton at Rangers after his showing at the Eithad Stadium, given that his sending off very nearly cost the R’s their place in the Premier League.

A club spokesperson said: “QPR will be making no comment in regard to the Joey Barton case. Internal investigation will begin in due course.”

Chairman Tony Fernandes has already stated that any decisions concerning Barton’s future at the club will be left in the hands of manager Mark Hughes, a noted disciplinarian, who will undoubtedly have been deeply unimpressed by his skipper’s display of mindless stupidity.

Fernandes told the BBC: “There’s a process that the club goes through in terms of sendings off and disciplinary action. That’s something Hughes will report through to the board.”

Is the ban fair?

Barton, always the victim in cases such as these, took to Twitter after the game to register his side of the story: “People are forgetting Tevez started the fracas by throwing a punch to the head.”

He followed this up with: “Things happen on the pitch, in the heat of battle sometimes. Not how we always plan them to happen.”

However, does the former Newcastle United player have a point? Some would argue that although he is seriously in the wrong, and behaviour such as this can never be excused, this punishment is too severe for the offence based on past sentences handed out.

Worse than this: Roy Keane sensationally admitted to deliberately having set out to cause physical harm to Alf-Inge Haaland, an act which seems far worse than Barton’s “minutes of madness” which seemed impromptu. (Image | The Daily Mail)

In 2001 Manchester United captain Roy Keane was issued with a three match suspension for deliberately ending the career of City’s Alf-Inge Haaland during the Manchester derby.

Many saw Keane’s challenge as a latent act of revenge against the Norwegian for a previous incident, and the ban was extended to eight games after the following confession was written in the Irishman’s autobiography:

“I’d waited long enough. I hit him hard. The ball was there (I think). Take that. And don’t ever stand over me sneering about fake injuries.”

Was Barton’s crime sufficient to warrant a larger punishment than Keane’s premeditated assault? No. It can be said that Keane’s tackle was “during play” compared to Barton’s antics, which were off the ball, but the level of malice in what Barton did pales in comparison to the maliciousness and sheer hate of Keane’s knee-high leg-breaker.

As a QPR supporter, I never want to see Barton take to the field representing my club again.

He let his team-mates, his manager, the entire coaching staff, and the fans down, and so nearly brought about relegation for the club he is supposed to be the “leader” of.

This ban will, in many respects, tie the hands of Hughes and Fernandes, as it severely hampers any potential sale of the midfielder to interested parties. Whether any team would be mad enough to take on Barton is another thing entirely, and Rangers do of course still have the option of releasing the troubled 29-year-old.

However, it certainly appears that the FA have been keen to make an example of Barton, and one could hardly suggest that he is anything but an easy target.

Indeed, this isn’t the first time he has had a 12 game ban inflicted upon him. In 2008 Barton pleaded guilty to assaulting team mate Ousmane Dabo, which led to an automatic six match suspension and a further six should he be involved in any further violent conduct during the season for Newcastle.

At the time, with Dabo claiming that Barton’s attack left him “looking like the Elephant Man”, commentators suggested that the FA hadn’t sufficient punished the one time England cap. Taking such a similarly punished, but different offence into account, for which Barton served a prison sentence, calls for consistency are unsurprisingly emerging.

Have the FA got it wrong?

Reputable characters: The FA have been criticised by both Danny Mills and Robbie Savage, but neither is exactly a moral guardian of the game. (Image | The Sun)

Danny Mills, who played with Barton for a number of years at City, criticised the length of the suspension on BBC Radio 5 Live.

“If I’m honest I think it’s a bit over the top and harsh. You have to put it in perspective when you look at other cases. Ben Thatcher got eight games when he wiped out Pedro Mendes, and that was verging on GBH.

“Suarez was guilty of racist abuse, one of the vilest things in modern football, and he got eight games.”

Robbie Savage, often at odds with the authorities, was also critical of the length of the ban:

“I disagree with the FA and the committee talking about the magnitude of the game.

“The four games are there for Tevez and the four extra for Aguero I agree with and to be fair he did go to try and head-butt Kompany so you could say nine or 10 games is probably fair.”

Does Barton need help?

The problems experienced by the Rangers captain are well-documented, and his frequent Twitter outbursts certainly suggest that Barton needs support, either from the club, which he is unlikely to get, or other sources.

Recovery: Clarke Carlisle showed maturity and hard-work to overcome his problems with alcohol and become PFA Chairman. Barton would do well to follow his example. (Image | Lancashire Evening Post)

Clarke Carlisle, himself a former QPR player who suffered from alcohol addiction during his career, is the current head of the Professional Footballers’ Association, and has said that Barton will be offered support.

“We as a union are there for all of our members as long as they show a willingness to address their behaviour.

“Should Joey want our support we most definitely will be there for him.”

It would be worthwhile for Barton to pursue this offer, as well as a fresh start away from Loftus Road. Sadly, once the fans turn against you, they don’t often come back around.

Neither his behaviour off the pitch, nor performances on it, have been up to scratch, and the shame he has brought on QPR will not be forgotten in a hurry.

Tweet the author | @chriskking

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