On 23 February 2017, Canberra United forward Lisa De Vanna received a mandatory one match suspension for Serious Unsporting Conduct by the Disciplinary and Ethics Committee of the Football Federation of Australia (FFA DEC).
Not only was this the first time a W-League player has brought before the FFA DEC, it was also the first time in the W-League that video evidence had been used to impose or appeal a match sanction.
That has raised some questions around the use of video technology, particularly in light of several cases in the past couple of years of the W-League.
Overview of the matter
The matter concerned an incident between De Vanna and Melbourne City interim head coach / player Jessica Fishlock during the semi final between Canberra United and Melbourne City on 5 February 2017.
The facts – undisputed by Canberra United – were relatively simple as outlined in the FFA DEC Determination:
- Around the 109th minute play was stopped due to an offside decision against De Vanna.
- Fishlock has her back to De Vanna and runs towards Fishlock making contact with her upper arm/shoulder to Fishlock’s upper back “with sufficient force to knock her to the ground”.
- Fishlock is able to resume play and does not need any medical assistance.
— Susie Rantz (@SusieRants) February 13, 2017
De Vanna pleaded guilty with Canberra United’s submissions being they:
- accepted an offence had been committed;
- asserted that there was provocation before the incident but accepted that her actions infringed the Laws of the Game; and
- submitted that the offence was at the lower end of the scale of seriousness for the offence.
CEO Phillip Brown, on behalf of De Vanna, also provided a written statement of which an extract is below:
Lisa pleads guilty to the offence listed in the Disciplinary Hearing Notice.
Lisa has also asked me to state that there was provocation before the incident, but she accepts that her actions infringed the laws of the game.
Lisa genuinely regrets her action.
Further, Lisa states that “I apologise to Rae, my Canberra United teammates and the Club for the incident as they’ve all been so welcoming to me and treated me like part of their family. I apologise for any negative attention this has brought to the Club and the W-League. I am now concentrating on going to Portugal with the Matildas and representing my country in the Algarve Cup”
With De Vanna’s guilty plea, the FFA DEC considered the following in relation to the appropriate sanction:
- it was conduct which endangered the safety of an opponent and involved the use of excessive force.
- It is a challenge which, had it been sighted by the Referee, would have justified the Player being sent-off.
- The issue of provocation was considered but as it was not expanded on in the submissions – there has already been plenty of speculation but neither the club nor De Vanna have expanded post hearing – and “to her credit” it was not relied on “by way of any excuse, mitigation or as an extenuating circumstance”, it had little bearing on reducing a sanction.
Also it should be noted that in the FFA’s submissions, they did not consider the contact “particularly violent in nature” but did take into account that it “would warrant a red card if seen by the Referee”.
In the end, as the offence was considered in the “lower range of offences of this type”, De Vanna had demonstrated remorse and had a “good playing history”, it lead to the one match sanction.
A new precedent?
The way De Vanna was brought before the FFA DEC now raises a host of questions for the future use of video technology in the W-League.
While video evidence is regularly used in the A-League, in the past the FFA have dismissed its use in previous W-League seasons.
The rationale has essentially been one of fairness. That is, as not all matches are broadcast with the same number of cameras and angles, it would not be equitable to use video evidence for just one match.
It was an all or nothing argument.
Just this season Brisbane Roar came up against this when they attempted to appeal the red card shown to goalkeeper Mackenzie Arnold in their Round 12 match with the Newcastle Jets. The Roar were looking to submit video evidence from the Fox Sports broadcast but were stopped from doing so.
— Amalzai ???? (@amalzai_) January 16, 2017
Sources stated at the time that Brisbane were upset from being prevented to appeal when they believed they had a reasonable case and reasonable prospects of having the red card overturned. There was further disappointment as the Roar still had slim hopes of qualifying for the finals.
Back to the case before the FFA DEC. De Vanna was cited under clause 4.1(b) of the National Disciplinary Regulations which states:
4.1 A Competition Administrator may cite a Participant to appear before its Disciplinary Committee in relation to:
(b) a serious infringement that has escaped the Referee’s attention
In this case the citation was after video of the semi final incident surfaced. Initial reports were that the FFA’s previous position – non usage of video – would continue but a week later Canberra United received a Disciplinary Hearing Notice.
The De Vanna case now raises the question, if players can be cited due to video review, with that video tendered into evidence, why can’t they submit evidence of a similar nature before the FFA Appeal Committee?
Further, what is to stop clubs from requesting and submitting their own videos for review and the retrospective citing of another player?
With whispers of more matches being broadcast on Fox Sports next season, this is a possible Pandora’s box opened by the FFA themselves that might be hard to slam closed again.