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Apr 9, 2014

Destro's disturbing ban

ESPN FC's Gab Marcotti believes that Roma has built a solid base to expand upon for next season.

Normally, in the world of football, video evidence is used after matches to review incidences missed by the referee and decide appropriate punishment. It has never before been used to review referee actions and make alternative decisions, rewriting the history of the match to issue subsequent penalty.

This is why Mattia Destro's four-game ban is almost unbelievable. The incident that occurred between him and Davide Astori during his hat-trick heroics against Cagliari on Sunday is at the center of a very controversial decision. The two players collided physically, both flailing parts of their body -- Destro his hand, Astori his shoulder. The referee saw the incident, awarded a free-kick to Cagliari -- clearly indicating he believed Destro committed a foul but one not worthy of a sending-off -- and Astori was booked only for protesting afterwards.

- Report: Destro given four-game ban

Whether or not this particular course of action was justified is certainly debatable. Both players acted physically, and arguably Destro moreso -- depending on the particular angle of the replay, his hand against Astori's head or Astori's elbow against his stomach seems worse. If the referee had whistled a foul on Roma, given Destro a booking and Cagliari a free-kick, it's doubtful that many would complain.

But he didn't. Instead, rumors swirled almost immediately that Destro would be banned after the match, and the referee was asked via email to review his decision after the match, suddenly changing his mind. Without much more recourse, the decision was rewritten and Destro handed a three-match ban on top of his one-match ban for yellow card accumulation.

The ramifications here are immense, which makes this decision look even more baffling and ridiculous. There are exactly six games left in the Serie A season, so by the league arbitrarily deciding that the week of April 6th, 2014 would be the week where video replays can negate the decisions referees make on the pitch, Roma will be without their leading scorer until the last two matches (not to mention Mehdi Benatia, who's left leg injury sustained during the match means he'll miss about a month). As for Destro himself, Italian national team head coach Cesare Prandelli's code of ethics almost certainly means he'll miss the World Cup, not to mention vital league games against Fiorentina, Milan, and Catania on top of the match against Atalanta he'll miss for yellow card accumulation.

And the effects could be even bigger. When Roma received a two-match curva closing for racist chants, it seemed that it may be a sign that the league were willing to consistently enforce discriminatory chanting. They weren't. They've now created a precedent to review major refereeing decisions after matches and issue suspensions as needed, but this seems doubtful as well, because they almost certainly will not, having missed numerous occasions to do so.

Roma director Mauro Baldissoni argued that: "We are outside of the conditions for the video evidence," given that the referee made a ruling of the play during the match. Calciomercato's Xavier Jacobelli noted that, "Calcio hates [video] replays on the pitch... the truth is that they use it off of the pitch and don't say it." Sky's Fabio Caressa called it "a blatant error. Now, either change the rules or change" the decision-making body so that "the rules can be equal and certain for all."

I wouldn't bet on it.