What sanctions have been imposed by the FA on Cristiano Ronaldo?
Following a controversial interview last week, Cristiano Ronaldo has hit the headlines once again as the FA Regulatory Commission has published its decision and written reasons regarding a charge brought by the FA against Mr Ronaldo for a breach of FA Rule E3.
On 9 April 2022, following a match between Manchester United FC and Everton FC, as Mr Ronaldo was leaving the pitch, he slapped a mobile phone from a spectator’s hand. The spectator was a 14-year-old boy. The FA charged Mr Ronaldo on 22 September 2022 with improper and / or violent conduct contrary to FA Rule E3.1, which states that a Participant “shall not act in any manner which is improper or brings the game into disrepute or use any one, or a combination of, violent conduct, serious foul play, threatening, abusive, indecent or insulting words or behaviour”.
For more information on how a breach of FA Rule E3 is determined, click here.
What was Mr Ronaldo’s position?
Mr Ronaldo described the atmosphere at the match as “feverish” and “hostile”. In order to leave the pitch, the Manchester United FC players had to use a walkway that was not the regular players’ tunnel, and which took them close to the Everton FC supporters. Mr Ronaldo said the crowd was aggressive and, as he and his teammates left the pitch, they were abused by these Everton FC supporters.
Mr Ronaldo was injured towards the end of the match. He said that as he limped off the pitch and down the walkway, he could see an arm low in front of him pointing towards his injured leg and holding an object. He could not see who the arm belonged to or what it was holding, and his “instinctively proactive reaction” was to slap “the object away”.
In support of Mr Ronaldo’s position, David Newell (a Protection and Security Manager of Manchester United FC) said that the walkway was narrow causing the players to have to walk closer to the spectators than it “was safe for them to do so”. Further, Mr Newell opined that from a “crowd management and player safety perspective, the situation was dangerous for [Manchester United FC] players”.
What did the Regulatory Commission decide?
The Regulatory Commission rejected the submission that Mr Ronaldo had acted out of legitimate concern for his own physical safety. From video footage of the incident that was presented to the Regulatory Commission, it was clear that “the spectator posed no actual or perceived threat to [Mr Ronaldo]” and that Mr Ronaldo was “walking slowly and calmly, as were the other players. Nobody appeared to act as if under threat”.
The Regulatory Commission determined that the “feverish” and “hostile” atmosphere was not one that Mr Ronaldo would be unfamiliar with. The written reasons state that the Regulatory Commission had “little doubt that this was an act born of frustration and annoyance rather than fear or concern for his wellbeing”.
What mitigating and aggravating factors were considered?
In order to determine what sanctions to impose, the Regulatory Commission first assessed the seriousness of the offence.
Mr Ronaldo immediately admitted the charge in his formal Reply Form and made a public apology, which the Regulatory Commission accepted to be a genuine apology. These factors, along with Mr Ronaldo’s footballing disciplinary record (which showed that he had not committed an offence of this kind or nature before) were considered as mitigation by the Regulatory Commission.
However, whilst Mr Ronaldo said that he did not see that the victim was a child, this did not mitigate the offence. The Regulatory Commission stated that the mobile phone “could have been held by anyone, including a child or an elderly person. He must take the victim as he fields them”. Further, the fact that Mr Ronaldo is “a very high-profile footballer, whose conduct was witnessed by many” was considered to be an aggravating factor.
What sanctions were imposed by the Regulatory Commission?
Mr Ronaldo has been suspended from all domestic club football for 2 matches and fined the sum of £50,000. The Regulatory Commission have stated that, if not for the mitigating factors that were present, it would have imposed a 3-match suspension.
Following Mr Ronaldo’s recent interview in which he made various criticisms of Manchester United FC, the club released a statement on 22 November 2022 confirming that he would be leaving the club “by mutual agreement, with immediate effect”. The Regulatory Commission were aware of this interview at the date of its decision and hence decided that, if Mr Ronaldo were to leave the club, the suspension would apply to any new club he should join.
In accordance with the FIFA Disciplinary Code, a suspension imposed at domestic level will not have international effect. Mr Ronaldo is therefore available to play for his country, Portugal, in the FIFA World Cup 2022.
Mr Ronaldo has the right to appeal the Regulatory Commission’s decision. For more information on appeals against sanctions imposed by the FA, click here.
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