What sanctions have been imposed on Jurgen Klopp?
On 2 May 2023, Liverpool FC manager Jurgen Klopp was charged by the Football Association (“the FA”) with misconduct for a breach of FA Rule E3. Mr Klopp admitted the charges, and, on 15 May 2023, a paper hearing took place before a Regulatory Commission (“the Commission”), to determine the sanctions that were to be imposed.
The charge arose from comments made in a post-match press interview that Mr Klopp gave on 30 April 2023, following his team’s fixture against Tottenham Hotspur FC, regarding the referee, Paul Tierney. It was alleged that the comments made in this interview constituted improper conduct in that “they imply bias and / or question the integrity of the referee, and / or are personal / offensive, and / or bring the game into disrepute contrary to FA Rule E3.1”. For more information on FA Rule E3 and how a breach of this rule is determined, click here.
What comments were made by Mr Klopp?
Liverpool FC were unhappy about a number of decisions made by the referee throughout the match. Then, in the 94th minute, Diogo Jota scored for Liverpool FC, taking the score to 4-3 in their favour (and ultimately winning the game). Following the goal, Mr Klopp left his technical area and ran up to the fourth official, celebrating in his face. The fourth official contacted Mr Tierney and said “Jurgen Klopp has just run and celebrated in my face. I think it’s a yellow card mate, minimum”. As Mr Tierney had not seen what happened, the Video Assistant Referee reviewed the footage, and confirmed that a yellow card was advised. Mr Tierney then showed a yellow card to Mr Klopp and said “I have to show you yellow…it could be red, but I am going to show you yellow. He said yellow. We will give you the benefit of the doubt, don’t do anything more”.
During a press interview following the match, when asked how emotional the winning goal was, Mr Klopp said “we have our story, history with Mr Tierney. I really don’t know what this man has with us I really don’t know…I don’t understand it. I am really not sure if it’s me because how he looks at me, I don’t understand it”.
Mr Klopp went on to say in the same interview “my celebration towards the fourth official, I didn’t say any bad words, nothing but was unnecessary I got punished for that immediately, I pulled my hamstring or adductor, or whatever so that’s fine, that’s fair. But what he said to me when he gave me the yellow card”. Mr Klopp stopped himself from explaining what he meant by this. However, when the interviewer asked “you don’t want to say anymore because it was unacceptable?”, Mr Klopp stated “no only because I said already what I wanted to say”.
Mr Klopp’s remarks sparked media interest and his comments were treated as assertions that Mr Tierney was biased against Liverpool FC and that he said something inappropriate when giving Mr Klopp the yellow card.
What did the Commission decide?
There were a number of features that were considered to be aggravating factors. The Commission recognised that Mr Klopp has a “poor record for disciplinary offences, having appeared before Commissions on three occasions in the past five years”. In particular, the Commission referenced sanctions that were imposed on Mr Klopp in November 2022 for misconduct (a touchline ban, a fine of £30,000 and a warning as to his future conduct) and stated that those sanctions “plainly failed to deter Mr Klopp from committing similar breaches of the rules”.
The fact that Mr Klopp is a high-profile individual in the football world, and must have known that his comments would attract widespread publicity, was also considered to be an aggravating feature. The Commission recognised that the intense media interest that followed Mr Klopp’s comments was highly damaging, so much so that the Professional Game Match Officials Ltd was “sufficiently concerned by what it saw as an unwarranted attack on Mr Tierney’s integrity”, that it released a statement to defend Mr Tierney’s actions.
However, the Commission also considered there to be some mitigating factors in this matter. Before Mr Klopp was charged, he “proactively addressed” his previous comments in an interview on 2 May 2023, and explained that he had thought that Mr Tierney had said to him “for me it’s a red card, but because of him…it’s a yellow” and that he acted out of emotion and anger. Mr Klopp said that the previous interviewer “said all these words, like, was inappropriate, or whatever…but I didn’t respond to that, no, I stop it here…I realised I opened a box which I didn’t want to open, and stopped talking there”. Further, Mr Klopp admitted the charge and apologised for his comments.
Ultimately, the Commission regarded the assertions made by Mr Klopp against Mr Tierney as unacceptable and has imposed a two-match standard touchline ban on Mr Klopp. The ban for the second match has been suspended until the conclusion of the 2023/2024 season, on the condition that Mr Klopp does not commit any further breach of FA Rule E3. In addition, Mr Klopp has been fined £75,000.
In a press conference earlier today ahead of Liverpool FC’s weekend fixture against Aston Villa FC, Mr Klopp joked about the ban, saying that “people around me were pretty negative, they thought it would be longer” and that it would be a similar process to the Southampton FC match (which took place following the sanctions against Mr Klopp in November 2022), where he could “watch the game from a better position and be in contact with the boys, with my coaches”.
The FA has not indicated any intention to appeal the sanctions.
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