The Football Association (FA) explained the reasons behind its sanctioning of Pep Guardiola for wearing a yellow ribbon in solidarity with imprisoned Catalan politicians, adamant it “clearly symbolises a political message” and he wore it as “an act of defiance”.
It was announced on Friday that the FA had fined Guardiola £20,000 after wearing the ribbon during numerous domestic Manchester City matches.
Guardiola began wearing the ribbon in support of pro-independence politicians Jordi Cuixart and Jordi Sanchez, who were imprisoned in October and remain incarcerated following a referendum the Spanish government deemed illegal.
The FA said it first wrote to Guardiola on December 13, 2017 regarding the ribbon, with the former Barcelona coach responding with an explanation in which he insisted it was about “solidarity with those imprisoned”, rather than being a symbol of support towards the referendum.
Guardiola was notified in January that the FA felt the ribbon represented a political message, but wore it again in two further games before City responded, claiming their coach had still not been “fully briefed” on the matter.
Nevertheless, Guardiola continued to wear the ribbon even in spite of further correspondence, with it visible against Wigan Athletic on February 19, and that “act of defiance” ultimately resulted in the fine.
The FA’s commission said a sporting sanction was not “proportionate in this instance” and credited Guardiola for accepting the misconduct charge and having no prior offences, but it insisted the ribbon is “clearly” a political symbol regardless of his motives.
The written reasons relating to Pep Guardiola’s misconduct charge for wearing a political message, specifically a yellow ribbon, in breach of The FA’s kit and advertising regulations have been published via https://t.co/KsO7GNEnXv pic.twitter.com/BrSoyY3n5g
— FA Spokesperson (@FAspokesperson) March 15, 2018
The FA wrote: “The Commission considered that the wearing of yellow ribbons is undoubtedly a symbol of protest against the imprisonment of Catalonian independence figures in Spain, and also a sign of solidarity with those imprisoned.
“For many, it has become synonymous with support for Catalan separatists in Spain, and the resistance in the region. By strict interpretation of the Regulations, which are constructed widely in this respect, it therefore clearly symbolises a political message.
“The Commission noted that Mr Guardiola considered the yellow ribbon inoffensive and therefore not in breach of UEFA Regulations.
“The Commission make no finding as to the offensiveness of the symbol, but note in any event that The FA Regulations are separate and distinct from UEFA’s, and there is no such requirement for the political message to be ‘offensive’ under FA regulations.
“The Commission considered but did not accept Mr Guardiola’s explanation that he had mistakenly wore the yellow ribbon in the aforementioned fixture. Rather his actions were considered an act of defiance against the backdrop of repeated warnings. This is an aggravating factor in this case.”
Earlier the same day, the FA released the explanations for City’s fine of £50,000 for failing to control their players in the FA Cup clash with Wigan that saw tempers flare.
Two similar charges in the last five years ultimately contributed to an increased fine from £35,000, but their swift admittance of the charge and the steps they have taken to ensure better behaviour spared the club from the £70,000 sanction they could have been given as a result of Sergio Aguero and David Silva “touching or pulling the referee in an extremely insistent manner”.