Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Discrepancy in Major League Soccer's rules for disciplining coaches will hurt Union's Peter Nowak

A guest post from Kerith Gabriel of the Daily News, who caught this when writing his story about Peter Nowak's one-game suspension.

Discrepancy in Major League Soccer's rules for disciplining coaches will hurt Union's Peter Nowak

Peter Nowak will miss this Saturday’s match against San Jose. (Michael Perez/AP Photo)
Peter Nowak will miss this Saturday’s match against San Jose. (Michael Perez/AP Photo)

Kerith Gabriel of the Daily News and I teamed up for this one, following Kerith's piece about Peter Nowak's one-game suspension.

Philadelphia Union manager Peter Nowak will miss this Saturday’s match against San Jose due to his involvement in a fracas on the pitch during the second half of the 1-0 win at Chivas USA this past weekend. 

Before you crash Twitter with your complaints, you should first know that it is an automatic punishment.

You should probably also know that Nowak’s suspension has served a meaningful purpose. Apparently, it got Major League Soccer to tidy up its rulebook on how coaches are disciplined for infractions.

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At first, a spokesperson at league headquarters said that Nowak would not be allowed to have any contact with his coaches or players before or during the match, including halftime.

As such, Nowak would watch from one of PPL Park's suites while assistant John Hackworth takes the reins, and that would be that.

Nowak will definitely be upstairs during Saturday evening's action. What happens the rest of the time, though, is in some dispute.

If you read the disciplinary procedures page on MLS' website, it says that a suspended coach does have access to his players before the game and at halftime. He would also be able to have contact with team staff throughout the game on the sideline. The full guidelines for coaches and staff are as follows:

Red cards are not issued to coaches. Referees may, at their discretion, dismiss a coach or other team staff member from the sideline due to inappropriate behavior during a game. Any coach dismissed will serve an automatic one-game suspension in the club’s next match in the corresponding competition.

A suspended coach may not be on the sideline during the game but may be in contact with team staff on the sideline and may speak to the team in the locker room beforehand, at halftime, and after the game. The committee may add suspensions and/or fines if the coach’s actions are deemed to be egregious.

That coaches do not receive red cards would explain why Nowak's ejection was not listed in the offical box score, in case you're wondering.

Also, we were told by another source that there is a history in MLS of coaches being able to communicate wtih their benches from upstairs. Which makes me wonder what the point of a suspension is, but that's for another blog post.

The aforementioned spokesperson from MLS headquarters followed up on the initial story reporting Nowak's suspension late Monday night. We were told that the above guidelines no longer apply. Although the new rules have yet to be posted on MLS' website, the spokesperson said in an e-mail that they are supposed to be as follows:

Any coach serving a game suspension will not enter the stadium tunnel area, team locker room or field level until after conclusion of the game, at which point he may enter the team locker room. He will not sit in the press box or grandstands.

Upon arrival at the stadium, he will immediately be directed to and seated in a private suite or club-provided reserved section. A suspended coach also will not be in communication with his team during the course of the game.

Quite a bit of that seems to be the opposite of the previous rules. We were told by MLS headquarters that the new rules went into effect prior to the 2011 season, but the website was never updated.

(Which is odd, given how much time has elapsed since, but again, that's for another blog post.)

Anyway, there's your explanation as to what will happen to Peter Nowak on Saturday. Make of it what you will - and feel free to share your thoughts in the comments.

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The Goalkeeper is your home for the latest news about the Philadelphia Union, Major League Soccer, the National Women's Soccer League, the U.S. men's and women's national teams, and the rest of the world's most popular sport. It's also a place for fans to gather and celebrate the culture of soccer and its unique place on the sports landscape.

Jonathan Tannenwald
Lauren Green Inquirer Staff Writer
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