Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero will not face punishment for touching a female assistant referee in Saturday’s 1-0 win over Arsenal in the English Premier League.
The Argentine star confronted Sian Massey-Ellis after he disputed her decision to award a throw-in against his team, touching her on the neck and shoulder before the official swatted him away.
Players can be cautioned for physical contact with a referee if it is deemed non-aggressive and can be sent off if it is considered to be aggressive and/or confrontational.
Retrospective charges can only be brought against a player for touching an official if their actions are adjudged as being aggressive and/or confrontational.
Aguero went unpunished during the match and the referee’s governing body in England said the incident was not deemed aggressive or threatening.
Manchester City manager Pep Guardiola defended Aguero in the post-match news conference.
“Come on, guys. Sergio is the nicest person I have ever met in my life. Look for problems in other situations, not in this one,” he said.
Aguero, who is City’s all-time record goalscorer and was playing his first game since June after knee surgery, was criticised by his former team-mate Micah Richards who said on Sky Sports he should “know better”.
🗣"I think he didn't mean to do it but It's not a good look, he should know better"
Micah Richards addresses the incident between Sergio Aguero and assistant referee Sian Massey-Ellis pic.twitter.com/wz6pkko86v
— Football Daily (@footballdaily) October 18, 2020
The incident also caused a storm on social media, with many criticising the player’s actions.
The clip of Aguero putting his hand on Sian Massey-Ellis is so wrong for sooo many reasons:
❌ You don't touch the ref in any sport
❌ You never grab someone by their neck (just why? Why?!?)
❌ And besides those two common rules…he would never do it with a male ref🤷🏻♂️ pic.twitter.com/5UoW74BrB2
— David Eeckhout (@EeckhoutDavid) October 18, 2020
Samantha Lewis, a women’s football writer, said Aguero intended to intimidate Massey-Ellis by the way he touched her.
here's my q: would Aguero have touched a male referee *like this*? it's not just about touching; it's about how he touches her. every woman who's seen this recognises the gesture – in that ambiguous bodily zone of plausible deniability – & feels the intimidation he intends w/ it. https://t.co/oa4ZV5a0wl
— Samantha Lewis (@battledinosaur) October 18, 2020
Football writer Liam Twomey slammed Guardiola’s defence of Aguero’s actions.
Sian Massey-Ellis – not for the first time – deserves better, Aguero was out of order (regardless of his intent) and Guardiola, for all his football intelligence, continues to be wrong about the big things.
— Liam Twomey (@liam_twomey) October 18, 2020
Tatjana Haenni, director of women’s football at the Swiss Football Association and formerly at football’s world governing body FIFA, said Aguero’s gesture merited at least a yellow card and, while probably not aggressive, it was patronising and sent the wrong message to women looking to enter the game.
“It’s exactly why women sometimes don’t feel comfortable in football,” she told Al Jazeera.
“Maybe that’s why we don’t have so many women in football because we are constantly told what to do, and how this works, and how this is – and we have to adapt to that environment.”
Haenni said far more women needed to be given roles as referees, coaches and in leadership positions in football’s governing bodies so that it becomes regarded as normal that women are in the game.
She added that a strong message on Saturday’s incident would be welcome from the player.
“If Aguero is such a nice guy, as Mr Guardiola says, he just needs to say ‘I’m sorry, that was stupid, I didn’t mean it and I will try to make it better, and I will respect women in football as well, I hope there will be more women in the game’.
“That would be a really great message from him.”