Red Dismissed

A personal take on ‘that’ incident in Spurs vs. Manchester United (12 Feb 2023)

On my way into work this morning I arrived at the station, looked at the board and saw that my train was delayed. I rolled my eyes and put my hands to my face and was instantly hit by a charge from the FA. 

Can you tell I’m still a bit angry?

At the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium I was about twenty feet away as the incident happened directly in front of me: an innocuous coming together, a tangle of limbs that ended with Eveliina Summanen on the turf and Ella Toone standing over her. 

And then Ella Toone lashed out, shoving the player flat on the floor further into the turf. The psychology of being part of a partisan crowd means that you then forget the victim and start howling at the ref for a card. Toone is a terrific player, I was excited to see her in action, and I think to her credit, she knew she’d overreacted and accepted her marching orders without protest. She later apologised on Twitter. 

Ella Toone’s mea culpa in which she says she ‘hold[s] my hands up for my reaction and I’ll learn from it.’

So it was a bit of a surprise three days later when the FA announced that Toone’s red card had been rescinded. Not downgraded but completely overturned. In the eyes of the FA disciplinary board there had been no violent conduct. No further explanation of the decision was forthcoming. Nothing to see here, move along. 


But then it got weirder. Shortly after that announcement, the FA disciplinary board announced that they were charging Eveliina Summanen with simulation, successful deception of the referee into sending Toone off. Again, no further explanation was given. 

Above: The first of two FA announcements that came three days after the game.
Above: The second of two FA announcements that came three days after the game.

Surely this charge is unprecedented? 

Well not quite; while bookings on the pitch for simulation are rare enough, since a rule change in 2017 there have been – as far as I’m aware – just three cases of retrospective charges for deception: Oumar Niasse for Everton in 2017 then two in the Championship in early 2019 – Dwight Gayle winning a penalty for West Brom against Nottingham Forest and Patrick Bamford getting Anwar El-Ghazi sent off in a Leeds v Aston Villa game.

But this certainly seems to be unprecedented in the women’s game.

Just a few weeks ago there was much discussion about Jack Grealish ‘buying’ a penalty against Aston Villa. No retrospective punishment was meted out. In Spurs men’s 1-0 win over City, Pierre-Emile Højbjerg was praised for breaking up City’s rhythm & flowing football by going down under challenges and appearing to be more badly injured then he really was. 

And there’s nothing really wrong with a bit of that – one of the joys of watching Celin Bizet is seeing her get in the faces of her opponents, “letting them know she’s there”, treading that fine line between a bit of niggle and a yellow card. But I’ve watched the Toone/Summanen replay a lot, trying to understand what’s happened, trying to see why it’s different to Casemiro against Crystal Palace and… I can’t see it – are the FA trying to maintain a moral ‘purity’ to the women’s game when ‘the dark arts’ are regularly lauded in the mens? Beyond a brief flurry of retrospective action a few years ago, despite the regularity with which simulation is discussed the lack of frequent similar charges is odd. 

Looking back at the incident between Toone and Summanen, given Toone’s actions, the roar of the crowd, the position of referee Amy Fearn and how quickly she brandished the red, it seems unlikely that it was Eveliina’s reaction that ‘sold’ anything. And rewatching it, it seems that Eveliina’s deceptive simulation was to… stay on the floor and put her hands to her face. 

Ella Toone is over Eveliina Summanen and pushes her towards the floor

Had Toone shoved Summanen while both were standing I can still imagine the referee intervening and telling her to cool down and maybe avoiding a card. But Summanen was in a position of weakness, beneath her on the floor with no where to go but further into the pitch. 

So what on earth is going on? And why has no further explanation of these decisions been given? Do they expect less journalistic scrutiny then for the men’s game? Has Toone escaped punishment because she’s a popular and important Lioness? There’s certainly precedent for England players avoiding charges coughHarryKanestudsupchallengeagainstLiverpoolcoughcough or coughAlanShearerkickingNeilLennonintheheadcoughsplutter. Heck that same week Leah Williamson escaped giving an opponent a cheeky elbow to the face. 

Thankfully, Eveliina seems to have responded in the best way by scoring two in two (including a cracking free kick) for Finland. But I hope common sense, but more importantly, justice prevails.


Eveliina Summanen scores a direct free kick for Finland against Croatia, on her first time back on the pitch after the incident.

5 Replies to “Red Dismissed”

  1. There’s an opacity to the decision making in regards to the women’s game because it doesn’t get as much coverage from journalists, so it doesn’t look like anyone with any influence is questioning the reasoning. I hope Spurs appeal, but I fear they’ll not consider it worth the time, effort or resources.


  2. Yep u are right David … hardly any forums to open up any discussion on the women’s game, which is a real shame as it needs this to discuss situations like this. Even the punditry on offer from the main streams are often so one sided. A good ex-player doesnt always make a good pundit nor does a good pundit always have to come from a good player. I think good Journalists that cover the whole game and it’s development have more to offer than any ex Lioness or ex top 4 player as they have seen a wider spectrum of the game and not tunnel visioned by being at only 1 club. The sad side is that whilst it is more so an attraction for families with young girls at the moment – soon it will change once the revenues and investment change as they will want to cover the increased costs and this may well price them out of going. Even going to see us against Chelsea one can feel and hear the crowd hostility via chants managed by splinter groups of men who are on a cheap day out. This will for sure spread over time but that is another topic. I will not be taking my daughter to a Chelsea game again .. it was not a nice experience.


  3. At least RS had the chance today to make it public what she thinks about her counterpart and the FA ruling and theri inconsistencies. They are now ruled by after game punditry for sure. Shame on them


    1. I think Rehanne did a really good job, treading that fine line in her comments: a dignified support for Eveliina and real concern for the precedent now set – though sadly the Utd boss threw his weight around and got his way.


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