FIFA’s decision to open disciplinary proceedings against Dele Alli suggests that on-pitch gestures cannot be passed off as banter.
Alli was spotted on ITV’s live broadcast of England v Slovakia, offering a one-finger salute at an unspecified target, late in the second half of the 2-1 win.
The Spurs man had just clashed briefly with ex-Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel and referee Clement Turpin played advantage.
It was initially debated on-air if the gesture was aimed at the referee but, regardless of the intention, the act could have clear repercussions for Alli.
In the vacuum of no FIFA response immediately after the match, it was reported that Alli had laughed off the moment as nothing more than banter aimed at his former Spurs teammate Kyle Walker.
Spurs boss Mauricio Pochettino later used the lack of swift FIFA comment as a chance to play down the act as a joke and pass it off as unfortunate to have been spotted.
However FIFA’s subsequent decision now to investigate the matter suggests that allegations of abusive behaviour are anything but a joke or unlucky.
The bare truth is that top-level football is covered by a relentless saturation of lenses and cameras, live or otherwise. Every participant has a professional duty to know that their every move is being watched and judged. Everyone is responsible for their own actions.
This is not park football. This is not jumpers-for-goalposts, after school. Professionals don’t have the leeway to risk unwise behaviour, or pass it off as jokes or banter. They have a duty to uphold professional standards.
Alli’s chance for his banter plea to be upheld will come down largely to whether or not TV shots and photographs show quite where he aimed his gesture. Was it at Walker? Was it at the referee? Will that matter to FIFA?
FIFA are expected to handle the matter by the end of September. Any ban could rule Alli out of England’s final World Cup qualifiers.