CARSON, Calif. – Jermaine Jones says he'd like to return to Germany to play but that his six-game suspension, for making contact with referee Mark Geiger in New England's playoff loss last year to D.C. United, is hurting his chances of joining another club.
Jones lashed out at MLS and U.S. Soccer for the length of the sanction in a media session before the US national team's training session Thursday morning at StubHub Center and blamed the league and federation – unfairly, it turns out, based on FIFA regulations – for pushing foreign clubs to honor the suspension.
“It's a little bit ridiculous. It's really crazy,” Jones said. “So I get a six-game suspension in this league, and I told the league that I want to go [elsewhere]. I have some offers from different countries, and, end of the day, it's a call on Sunil [Gulati, US Soccer president] and Garber [MLS Commissioner Don Garber] to bring the suspension over to the other countries, too.”
Jones, who said his contacts in Germany told him that such a policy was “not a normal rule,” was misinformed.
Article 12 of FIFA's “Regulations on the Status and Transfer of Players” mandates that “any disciplinary suspension imposed on a player prior to a transfer must be enforced or applied by the new association at which the player is registered. The former association is obliged to notify the new association of any sanctions writing and upon issuing the [International Transfer Certificate].”
Jones, a German-born midfielder, says that the looming suspension is preventing him from returning to Europe to play.
“The problem is that all other leagues, they're already in the season, so it's half the season [already] played,” Jones said. “If you have a player who have six-game suspension, it's tough to bring him in. Then you have almost 10 games [for which he'll be eligible].”
Jones said he was frustrated primarily with what he sees as a double standard on the lengths of suspensions.
“I talk with people in Germany, they watch the scene with me and Geiger and they say definitely not a six-game suspension,” Jones said. “And if you see other stuff, what happens and how the league handled that suspensions, it's not fair. ... If you see what happened here and you see the situation what happened in the league, too, with other national team players, so they get a complete different suspension than the six-game suspension.”
Seattle and USMNT forward Clint Dempsey received a three-game MLS suspension after grabbing a notebook from referee Daniel Radford and ripping it up during a US Open Cup loss to Portland last June. Dempsey also received a six-game Open Cup ban.
Jones made contact with Geiger following his second yellow card of the game after rushing to the referee to protest a decision.
“Of course, I run to him, and then I put my hand on his shoulder,” Jones said. “Six games, it's a little bit heavy.”
He said he thought a three-game ban “and maybe get a penalty, something to pay,” would have been a fair sanction.
But here, too, governing rules were applied. In addition to reviewing reports from the referee as well as from an in-stadium league observer, the MLS Disciplinary Committee — it’s comprised of three former players, one former coach and an ex-MLS referee — referenced the US Soccer Federation’s 2015-’16 Policy Manual which recommends a six-game suspension for the “intentional act of physical violence at or upon a referee.”
Commissioner Garber also heard an appeal from the MLS Players Union on behalf of Jones, with the midfielder and union representatives provided the opportunity to state their case. The sanctions — a six-game suspension and fine — were ultimately upheld.
DC United’s Fabian Espindola similarly was forced to sit out six matches in 2014 after making contact with an assistant referee during a playoff match against the New York Red Bulls.
Even with the specter of a six-match ban, Jones said he'd be open to remaining in MLS “if you bring me the correct contract ... but if not, I don't want to stay here.”