FORMER Clarets centre half Peter Swan fears the game is “going soft”, despite Burnley successfully appealing Dean Marney’s red card against Birmingham City.

A panel yesterday over-turned a three-match ban the midfielder was facing after being given his marching orders by Darren Drysdale, in a game the Clarets went on to lose 2-1 in the last minute.

Manager Sean Dyche disputed Drysdale’s assessment that Marney used “excessive force”.

Swan is pleased the FA’s disciplinary department was in agreement with the Burnley boss, but insists Marney’s low, sliding tackle on Paul Robinson was perfectly legitimate and feels there should be no case to answer.

“You can’t tackle any more,” said the 46-year-old, who had two spells at Turf Moor towards the end of his playing career in the mid to late 1990s.

“The game’s going soft. When I was playing for Burnley I remember making a challenge on Dele Adebola.

“He tried to turn on the halfway line, I went in with a fair tackle but it put him out of the game.

“We trained on the Monday and John Ward, who was assistant manager at the time and a fair man, said my challenge – a solid, fair challenge – was the reason we won the game.

“If I made the same challenge now I’d be banned for four or five games!

“It’s going to be a non-contact sport soon enough.

“If you clamp down on tackling like that you’re taking a key element out of the game.”

He added: “It is not very good to watch at the moment. I look at football sometimes and I’m embarrassed to be involved in it with some of the reactions from some of the challenges that go in – people diving and rolling around.

“You don’t know where it’s going to stop.”

Swan believes it would help if referees were allowed to manage through their own judgement and not always be restricted to the letter of the rulebook.

“Rules are changing all the time, but not for the better,” he said.

“You’re not allowed to have common sense, you’re not allowed to see things and play on because referees get marked down and they all want to work their way up to the Premier League.”

But Swan says footballers should accept responsibility because play-acting has made the job of match officials a lot harder.

“If there’s contact, they go down,” he said. “Is that classed as cheating, or bending the rules slightly or playing within the rules?

“The rules are being set for the referees and assessors in the stands but there doesn’t seem to be any consistency.”

Meanwhile, Dyche expressed his delight that their appeal had been successful.

The club had previously opted against challenging Brian Stock’s red card, after he was the victim of mistaken identity in the FA Cup defeat at Barnsley, following a failed bid to have Kieran Trippier’s red card against Charlton rescinded earlier in the season.

However, despite the appeal success, the Burnley boss remained frustrated that Marney’s dismissal against Birimingham, when the scoreline was 1-1, had a direct impact on the game.

“It does not stop us being aggrieved at the decision, which clearly affected the outcome of the game when we looked good value to go on and get the three points, and I don’t feel we have had a fair share of decisions go our way,” said Dyche.

“But on this occasion the appeal decision has been a positive one for us and rightly so.

“I made it clear how I felt at the time, and after watching the incident again, and that view has been totally vindicated.

“We put our faith in pursuing the matter through the right channels and we are pleased that the process has gone in our favour.

He added: “We are thankful that we have got a good player available to us to go forward and it’s now on to the next game to try and compete for another three points at Peterborough (on Saturday).”