Can referees ruin football matches?
Mark Clattenberg’s career as a Premier League referee could be in tatters if the allegations made against him by Chelsea FC are true. Clattenberg is alleged to have made a racial slur towards Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel, who hails from Nigeria.
Clattenberg, who it is reported to have called Mikel a ‘monkey’, has been absent from his refereeing duties for the past two weeks, and this could be set to continue until the charges have been answered. It is not the first time the young referee has found himself in a spot of bother. In 2007, when he took charge of the Merseyside derby between Liverpool FC and Everton FC, he appeared to take a yellow card out of his pocket to book Tony Hibbert for a foul on Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard, but after a quick conference with Gerrard, he swapped the yellow card for a red. Many feel that he was influenced by the Liverpool skipper. Clattenberg was not asked to referee another Everton match for a further five years.
It is not only on the pitch that Clattenberg is a controversial figure. Following an investigation into his business debts of £60,000 in 2008, Clattenberg was dismissed by the referees’ governing body, citing a breach of contract. He had to serve an eight month suspension. The Newcastle Evening Chronicle reported that Clattenburg’s suspension was related partly to anonymous allegations of gambling, domestic violence and drug taking relayed to a senior PGMO official in an unsigned letter. Clattenberg has always denied the claims, but it could be said that his reputation was damaged beyond repair far prior to the latest on pitch allegations. Sources close to the referee refer to him as ‘arrogant’ and make it clear that the FIFA referee prefers to be in the limelight.
With an ongoing investigation into the events that unfolded when Chelsea took on Manchester United in the Premier League 11 days ago, one may wonder where does this leave the modern day game? There is talk of a referees’ boycott for Chelsea matches, and even an all-out strike. Ex Premier League referee Clive Walker has spoken about the disgust within refereeing circles towards Chelsea’s claims that Clattenberg used ‘inappropriate language’.
“I know a few referees who are even talking about boycotting Chelsea games because of all this.
“Remember, it’s not the first time Chelsea have targeted a referee — there’s been Anders Frisk and Graham Poll.
“And some refs are now saying enough is enough.”
These claims by Walker come before a verdict by the FA has been announced, so to talk about a revolt against Chelsea seems somewhat far-fetched – it seems as ludicrous as some fans attacking Manchester United when Patrice Evra was racially abused by Suarez, or after John Terry was proved ‘not guilty’ by a court of law for his racial charges against QPR’s Anton Ferdinand, that visiting fans should continually attack him.
So what can be done to ensure that the beautiful game improves, rather than is marred by allegations left, right and centre of unacceptable behaviour? Could FIFA demand that all conversations are recorded between the officials that take place on the headsets during the game? It would be impossible for cameramen to catch the action from every conceivable angle on the pitch, enabling us to have irrefutable evidence against the accused, so will there ever be a watertight solution?
If only football was played with the same mutual respect that the referee and players in Rugby Union matches have for each other, and that both sets of opposition fans show each other, parents would feel more able to bring their children to football matches without the worry of foul language and racism, and football would continue to grow in a more positive light.
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