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Monday, 15 September 2014

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TAKE YOUR PICK: Should refs be miked-up?

THE row surrounding Premier League referee Mark Clattenburg’s conduct has understandably sparked a media storm.

David Pickthall
David Pickthall

The allegations of racist abuse towards Chelsea’s John Obi Mikel are serious and must be treated as such.

And if they are proven, the weight of the authorities, both the FA and criminal justice system, will rightly fall on him.

But as things stand, the allegations, no matter the hype surrounding them, remain allegations – i.e. statements without proof.

And with that in mind, I cannot help but spare a thought for the man in black, as the issue of what may, or may not, have happened continues to dominate the sports news agenda.

First of all, aside from the allegations, Clattenburg could justly argue he got all his disputed decisions correct in Sunday’s Chelsea v Manchester United match.

Branislav Ivanovic deserved to be sent off and few would argue differently.

And Fernando Torres, while it is clear Jonny Evans made contact with him, could arguably have stayed on his feet.

It was a harsh decision which divided opinion. Some analysts think he got it right, some don’t.

The decision to allow Javier Hernandez’s winner rested – many seem to forget – not with Clattenburg, but with his assistant.

He theoretically had the power to over-rule, but that was never possible given that it was such a tight call for the linesman.

Those were the controversial circumstances which understandably created frustration among the Chelsea players and fans and produced a hostile atmosphere.

What happened next is for the FA and the Met Police to uncover. But in the context of Sunday’s events, former ref Jeff Winter made a valid point, saying he found it “ironic” Clattenburg had been accused of using inappropriate language, given the abuse officials routinely face from players, in spite of the Respect campaign.

Clarifying that any racist allegations were serious, he added: “There seems to be one law for one set of people and one law for another.”

Another media report made reference to Clattenburg’s “love of expensive sports cars and designer labels”.

It went on: “He could easily be confused with the Premier League footballers he is paid to control.”

So, are elite referees not allowed to enjoy the prosperity that comes with reaching the pinnacle of the national game, or is that right reserved for the players?

One thing that would solve these issues beyond all doubt would be the recording of referees’ match microphones.

A lot of x-rated language would no doubt be picked up and it would also help detect offending players, whose on-field language would no doubt provoke plenty more FA investigations.

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