Whether Mark Clattenburg used racist language against Chelsea players remains to be seen, or at least the FA version of what happened into those events. What is certain is that the 37 year old referee made a mess of things in favor of Manchester United, and not for the first time.
This isn’t the first big match which has Clattenburg under fire, nor is it the first time he’s been criticized for his choice of words. While the red card to Branislav Ivanovic went unchallenged, his red card to Fernando Torres, no matter what Alex Ferguson says, was making a complete mess of things, and pretty much destroying the match. The Javier Hernandez goal? It’s only the linesman who could have seen that offside, and he didn’t, but it’s still on Clattenburg as the referee of that match.
In 2007, three years after beginning his Premier League career, Calttenburg refereed in a fiery Liverpool derby that ended in a 2-1 win for the reds. He awarded a penalty kick to Liverpool after Tony Hibbert fouled Steven Gerrard. He was about to pull out the yellow card but after an interaction, albeit brief, with Gerrard, Clattenburg changed his mind and showed Hibbert a red card. Later, Dirk Kuyt commited a waist high lunge at Phil Neville and remained in the match, while an apparent fouled by Jamie Carragher on Joleon Lescott inside the box went unnoticed.
His most infamous moment, until this Sunday, was in the 2005 match between Tottenham and Manchester United; that Pedro Leon goal. It’s one of those moments when you don’t really need to be in the perfect position to see the ball crossing the line. Five years later, in another Spurs – United match, Nani scored a goal while Gomes thought his team was awarded a free kick. Clattenburg isn’t at direct fault with that one, but the smell wasn’t exactly right on that goal as well.
In December of 2009 he had a moment with the other side of Manchester, City. Allegedly, he came up to the City bench and asked How do you work with Craig Bellamy all week? Bellamy was sent off for being booked twice; once for once for dissent and then for diving, although replays suggested he was actually fouled. Remind you of something?
Governing bodies are approaching the matters regarding referees in the wrong direction. They’re forgetting that football games would still be around without them, and they’re just accessories who need to keep order of things. Putting all these barriers between men who make mistakes that have a huge effect on team on match days and beyond is simply avoiding the problem.
Eventually, everyone lines up to what FIFA and UEFA say, and as long as they don’t want replays in the match, there’s nothing much to do. But the whole approach of allowing huge mistakes to happen when there’s the obvious technology to prevent it is hard to wrap my head around. Why don’t the FA change red card decisions more often, or suspend players for cheating and such on further reviews?
Referees are treated and protected by the FA’s as if they are superstars. Hardly accountable for their own actions. They should be available to the media or at least the teams to explain some of their decisions. Calttenburg isn’t the first or the last referee to make more than one big mistake in a match, turning it into a pointless affair. But there’s nothing that’s being done about preventing these things from happening.