What if referees were allowed to be fans?
“Sure I saw him forearm the lad McCarthy. But what can I say I’ve always been a Manchester United fan so I was never going to send Rooney off.” So says Mark Clattenburg explaining his decision to turn a blind eye to a seemingly obvious red card offence.
Speaking later in the week Martin Atkinson explained his decision to send Nemanja Vidic off in the dying moments of the game: “Every time I have a game with him he’s always bitching and moaning about this or that decision. I’d been looking for a chance to send him off all game and teach him a lesson. He tugged the shirt, I thought, thank you very much and pulled out the red.”
Of course none of this happened. I made it all up. The referees in question said no such thing. Unfortunately, they abide by the rules of their employers and maintain a stoic silence as Alex Ferguson ignores the rules applying to him about questioning referees integrity. So much for the FA’s respect agenda.
The trouble is referees are an easy target for managers for the simple reason they can’t answer back. You can heap abuse and derision upon them, and if you’ve got a big enough reputation like the Govan gobshite Fergie then you’re probably not even worried about getting punished.
But what if referees could answer back? And what if referees could actually fire the opening salvos in a war of words with a manager?
Imagine if Howard Webb, ahead of Manchester derby, spoke about how Rio Ferdinand had harangued him in the tunnel after the last game. “I hope Rio doesn’t try tackling in the box. Any excuse to give a penalty and I’m pointing at the spot.”
If referees were allowed to mark the card of players and referees I think we’d find there’d be a sudden a new found respect for the match officials. I’m guessing managers would find themselves having a new found sympathy for that difficult offside decision. All for fear of antagonising the same referee at any future fixture. The FA could even start choosing referees on the basis of promoting their respect agenda. Courteous behaviour could be rewarded with a sympathetic referee.
And unapologetic recalcitrant’s like Ferguson? Well they could find themselves with Martin Atkinson every week.
- When referees face trial by TV, Fifa must say who has the final word | David Lacey (guardian.co.uk)
- “Manchester United Manager Sir Alex Ferguson Keeping Quiet After Negative Comments About Referee” and related posts (nesn.com)