It is fair to say that it is hard to imagine a worse time to be a referee, particularly in the Premier League goldfish bowl.
The latest allegations of racial abuse now concern a man in the middle, Mark Clattenburg; and relates to ‘inappropriate language’ used against John Obi Mikel in Chelsea’s league defeat to Manchester United on 28th October.
It remains to be seen whether Clattenburg is found guilty of this accusation, one which he strongly denies. If he is found guilty, then he deserves to be punished, but if found innocent, you have to wonder what basis these allegations were made from; and whether it is yet another example of referees being victimised for making the odd poor decision.
This has even led to suggestions of referees boycotting Chelsea matches in fear of being reprimanded of a similar offence- a sad state of affairs indeed.
But at least managers are now seeing how tough a referee’s job is in such high profile circumstances, but that does not stop their credibility being questioned on a regular basis.
A referee will be abused on countless occasions during a football match, with abuse coming from both sets of players and supporters. Can you imagine a referee complaining to the PFA every time a player used inappropriate language against him?
We all know the answer and it has reportedly left many officials feeling sad and disillusioned without any backing or support from the footballing authorities.
Finding a solution to prevent abuse from both sides may be difficult, but football could follow on from the example in Rugby; where referees wear microphones that broadcast the conversations between player and official to the audience.
Former England Rugby Union international, Brian Moore believes this will help to limit the abuse coming from both sides and clean up football’s image- thus limiting the number of Clattenburg type incidents from occurring in the future.
Many say football would never consider implementing such a system, but it would be intriguing to see how it could work in practice; and could be the answer in helping football to clean up its act.
My interpretation is that the Clattenburg incident has brought light to the topic of abuse in football; and that the use of inappropriate language against anyone, particularly of a racist nature has no place in the game.
But there needs to be a level playing field where referees feel just as entitled as a player to make a complaint regarding abuse.
Football’s main authorities need to readdress initiatives like the respect campaign and ensure there is more balance to accusations of this nature and that referees do not feel like scapegoats.
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