There’s little point in beating around the bush with such a delicate issue. But regardless of whether Mark Clattenburg is exonerated or not, one way or another, it shows how far football has fallen.
You’ve got to hope that one of the leading referees in the country is well above the accusations that have been put forth against him. There’s certainly a great number of people, both in the game and out, who are taken aback by the allegations and view them as highly incongruous of Clattenburg.
But it’s not just the status of him in the game — and that excludes any predetermined agendas people may have due to his performances in previous seasons — but it’s extremely difficult to believe that someone studying law and who can only continue to grow in the game, would tarnish his reputation and potentially set his career back years in such a manner.
At this time, it’s not to say that he’s entirely free from guilt either; we’re very much in a state where it could go either way. The other problem is that this story has evolved (or mutated) each day following the game and leading into the weekend. The allegations of inappropriate language against Juan Mata have been dropped, but Chelsea have remained firm in their stance that Clattenburg used racial slurs towards Jon Obi Mikel.
Chelsea, regardless of recent incidents, have followed the rule book on this one and have put forward a complaint. Were they right to do so? Absolutely, and as such the appropriate actions need to be taken.
How does this look for English football? It just acts as another stain on a game trying desperately to move forward on a number of fronts. On one hand you’ve got to be stunned that any official in England would use such language, or even to be lacking in any consideration to bring up such a matter. While at the same time, you’ve got to be equally worried if this was something completely different.
The view from certain sections have indicated that Chelsea had only gone on to attack Clattenburg as an extreme measure following his handling of the Premier League game between them and Manchester United.
The club are not free from criticism in their approach to referees who have not handled the game in their favour, most recently with the incidents involving Tom Henning Ovrebo, the Norwegian official in charge of the Champions League tie against Barcelona. But regardless of the referee performances, whether that be Clattenburg, Ovrebo or Anders Frisk, Chelsea do have ‘previous.’
But would the club knowingly raise another racism case in such a way unless there was something concrete in there? Why would they, especially so soon after the John Terry case? This is a club who are tying to transform themselves on the pitch, they’ve comfortably been the most attractive team to watch in the Premier League this season and there are real opportunities to build on the success of last season. From both the views of Clattenburg being found guilty or of Chelsea raising this issue without any foundation, it just speaks terribly of the game in this country.
It’s not to suggest that Chelsea have made up these stories following the defeat, but what happens to Clattenburg even if he is found not guilty? Will he be able to referee a Chelsea game again and specifically at Stamford Bridge? It would be disappointing to think that even the wrongfully accused could not continue in their profession in the same manner prior to the proposed incident.
Clattenburg will continue to speak of his innocence, while there have been suggestions that this is a huge misunderstanding due to a number of factors.
The story is about racism, that’s what we’re looking at from this stage. But there’s potentially an underbelly of something hideous and equally damning of football. Chelsea were right to report Mark Clattenburg, but football in England will take another hit if they are found to be wrong and motivated by something other than a misunderstanding.