If there is one relationship more strained than most in English football, it is the one between referees and managers. Whilst trying to lead their team from the sideline, Premier League bosses regularly vent their frustration at what they see as incorrect decisions from the officials, but it is becoming more and more common for managers to publicly criticise a referee. A week rarely goes by right now without a manager outburst against a referee or their decisions. Whilst the fact that this is becoming an increasingly regular occurrence does raise fair questions about the standards of refereeing, why do the managers feel the world is against them after one bad decision?
Liverpool’s first defeat this season to Stoke City last weekend was met by obvious frustration from Liverpool boss Kenny Dalglish, but most of his anger was directed not at his team but referee Mark Clattenburg. As is too often the case in recent years the game was more notable for controversial decisions rather than the football. Stoke’s fantastic 1-0 win was overshadowed by a number of penalty incidents: firstly Clattenburg’s decision to award Stoke a penalty for a foul on Jonathan Walters by Jamie Carragher; and then the referee’s failure to award Liverpool either of two possible penalties for handball claims in the box.
Despite Dalglish’s complaints I can’t completely agree with the Liverpool manager. Whilst Liverpool should have been awarded a penalty for what was a clear handball by Rory Delap in a possibly match changing decision, Stoke’s penalty was correctly awarded as Carragher dangerously had his arms around Walters in the penalty area. It was an unlucky situation for Liverpool and Clattenburg should be made fully aware that he got Liverpool’s penalty claim wrong but a simple mistake on the pitch should not be made into a full-blown conspiracy.
Referees, managers and accountability is a grey area for debate. Managers should have a right to opinion and fair comment on a referee’s decision but Dalglish’s comments after the Stoke game went further than one bad decision by Clattenburg. Dalglish was quoted as saying:
“The first four league games have had contentious decisions in them and every one has gone against us.
“If we continually get battered by things outside of our control we are not going to get much chance.”
Dalglish is by no means the only manager to criticise the referees. Sir Alex Ferguson’s outbursts against referees last season earned him an unprecedented five-match touchline ban. But this sense of conspiracy or bias on the back of a bad decision and ultimately human mistake creates a stronger sense of a siege mentality against referees.
The powers that be need to act quickly to sort out this refereeing mess but managers themselves need to be careful not to cross the line between understandable frustration and full blown conspiracy theory, as football again edges dangerously close to becoming too much about bad decisions and not enough about good football.
Do you think managers should avoid claiming a conspiracy against their team or was Dalglish right? If you want to read more of my bite size, 140 character views and thoughts follow me on Twitter @jennyk5
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