THE abysmal refereeing display of Mark Clattenburg at Chelsea last Sunday, when he ludicrously dismissed Fernando Torres who had himself been fouled and allowed a patently offside winning goal for Manchester United by Chicharito, raises so many worrying questions. The most important of which is simply why is a referee with the tainted record of Clattenburg so highly rated that he seems destined to be the English choice for the ensuing World Cup in Brazil. Why?
For Clattenburg, in the vernacular, has form, whether or not he was guilty at Stamford Bridge, as Chelsea have claimed, of making racist comments to a couple of their players. He is in fact notable or even notorious for chattering to players during the game which can prove something of a double-edged sword.
As long ago as January 2005, he had already benefited Manchester United when a typically powerful long range shot by Tottenham’s Pedro Mendes slipped through the butterfinger hands of the inept keeper Roy Carroll and bounced well over the line, before Carroll snatched it back; and got await with it.
In October 2007, refereeing the Merseyside derby Everton against Liverpool, he expelled Everton’s Tony Hibbert, having initially given him a yellow card, after bizarrely and seemingly consulting Liverpool’s Steven Gerrard. That was compounded by allowing Liverpool’s Dutchman Dirk Kuyt to stay on the pitch after a shockingly dangerous lunge, then denying Everton a penalty when Everton’s Joleon Lescott was pulled to the ground. It would be another five years before he was given another Everton game; but why was he not at least suspended at the time?
Off the field there was at least a suspension though it was later to be commuted. In January 2009 he was found guilty by the referees’ governing body of sending menacing emails to business partners and having supposed debt of £175,000. He was dismissed for good only to win an appeal. It must be said that whatever Clattenburg’s alleged offences off the field they did not have much to do with his actual refereeing.
Thank goodness there is no evidence that English referees are anything but honest, by stark contrast with all too many referees elsewhere. Not least in the shape of the top official Howard Webb, who controlled up to a point the World Cup Final of 2010 in South Africa. He should surely have sent off the Dutch midfielder Nigel De Jong very early on for a shocking challenge from behind on Spain’s Xavi Alonso but he didn’t, perhaps deciding it was too early in the game. A political rather than a refereeing factor. At least one other Dutchman might have been punished thus.
One thinks of other earlier referees who have officiated the World Cup Final, and much more impressively away back in 1950 at Rio’s Maracana stadium it was the Southampton schoolmaster George Reader. Technically this supremely dramatic Brazil-Uruguay game wasn’t the Cup Final at all but thanks to a madman’s fly trap of a system, the final match in the final group; in which a draw would have given clear favourites Brazil the title. They didn’t get it, losing 2-1 in front of 200,000 devastated fans with Reader serenely impervious.
Four years later in Berne at the Hungary-Germany World Cup final the man in charge was another Englishman in Bill Ling. When Welshman Mervyn Griffiths raised his flag he gave Ferenc Puskas offside and Hungary a potential equaliser had vanished. Previously the Yorkshire referee Arthur Ellis had impeccably controlled a furiously inflammable and inflamed match, the Battle of Berne quarter-final between Hungary and Brazil.
While the 1974 Final in Munich between bitter foes in West Germany and Holland was officiated by the big calm authoritative Wolverhampton butcher, Jack Taylor. Who afterwards was decent enough to admit that he had ruled out a goal by Germany’s prolific Gerd Muller, who eventually got the winner, which was probably onside and good.
Yet now the chief of the English referees organisation is Mike Riley, whom one remembers for his lax control of a vital Manchester United-Arsenal game which cost the Gunners their 49-match unbeaten record with Wayne Rooney being given a penalty he never deserved, while Gary Neville was given licence to treat Arsenal’s young Spanish left winger Jose Antonio Reyes with cynical ruthlessness. And one remembers at Old Trafford again Webb giving United a game-changing penalty that never was against Spurs when hopelessly distant from the play.
Better perhaps not to exhume the 1962 Battle of Santiago when the Chile-Italy game was mayhem from the start. Ken Aston the English referee called it uncontrollable. The Italians never forgave him.