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The case of Mark Clattenburg: a missed opportunity

By Walter Broeckx

The FA has made their final verdict public on the allegations from Chelsea against referee Mark Clattenburg that he had used racist language against one of their players.

The FA has said that there is no proof that Clattenburg has said such a thing. As you all know I have been reviewing the refs in the Pl for a few seasons. So I think I can say that I rather know the refs a bit. I know their strong points and their weaknesses. I can tell how a ref will react to an incident and I notice when he changes his usual behaviour by now.

I know and I have seen that some refs are more friendly with English players than with foreign players. In a way this could be understood as they both speak the same language and that this is not always the case with foreign players. I’m not suggesting this is born out of racism but just well I can have more fun with someone who speaks my own language than with someone who doesn’t speak my mother language or only just.

I get more annoyed when refs laugh and joke with all players of one team and wave away the players from the other team. That is a behaviour I have seen on a few occasions from some refs and one that I really don’t like at all.

But back to Clattenburg and the now false accusations from Chelsea. First of all if Clattenburg would have said the sentence in question (shut up you monkey) he should have been thrown out of football. Football is a sport where all people, from all different continents should be treated in the same way by the ref.

Now the accusations have been declared as false I can say that I had a 99% certainty that the accusations were false. Now I can say it for the full 100%.

I can imagine that for Clattenburg this must have been a hell. I just know he is no racist and then to be accused of such a thing must be hard. Because we all know how it works. In a few months time people will maybe say: Clattenburg wasn’t he the racist ref?

And dumb as people are they will remember the accusations but not that he was cleared and found not guilty. When there is smoke there is a fire some people will argue. We all know how things work and if you want to bring harm to some one his reputation you accuse him of something and something will be remembered.

I know that I have said harsh words on some refs in the past when they made mistakes. But I always backed my words with the facts from a game or with the facts of more games and when patterns came above water I  named them. So yes I have been hard on referees in the past and believe me I will continue to do so.

But this accusation was so ridiculous that it made me rather angry. By a coincidence the ref review of the Chelsea – Manchester United game was published this morning in the very early hours. You can read it on the referee decisions website.  Clattenburg (but most and for all one of his assistants) made a mistake that changed the outcome of the game. Accusing him (and his assistant) of that is fine.

But uttering low accusations of being a racist is a (Stamford) bridge too far. Being falsely accused of something is one of the worst thing to happen. And certainly when it is word against word. Based on my reviews I can say that Clattenburg makes mistakes (all refs do) but that he is one of the most honest refs I have seen in my 3 years of reviewing. So putting an honest man his hobby, job and life at risk with false accusations is not something that can be forgotten lightly.

Therefore I find it very stupid of the FA not to take action against Chelsea. The FA says in their statement that they think the accusations were made in good faith. My ass. You don’t accuse someone of racism “in good faith”. You know the implications and if you cannot prove it you don’t put forward a formal complaint. This is character assassination from the part of Chelsea. They were unhappy with the ref and his decisions and wanted to hurt him. That is all.

By not punishing Chelsea the FA are opening the door to more such accusations. I remember once that one of our players said that the ref abused him racially during a game a few seasons ago. I will not call names because Arsenal didn’t took further action. Because of the fact that it would be a matter of word against word and no proof could be delivered. Arsenal left it like that. I think this was down to the fact that he knew the implications for the ref and the fact that it could turn in to a nasty case. Chelsea could and should have done the same thing.

The FA should have punished Chelsea for making a false accusation. Money is no issue for Chelsea so you can’t hurt them there. But points deduction would be a good example. Because not punishing Chelsea could bring other teams to the idea to try to destroy a ref. The ref made a mistake, you don’t like the final result…let’s accuse him of racism. Proof or no proof? You just say someone heard him saying it.. you know in “good faith” and the ref in question is just one step away from the end of his career.

We should stop this from happening. If you want to ban a ref, let it be for not doing a proper job and for making too many mistakes. Not based on false accusations.

But maybe we should be grateful to Chelsea for one thing. The PGMOL has apparently decided to record the voices of the refs and the assistant during the game. I hope they also record what the players call them during the game. And who knows maybe ban players for abusing the refs. That is the only good thing that comes to my mind from this. And maybe it will stop some players from abusing and swearing at the refs during games.

I hope the PGMOL will use the recordings and give them to the FA to punish players. And hell why not make them public? So they can hear what is said during games between players the ref and his assistants. You’d be amazed about the language that is used at times. Mostly by players.

So maybe from a bad and ugly case something good may come from it. If the FA and the PGMOL would use the recordings to punish foul mouthing players that would be a big step forward in stopping teams chasing down referees. We will chase the refs down for the mistakes against the rules and for the wrong calls on our website. Don’t worry about that. But let the players do the playing with the ball. And let the clubs not go down the route of making false accusations of racism against refs.

I do hope for the FA that letting Chelsea of the hook will not backfire against them and the refs in the future. Now was the time to set an example. A missed opportunity….


The books…

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31 comments to The case of Mark Clattenburg: a missed opportunity

  • Champagne Charlie

    You could’ve shortened this article by simply stating that a points deduction for Chelsea would really help Arsenal in their bid for Champions League qualification.

  • americangooner

    chelsea’s week has been quite laughable. RDM sacked, spanish waiter appointed manager, clattenburg cleared, mikel charged and they( media) say arsenal is in crisis. after nearly jeopardising a good refree’s career and questioning his character, those officials at chelsea are refusing to publicly apologize. chelsea is a complete shame. after inaction against their racist captain, now they are quite adamant to protect a false accuser.

  • Liam

    The outcome dosn’t mean the accusations were false.It just
    means that they were not proven.Ramires heard what was said,
    which he correctly reported.Chelsea had an obligation to report it to the FA,it was investigated and there wasn’t enough evidence to find Clattenburg guilty.

  • marcus

    Glad to see Clattenburg exonerated. He seems one of the few genuinely decent refs.

    Re racism is football, it doesn’t get much worse than this does it?

  • Mandy Dodd

    The FA seem to be a bit scared of Chelsea – firstly Terry getting half the ban of Suarez then this. Wonder why? Clattenberg is one of the better refs. The ref reviews and what we have seen with our own eyes over the last few seasons indicate to me some of the refs do not like us too much. Maybe they have another club with a very good reason not to be too keen on, wonder if this will show, or the seemingly universal fear factor concerning Chelsea will come into play?

  • gunner4ever

    I genuinely believe the FA aint keen on any other team to win the epl. They want only Fanchester Utd to win every season. That is why refs like Clattenburg are used to do the jo by sending off Torres.A thousand and one scenarios can be used to show how FU will always win.

  • Gouresh

    Quite surprised that Hellsea has not been docked any points. Is there something naughty going on between the FA and Hellsea?

  • WalterBroeckx

    I remember Arsenal going to Rome a few years ago in the CL. A few of the Benelux members went to that game and it was a frightening experience they told.

    This is terrible. Maybe it is time to throw some clubs out of Europe who have such crap criminal fans.

  • rupert cook

    Chelsea are a horrible club. They’ve always had a racist element to their support. That appears to have dwindled in recent years but they still have something of the night about them.

    No style, so vile, CFC.

  • GeorgeSydAust

    Arsenal supporter I think Chelsea are @*&%. but….
    I’m sorry, I dont get it.
    “You know the implications and if you cannot prove it you don’t put forward a formal complaint.”
    But what if he did say it? Was it proven that he didnt say it or that no-one else heard it?”
    ps Im not trying to be a smart arse its a legitimate question

  • Mandy Dodd

    Very disturbing what happened to those Spurs supporters and the reasons behind the attack,and some Lazio supporters have history. Hope all the injured recover very soon and the guilty are bought to very swift justice, though do not hold out much hope for the latter

  • Walter

    If Clattenberg were to say to Gareth Bale ‘shut up monkey’, would you still say he should be kicked out of football?

  • rupert cook

    @9jgunnerdoc, certainly not, he would merely be asserting his belief in Darwin’s theory of evolution.

  • Mandy Dodd

    off topic, but Ivan Gazides, we know what you do!

    hopefully the first of many

  • Gouresh

    looks like the refs are going to sue Hellsea. can the FA dock 15 points and if Hellsea’s appeal fails, another 5? won’t that be lovely? it would bring these agrogant prats down to earth.

  • ARSENAL 13

    guys….just checked the club website. Therz an announcement of the new shirt sponsor deal worth 30 mills a year. AND some news about Adidas kit deal also signed (dont know how correct).

    SO looks like Gazidis is doing his job against all the accusations…..

  • ARSENAL 13

    back to Clatenberg…..As I wrote here when this news first appeared….IF the ref was found guilty then he must be punished, BUT if not, then Chelsea should be very very very strictly dealt with.

    Letting Chelsea off the hook in this case will be a crime.

  • walter

    would he then be a specie-ist?

  • walter


    I know he didn’t say such a thing. That is all I can say to be honest. But I know he didn’t said it.
    The little boy inside told me so.

  • Valentin

    The thing with Mikel is that he should have been sent off for manhandling the refere in the first place. I remember a game where a refere sent Petit off for the audacity of trying to stop him to be able to talk to him.
    What has been proven was that Clattenburg exasperated by Jon Obi Mikel told him: Shut up, Mikel.
    Mix Clattenburg accent, Ramirez not completely fluent in English, the stadium background noise and you end up with: Shut up, Monkey.
    Incorrect, but reported in good faith by Ramirez.
    Where Chelsea failed was that they briefed the media in the hope to cast an unfavourable shadow on the referee and therefore deflecting away from their loss and current poor run of form.
    It has backfired very badly on them.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    I was quite hoping for Monkey trial part 2 , coming 87 years after the original in 1925 which was the good book vs evolution.
    Part 2 was about the ref’s bookings vs Chelski’s regression backwards into the primordial swamp .

  • Certainly, specie-ism is not a crime, Walter!

  • Cameron Wolfe

    @ Walter
    Funny you should mention the Rome incident. When I lived in Scotland in the 80’s (pre Gooner)my local team was Dundee Utd. We did fairly well in Europe for a small team. We played Roma in the EUFA Cup tie. The team coach was stoned on the way in. The team captain later stated he feared for his life even on the pitch. After being beaten in the tie the coach was again stoned on the way out even though Roma had won. The captain said it was the worst and most hostile exprience ever.
    Incidently Dundee Utd. Still the only team to beat Barcelona home and away in a European competition. 1-0 at Home. 2-1 at the Nou Camp.
    I still look at their results each weekend.

  • Stuart

    Basically, Clattenburg was found not guilty of racism by a racist and corrupt organisation.

  • Stuart

    @Rupert Cook.

    Classic, love it

  • Stuart

    I used to work with this guy who was really racist, I mean the worst I’ve ever known. He was a Chelsea fan and had been in prison for killing a black fan of another team, he was quite proud of what he did when he spoke of it and I daren’t say he’d do it again one day. The guy was a complete loose cannon, very dangerous and easy to tip over the edge over even the simplest of things.

    Luckily, I wont cross paths with him again as I moved and changed profession anyway.

  • Matt Clarke

    Off topic, sorry…but i wished to get this to Wlater’s attention:

    Walter – if you can get BBC Radio 4 playback in The Land of Beer&Chocolate; then please have a listen to the second half.

    More or Less deals with numbers in the news and give the headlines a proper statistical assessment.

    Today they looked at Fergie time and whilst their conclusions are interesting, what may be more interesting is their apparent willingness to air matters that touch of referee reliability. Maybe they would be willing to pick up on the referee decisions issue?

    Anyway – please see what you think.

  • Matt Clarke


  • Gord

    I have no idea if Clattenburg is guilty or innocent. I think the referee conversation needs to be saved, so that it can be examined later if need be. I think the referee conversation should become part of the public record: I don’t think that referees should be able to hide behind the idea of “privileged communications”. “Get out of my face, you fucking monkey” is entirely too easy to cover up if records are never made public.

    I still have no opinion as to whether Clattenburg is guilty or innocent. The referees association cannot be believed in what it says.

    I do think this particular problem was useful, in that TheFA needed to actually investigate a referee. I think for most circumstances in the past, The FA recognized that someone was a referee and that was the end of the investigation.

  • Paul"the Gooner"

    Ramires made this up.Mikel did not hear it and it was supposed to have been said to him,two other Chelsea players, one being Cole never heard it.Both were nearer to Mikel than Ramires.When they asked where Ramires was on the pitch when the incident took place he could not remember.Chelsea then had other footage of the match and that is when Ramires told the F.A. where he was on the pitch.This is from the report by the F.A.Google it and you will see it.Total Classless!!