Clattenburg confirms what we feared: referees are making up their own rules

By Tony Attwood

A major part of the argument that suggests that referees are not following the laws of the game but are following a different set of rules has come from Mark Clattenburg in relation to the notorious Chelsea v Tottenham game near the end of the 2015/16 season.

In an interview he has admitted that he could and indeed should have sent off a number of players but allowed them to stay on the pitch so that they would (in his own words) “self-destruct”.

However my understanding of the laws of the game is that referees have no such leniency – there are regulations about what sort of behaviour is punishable, and what sort of punishment should be meted out.

If the referees did have this level of discretion within the laws of the game then the referee could at any time decide (for example) not to punish deliberate hand ball in the penalty area with a penalty, for some “greater good” which he or she has in mind.

In fact referees do this sort of thing quite a lot – particularly with time wasting by goalkeepers – and it is something that is quite annoying since it clearly gives a benefit on the pitch to the offending team.  And indeed this is the problem always with the argument of bending the rules.

Let us imagine that Clattenburg had allowed Tottenham to get away with their crude and violent play, as he did, but they then went on to win by enough goals to have given them the title and deprive Leicester.  What would Clattenburg have done then?  Started sending Tottenham players off retrospectively?  I doubt it.


Clattenburg did in fact book nine Tottenham players in the match and it was notable that the PL did nothing in terms of a deduction of points – the sort of punishment that Arsenal suffered during the Graham era after a game with far fewer such incidents.  Arsenal lost two points as a result.

Subsequently in the Chelsea Tottenham punch-up Mousa Dembélé received a six-match ban from the FA for gouging one of the eyes of Diego Costa.  The referee did nothing about it on the night.

The problem with the referee adjusting the laws of the game to suit his own desires is that we are no longer watching football, but a game in which the teams are playing to different rules, adjusted by referees as they go along.

Untold has long argued that referees are changing the rules as they work, in order to influence matches, and it is good to hear one of them admit it.  His claim that he did it to avoid getting any blame is not particularly believable since referees get blame for match fixing quite regularly in the Premier League, and it never seems to harm their careers under PGMO.  Indeed we have shown referees getting under 50% of major decisions right, and still no one in the media or in PGMO blinks.

So I guess we can be glad that at last a referee has admitted that he didn’t referee the game according to the laws but according to a set of rules he had introduced himself.    And it is interesting to note that one of the explanations as to what is going on in PL games is now confirmed.

We’ve often said that PL games could be refereed as they are, with the multiplicity of errors that our evidence, carefully gathered with video examples, (see for example 160 games analysed) reveals for any one of several reasons

a) The referees are incompetent

b) There is large scale match fixing going on

c) The referees are working to their own personal agendas

In this case we have an example of Type C referee action.

Of course it doesn’t mean that what was actually happening was Type III match fixing, which is a different kettle of fish all together.

But still, good of him to admit that something was going on.  As far as I can tell, it is going on all the time.

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57 Replies to “Clattenburg confirms what we feared: referees are making up their own rules”

  1. This slowly hints towards the notion that major decisions in ‘Big Games’ may not be linked to incompetency, but rather linked to various external factors completely irrelevant on the pitch and to the referees’ duties.

    The fact that Clattenburg openly admits that Spuds should have had a bundle of players sent off, is enough to highlight that these ‘major’ refs know their job and understand their roles close enough to be fair in decision making.

    Shady stuff this…

    Also, we did a ref review for this game last year.

  2. The PL is fixed.
    For “higher goods” but any ref can have such higher goods in their minds.

  3. Funny thing is Tony asked this last year “How could such a thing happen?” for this shambolic display, and lo and behold we have answers (some at least).

    Even though ref reviews are very time consuming for us all to do now… I started experimenting with something similar on twitter. Here it is. I will adding links to this thread.

  4. Odd thing is why would Clattenburg come out with all this? Is he trying to reach out and pull the house of yellow and red cards down? Is he hoping the next/another ref will come out and spill of bit of beanery too?
    If tv cash is creating pundit agendas that put the boot in for sensationalist click bait(and outrage!), what other orders have been given to refs?
    In some ways its pretty egoistic and in others quite brave?

  5. This is incredibly disturbing, not so much just what he admitted to, but more the fact he feels he can get away with admitting it. Can’t help but imagine all of the things he doesn’t want to admit.

    This should be the biggest story in English football for the next couple of weeks. I dare say everyone will have forgotten by morning.

  6. Pretty shocking, if not surprising, always thought the Spuds were a protected species with the refs these days.
    Agree with Kenneth, there might be more to the timing of this, hardly puts this ref in a good light.
    Still, at least Arsenal will never be involved in such a shady scheme, no way a ref is going to do our boys any such favours
    The FA need to look at this, but I suspect they will do what they always do when faced with an issue, a big fat nothing.

  7. Have believed that Arsenal have had referees against them for a long time now. We are fed the line that it evens itself out in the end,which is of course nonsense. It is highly possible when you look at the bias in the media right across the board that it is orchestrated. In the years before Chelsea and Man City won the lottery the decisions in favour of Man Utd were unbelievable and now it seems to favour Man City. Of course football in this country could not possibly be corrupt could it.? Money does,nt talk does it.

  8. The interview becomes more odd, the more you read it. The fact he was more interested in his own image than the rules of the game is the shocker (not sending off three Chickens, because the Coop would be clucking loudly is no excuse, why bother being a ref in the first place?And Chelsea have every right to be irritated by this exposé?), even more bizarre that he would admit this?

  9. Mr Clattenburg claims he should have sent 3 players off but spread the yellows around instead.

    However when the first player gets a red the other players usually ease up on the fouling. it does happen that two players in one team get sent off but very rare that three players merit a red.

    If Mr C had issued a red the first time a red was deserved it would have been and it usually is a warning to the other players ‘to watch it’

    Mr C knows this so why didn’t he apply this fact?
    As asked above why is he coming out with this now?

  10. Chelsea could have finished 9th that season which brings on an extra £400k if not more. three men sent off means they could won and got two extra points.
    Looks like Riley50`s 50k for secrecy is not enough. Clattenburg is telling us that in the EPL u screw a team as a ref and get away with it, actually u will be appreciated. “The English love the unpunished tackle” his reason for giving two parallel performances in the EPL and UCL.
    Spurs won’t be flattered by his words. Year in year out he continues revealing a little more. Mike Rikey doesn’t like it of course. What will he do?????
    If u want a bent ref, Go to the EPL.

  11. that should be could have won!
    some shocking comments have come from Webb and now Mark. Remember the hairdryer thing? stitching it in one article must be a good idea

  12. Clattenburg clearly should have sent off several Spurs players in the notorious match against Chelsea. But in general referees handle yellow and red cards fairly sensibly. Most of the controversy surrounding referees is to do with penalty decisions. Referees tend to ignore foul play in the penalty area unless the striker actually tumbles to the ground and to award a penalty every time time a striker falls. This simply encourages simulation.

    A penalty should be awarded if a defender commits a significant foul on striker in the area. A penalty should not be awarded 1) if the challenge is fair e.g. a shoulder charge 2) if the striker engineers a collision e.g. deliberately tripping over the defender’s leg or 3) if the challenge is insignificant e.g. touching a striker without impeding him.

  13. In the premier league era refs credibility lessens with every game.Think of Mike Riley in 04 he was put in charge of the game at Old Trafford to make sure the unbeaten run ended,which he did and look at his prize top dog not bad for such an insignificant individual,also Andre Marriner didnt know the difference in Gibbs and Ox a laughing stock on the day yet the powers that be still allow him to referee top level games instead of showing him the door.

  14. Usama,

    the thing is : if several Sp*r players had been sent off, apart from a probable change in the result, the next game(s) would have been impacted as well, bcasue they would not have been on the pitch. I guess that some Chelsky players might have been sent off as well.

    With that we are in ‘Back to the future’ and one could start thinking about what would have happened if….

    This just stinks. It means the ref decides how he feels, what he wants, whom he prefers. We saw that on Sunday. A clear penalty is not a penalty. A clear red is not a red.

    And I am not even talking about the repeated use of same refs. One of the reasons why we have so few refs maybe is exactly that : the others want to abide by the rules and do not make it to PL….

  15. The untold referee conspiracy team are out in force..Led by the leader Walter aka menace foreign nutters are pure comedy genius..

  16. Keep in mind that after that performance from Clatterburg, the FA rewarded him by giving him the FA Cup final and lobbying the UEFA to give him the Champions League and Euro finals.

    Really amazing…

  17. Forest away in the cup… Chosen by (home) ex spud Hoddle..(away) ex spud Jenas..
    Good to see Clattenburg making headlines on SSN for what good it would do for the Rhino skinned FA or the bent media.

  18. An ex-football referee comes out and admits not following the rules of the game in a match and someone is calling foreign commentators on this forum ‘nutters’! Brilliant. Does that address the real issues at stake? ‘Some mothers do have them’.

    Always suspected that EPL matches were fixed and here comes confirmation from an insider. One would expect calls from the football world particularly in England to the FA to take action but no what we get is sniping talk to mask matters. Will they ever get it? Sounds like wishful thinking.

    As far as cleaning up the’Oink Mob’ is concerned there is a mountain to climb given the sort of comments that are coming out on refereeing bias in EPL matches.

  19. Thought you were not interested in what the media had to say and surely Clatt is only playing up to it and his conduct seems pretty apt for the game he was refereeing. Another article about the dimishing Totts on an Arsenal site. Peculiar.

  20. ah Ste is it because I and Menace (I think) are foreigners you don’t like what we write? I think you have just exposed yourself.
    Maybe try to write something meaningful about what Clattenburg said or is that too difficult? Or against your believe?

  21. climatic we do are interested in what a former ref has to say about bending the laws of the game of course.

  22. You are of course fully entitled to think anything you want, Climatic, but quite how you could ever reach the conclusion that I am not interested in what the media has to say is utterly beyond me. It is one of the main themes of this site.

  23. This is an admission of matching fixing. Had Tottenham won the match he would not be saying this, absolutely not.

    Of course those who say we’re just paranoid, nothing to see here will still find a way to dismiss this as US paranoia again. Shocking ain’t it.

    While on the subject, sorry I don’t visit UA as much as I used to due to other commitments so could be wrong, but don’t think I’ve seen any posts from Leon lately. Is he still posting? Not trying to suggest anything but I did say this a couple of years ago I think, when I observed a pattern where we usually have one “negative” poster “contributing” immensely in terms of number of posts. They eventually “disappear” only for a new and equally avid negative contributor to “take their place”.

    I made this observation when Rupert “disappeared” only to be “replaced” by someone whose name I can’t remember now (rolf?). They “disappeared” too after a while and think soon after Leon “appeared”. So if he has now “disappeared” then I’d say, to those that are visiting UA regularly, just check to see which new poster that was never seen here before came on to the scene round about the last time Leon “disappeared”..

    Make of that what you will but all I’m just trying to point out is I’ve not had any need to change my handle despite having been here for 5 or 6 years. I’ll not change it as long as I continue to come here, and my message will remain the same; we need unbiased refereeing in the PL.

  24. Pogba didn’t appeal against his three match ban and won’t receive any further punishment for clapping on his way off, because the ref never put it in the match report.
    I thought that was the idea of the retrospective punishments if the ref didn’t see it.
    It’s all too vague.

  25. Considering the billions that the betting industry is making/generating/exchanging on PL games one wonders when someone in law enforcement will wonder if there is not some illegal stuff going on…

  26. I fully recommend not watching the theatre – as Clattenburg put it – that is sold around the globe as Premier League. I watch Serie A from now on – at least they have VAR and the football is not bad either.

  27. It seemed a really weird thing for Bellerin to do. Just leave his leg out with no hope of combatting or getting the ball. Pogba, rather like Paddy Viera has got telescopic legs which unfortunately also got him some tough referee attention. Bellerin needs to learn how to protect himself more but it is a problem for some ‘full backs’ thinking bombing up to the opposition’s area is their main duty. They get caught in the oddest places on the pitch. It is interesting also that ONE interview with a celebrity referee changes UA’s editorial overnight. A bit like thinking Ozil is in constant top gear because he ripped Huddersfield up for a period onf minutes. It’s all isolation patched up to make a whole.

  28. This business about managing the flow of the game has been around a long time. And I think it has been irritating the people that make/adjust/tweak the Laws more than anything else.

    In the beginning, I think a rule change was just a rule change. Referees were expected to read the Laws every year and adjust themselves accordingly.

    But, many associations decided to take _unique_ interpretations of the Laws, so as to improve the flow of the game.

    Consequently, the IFAB started providing guidance as to how the Laws should be read. And associations (such as the (sweet) FA) decided to continue to do their own thing. Occasionally, they provided their guidance as to understand the guidance of the IFAB.

    The next step up, was the IFAB giving up on guidance, and dictating how certain actions were to be dealt with. This may have improved things a little, but I still believe that associations decided to give guidance as to how to read the instructions and guidance of the IFAB.


    Clattenburg may seem to be showing that it is _his_ interpretation of the Laws. But it isn’t, and can’t be. His interpretation has to be approved by the head pig of the pigmob ( 😈 Mike Riley). If he doesn’t approve, the referee no longer has a job. So what Clattenburg is actually saying, is that what he does on the field is what 😈 Mike Riley requires any and all of _his_ referees to do each and every time he tells them what to do. If a referee appears to be inconsistent in how he officiates, it is because his instructions change from game to game.

    And this is how this has to be interpreted. Otherwise there is no way for the EPL/FA to “sell” titles to teams before a season starts.

    This news about Clattenburg is not about individuals doing what they want in a game. It is all about referees being instructed how to do each and every game.

  29. What is interesting to me is that Clattenburg’s comments will pass unnoticed and he will not be sanctioned by the press at large and by the authorities of the game. It is not that he did anything wrong per se, but that the authorities are so arrogant that they don’t even think they need to be seen to be paying attention to this story; they think/know that they can get away with just ignoring the wider implications of Clattenburg’s admissions.

  30. @ Usama Zaka -04/12/2017 at 4:04 pm – Good work UZ . This hopefully should reach far and change the mind set of those who have been deluding themselves that the EPL is not fixed .

    Am not sure what Clattenburg’s angle is , but that huge mound being swept under the proverbial carpet is going to trip up someone soon ! Hope they charge him with ‘bringing the game into disrepute’- an oxymoron if ever there was one ! Open Pandora’s box ! Ought to be fun.

    @ Al – 04/12/2017 at 8:01 pm – The dead giveaway is that they try their darnest to integrate themselves with claims of being Arsenal fans . Soon they revert to type , show their true spots and attack the faithful.
    Ever notice they are very fast to comment and divert from the true gist of the article ? They frequent use ‘whataboutism ‘ in their arguments is an obvious clue.
    Soon he’ll be followed by another moron who agrees with our agent provocateur and then starts to sprout crap like the usual village idiot.

    And another sure giveaway is they hate humour ! And humourists ! And bloody foreigners !
    That baffles me too !

  31. Brickfields
    Lol you pretty much summed them up right there. They don’t realise their flow of thinking is very easy to capture, and leaves a trail like fingerprints ?

  32. Ste – I’m part of the peace corps that came to the UK to educate thickos like you. Obviously one or two escaped the net. Kepp reading Untold & some of your cells might awaken.

  33. Agree there Mandy and Josif. Serie A a top league which was on the down ever since the match fixings, is making great progress compared to EPL (which has gone berserk under an avalanche of £££). A day does not goes by without any extremely dodgy event/news about EPL.

  34. Climatic, I wrote yesterday, “You are of course fully entitled to think anything you want, Climatic, but quite how you could ever reach the conclusion that I am not interested in what the media has to say is utterly beyond me. It is one of the main themes of this site.”

    I find myself saying the same again. How you can interpret the Clattenburg commentary as meaning “ONE interview with a celebrity referee changes UA’s editorial overnight” is again beyond me. You are either going to have to start providing some evidence to back up these conclusions that you are drawing, or else go your own way. Perhaps you should have a blog of your own, where your own world view, provided without evidence, can rule supreme.

    Maybe of course it is just me being a complete idiot and not understanding you – that is always possible. But then that again is the risk you run in drawing conclusions that have no evidence behind them.

  35. Climatic – you summed yourself up -It’s all isolation patched up to make a hole. Get back in it.

  36. Thanks Mike T
    An extra £1.24m into the Chelsea account. Significant because no one throws it away just like that.

    For the next few weeks the refs could be too scared to make a mistake until the Clattenburg fire is down. Not bad I think.

    Mike Riley is so dirty that he will tell them he is the King and they must carry on as if nothing happened.

  37. has he been misquoted etc it was apparently said in an overseas media podcast quite often journalists look for controversial interpretations

  38. If Tottenham had won the match, Arsenal would have lost 1.24 million pounds as Tottenham would have finished one place above us.

    Given the colourful history between Clattenburg and Chelsea, I’m surprised they haven’t made an official reaction.

  39. All this Clatter raises the question ‘How much has it cost Arsenal in terms of hard cash when the PGMOL rob us of points each season?’.

    These unaccounted for losses are the basis of a lawsuit that Gazidis & Kronke need. The evidence is here on Untold. It may be a little fragile but it is sufficient to hold up in court with a jury.

  40. Martin Atkinson gifted The Chicken a point, if that was Arsenal I say he would have given a penalty against Arsenal.

    ‘Tottenham is in a real rut at the moment but they got one hell of a helping hand in the dying moments of their game against Watford on Saturday. With the game tied 1-1 and Davinson Sanchez having been sent off for a deserved red card, The Hornets were pressing for the win when the ball fell to Richarlison in Tottenham’s box. The Brazilian played in a cross and Eric Dier blatantly threw out an arm and blocked it. No call from Martin Atkinson and thus Tottenham earned a point from a game where they were, once again, thoroughly outclassed.’

  41. @Menace

    Yep, mate, I’ve been saying it for quite a long time. Arsenal FC have been caused a massive financial damage (not just a direct one in terms of the merit money but the indirect one, e.g. all those players who had left Arsenal due to our “inability” to win the league or players like Özil and Alexis that haven’t extended their contracts with Arsenal after Leicester won the league in the most suspicious season of all times).

  42. It’s my opinion that Clattenburgs comments is in order. He’s not saying anything new. A lot of the rules in football is left within the refs judgement. In the penalty area, for example, contact can result in a penalty or not depending on the refs judgement. So clattenburg can accept that yes 3 spurs players could indeed have been sent off but he decided not to send them off based on the importance of that game is nothing strange. It is done all the time.players in Derby games many times will only be red carded for very grievous offences because refs don’t want to overly affect the outcome of the match. Webb didn’t send DeJong off in the world cup final despite the kung fi kick, probably because he didn’t want to spoil the spectre of the match as a contest. Its a very well known way refs do their job. I think its called game management. Obviously the Saudi Arabia FA seemed impressed.

  43. Some fair points being made. However, I doubt very much if many of the posters have ever refereed a game of football in their lives. There’s such a thing as ‘game management’, which is an intangible almost outside the laws of the game. I, personally, have refereed some South London Sunday games where complete anarchy is bubbling away just below the surface. If you were to apply the laws of the game to the letter, it would be highly unlikely that the game would ever get finished. If 22 players simultaneously decide on violence and cheating, then the main object of the exercise is damage limitation. This may have been the path Clattenburg took.

  44. Is there any point in managing a game which could devolve into anarchy with little provocation? It is more important that players leave the playing field in good health, than it is that the game be played. If the game needs to be abandoned to keep people from getting hurt, that is better than having players needing to go to the hospital.

  45. Perhaps it’s worth mentioning that Clattenburg is no longer a PGMO official. So intersting timing of his comments.

    Referee’s have said things before and nothing happens. Jeff Winter’s book, Mark Halsey claiming PGMO told refs how to interpret the rules differently, and now this from Clattenburg; (who at the time, along with Oliver, was the BEST official in the EPL). Interesting also that none of those 3 are working in an official capacity within the game in this country.

    I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. This latest incident should be ringing alarm bells in the Department of CMS They have an ongoing investigation into the FA, but apart from asking a few questions (but not bothering to get real answers), they do nothing.

    Perhaps as some suggest, the level of corruption does go to the very top!

  46. Mark Mywurdz…..there is a significant difference between proactive game management and outright ignoring of game protocol and sane game management. I will submit an article about this and other game management issues soon.

  47. The bottom line is that the PMGO/Officials see themselves as the ringmasters of this highly financed game. They ignore the actual rules of the game (or just use them as a rough guide) to make sure the games get viewers.
    To be fair to Clattenburg, there’s no way Leicester would have won the league that season without an enormous amount of assistance from the other refs (why didn’t Huth have a penalty or two [or 3] awarded against him in ever single game?). So his game-plan between the Chavs and the Spuddies was only because he didn’t want to spoil his colleagues previous work that season.

    Mark Mywurdz, you’re comparing a sub 10th level game with a professional 1st level game.
    The PL football players are paid big money to be professional.
    The PMGO refs are reasonably paid and should be professional as well.

  48. Game management! Biggest load of bollocks to enable cheats. Laws are not written for games to be manipulated but their purpose is for consistent regulation of the game. I can just see referees saying it wasn’t the white part of his hand that touched the ball so it is not deliberate. Or in the case of Pogba ‘he had to put his foot somewhere’ (as per Phil Neville). What a farce that idiot is.

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