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Friday Focus – Do Referee’s Get A Raw Deal?

Referees have been in the spotlight this week, all for the wrong reasons, as usual. With elbows and allegations of bias flying around, MCB asks, are referees getting a raw deal, or is the criticism they receive justified?

Last Saturday Mark Clattenburg, not for the first time, hit the headlines after he failed to send off United striker Wayne Rooney at Wigan during United’s 4-0 win. Rooney went on to score United’s third and Clattenburg’s explanation that he saw the incident and felt he took the appropriate action, meant the FA could not take any further action.

That decision could have had a major impact on the title race as Rooney scored at Chelsea on Tuesday, where another refereeing decision decided the game. This time it went against United when referee Martin Atkinson awarded Chelsea a controversial penalty that won the game for the champions.

To rub salt into Fergie’s wounds, defender Nemanja Vidic was sent off for a second bookable offence, while Atkinson failed to send off David Luiz when the defender, who had already been booked, clattered into Rooney.

And on Wednesday, Clattenburg booked Mario Balotelli following an elbow in the face of Villa’s Chris Herd. The City man went for a high ball and caught the Villa man in the face with his left arm, leading to the ref to immediately reach for the yellow card.

Clattenburg’s decision on Wednesday made a complete joke of his weekend choice not to book the United man and sent more mixed messages than a tart on a date to the rest of the Premier League’s stars, who are now wondering what is a fair challenge and what isn’t.

There is no doubt that decisions like Clattenburg’s and Atkinson’s can clearly change the course of a game, but referees are only human and, as eighteenth century poet Alexander Pope said, to err is to be human, and referees are no different

We can’t possibly count how many mistakes are made by referees in today’s game but we have to accept that mistakes are part and parcel of the modern game, whether we like it or not. They happen at every level but just because it’s the Premier League, they seem bigger.

Personally, I think it’s because of the sheer amount of money that is involved in today’s game. I remember when Chelsea played Barcelona at Stamford Bridge in 2009. Barca had levelled deep into injury time to win on away goals rule, leading to some claiming the London club would miss out on millions due to poor refereeing decisions.

But on the other side of the coin, refs are paid to make vital decisions and shouldn’t get the big decisions wrong which, as always, leads to calls for video technology. But the introduction of such a technology will probably not work as well as the footballing authorities would like.

For example, if the technology was brought in to make calls on goals, it wouldn’t be long before they were being requested for offsides, penalties, free kicks and every major and minor offence during the game and before we knew it, every Premier League game would be lasting two hours or more.

So what would the solution to minimising referees mistakes? Well for one clubs, and in particular managers, could take some of the pressure they put on a ref by not making instant judgements on them, or by making comments regarding the referee performance after the match.

The thing is with managers, what comes around, goes around. On Saturday, Ferguson claimed after the game that there was nothing in Rooney’s challenge, but as soon as the boot was on the other foot with Luiz, he started screaming foul. It’s amazing how quickly the mouth opens when it goes against his team and as a result, he now finds himself on an FA charge.

In addition, the amount of players that actually surround a ref when a decision is made is ridiculous. On Tuesday, no less than four players surrounded the referee. Now I’m of the opinion that, when a ref makes a decision, there should be only the team captain and the player(s) concerned that can approach the ref. Anyone else should be warned to step away or risk being booked. Harsh, but maybe a way to keep players under control.

Football should be about the game and the talking points should be players and goals, not the decisions that are made or in some cases, not and for that refs have to play their part too.

What do you think? Do refs get a raw deal in today’s modern game or do they deserve the criticism they get?



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