If you hadn’t worked it out from the title, this is a post about referees, and in case you think that I’ve lost my marbles, please read on.
When my dad came home, many years ago, and announced that he was going to become an amateur referee, it didn’t phase me in the least, being just the sort of crazy thing he would do, and there was a certain logic to it too. As a way of getting fit it appeared to beat actually playing the game for a sedentary office worker past his prime and not in the rudest of health. But the reality was quite a shock for him.
Referees need to be fit. They run as much as the players and while not being tackled or needing to control the ball, they do spend plenty of time running backwards, just try it.
I can recall Sunday nights with my mum rubbing embrocation on his tired and inflamed muscles, of a hurt and dejected man, wondering why he was putting himself through all this, just to be abused and insulted by a bunch of strangers whom he was only trying to help have a decent game of football on the weekend. There were other times, of course, when games went well and he came home rejuvenated and refreshed, as if he had himself played, and of course, in his way, he had: no ref, no game.
So it should not be taken lightly when I say that there is an ongoing conspiracy against Chelsea Football Club.
This may not be the sort of conspiracy where money changes hands, no brown envelopes under the table, not a criminal conspiracy, you understand, but I believe it’s a conspiracy nonetheless.
When referees get together, which they do regularly, they discuss the game, the players, the way things are heading and the events of the past, they want to be fair and to be honest, but they are also human and open to all sorts of influence and innuendo, they are as much the victims in all this as we are.
They attempt to follow the rules (their job, don’t forget) and be unbiased (but they also have their favourites) and every atrocious decision that goes in favour of Old Fergie one week, will probably be balanced by one going against someone else another week. The trouble is, that all too often the someone else is us.
The first thing to say here is that there’s nothing new in all this.
When that splendid AC Milan team looked as though it would strangle and suffocate Italian football with its utter dominance in the nineties, I remember them bitterly crying foul when they conceded a string of penalties in their opening home games. It was quite clear that Italian refs had been ‘advised’ that the Italian league should not become a one team wonder.
Was that a conspiracy?
I remember it quite clearly, because just a few years earlier, as Liverpool were starting their slide into oblivion, they were awarded something like nine penalties in the first 10 matches at Anfield. It was an obvious attempt to ensure that the league’s ‘best’ team remained strong, in effect it was felt that a weak Liverpool would equate to a weak league.
Wasn’t that a conspiracy?
But, why conspire against Chelsea?
Why not? We’re ‘new’, we’re blue and now we’ve got a rich owner too.
But, if our recent financial figures are to be believed, we’re now a profitable as well as a successful football club, so I don’t get the ongoing griping about Roman’s money.
When the president of UEFA openly attacks us (and shows his bias and tries to influence football results with his comments), is it any wonder that referees and the FA think that a successful Chelsea might be bad for the Premier League.
Isn’t that also conspiracy?
But we must take some share of the blame in this.
Jose Mourinho courted controversy and revelled in the media outrage that followed, while some of our players’ reactions to refereeing mistakes has been less than generous over the years – the infamous Ovrebo affair probably set the tone for our recent relationship with football’s facilitators (Didier Drogba in particular, knew he’d done wrong that day, and that he’d cost us more than just a few matches of him consigned to the stands, so when he stepped up to take that last kick in a Chelsea shirt, I’m sure it was his way of saying sorry as much as goodbye and thank you).
So we all make mistakes, but this constant and consistent sniping and snarling in the media is getting more than a little annoying.
The recent attempts to destroy a great club servant and England captain are so manifestly wrong, that it goes way beyond a simple game of football, or even the running of a multi-billion pound industry. It’s a form of the racism it decries, a way of getting at the lower classes, of punishing the oiks and the chavs, the skinheads and the scum.
But for years we were regarded as the pop idols of football, too airy-fairy to be any good, with all our celebrity supporters and ambitions to play in a style beyond our means, we just weren’t working class enough.
(By the way, this is not a lefty rant – my moniker is no more than a pun on the first and second class postal services. I had to change it in a hurry after discovering that my Disqus profile was following me round the web and FanSinceTheSixties made very little sense in other contexts.)
That this obsession with knocking Chelsea should peak (and I hope that partisan refereeing has peaked) during the game against Man United, is no surprise to us. As we are the archdemons, so they are the archangels, wallowing in the aftermath of Munich and the successes of the most manipulative and conspiratorial of managers. So when Mark Clattenburg – Crap ‘n’ Turd as one wag put it, for his name will be shit at Stamford Bridge for some time to come – took charge of their tie with us, he knew what was expected from him, and he didn’t fail. Remember that refs go by the rules, both written and unwritten.
When he strode over to address the fallen Fernando Torres did he intend to send him off, or was he crestfallen himself on seeing the culprit was Jonny Evans? Would he have the guts to dismiss Evans yet again, as he had when United were handed their biggest defeat since 1955 against City, knowing that the Fergie hairdryer could seriously damage his career? He chose another path.
Was this conspiracy, or cowardice? There’s only one person who can honestly answer that, but good judgement it was not.
Things had appeared to be changing, though, when we entered this season as European Champions and received our share of a few fair decisions. Then suddenly it became clear the feeling in the FA was that this might not be a good idea, so perhaps we should be judged more harshly than others.
And that is conspiracy.
Did Clattenburg say what he’s reported to have said? I don’t know that, but surely something untoward did happen, and my immediate reaction from Mikel’s shocked expression was that he had also been dismissed, but that wasn’t the case. So what was said and would anyone invent such a story, knowing that the ref was miked up? On the balance of probabilities, I’d say not.
Should the club have taken the matter to the FA and have they also done the right thing by not dragging football through the courts? I’d say yes.
In either case, we are the bad guys and that’s not likely to change anytime soon, but I do hope that justice will prevail, and that we can get back to trying to play the best football on the planet, which is what we all want and what a certain Mr Abramovich is also striving for.
Life as a Chelsea supporter is as interesting as ever.
Anyway, that’s me finished for now, work beckons. I’m signing off in the manner of every conspiracy story: if you’re reading this… Nick has seen fit to post my ramblings, thanks to you Nick and thank you dear reader. And thanks to all the real heroes of our excellent blog, those who go to matches, and rather than swill and guzzle their way home, they take the time to write up events, or at least sober up enough come morning to post their observations. Thanks to you all. Cheers and…
Keep the Blue Flag Flying High!