The Referee’s a Wonderful Man

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!

There are 35 comments

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  1. Guy

    I am a very long term chelsea fan and season ticket hoder for almost 20 years. I don’t think we can argue that there is a bias (deliberate or subconscious) against us without evidence. I believe it but none can prove it. It would be great if one of us could track every chelsea game and keep a record of refereeing decisions. Recxording errors against and for and the impact on the game. It could all be worked backwards to goals and an index could be created. Post Clattenburg it is almost essential as ameans of defending ourselves. Even better if we could also track the games of MU, MC and AFC. Which of us has got the time and motivation?

    • WorkingClassPost

      Agreed that it can’t be empirically proven, but just ask most opposing fans, and they’ll say yes there is a bias against CFC, and good job too because we hate you and you’re scum!
      The main difference is that most football fans are honest and partisan, as opposed to being dishonest and same.

    • #18

      Guy, this is a hole with no bottom!  I have actually been tracking decisions in Chelsea matches (and often the controversial ones elsewhere in the Prem) since Mourinho’s first season.  I don’t have time at the moment to post them all here, but it should surprise nobody that without the machinations of the likes of Graham Poll, Mike Riley, and of course Clattenburg Chelsea would have won the league title at least twice more.

        • #18

          What can I say?  I love football but I hate injustice.  I started keeping track of all the reasons my ulcers were getting ulcers as a way of preserving my sanity, to see if I was just imagining things.  Then it became a way of processing my rage every time the officials decided to Ovrebo a match.  Now I take a slightly more positive view; I think Chelsea’s recent successes are all the more impressive because of what the team has had to overcome to achieve them.

          Yes, the club is financially very blessed, but otherwise we have never benefitted from the so-called luck of champions that the likes of United have so consistently enjoyed over the years (even when they weren’t champions!).  We didn’t win the league because our star forward dove to win ten penalties, because our midfield veteran was allowed to commit GBH every match without being dismissed, because referees were scared to award penalties against us at home lest our manager throw a wobbly.  Chelsea has won titles and trophies by overcoming everything that the opponents, officials, and even the media has thrown in our way, and never because of the dubious assistance of erroneous decisions that most definitely do NOT ‘even themselves out’ over the season.  Unfortunately for them the illustrious Uniteds and Barcelonas of the world cannot honestly claim the same.

          • WorkingClassPost

            I’ve obviously hit a nerve with you, my friend, and there’s little more to add.
            Totally agree that we’re the victims by a country mile in all this, and the fact that you’ve put the stats together over a while shows the unease some of us have felt about it.

            When I was a kid, my parents (as mentioned in post) used to say when I got angry at other kids name calling and stuff “don’t worry about it, when they’re doing it to you, they’re leaving someone else alone”.

            It made little sense, and gave me even less comfort at the time, but I’m beginning to understand the wisdom now (having supported Chelsea for so many years).

            Hope to hear more from you in the future #18

  2. mark_25

    I’m so disappointed in you WorkingClassPost!  I thought you were here to fight the cause of the common man against the tax avoiding expense claim cheating toffs and it turns out you’re just delivering junk mail.

    I’m also deeply concerned by the long term effects of having to watch your mum rubbing embrocation onto your dad’s legs every Sunday.  No child should endure this on a regular basis.

    • WorkingClassPost

      Always ready to fight the good fight, Mark, and you’ve got me bang to rights on the sideline, but with Christmas round the corner it’s hard to pass up the opportunity for a bit of extra cash on the old door to door moonlighting.

      And yes, there have been some long term effects, but more to do with raising my expectations on what married life was all about, never mind. I can still dream.

  3. GrocerJack

    Lovely post. I sit in the Captain CockUp theory camp rather than conspiracy. Although one can’t help but think the points you make about written and unwritten rules play a part. And yes, refs do talk, much like players so reputations and impressions spread I suppose. 

    Didn’t realise you were FSTS!  

  4. Vik Sohonie

    This was a fantastic, insightful and revealing read – cheers. Appreciate the clarification of what constitutes conspiracy in particular. 

      • #18

        Funny you should mention that home loss to City in 2010, since we’re talking about officiating bias/incompetence.  That was a classic Mike Dean match.  These were my notes on the main incidents and decisions at the time:

        Chelsea 2 – 4 Manchester City, 27 February 2010
        ~8′ failed to award a corner for Given carrying an Ivanovic shot over the goal line~13′ failed to book Richards for a tackle from behind through the back of Drogba’s legs~34′ failed to book Richards for a cynical late trip on Anelka(Lampard goal 42′)(Tevez goal 45+1′)~46′ failed to book Richards for another tackle from behind on Anelka~49′ booked Terry and Zabaleta(Bellamy goal 51′)~52′ failed to award penalty for Lescott barging Drogba off the ball in the box with one arm plus a hand in the striker’s face~58′ booked Ivanovic for an innocuous 50-50 collision with Barry~62′ failed to even speak to Tevez for charging Terry~68′ booked Ballack for dissent for calmly pointing out the fact that a City goal kick should have been a Chelsea corner~75′ sent off Belletti for attempting to avoid contact with Barry with both Terry and Ivanovic covering, thus preventing it from being a clear goal-scoring opportunity(Tevez (pen) 76′)~81′ sent off Ballack for a foul on Tevez that was the equivalent of Richards’ earlier unpunished challenges(Bellamy 87′)(Lampard (pen) 90+1′)What an absolute train wreck.  The stats are quite enlightening:Possession: CFC 51% – 49% MCShots on target: 13 – 6Shots off target: 10 – 2Corners: 3 – 2Fouls: 21 – 13So despite having a numerical disadvantage Chelsea still managed to dominate possession, have the majority of goal-scoring opportunities, and win the most corners (there actually should have been 5). Normally when one team has most of the ball the other team tends to commit the most fouls, because they’re constantly trying to win it back. Yet somehow Mike Dean adjudged Chelsea players to be fouling almost twice as much as Man City players. Could it be that he was penalizing one team for minor infringements while ignoring repeated dangerous fouls (*cough*Richards*cough*) committed by the other?Consider what might have been had Dean applied the laws of the game consistently in this match. Micah Richards would have been booked for at least two of his dangerous challenges and thus sent off with the score tied at 1-1. Drogba would have won a penalty shortly after halftime, and even if Barry had won another with his dive Belletti would not have been sent off because he was not denying a clear goal-scoring opportunity. Who knows what the result could have been had Dean’s obvious bias not taken center stage?One last point. Dean is (in)famous for awarding more penalties than any other referee in the league. Yet this season alone he has denied Chelsea a minimum of six clear penalties. Something doesn’t add up. Or rather, it does add up, and the result is something that looks suspiciously like corruption.

        Yeah.  I wrote the above two years ago, and my opinion hasn’t changed.  As I’ve said elsewhere, I have similar notes for many matches stretching back years.  You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to notice the pattern, or to understand why it will not change unless a meteor falls on the FA headquarters.  Preferably while Alex Ferguson is there chatting with his mate Keith Hackett.

  5. Blue_MikeL

    We had to report the referee. As Buck pointed out in Evening Standard, if we hadn’t reported him we would have been crucified for trying to cover up a racist story. We did the right thing, whatever the FA decides is up to them and their conscious. We submitted statements of two players Ramires and Mikel and both claim that Mikel has been called monkey by Cuntenburg. Unlike QPR we decided to keep the story within the game jurisdiction. Let’s see how it goes, but no matter what we did the right thing.       

  6. Cunningplan

    Very good WCP lots of food for thought there.

    I do recall one decision that always didn’t seem to sit quite right with me, that went against us a good few years back when JM was in charge.

    It was Drogba’s disallowed goal against Fulham when he handled the ball, don’t get me wrong it was the right call as replays showed.

    But it was how the ref reached the decision, not based on what he saw or his linesman, but as he stated afterwards it was the reaction of the Fulham players that changed his mind not to allow it.

  7. WorkingClassPost

    That reminds me of the Vegas card counters.

    They’ve only got to move the odds in their favour by a few percentage points, and over the course of a night, on average, they will turn in a profit.

    In our case, when the quick and instinctive reaction is to go against us, we end up in the red over a season, and people always point to the one or two decisions that went our way, conveniently forgetting the multitude that went against us.

  8. WorkingClassPost

    I know this started as a conspiracy rant, but aside from all that, I’ve never seen an England game, albeit a friendly, produce such flowing football and such great goals as last night’s.

    I’m really glad that Ibrahimovic is past his sell by date, or the rumours of him coming to Chelsea would be too much to bear.

  9. limetreebower

    It’s tricky, though. I mean, when Mad Rafa went on TV claiming he had a massive dossier which proved that his ‘Poo team were being treated unfairly compared to the Mancs, we all thought he was a nutter …

    I’m pretty sure that fans of every single club in every country in the world can “prove” that they’re being victimised by referees.

    The Ovrebo disaster is by the far the worst of such games I can remember seeing first hand, and even then, rational retrospect makes me think it was more a case of a referee totally losing control of what he was doing (he sent a Barca player off, after all) than any sort of programmatic bias. I feel rather the same about Clattenburg’s idiocy with the second yellow for Nando. Up to that point I actually remember thinking that the ref was doing a notably good job; there were certainly occasions earlier in the match where he could have whistled up some Chelsea players if he’d been making an effort to refree “against” us. (But didn’t.)

    Nevertheless, a fun read WCP, thanks.

      • limetreebower

        Yikes. I must publicly apologise for even hinting at such an insult, however unintentionally.

        Anyway, just cuz we’re paranoid doesn’t mean the bastards aren’t out to get us, as everyone knows.

    • PeteW

      It’s the fact Clattenberg had clearly lost it that makes me thing it possible he may have abused Mikel. 

      The Ovrebo one is more complicated, there were so many bad decisions going against us that I have to think the combined whinging of the Barca players after the first game and the fact Platini was shown on TV singing the Barca club song before that same fixture scared/convinced the ref into making the decisions he did. He was determined not to let us have the second goal, and yes he sent off one Barca player but he let two others stay on the pitch when not awarding penalties. 

  10. mark_25

    On my favourite railway, the Chiltern Line, up to Brrm. Time for a quick snack in Selfridges the Bull Ring, food halls before going to the Hawthorns. Bit worried about today since our players have journeyed to the far corners of the world for meaningless friendlies plus Juventus will probably be in their minds.

  11. mark_25

    Torres and Sturridge are pathetic. Luis is interesting but a liability. Once Mata and Oscar came on we were terrific and they created four good chances for Sturridge. But guess what …

  12. WorkingClassPost

    Good to see that I’m back in my minority of one position.

    Thought we played really well until the double sub. For the first time Studge and Torres looked like a double act, and taking one defensive mid off was tailor made for either Oscar or Mata to provide them with that little extra, which was surely all we required.

    By all means make the second sub after another 10 minutes or so, if you feel it’s not working, but give it a go Robbie. There was still plenty of time left, and at 2-1 down, what we needed was to keep our forward lineup.

    Anyway, it would’ve all been academic if the ref had opened his eyes in their box – do they have some sort of cloaking mechanism in Brumsville?

    Juve obviously on the agenda, and I feel that until/if we’re nailed on to proceed in CL, we’re gonna suffer in PL.

    Not sure if I can bear to watch MOTD to get their take on it, if we even get a mention.

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