It WAS a penalty (in the eyes of the referee…)

Just when you thought you’d seen it all in football, something new comes along to shock you to your very core. Something so foul and rotten, it makes the stench of Jade Goody’s perfume range seem almost pleasant.

A football team have had a rather dodgy penalty awarded against them.

I’m waiting for Parliament to be recalled from its summer recess to discuss the matter. David Cameron has been so overwhelmed and stumped for a reaction that he’s flown to Africa for another photo opportunity, instead of visiting the affected area to offer sympathy.

Maybe he should have sent Boris Johnson instead.

Back (and front) pages have been held across the nation. That fine arbiter of moral propriety, The Sun, has discovered that the referee responsible for this heinous crime against football Rob Styles has a sinister connection with Roman Abramovich.

Well, he’s on the board of the company that laid the Russian’s drive. This translates as sinister when you’re trying desperately to up your circulation on Merseyside, it would seem.

Of course – I can just see Styles now, up to his ears in tarmac and gravel surreptitiously taking that well-stuffed brown envelope from behind the milk bottles outside the front door of Chez Roman.

Something of a rarity, but fans of both clubs are in agreement about one thing – the referee had the proverbial ‘mare on Sunday.

The dodgy penalty which Frank Lampard had the temerity to score, a sending off that was or wasn’t, depending on who you thought the man in black was pointing at whilst waving his cards around like an epileptic practising semaphore.

Frankly, I’ve not seen so many unexpected flashes of yellow since a (particularly entertaining) visit to Amsterdam’s legendary ‘Banana Bar’. But that’s for another time.

Sky’s pundits handled the issue of the penalty in their usual “let’s turn this into a national crisis” manner and offered the standard furrowed brow and limp footballer English, courtesy of Messrs. Gray and Redknapp Jr.

“Well, the ref’s had a right shocker and he’s given it Richard, but I dunno why…”

He’s given it, Richard and any other halfwit who has any doubt about what a referee does during a football match, because he believed what he saw constituted a foul inside the area and was therefore a penalty. And also because he doesn’t have half an hour to fart on about it with the benefit of hindsight, light pens and slo-mo replays.

Granted, on this occasion he was wrong. Slightly more wrong than suggesting that Margate is the capital of Austria, but not quite as wrong as Rafa’s facial hair experiment.

A refresher course on the rules of the game, a weekend off to reflect and get his eyes tested should do the trick for Mr. Styles. But obviously, in the midst of all the outrage and hand-wringing, it can’t end there.

Referees’ chief Keith Hackett has pitched into the fray, offering Rafael Benitez his apologies for Rob Styles’ error.

I’d imagine that referees across the land were delighted by that. Thanks for the backing, boss.

This sets a rather worrying precedent, does it not? Will every aggrieved manager now expect a grovelling call from Mr. Hackett when they have suffered an injustice at the hands of a match official?

And if so, where does it end?

The Kebab and Calculator XI refusing to continue their fixture with Sub-Standard Liege on Hackney Marshes until the referees’ chief calls to apologise because Teggsy didn’t really foul their centre forward and they wuz robbed coz the ref’s a blind tw*t, innit?

Or Premiership club lawyers circling over the wording of any apology offered to see if there is an opportunity to start flinging writs around?

Should we demand an official apology from David Elleray for his truly shocking performance in the 1994 FA Cup final?

Will Everton fans be following the lead of their outraged neighbours and lobby their local MP for an early day motion requesting a grovelling “I was wrong…” letter from Clive Thomas?

Referees make mistakes. Some you win, some you lose (well spotted, Stevie). But has there ever been such a ridiculous amount of fuss made over the award of a spot kick?

“But what if we miss out on the title by a point or two?” wailed the Liverpool hordes on Sunday evening’s 606 programme.

(Martin O’Neill might be asking himself a similar question should Villa miss out on European football by a similar margin.)

Who knows? Maybe you should have hoped for a couple more dodgy free kicks to be awarded for no apparent reason? Scored a few more goals when you had the chance, possibly?

Anyone know what the odds are on the next visiting team being awarded a penalty up at Anfield?

Somewhat shorter than the odds on Liverpool winning the title, I’d guess.