Grassroots Coaching

Opinion Piece – Mark Clattenburg Investigation

According to local folklore, during the Napoleonic wars, a French ship of the type Chasse Marée was wrecked off the coast of Hartlepool, a seaside town in the North East of England, not far from where referee Mark Clattenburg originates from. The only survivor was a monkey, allegedly wearing a French uniform to provide amusement for the crew. On finding the monkey, some locals decided to hold an impromptu trial in the town square; since the monkey was unable to answer their questions, and many locals were unaware of what a Frenchman may look like, they concluded that the monkey was in fact a French sailor. Just to make sure, the animal was thus sentenced to death and hanged in the town square on the Headland.

I relate this story because it has some parallels to the ridiculas situation regarding referee Mark Clattenburg’s alleged racial abuse against Chelsea player John Mikel Obi and Chelsea’s official complaint to the FA today. This situation is in serious danger of escalating and tearing football apart. Resulting in the Premiership and all that goes with it, coming to a shuddering halt.

Clattenburg has made no public comment beyond welcoming the chance to establish the full facts but is known to vehemently deny the allegation against him. Prospect, the referees’ union, has pledged its “full support” and the wider refereeing community are also said to be united in their support.

If Clattenburg is found guilty and banned or suspended from referring then Prospect will surely have no alternative to back up “their full support” with Prospect advising their members to go on strike in support of Clattenburg, with the result that there will be no match officials for Premiership and maybe all other games.

Here’s what BT’s ‘Life’s a Pitch’ show has to say on the matter:

Below is the statement issued by Chelsea Football Club regarding the complaint they lodged today with the Football Association regarding inappropriate language directed at John Mikel Obi by referee Mark Clattenburg.

“Chelsea Football Club today lodged a formal complaint with The Football Association regarding inappropriate language directed at John Mikel Obi by referee Mark Clattenburg. This is a result of a thorough investigation carried out by the club, and led by outside legal counsel, of all information available to us including interviews with a number of players and staff.

“Following Sunday’s Premier League game against Manchester United, club board members were quickly made aware, upon entering the home dressing room after the final whistle, that there were allegations of inappropriate language directed at Chelsea FC players by Mr. Clattenburg during the game.

“Board members began establishing the details of the allegations, speaking to all relevant players and staff. After those initial interviews it was clear that the matter had to be reported. The correct protocol for doing so was to report the incidents to the match delegate, and the club took immediate steps to inform him as soon as he was available. It was not a decision the club took lightly.

“Since reporting the matter to the delegate, the club and outside legal counsel have conducted further investigations. Having completed that process we have now followed the correct protocol and lodged a formal complaint with The FA regarding John Mikel Obi. There was not sufficient evidence to support a second claim to The FA with regard to the alleged verbal abuse of another first team player.

“We will cooperate fully with The FA and the Police as they each investigate the matter. As events on Sunday are now subject to those investigations we are unable to comment further until those processes are complete.’

This formal complaint means that Chelsea will need to satisfy an FA commission ‘on the balance of probability’ of the alleged racial insult, but they also have to negotiate the complexities of the Metropolitan Police’s investigation into the affair.

So let’s look at the background to the complaint. On Sunday October 28, Chelsea hosted Manchester United in an emotional top of the table clash. Mark Clattenburg one of the top referees in the country and the referee of the recent Olympic football final game was the referee for the game.

During the game Clattenburg sent off two Chelsea players which seriously affected the result, particularly the second sending-off of Fernando Tories for alleged diving. In addition, Manchester United’s winning goal in the 75th minute was also controversial with Javier Hernandez in an offside position when he scored.

Chelsea Manager Roberto Di Matteo was furious at his post-match press conference, although he focused only on Clattenburg’s decisions in relation to the match. “Yes, I have been in to see him,” he said. “Surely, when he’s going to watch the images he’s going to realise that he made big mistakes.

“We are massively disappointed that these key decisions were wrong. It always seems to be in favour of the opposition. That’s a massive disadvantage for us. I thought at 2-2, we looked like the team that were probably going to win the game. You don’t want the referees to be a big influence in the game, you let the two teams play each other and play a good game, that’s what everybody loves to watch.”

It has also emerged that not only did Di Matteo “Go in to see him” (Clattenburg) , but also players and staff  allegedly swarmed into the referee’s room at Stamford Bridge in the aftermath of the game.

The Daily Mirror claims Chelsea players and officials ‘charged into the room and acted like bouncers’. With an alleged threat by a member of the Chelsea squad, who told Clattenburg: “I’m going to f****** break your legs”. This threat to Clattenburg was heard coming from within the room.

The flashpoint to the alleged racism allegation comes after the United winning goal in the 75th minute, when Chelsea are about to kick off. The crowd are very agitatited and hostile about the controversial goal. The stadium is very noisy with lots of boos directed at the referee.

John Mikel Obi is walking back with Clattenburg side by side and is arguing with the referee. They reach the edge of the centre circle and Clattenburg turns to face Mikel and shows him the yellow card for dissent. Mikel continues to argue and wags his finger at Clattenburg as if to emphasise a point. After showing the yellow card Clattenburg turns away from Mikel and raises his finger to his lips in a gesture of “stop talking now”. Clattenburg walks away, with his back to Mikel, who shrugs his shoulders and continues arguing with Clattenburg.

Clattenburg then turns back to Mikel, faces him and gestures with his hand for Mikel to go back to his position, to get away from the situation and to get on with the game. We can only imagine that Clattenburg also said something at this point to Mikel to reinforce his gesture. Mikel seems to reluctantly accept the situation and moves back. Clattenburg moves away to start the game.

In the background to this situation is Chelsea player, Brazilian Ramires. He is 3 – 4 yards away from the situation and when Clattenburg gives Mikel the yellow card and when Clattenburg is gesturing and seemingly telling Mikel to go away. Ramires has a clear view of everything that is happening.

Chelsea’s official complaint seems to revolve around this specific situation, with the alleged racist comment of Clattenburg to Mikel being “Go away Monkey”.

Mikel himself didn’t hear the comment despite being face to face with Clattenburg, but responded after team-mates David Luiz and Ramires told him they believed he had been racially abused by the FIFA official moments after he was booked.

Mikel did not hear the alleged abuse, but Ramires who is from Rio De Janiero and who speaks limited English and was 3 – 4 yards away and Luiz who was at least 25 yards away from the incident have made statements saying they did.

This then seems to be the basis of Chelsea formally accused referee Mark Clattenburg of racially abusing John Obi Mikel.

Mark Clattenburg was born in Consett, County Durham but is now based in Newcastle upon Tyne, speaks with a strong North East Accent, which can be difficult for anyone to understand at the best of times.

There are claims Clattenburg said “Go away Mikel” not “Go away Monkey”.

So is it as simple as Clattenburg was misheard? “Go away Mikel”  – “Go away Monkey” said in a strong Geordie accent, in a noisy emotional stadium and only heard by a Brazilian whose English is limited and 3 – 4 yards away and by another Brazilian whose English is better but was at least 25 yards away at the time of the incident?

In addition, Clattenburg was miked up throughout the game and he could be heard by his assistants and the fourth official. Their conversations would not have been recorded. But all three have backed up Clattenburgs claim that he never said “Go away Monkey”.

So this is the powder keg situation top flight English Football finds itself in.

Chelsea have made a formal complaint of racism against referee Mark Clattenburg.

The Football Association are now investigating.

The Metropolitan Police will now investigate the allegation.

Clattenburg has made no public comment beyond welcoming the chance to establish the full facts but is known to vehemently deny the allegation against him. Prospect, the referees’ union, has pledged its “full support” and the wider refereeing community are also said to be united in their support.

The evidence of his assistants, Michael McDonough and Simon Long, and the fourth official, Mike Jones, is likely to be highly important given that they were all linked up by microphone and should have been able to hear what Clattenburg was saying.

The best case scenario is that common sense kicks in and that both the FA and the Met find there is no case to answer and that Clattenburg is cleared and exonerated. Chelsea are left with egg on their face and football moves on.

The worst case is that the FA decides there is a case to answer and that Clattenburg, like Chelsea and England Captain, John Terry is found guilty of racial abuse. So what does the FA then do? Ban Clattenburg like they have Terry?

Given that Prospect, the referees’ union, has pledged its “full support” and the wider refereeing community are also said to be united in their support of Clattenburg, what will Prospect do, strike?

What then for English Football and the Premiership?

There has been one Monkey hanging in this country already. Do we really need another one? Let me know what you think in the comment section below.

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