Paul Scholes’s non-sending off in the title climax on Sunday has confirmed a suspicion I’ve held for a while – Premiership referees are biased in favour of England (or just plain English) players over their foreign counterparts.
As Sunday’s match official Steve Bennett blew his whistle to indicate a foul had been committed when Scholes clashed with Wilson Palacios, you wondered what went through his mind.
As he called the ginger-haired midfielder over amid the crowd’s baying calls for Scholes’ marching orders, what was the thought process for the Kent official ?
Did he re-analyse the incident in his head and recognise that Scholes neither went off his feet or tugged at the shirt of his Wigan opponent, making it not necessary to brandish a second yellow card by Bennett’s infamous strict interpretation of the laws ?
Or did he look at the panting 33-year-old before him and think….well he’s not a bad lad, never gets into any trouble off the field and he is ‘one of us’ isn’t he ?
As an island nation, English people’s xenophobia towards foreigners has been well documented down the years — but is it now extending to individual match refereeing decisions resting on the nationality of who’s committed the offence ?
There have been several incidents this season to suggest this is the case. Incidents where very similar offences committed by players from varying origins have resulted in vastly different punishments.
The obvious ones were Ashley Cole being let off the hook by Mike Riley at Spurs for a blatant show of dissent a few days before Javier Mascherano was sent off at Old Trafford. Mascherano’s behaviour was rightly criticised after the game, but was it any worse than Wayne Rooney’s persistent ref abuse either before or since that day ?
Remember John Terry’s challenge on Cesc Fabregas at the Emirates this season ? No punishment for the England captain and nor was there any for Wayne Rooney when he launched himself into Niko Kranjcar during United’s FA Cup exit to Portsmouth.
The mere fact that Bolton’s Kevin Davies, who regularly commits the most Premiership fouls each season, did not get an early bath this season (ask Jay McEveley if he should have done) suggests something is afoot.
Then there was Jamie Carragher wrestling Everton players to the ground more than once and getting off scot free in the Merseyside derby — you know the one where Steven Gerrard kindly reffed the game for Mark Clattenburg!
Well, I’ve spotted a conflict of interest here. The PGMOL (Professional Game Match Officials Board — who run the ‘elite’ referees) was formed in 2001 by The FA, The Premier League and The Football League.
That will be the same FA that runs the England team then will it ? The same FA that needs to keep clubs like Liverpool, Man Utd and Chelsea on-side when it comes to getting the big name players to endorse their kit launches, charity projects and to play for their teams.
Remember when, in 1998, England captain Alan Shearer was found not guilty (by an ‘independent FA commission’) of deliberately kicking Leicester’s Neil Lennon in the face ?
I can remember watching the TV evidence and being as appalled as Martin O’Neill (who pushed for the case) was, but the referee took no action during the game and Shearer avoided punishment, later releasing this statement: “I am delighted to have cleared my name and can now look forward to Saturday’s Cup final and the countdown to the World Cup.”
You don’t think there was a bit of pressure exerted there for it to be swept under the carpet ?
That’s all water under the bridge now and proves nothing other than maybe the England captain got a lucky break, maybe a foreign player would too.
Well look at this.
On the last weekend of the Premiership season it was reported that 35% of the players were English and 65% non-English. Taking that as a typical figure (and it didn’t strike me as being an unusual week) and you might expect a similar breakdown when it comes to red cards shown in the season — 35% English and 65% foreign right ?
No. Actually, from 61 Premiership red cards in the season just finished only 14 went to English players — that’s almost but not quite 23%. Over 77% of the red cards were shown to ‘non-English’.
Of course this is a wholly unscientific means of testing my theory, which needs further research – maybe the FA can get someone on the case.