The English Premier League has never been known for a lack of discipline, even when Robbie Savage was in it. While discussions rage about the ability of officials to control matters on the field, fans should never doubt the impossibility of the situation facing them.
You only have to look away for an instant and a centre midfielder will have rolled a free kick five yards forwards, and for some inexplicable reason corner takers delight in placing the ball just outside the semi-circle, despite gaining no discernible advantage.
Match officials can be forgiven some things. They are under pressure, make snap decisions and suffer abuse from foul-mouthed fans and players.
The Premier League is another matter, though. They sit in swanky offices in Lancaster Gate, paid better than Harry Redknapp’s agent (or probably not, actually…) and are paid for looking after something they love: football. Their decisions are not made in an instant (allegedly), and if we were to pass a Premier League official in the street we wouldn’t even know to address our abuse to him.
This is why it is possible to accuse them of flagrant double standards without making excuses.
On Sunday referee Mark Clattenburg was removed from officiating over the Community Shield final because, essentially, he was in debt.
Take one step back from your initial abusive reaction to a referee – yes, he may have made a few blunders in the past (just ask Everton fans about the Merseyside derby last October) — but this was a man punished on the off chance that he had done something wrong. The integrity of referees is clearly important, and any suggestion they may have been influenced by money worries is clearly inappropriate.
However, the FA were more than happy here to make a preemptive strike and remove him from action.
Manchester City is owned by billionaire Thaksin Shinawatra, whose government in Thailand was continually accused of corruption, treason, conflicts of interest, tax evasion, and hostility towards freedom of speech. He has even been accused of human rights violations, including extrajudicial killings, is due to stand trial for corruption and is the subject or a warrant for arrest.
Let it be clear now that none of these allegations have been proved. However, while Premier League chiefs confirm they are prepared to ask Shinawatra to undergo the fit and proper person test (which itself is a long way from passing it), they haven’t already. They don’t mind what he does, until they are forced to question it by popular pressure. Which, as you may have noticed, is the complete opposite of their attitude to Clattenburg.
We live in a world where money and influence talks. Fans feel happy yelling foul mouthed curses at players because they pay money to sit in the stands, but go running to the police when footballers dare reply. Spectators loudly question the linesman’s parentage as a matter of course, but when an official makes an honest mistake he can be relegated to the division below.
That is the fans; it may not be ideal, but it is at least understandable.
The FA and EPL is a different matter though. To allow someone as much free reign as possible if they have money, while simultaneously punishing another for something far less serious which probably won’t even affect his performance, is childish. Yes, the rules surrounding referees are there for a reason. With them, though, the rules are strictly enforced, whereas with more influential individuals, the rules are an inconvenience they hope no one will point out.
Unfortunately, money talks. Just ask Sam Allardyce.
The Armchair Fan promises to bring you all the stories from the football world which you will have missed in the regular press – check them out at his website.
Must see: Today’s Studs Up.