Lifting the lid on the world of football

The Secret Journalist
28 Nov, 2012

Clattenburg not for Chelsea until end of season. If at all

And so one of the most sordid episodes in the illustrious history of the Premier League is over. Chelsea have belatedly expressed “regret” over their handling of the Mark Clattenburg affair, in which they mistakenly accused the referee of racially abusing John Obi Mikel, their midfield player, and we can all move on.

Or can we?

Enquiries by the Met Police and the FA exonerated Clattenburg. Not guilty. Chelsea, without actually offering an apology, have admitted a degree of culpability. Clattenburg, perhaps grudgingly, is again cleared. And the much-respected official will take charge of Southampton against Norwich City at St Mary’s Stadium tonight. From his peers, an overwhelming green light.

Yet, for Clattenburg, the stigma will remain. Certainly, for the rest of the 2012-13 campaign. I spoke with a senior refereeing official over the weekend and he revealed that it is unlikely that Mark will officiate another Chelsea match until the tail-end of this campaign. If at all.

It just can’t happen, can it? Give him a Chelsea game too soon, in which he awards a contentious penalty against the West London giants, and he will be roundly accused of exercising payback. And who could blame him, after he and his family have been dragged through hell and back over the past four weeks?

Even giving him a Chelsea fixture towards the conclusion of the Premier League programme is fraught with danger, despite the apparently friendly accord between the referees’ hierarchy, the Chelsea top brass and the Premier League at St George’s Park on Monday. Should Chelsea be in position for honours, where will Clattenburg stand if he penalises them in another controversial situation? The Twitter trolls, not to mention Rafa Benitez and his players, will be frothing with conspiracy theories.

This, of course, from a club who stoically stood by John Terry – and retained him as their captain – after he was found proven by the FA to have racially insulted Anton Ferdinand, the QPR defender. “You couldn’t make it up” does not get close to what the saner sections of the football world really feel about this.

The start of 2013-14 would appear to be the best starting point for Clattenburg. And yet still the stigma will stick when, at last, he takes charge of the men in blue. What chance has he got? Premier League managers have long memories regarding perceived referees’ decisions against them; just ask Sir Alex Ferguson.

Which is why I can’t stomach their pseudo-sympathetic reaction to Clattenburg’s plight over the past month. Many fine comments in support, total condemnation of Chelsea’s actions, and then back to slagging off the refs once the weekend’s matches come around. I’m sorry, the hypocrisy is sickening.

Of the part the Press have played in this sorry chapter, I don’t think there is much to reprehend it for. Chelsea put it out there, disgracefully hastily, and the Fourth Estate had no option but to react and report. What was there to dissect, to pillory and to attack was obvious. And was done. Almost all of the media were distinctly anti-Chelsea.

OK, the newshounds, as usual, were let loose and camped outside Clattenburg’s home in Durham. A horrendous and inexcusable consequence of sporting infamy and of those, from any walk of life, suddenly in the spotlight. That is par for the course. Nothing to do, of course, with the sports scribes; just a sad byproduct of day-to-day existence and the process.

There were a few dissenters, a few apologists. Pat Nevin was chief among them, the former Blues winger and now broadcaster reveling in his opposite views. That he has a regular column on the Chelsea FC website – and that he backed Terry in the Ferdinand case – might suggest a somewhat blinkered view. Why should he bite the hand that feeds him?

But, to be fair, his latest column is articulate, coherent and well-argued. As you would expect from the thinking man’s former footballer – despite the possibility that his musings could have been heavily censored by the Cobham “Thought Police” and, forgive me, that his justification of Chelsea v Clattenburg is utter tripe.

In my book, there is no justification for almost ending a man’s career on the flimsiest of evidence, especially when the heat of battle has not yet cooled. In the current climate, the race card is the most dangerous – and yet, to some, the most convenient – to flourish. Even a mega-stakes poker player, with his stack almost gone, would not dare play it.

Yes, we move on. But my refereeing “source” is still appalled by what has happened to one of his esteemed colleagues and is adamant that Clattenburg, though probably re-energised by his reappearance at St Mary’s this evening and deservedly so, will never attain the same level of respect again.

For that to happen to an innocent, an effective victim of knee-jerk lynching by an all-powerful rival, is unforgiveable.

About the author: The Secret Journalist


Been there, seen it, done it on the hack front over more years than I care to remember. Got all the T-shirts - TV, radio, PR, papers weekly and daily, glossy mags and now the worldwide web. But I'm growing more cynical by the day...

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  1. john flavell

    I have been a referee for nearly 20 years and the clattenburg case makes my blood boil hes been cleared with no case to answer why is it when these people play the racist card people are assumed guilty till proven otherwise then they should be charged just as quickly as mark was taken off games as though guilty im afraid the racist card needs down grading so people dont tremble with fear when it gets shown

  2. Rob

    Why not just get it over and done with. Let him ref a game soon and then it’s done. He just calls what he sees. Let’s face it if he gives a contensious call to Chelsea the opposition will say it’s to smooth the waters between them.

  3. Brentwood Blue

    Clattenburg has been treated abysmally during this affair. However, his reputation is far from clean. You may recall that he is persona non grata with Everton and hasn’t officiated at Goodison since his performance in the Merseyside derby in 2007 when he outsourced the reffing job to Steve Me

  4. John

    “Of the part the Press have played in this sorry chapter, I don’t think there is much to reprehend it for. Chelsea put it out there, disgracefully hastily, and the Fourth Estate had no option but to react and report”
    Sorry, but this is 100% incorrect – numerous journos were tweeting the story within an hour of the final whistle and at least an hour before the CFC press release. I know because I read them at the time. Whether CFC were right in confirming the story that night is another matter, but the journos present had already ensured it was in the public domain and in all likelihood covered in the next morning’s papers.

    • The Secret Journalist

      Sorry, John. This is 100 per cent correct. OK, perhaps 99%!! It is likely that the first that the journos knew of the “incident” was via the friendly Sky Sports News reporter, who is one of the few media reps who has access to the players’ tunnel. But I wd be very surprised – due to the serious nature of the accusation – if this was tweeted by the hacks BEFORE they had a private briefing from the Chelsea PR guru. Just too dangerous. Once they’d been tipped the nod by him, then it was a free-for-all to get it out there asap. Which, clearly, Chelsea – however misguidedly – had no problem with.

  5. ed of course

    “Premier League managers have long memories regarding perceived referees’ decisions against them.’
    Do you expect Robbie back as Chelsea manager next year?

  6. John Young

    “Self indulgant bookings”? WTF is this madness??

    That said Ray, you are right on one thing. It all catches up with you in the end. So keep an eye out son, because with the level of sheer stupidity your post displays, you’ll sure need to.

  7. Kevin

    In my honest opinion, if you allow Clattenburg to take charge of matches again it shouldn’t at all matter which ones they are.

    Either he’s fit for his role or he isn’t. If he has the support of his superiors then the quality of his performances at any ground shouldn’t be an issue.

    • The Secret Journalist

      I agree. But the sensitivity of him taking Chelsea games this season could be overwhelming, for the reasons I explained in the column. Clattenburg has the full support of his superiors and, apart from a few of his off-the-field “difficulties” in the past, always has done. It is Chelsea, through their crass arrogance, who have made his position almost impossible re taking charge of their games. At least, for the immediate future.

  8. Harry

    Wow these two Chelsea fans are divs, right? Spectacular missing of the point.

  9. ray

    Clattenburg deserves evrything he got including his 4 game suspension not for the alleged remarks but for his gross mismanagement of the game which he gave to United on a platter with his rash self indulgent bookings. There is no point in continuing a game when its 9 against 11 plus a blatant offside winning goal that everyone clearly saw. No I don’t feel sorry for him he got his just rewards-it always catches up with you in one way or another..

    • The Secret Journalist

      If you were accused of racially abusing another, with barely a shred of evidence, and had yourself and your family exposed to such public scrutiny, you might think differently. Clattenburg might have made errors during the game but did he deserve such a horrendous experience? I think not.

  10. Ocheme

    He should be banned from all Chelsea games

    • The Secret Journalist

      On that basis, every ref who has ever done Chelsea wrong shd be banned from refereeing them again. In other words, Chelsea wd not be able to play because no ref wd be eligible to take charge of their gms. Ridiculous…

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