Guilty or not, Mark Clattenburg is receiving punishment already.
Mark Clattenburg’s employers, the PGMO (Professional Game Match Officials) stop officials from doing any media duties, thus the chances of him, or indeed any referee, appearing in an interview are minimal. Reportedly hated by players for his distinctly ‘blokey’ attitude on the pitch, while heckled from those in the stands for sporting an all year tan despite being from the north east, Clattenburg is derided by many for being a referee who likes the limelight. Regardless of his attitude towards being recognised in public, the manner in which his controversial performance at Stamford Bridge last week has been dealt with would leave anyone wishing they could stay indoors and keep the curtains firmly drawn.
Investigations into whether or not Clattenburg used “inappropriate language” towards Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel are ongoing, therefore it would be presumptuous to comment on the possibility of his guilt without being in full possession of the facts. However, the public nature of the investigation into Clattenburg has received criticism from many involved in the game, and rightly so. Arsenal manager Arsene Wenger condemned Chelsea for going “public with little proof”, while Swansea boss Michael Laudrup bemoaned that the uproar has gone on for “too many days, so there are too many times to talk about it”.
These two points of view combine to form a damning verdict, not on Clattenburg or the players involved in the dispute, but on the broader manner in which modern football is becoming dominated by matters which have very little to do with twenty two men kicking a ball about for ninety minutes.
In a week which saw two of the most extraordinary cup ties in recent years, Arsenal’s ludicrous 7-5 victory at Reading and Chelsea’s extraordinary 5-4 triumph over Manchester United at Stamford Bridge, the back pages were still centrally focussed on Mark Clattenburg. The return of truly thrilling cup football was overshadowed across most of the daily papers by archival incidents of Clattenburg’s past refereeing mistakes and photos of him emerging from his home. According to sources close to him, Clattenburg has been under immense pressure over the last week.
This is hardly surprising; with a sixteenth month old baby at home, the presence of news crews sprawled on his front lawn is both insensitive and invasive. Guilty or not, the man is clearly already suffering, and as he is still under siege from certain sections of the media, a return to refereeing this weekend would clearly be ill advised, serving up another excuse for discussion to centre once more about his reputation rather than the score line and quality of the match he takes charge of.
If Chelsea have reason to believe that Clattenburg called one of their players a “Spanish tw*t” and another a “monkey”, then an enquiry into Clattenburg’s conduct is a necessity. However, one could be forgiven for thinking that, given the length and impact that the John Terry case has had on football in the last year, it would have been better for the sake of all parties involved; Chelsea, the FA, and Clattenburg himself, if the investigation had taken place behind closed doors.