No Chelsea player heard Terry abuse Ferdinand… now they're blessed with the hearing of a piano tuner
00:00 GMT, 3 November 2012
00:00 GMT, 3 November 2012
Listen and you might be able to hear the sound of Chelsea’s credibility crashing down around their ears.
The wild accusation that referee Mark
Clattenburg hurled racist abuse at John Mikel Obi appears to be coming
apart and it is taking the club’s reputation along with it.
For unknown reasons that seem to defy
any true appreciation of justice, Chelsea rushed into the public domain
with claims that this experienced match official had racially abused
two of their players during Sunday’s defeat by Manchester United.
They claimed Juan Mata was called a ‘Spanish t***’ and — staggeringly — that the referee told Mikel to ‘shut up, monkey’.
Quiet, please: Mark Clattenburg gestures to John Mikel Obi
They are charges so disgracefully
damaging to Clattenburg, it is almost impossible to believe the Stamford
Bridge board could proceed without making sure there was genuine
substance to the claims.
They will presumably have known how
the stigma of any such charge would hang over the official. They would
have been aware of the implications for the man and his career. But they
did it anyway, two hours after losing a heated, bad-tempered match.
Only it now seems their case is based
on the flimsiest claims. We are told there is no television footage.
No audio recording. No corroborating testimony from the officials on the
touchline wearing communication devices. And no witness who is likely
to stand up to genuine scrutiny. In short, there is little proof that
anything of the sort happened.
On advice from lawyers, Chelsea have
already withdrawn the Mata accusation, which is embarrassing in itself.
Yet the Mikel charge still hangs in the air.
Dropped: After legal advice, Chelsea opted not to press ahead with the Juan Mata accusation
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Not that Mikel heard this insult, you understand. It is based on the word of Brazilian player Ramires Santos do Nascimento, who apparently believes he was able to hear Clattenburg abusing his Chelsea team-mate.
At this point, it is worth noting that Ramires speaks about as much English as I speak Portuguese — which is very little. His club interviews require the services of a translator and, on the pitch, he apparently asked David Luiz — another Brazilian — to explain what he thought he had heard Clattenburg say.
Is this the evidence Chelsea are relying on to destroy a match official’s career A piece of hearsay passed on second or third hand
In the absence of anything to the contrary, I prefer to listen to common sense. I prefer to listen to the voice in my head telling me the way this has been conducted is plain wrong.
I also have to admire the fact that Chelsea’s players suddenly appear to have developed improved listening skills. Not one of them heard John Terry shout ‘f****** black ****’ at Anton Ferdinand, despite being in close proximity to their captain’s sweary outburst, but now they are supposed to have ears as sensitive as a piano tuner when it comes to hearing a referee’s remarks.
If Ramires believes something insulting was said, he is right to report it to those in charge at the club. But the people paid huge sums to run Chelsea and protect their worldwide image should have had the decency and good judgment to examine the charges thoroughly before stampeding into the public domain with such a complaint.
Instead, they reacted like fans. They got caught up in the emotion of the game. They lost a vital match and, in their perception at least, it was ‘the referee’s fault’.
Selective hearing: Chelsea players failed to hear John Terry's exchange of opinion with Anton Ferdinand
In this scenario it is hard to avoid speculating about the possibility Chelsea were so aggrieved at being shown two red cards, they waved the race card too quickly.
Dealing with what we know from all the briefings and reports, let us employ the ‘balance of probability’ test that saw the FA punish Terry. Just ask yourself what is the more likely scenario:
1) That a leading referee said ‘shut up, monkey’ to a player while wearing a microphone in front of 24 or more television cameras, 41,000 spectators and a global audience of half a billion Or…
2) That a Brazilian player misheard a Geordie referee saying ‘shut up, Mikel’ and the entire incident got completely out of hand due to the Chelsea players’ over-inflated sense of grievance
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This is a referee with more than a dozen years of top-flight officiating experience, one who has been on the FIFA international list for the past six years. He took charge of the 2012 League Cup final and the Olympic final. I’m not saying he doesn’t make mistakes. Quite clearly, he does.
But his reputation is being trashed by a club who can hardly boast a noble record of restraint when it comes to the treatment of referees.
Anders Frisk was once accused by Chelsea of chatting with the then Barcelona manager, Frank Rijkaard, in the officials’ room at half-time. This was proved to be inaccurate and wrong but Frisk received death threats that drove him into retirement.
Referee Tom Henning Ovrebo was branded a ‘thief’ and smuggled out of England by police for his own safety when Chelsea lost a Champions League semi-final to Barcelona again in 2009.
Hounded: Tom Henning Ovrebo is surrounded by Chelsea players after the final whistle at Stamford Bridge
Ex-referee Graham Poll says a clique
of Chelsea players made accusations that he had threatened to ‘sort them
out’ when he sent off Terry. Their claims were later retracted.
too that Chelsea club secretary David Barnard is handling this Mikel
dispute. He is the Stamford Bridge official who was shown to have
altered witness statements in the Terry case and provided what the FA
described as ‘materially defective’ evidence with ‘very real concerns’
about its accuracy.
now, the balance of probability is tipped about as far as gravity will
allow, although Chelsea will probably demand action against Sir Isaac
Newton for this.
Don’t bother to tell me this is an ‘ongoing police investigation’, either. That is another farce.
They are involved only because the Society of Black Lawyers made a formal complaint to the Metropolitan Police. ‘We weren’t there, but we don’t need to be in order to report an incident,’ said their chairman, Peter Herbert.
Still, it got him in the papers, didn’t it Well done.
When this case collapses, as it surely will without an extraordinary silver bullet of evidence being produced, the Football Association cannot let Chelsea walk away without sanction.
Eye of the storms: John Terry, John Mikel Obi and Ashley Cole in training
They cannot allow a club to throw around such vicious indictment of an official’s character and decency without suffering some consequence. The referees’ union need to step up, too.
Officials endure enough vitriol and hatred as it is. Week in and week out practically every single decision during a match is openly contested. Each corner, each throw-in, each free-kick is little more than the cue for a bout of snarling protest.
Players steal a yard, dive at the merest touch, then stamp their feet like a child denied chocolate at the supermarket checkout when the official they have spent an entire match trying to dupe finally dares to make an error.
It feeds a mood of hostility and confrontation the game is doing nothing to address. The FA’s reaction to this will no doubt be to tape referees’ conversations with their assistants during a match to prevent this kind of incident happening again.
Really, it should be used to put the players’ outbursts on record and hold them to account for the abuse they hurl at officials. It’s the ideal way to change behaviour overnight. But is anyone listening
Winter of discontent
Winter has arrived and it’s downright depressing. I’m not talking about the weather, I’m talking about ex-referee Jeff Winter, who has been doing the rounds on TV and radio offering his opinions on Mark Clattenburg and Chelsea.
Producers can be unimaginative sorts. An appearance on one channel inevitably leads to a slot on another. But it might be an idea to skip the page of the contacts book with Winter’s name on it next time. Especially if the debate is on issues of prejudice and tolerance.
Extreme views: Former referee Jeff Winter
His website carried a peculiar anti-Catholic rant when Celtic went top of the Scottish Premier League at the turn of the year. The piece asked: ‘What does it mean for the altar boys Do they get abused in celebration Would it have been worse in the anger of defeat Or would they just get abused anyway’ The Pope was also described as a ‘dress-wearing, Nazi, kiddy-fiddling protector’.
I think we can do without any more sectarian bile. And we can do without more Winter, too. We don’t need to put the clocks back twice.
Henning Berg discovered the perils of being a football pundit when he became the new Blackburn manager a few weeks after declaring it would be madness to work for Venky’s and that no-one with any credibility would accept the position. Give it a couple of weeks and he is likely to be proved right.