One of the things you need to have to be a referee is a very thick skin. I think that goes without saying.
But there are other areas where one has to be very strong, and I don’t mean physically. I mean mentally, because you will be called all things under the sun, including having your parentage called into question. And that’s not just from the players on the field.
What about the spectators? They feel it’s their God-given right to disagree, criticise, humiliate and, in some instances, physically attack you because they disagreed with some of your decisions.
There are many reported cases in which match officials, especially the men, have been verbally and physically assaulted. Some have even been killed during the course of carrying out their duty.
I read an interview given by former English Premier League and Fifa referee Mark Clattenburg in which he said he once thought of quitting refereeing altogether because of the mental strain he was under during his long and distinguished career with the whistle.
I guess we all know what he means and perhaps have given some consideration to quitting. I have to say, though, I never felt that way. But back to the issue at hand.
Clattenburg relates an incident that took place after the Stoke City versus Manchester United game on January 27 2017, which ended in a 1-1 draw, when United manager José Mourinho was the Red Devils boss.
He said there was a knock on his dressing room door after the match and in walked Mourinho.
“You can’t blame me for that draw,” Clattenburg said, to which Mourinho retorted: “I can.”
Mourinho started going on about a penalty that his team was denied. “You were wrong – I’ve seen the video,” he said.
Eventually, Clattenburg told him to shut up and get out of his dressing room, having launched one of his boots in the United manager’s direction in frustration. “F**king get out of my dressing room. Get out.”
He said Mourinho froze because he was not expecting such a response. While driving home after the game, Clattenburg said he was reflecting on whether he should continue refereeing or not and if he should quit altogether.
He said he knew he was right and that the ball had hit the Stoke player square on the chest and there was no way it was a handball.
He watched the BBC’s Match of the Day on TV later that night and it clearly showed that he was right not to have awarded a penalty.
Clattenburg said: “I went to bed that night and I knew I’d had enough. I thought, I can’t be bothered with idiots like that any more,” he told the Daily Mail.
There are a couple of things here that I have an issue with.
- I would never allow any player, manager, coach or club official to talk to me in that way;
- No club official, in any capacity, should be allowed to enter the referees’ dressing room and if that’s the Professional Game Match Officials Limited policy, then it needs to be changed forthwith;
- Despite the provocation, a match official should never use bad/foul language when talking with a team official; and
- In throwing his boot in the direction of the team manager, the referee lost control of the situation.
In my opinion, the match officials in England are too familiar with club officials – instead, they should stay aloof and just do their job professionally.
As I said at the beginning of this article, you need to have a thick skin, a cool head and a calm demeanour, otherwise this occupation is not for you.
I’ll have another shocking story of referee intimidation in next week’s column.
Please stay safe and well out there. This pandemic is not over yet. Protect yourselves and your families, and observe all medical and scientific advice. No one is safe until everyone is safe.
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