The impending departure of Mark Clattenburg from the Premier League has signaled the start of a shift in power towards officials. Clattenburg has decided to leave England and become head of referees in Saudi Arabia, doubling his earnings in the process.
He cites the breakdown of his relationship with referees’ boss Mike Riley, following the allegations of racism Chelsea made against him in 2012, as the reason for his departure, but the root of the problem is the remarkable amount of disrespect and abuse that officials receive, day in day out. If it were not for the disrespect and abuse that officials receive then the 2012 incident would not have been an issue.
One cannot argue with Clattenburg’s decision to head to Saudi Arabia, where he will likely get the respect he deserves as arguably the best referee in the world. The Premier League needs to take a long hard look at itself and find out why it has allowed for such a quality referee to have decided that enough is enough.
Severe punishments need to be enforced otherwise more top officials will follow in Clattenburg’s footsteps, which will ultimately lead to the demise of English football. The Premier League will be to blame. It is unacceptable that footballers these days can call officials whatever they want and know that they will escape with maybe a yellow card.
It remains a mystery why officials do not enforce law 12: “A player, substitute, or substituted player is sent off… for using offensive, insulting or abusive language and/or gestures” more often. This clearly states that any player who uses offensive language towards an official can be sent off, so why does this almost never happen?
This radical view may lead to controversy, with matches ending quickly because five players would inevitably end up getting sent off but, after a couple of weeks, teams and managers alike would understand that this kind of behaviour will not be tolerated and, thus, officials like Clattenburg would not feel the need to leave the league.
This kind of approach can only be successful if it is implemented at the highest level; then, players of all ages and standard would see that they will not achieve anything if they abuse the referee. Players will point to frustration and passion as reasons for why they abuse the referee, but no such abuse is present in rugby union where players also get frustrated and passionate. Respect for the referee in rugby is enforced at the grassroots level, and the continuation of it in the professional arena encourages it throughout the sport.
Footballers need to put their egos to one side and think of what is best for the game. If nothing is done, then English football will only have itself to blame for its demise as officials leave for pastures new.
Image courtesy of Sam Johnson