Tuesday, October 30, 2012

36 hours on, Clattenburg affair needs facts

It's fascinating how the allegations against Mark Clattenburg have been drip fed into the ears of the British sports media. Officially, the only allegation that has been made is one that Clattenburg used "inappropriate language" in his dealings with two Chelsea players.

However, if you're plugged in to the Chelsea machinery, there are other little gems that will leak out. The words "monkey" and "Spanish twat" (oh how I love the faux prudishness of the Brit media that puts asterisks where the middle two words of "twat" go) will be fed to you and reference will be made to Obi Jon Mikel and Juan Mata being the two victims of what must be the most unlikely "inappropriate" behaviour.
In the media, allegations that Clattenburg used terms of a "racial" nature have segued smoothly into racist abuse, a cruel manipulation of what has been said.
For Chelsea, nothing has been said. The club can quite openly say it has not aired these allegations in public. But press officers these days are well briefed in the dark arts of spin and briefing.
Chelsea have a history in this regard, as Graham Poll found to his discomfort when Chelsea players made up words they alleged he used after sending off John Terry several years ago. Anders Frisk and Tom Henning Ovrebo were hounded out of refereeing by Chelsea behaviour.
It's a pretty shameful past and one that dilutes the credibility of accusations against Clattenburg.
But I'm not going to speculate about the facts. I don't know them but I'm sure we will soon, the sooner the better for the refereeing career of the man who is close to taking over the mantle of the country's top referee from Howard Webb.
It's sad to see serious football journalists condemning Clattenburg by inference. In the Telegraph this morning we can read that Clattenburg is a "peacock" and that he has a flashy lifestyle.
The facts as I know them are a little different. I sat next to Clattenburg for a couple of hours in June on a flight to Warsaw, where he was part of Webb's team of officials. A quietly spoken Geordie, he was reading a university law book for the degree course he is taking. He knew I was a journalist, but we spoke as amateur referee to top ref. He was fascinating and modest, listening attentively to takes from the ground floor and speaking passionately about the challenges facing modern refs.

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