Former referee Stuart Dougal fears officials could soon be ‘too scared’ to talk to players
OFFICIALS may be too scared to do their job properly in the light of Chelsea’s allegations against Mark Clattenburg, an ex-referee who was fined for swearing at a player has warned.
The Football Association yesterday launched an investigation in to Chelsea’s claims that Clattenburg had used “inappropriate language” towards two of their players in Sunday’s 3-2 home defeat to Manchester United.
The alleged comments, reportedly made towards John Obi Mikel and Juan Mata, are understood to have been interpreted as racist. A big part of the FA’s investigation will undoubtedly centre on whether the other officials at the game, who are all linked through head-sets and microphones, heard Clattenburg say anything untoward.
Former Scottish referee Stuart Dougal, who was reprimanded and fined £200 for swearing at Rangers’ Christian Nerlinger in 2004, thinks officials will now be afraid to talk to players on the pitch for fear of what they say being interpreted as an insult.
“If clubs are going to go down the route that Chelsea have gone, referees might stop communicating altogether with the players and that is no good,” Dougal explained.
“They [referees] might be frightened to talk just in case somebody twists something they say. If somebody says something in jest, when you see it on paper in black and white, sometimes it doesn’t look good.
“It would be detrimental to the game if referees stopped talking to players because you need to chat to them, to encourage and coax them along. Referees might be refereeing under fear of being reported for saying a word out of place.”
Dougal does not deny that the allegations against Clattenburg are serious, but he does know first-hand how difficult if can be for an official to keep a lid on his or her emotions during a fiery contest.
Dougal was one of the most well-respected and experienced referees in Scotland when he swore at Nerlinger after the German hit out at one of his assistants during a league match against Partick Thistle in 2004.
“When [Nerlinger] let rip at one of my assistants I decided to let rip at him,” the Scot said. “I told him in no uncertain terms that I would not tolerate this dissent. The camera caught me mouthing two words; one beginning with F and one beginning with O. Referees should be as dispassionate as possible but there are times when you do get caught up in the heat of the battle.
“It may be that you aren’t having a good game, that things aren’t going the way you would like them to go and you get a wee bit caught off guard.”
Dougal, who retired from refereeing in 2009, was swiftly issued with his fine and reprimand for the incident with Nerlinger and he thinks Clattenburg will also be looking for a swift resolution to his case.
“He will want this resolved quickly,” the 49-year-old said. “He will want to clear this up or justify his comments.”
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