In praise of referees


Who’d want the job? All that abuse, your every decision forensically scrutinised, and earning a pittance compared to those in your charge.

A good referee is meant to be anonymous – so you can pretty much rule out public acclaim as a future reward while you listen to the chants drifting towards you on a rainy Saturday afternoon. (I mean, you’d understand if you were a banker but “referee” doesn’t even rhyme.)

One referee who is happy (or mad enough) to be back at work is Mark Clattenburg.

He will be the fourth official for the Premier League game between Tottenham and West Ham tomorrow after being cleared of an allegation that he told a Chelsea player to “shut up, you monkey”.

It was speculated that the Newcastle-based official referred to a player as a “cheeky monkey” – a popular Geordie saying. But the FA inquiry produced no evidence of this, or indeed anything else, other than that “the verbal and visual facts do not support any of the allegations made against him”.

Reformers are proposing new measures, including referee microphones – as used in rugby – to record all on-pitch conversations. Along with goal-line and replay technology, they seek the impossible: removing human error entirely from sport.