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United-Liverpool Fracas Exposes Referee Double Standards

Aftermath of Jamie Carragher's challenge on Nani

In 10th March’s edition of the Daily Mail, Wolves chairman Jez Moxey brought attention to one of the recent trends in the Premier League; the “haranguing of referees” by “the so-called bigger clubs with the more high-profile players who appear to think they are, at times, above the rules.” Despite perhaps sounding a bit bitter given the bad luck Wolves have suffered this season, it must be said that Moxey raises a very pertinent and credible accusation, with the recent Liverpool- Manchester United match a good example.

Every time there was a close call, players swarmed Phil Dowd, hounding him to pull out a card or realize his mistake. Van Der Sar and Rooney both enthusiastically protested Liverpool’s opener, which was indeed on-side, and the Carragher tackle on Nani, followed by Rafael’s tackle on on Lucas saw others again circle the man in black trying to influence his decision.

What does seem unfair, however, is the frequent way in which the league’s bigger personalities are allowed a spot at the referee’s side to argue their case, with Rooney, Vidic, Van Der Vaart, Ashley Cole, and Jamie Carragher the prime suspects. Famous personalities and club icons they undoubtedly are; but the Respect campaign is built on the referee being able to communicate with the captains of each side as well as the offenders, and it seems some officials are more lenient with bigger names.

An irate David Silva motioning for a card does seem to be more effective than the same appeal from the likes of Richard Stearman or James Beattie, and it is unfair that because one player has a higher profile that it should affect decision making in matches. In the FA’s official guide to “Working with the Ref,” the captain is advised that the official will “deal firmly with any open show of dissent…(especially) harassment and challenging.” Harassment includes “running towards the referee in an aggressive manner” and “players surrounding the referee to protest a decision.” Challenging’s definition includes “gestures that are obviously made in a derogatory manner” and “continually asking the referee questions about decisions made obviously in an attempt to undermine his/her position.”

If actually enforced in most Premier League matches, it is safe to say matches like United-Liverpool would have to be abandoned. In Tottenham’s 3-3 draw away to Wolves, Alan Hutton brought down Nenad Milijas in what seemed to be a clear cut last man back red. Immediately after the decision was made by Mark Halsey for a penalty, Huerelho Gomes, Jermaine Defoe, Steven Pienaar and Sandro all protested, surrounding the referee, with Luka Modric even making a late beeline into the crowd to plead for Hutton.

But the flow of matches and overall player-referee relations will be bettered if the mobs surrounding the officials, like packs of lawyers pleading their cases, are suitably dealt with, and in time eliminated.

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