I’m gonna break your f***ing legs
In the aftermath of the Chelsea versus Manchester United game Mark Clattenburg was allegedly treated to the threat of “I’m gonna break your f***ing legs” by a Chelsea player. This was on the back of a debatable call by the referee which at the thousandth time of watching two fans can still see completely differently. So is this a fair response? And perhaps more importantly are referees given enough protection?
To the first question: the answer is simply no.
It is a game of football played by multi-millionaires who despite what they think aren’t gangsters who are above the law. Footballers play by laws that prevent the game from falling into an unpleasant scrap. These laws around the turn of this century were to prevent players from injury. No tackles from behind, no two footed tackles and now a player cannot be out of control when making a tackle.
The laws though are now attacking another thorn in the side of the game. The issue of diving and cheating from players who have decided that these laws are not for them. Whether he was right or wrong Mark Clattenburg was simply making a brave decision that Fernando Torres had dived in an effort to hopefully level the playing field by having the tackler Jonny Evans sent off.
For Chelsea players to then descend on his changing room after the game and threaten him not just with the playground threat of breaking his legs but no doubt in a more menacing way entirely (please note: I am not saying that they conjured the Mikel story out of thin air) is just wrong. Players have to realise they are not above the laws of the game, they are merely players. Not administrators, not referees, not judges, juries and executioners. They also need to accept that referees can make mistakes – much like players themselves make mistakes.
Brian Clough’s take on referees from 1978/79. “I think what you do to referees is nothing short of criminal… …I think the standard you feel should be coming from referees at the moment is absolutely incredible”
The second question once again has a pretty simple answer: yes.
Hands up if you thought I was going to say no…
Referees are armed with some pretty powerful weapons on the pitch: their whistle and these small pieces of coloured card which can stop a player from doing almost anything. Referees suffer untold amount of abuse for 90 minutes of every single game and in only the rarest occasions do they complain or even mention the abuse they receive. And in even rarer cases do they actually punish the player delivering the abuse.
It is hard to have much sympathy with them when they refuse to uphold the laws that govern the game. These laws are in place to provide the protection that referees need to manage games filled with egos that make Piers Morgan look like a shy and retiring librarian. Referees need to take a stand to help rid the game of the horrific examples these players are setting for the next generation. Simply book every player every time there is a clear show of dissent. Book a player every time they deliver a mouthful of vitriol. Book players for diving.
The only way to change the game is for the referees to take the responsibility that is bestowed on them and use it to break the back of the monster that is crippling the game – the players’ belief that they are above the laws of the game.
Break their f***ing legs.