Referee's Job Made Difficult By One-Eyed Managers

After Steve Clarke revealed Mike Riley's apology for Andre Marriner's decision to award Chelsea a dodgy penalty, Jose Mourinho should do the same. Don't hold your breath...

Last Updated: 21/11/13 at 10:51 Post Comment

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The appeal of the Mike Riley fan club has always been highly selective after the wrongs for which he was responsible in his own whistling career, but we should at least acknowledge that being head of Professional Game Match Officials Ltd is a testing occupation. Referees and their assistants will always make mistakes, for which they must bear a burden during and around games, but once time has lent a little perspective the cry goes up: "What I want to know is what Mike Riley is going to do about it."

Though it is a staple of Chris Kamara's Sunday brunch, nowhere has that cry been more plaintive of late than the Hawthorns, culminating in Steve Clarke's bewilderment at the award of a penalty by Andre Marriner in the dying seconds at Stamford Bridge. West Brom were denied victory because Ramires fell over into Steven Reid, and it followed a number of penalty incidents about which the Albion feel aggrieved. While some of the others may have been contestable, the view on Reid's misfortune was all but universal.

Clarke said yesterday: "I've had an apology from Riley. It doesn't get us any more points but it's nice of Mike to call." Nice for Clarke, perhaps, but not so for Riley, the man now responsible for every officiating error in the Premier League (it used to only seem that way, now it's true).

It will not be Riley's intention - he has to want every decision to be correct, not for future errors to balance out previous ones - but West Brom will no doubt hope to get the rub of the green a little in future. Referees are human, whatever gets said in the heat of the moment, and though they will try not to let this apology affect them at all there will surely be some subconscious influence. If this happens and officials err in West Brom's favour, then poor old Riley will be on the phone to another manager. And then another.

There is at least one call I hope Riley never makes, though.

Whatever debates we have about refereeing, we must always bear in mind that not everyone will be happy about each decision because there are genuine controversies. But there are also those that are created purely by partisan myopia: remarkably, more than one manager felt hard done by at Stamford Bridge two Saturdays ago.

Jose Mourinho said afterwards: "I have watched it two or three times and it was a clear penalty. The referee made many mistakes during the game but that was not a mistake.

"It is always a difficult situation to accept for the team that is winning, but when they go home they will see on their screens that it was a situation where the referee did not make a mistake."

So if Marriner had not made his mistake, he would have come off the pitch to have his name trashed for having missed a clear penalty. Now that Riley has officially acknowledged that Marriner did make a mistake, the phone call waiting to be made is the one from Mourinho to Clarke, perhaps apologising for whatever went on in the Stamford Bridge tunnel, too.

Why did Marriner make that mistake? We cannot know. But if managers could just possibly act a little less like the most one-eared phone-in caller then maybe referees would feel less pressure in the first place, and would make fewer errors, and Riley's phone bill would be just that little bit lower.

Philip Cornwall

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