Keith Hackett has expressed “surprise and disappointment” at hearing what he called the “nonsense” of suggestions that Tottenham Hotspur players were not sent off against Chelsea in 2016 because of how it would look.
Mark Clattenburg , who left the top flight in February earlier this year, was the man in the middle when Tottenham let a two-goal lead slip against Chelsea at Stamford Bridge in the 2015-16 season.
Tottenham had needed to win what was a bad-tempered match to keep alive their hopes of catching Leicester but it ended in a 2-2 draw. Clattenburg booked nine players – while Chelsea and Spurs received respective fines of £375,000 and £225,000 from the Football Association – but claimed that as many as four Tottenham players could have been dismissed.
“I allowed them (Spurs) to self-destruct so all the media, all the people in the world went, ‘Tottenham lost the title,’” Clattenburg told NBC’s Men in Blazers podcast.
Keith Hackett, who used to be Clattenburg’s boss as general manager of the Professional Game Match Officials Board, has been left baffled by the claims.
“I think it is a nonsense,” The Telegraph quotes Hackett as saying. “It is disappointing to hear him say that he avoided giving a red card for his own self-preservation.
“When I saw the comments, I thought, ‘What’s going on?’ And so have other referees I have spoken to. He is one of the top referees and it is not something I have ever seen in him.”
Hackett said that referees were encouraged to specifically prepare for matches and would try to manage players to avoid problems but that there would never be any question of ducking big decisions.
“I expect referees to be prepared and focussed – that would mean knowing the teams, the environment, the possible tactics and potential adjustments to help perform at your best but, once you cross the white line, you have a blank canvas in terms of the decisions,” he said.
“You try to build your authority and trust as the game progresses. We encourage tempo management and often talk about the need to slow things down. You do not want there to be a confrontation but the referee is working to a code and that is the laws of the game.
“If there is a cautionable offence or a red card, you have to apply the laws of the game. That is your job. There is no ducking the issue. No referee likes to give red cards – you feel a sense of failure if that happens – but that is the law. You make decisions as accurately as you can.”