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Only A Game? - Why racism has to be taken very seriously

File photo dated 24/03/2012 of Mark Clattenburg. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday October 29, 2012. The Football Association has begun an investigation relating to allegations made by Chelsea against referee Mark Clattenburg  following Sunday's fixture at Stamford Bridge between the Blues and Manchester United. See PA story SOCCER Clattenburg. Photo credit should read: Jon Buckle/PA Wire

File photo dated 24/03/2012 of Mark Clattenburg. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Issue date: Monday October 29, 2012. The Football Association has begun an investigation relating to allegations made by Chelsea against referee Mark Clattenburg following Sunday's fixture at Stamford Bridge between the Blues and Manchester United. See PA story SOCCER Clattenburg. Photo credit should read: Jon Buckle/PA Wire

 

I can only imagine what it’s been like for referee Mark Clattenburg. The man has spent years studying and training to become a referee; he’s top of his profession and then all of a sudden, the self-centred nature of some footballers threatened to take it all away from him.

It was in the wake of Chelsea’s home defeat to Manchester United that Clattenburg was accused of racially abusing Nigerian midfielder Jon Obi Mikel and Spanish forward Juan Mata.

Obi Mikel claimed not to have heard the alleged comments and instead was relying on the evidence of team mate and Brazilian midfielder Ramires.

Chelsea’s case was looking as unstable as their managerial contracts.

Clattenburg has been cleared and Obi Mikel has been charged by the FA with misconduct following his involvement in the incident. It is believed he will not appeal the charge but has asked to make a statement to explain so called “mitigating circumstances”.

Every allegation of alleged racial abuse should be fully investigated but if the allegation proves to be false, it’s just not good enough to say that ‘it was made in good faith’.

There’s a sense of apathy when it comes to public responsibility. When politicians, footballers and big clubs like Chelsea get something wrong they think that it’s enough to say sorry and get on with it.

Clattenburg is one of the most respected referees in the English Premiership but that doesn’t make him any better equipped to deal with allegations that he racially abused footballers on the pitch.

Referees are lonesome figures on the pitch and in their line of work they will never be able to please everyone and like all human beings, they make mistakes but that’s no reason to accuse them of being racist.

When it was announced that the police investigation into what allegedly happened was dropped and when the FA ruled that Clattenburg was innocent of all charges the referee released a very honest and open statement.

In it he recounted how the allegations had made him feel and said he feared that his career as a referee was well and truly over.

“I am looking forward to putting this behind me and concentrating on refereeing in the Premier League and other competitions.

“I am extremely grateful for the invaluable support of my family, my Select Group colleagues, the management of Professional Game Match Officials Limited and our union Prospect.

“The messages of encouragement from those inside and outside of the game have helped me through the most stressful time of my professional life.

“To know you were innocent of something but that there was the opportunity for it to wreck your career was truly frightening.

“Racism has no place in football and this experience should not discourage those to speak out if they genuinely believe they are a victim of abuse.

“However, there are processes that should be adhered in order that any investigation can be carried out in a manner that is fair for all parties involved.

“I know first hand the ramifications of allegations of this nature being placed into the public domain ahead of a formal process and investigation. I hope no referee has to go through this in the future.

“We are all fortunate to be working in the world’s most-watched and scrutinised football league. With that comes a responsibility in regard to how the different parts of the game work together.

“What has happened over the last few weeks should not overshadow the fact the on-pitch relationship between match officials, players and managers is the best we’ve ever known it.

“We are proud of the integrity of refereeing in this country and I cannot wait to be back involved in the game I care so passionately about.

It’s clear from Clattenburg’s statement that he’s a man passionate about his career as a referee and it’s encouraging that despite what he’s been through he does not want his experience to dissuade anyone from reporting alleged racial abuse in the future but the key word to it all is “genuine”. Before accusing anyone of being a racist or using racist language you have to be as sure as sure can be. Your allegation has to be steadfast otherwise you run the risk of ruining someone’s life forever.

Clattenburg will referee again, that I am sure, but the lesson that has to be learned from the situation is that accusing someone of such a crime should not to be taken lightly. If nothing else, what has happened Mark Clattenburg should reinforce just how serious and abhorrent racism is.

Chelsea’s stance throughout the whole incident has been nothing short of disgraceful and the fact that it sacked its ninth manager in nine years in Roberto Di Matteo this week is a key indicator of just how unstable a club it is.

Racism is a real life issue whether we like it or not but unless there’s evidence and we are genuine in our allegations then we cannot justify running the risk of destroying a person’s life or career.

 

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