Mark Clattenburg is a referee who’s been in the headlines the last two weekends. He was the referee who decided that Wayne Rooney’s elbow on Wigan’s James McCarthy did not merit a card at the time, or any further punishment after the fact.
This past weekend, he’s been involved in another controversy. Only this time, it’s for getting a decision right.
Clattenburg gave a late penalty in the game between Fulham and Blackburn Rovers. Blackburn’s Grant Hanley was penalised for holding Fulham’s Aaron Hughes from a corner. Blackburn manager Steve Kean was a bit bemused by decision as he agreed that technically, it was a penalty but Kean felt that if that was given then there should be “10 penalties a game”.
Most of the pundits and writers have been ridiculing Clattenburg’s decision to award a penalty, mostly echoing Kean’s sentiments that if Hanley was to be penalised, most other players would be penalised too. On Match of the Day, the pundits, who never miss a chance to criticise an official, were incredulous that Clattenburg had the temerity to award a penalty, despite agreeing that it was a foul.
But isn’t everyone missing the point? Clattenburg got the decision RIGHT. It was a foul.
I’m totally aware of what goes on at corners. Players push, pull and jostle all the time. Watch a slo-mo replay from any corner from any game. I guarantee someone is committing a foul. When a foul is called from a corner, nine-time-out-of-ten it’s given in favour of the defending team. This has always struck me as weird as attackers don’t have a lot to gain from committing a foul in the area whereas defenders have. Surely any attacking player worth his salt would rather concentrate on trying to score rather than impeding an opponent?
It’s not often that a penalty is awarded for one of these offenses. It’s nigh on impossible for a referee to watch everyone so these fouls are easy to miss. Players do it because there’s a low probability they’ll be caught. Grant Hanley was a little unlucky then, as Clattenburg noticed early that he had wrapped his arms around Aaron Hughes and kept watching.
Foul play is one of the things that football needs to clamp down on. Just because most fouls from corners go unnoticed by referee’s doesn’t mean it is okay for players to commit them in the first place. A message needs to be sent out that this behaviour shouldn’t be tolerated. It’s gone on for too long.
Kean’s quite correct that there could be many penalties awarded per game. But if they were all given, how long do you think would that last for? If managers knew that there would be a greater chance of a penalty being awarded or a free-kick given to the defence for infractions from corners, it wouldn’t take long for them to get the message out to their players to keep their hands off opponents at corners.
I bet that Grant Hanley will think twice before pulling an opponent back the next time Blackburn defend a corner. The players in the next game Mark Clattenburg referee’s definitely will.
Clattenburg’s catching a lot of heat for this decision, which is unfortunate as there is a real danger that it would dissuade other referees from making the same decision. Instead, Clattenburg should be supported and other referees should follow suit in penalising offenses from corners more often. If this is done then the game will be cleaner and ultimately better off.