Date: 7th January 2015 at 12:30pm
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In August 2013, after Chelsea’s lost to Bayern Munich in the Super Cup, Mourinho complimented;

“English referees, people who love the game and who love to communicate.

To assert that English referees love to communicate could be seen as ironic given that the Premier League’s vow of silence means that referees can’t do exactly that. Alex Ferguson wrote in his recent autobiography,

“Perhaps it would serve a higher purpose for the referee to attend a press conference with his supervisor alongside him.

It certainly would serve a useful purpose since then we might be able to approach football without the tedious acrimony surrounding refereeing decisions. Mourinho himself revealed something of the content referees might give the media after our FA Cup victory over Watford:

“We had a big penalty in our favour but I was speaking to the referee and I want to apologise for my comments about him earlier on television. What he did was great refereeing. He saw that it was a penalty and was going to give it but he saw that the ball was going to Remy, and he waited a couple of seconds. He said if Remy did not control the ball or fired the ball over the bar, he would have definitely given the penalty. So I have apologised to him personally and I am apologising now.

Would Mourinho be able to conjure an injurious campaign against Chelsea in the media if referees could clear up ‘controversial’ decisions as simply as above? Would Mourinho even have publicly ‘apologised’ if his initial criticism of Kevin Friend hadn’t come as part of a ‘campaign’ that is beginning to derail? Mourinho asked the Chelsea Press Officer, Steve Atkin, to clarify Jose’s stance on the issue:

“Jose is not saying there has been a campaign against them from referees. He’s saying that coaches, media and pundits are part of a campaign, over a period of time, talking about Chelsea and incidents, and not talking about incidents and other teams.

I think Mourinho is finally realising on his return to England that the football community is not buying his headlines anymore. The headlines are in all the sporting outlets, yet almost everything Jose says right now is fairly met with major scepticism. Martin Keown depicted Mourinho as the Senator Palpatine of the football-media-universe when he said:

“It is easy to criticise a referee, to distract people from a performance, but I believe his recent comments were deliberate because he showed restraint. He did just enough to create headlines and debate — and to get inside the heads of referees. Mourinho is a master manipulator, using situations to his advantage, and he knows the pressure is on Chelsea in the second half of the season.

It’s easy to forget what happens on the pitch when all the ‘analysis’ we get from the major media outlets is that of words, and not why the ball hits the net. This is similarly true of most TV pundits, who can’t think of any talking points other than those relating to penalties or red cards.

Has Chelsea been mistreated by referees?

Being treated unfairly by the referee means suffering biased decisions. An honest mistake cannot be seen as unfair since every team in the football galaxy has surely endured poor refereeing decisions. The question then follows – how can we distinguish between the two? I don’t think it’s possible until referees are allowed to explain their decisions to the media.

Subjectively speaking I would assert that referees are perfectly susceptible to outside influences when they make a split-second decision. Referees wouldn’t be human if they occasionally relied on their instincts when making an instant judgement. The problem for them is that they can’t change their minds during the match. If they did they would totally lose control of the game. Referees wouldn’t be human if they didn’t make the occasional hasty decision and immediately regret it. Lots of people talk about the way a referee might ‘even’ a game if they are rueful about a decision. Given that referees are human, it’s almost certain that at one point, one referee has subconsciously or consciously given a decision against a Chelsea player because of what he’s heard about said player. Graham Poll has revealed something of the outrageous underworld of manager-referee relations since his retirement:

“When Mourinho first arrived at Chelsea in 2004, one of the first things he did was invite me to the training ground to introduce himself. He knew I was one of the leading referees in the country and, as it turned out, I ended up refereeing six Chelsea games that season. He was very charming and introduced me to the team as ‘the best referee in Europe’. (I had refereed Porto three times and they had won every game which probably helped).

Poll also revealed something of the effect Alex Ferguson could have:

“Ferguson is different. He doesn’t bother with the charm. He isn’t unpleasant, he just leaves you alone. But when he talks about referees in the media you’d like to think it doesn’t affect you, but it can. A current [Feb ‘13] Premier League referee was travelling up to his first match at Old Trafford to take charge of United at home. He called me from the car and said: ‘I could do with a 2-0 home win and a quiet night.

If one referee can go into a game with less than an open mind, then they all can and will.

Yet the circumstantial and anecdotal evidence available does not unable us to measure how much a manager-storm can affect a referee. Only a referee speaking out, like Graham Poll, can clear the prevailing fog.

Here’s where I agree with Jose:

  • Eden Hazard is getting violently assaulted and referees should call the police
  • Other managers are taking a liking to criticising our players for diving – please note that when players dive from other, less high profile teams, they get away scot free!
  • When Costa got wrongly booked for diving in our first game against Burnley, it set the tone. Diego’s reputation was ‘proven’ and that brush was then crudely applied to the entire Chelsea team.
  • We should have video replays for referees to right on-pitch-wrongs post-match.

For me, referees do find it far easier to call a dive on Chelsea players. I can only hope that the example being made of Chelsea expands to the rest of the League.

“There has been a lot of highlighting on the box and in the papers as well, which is unfair. I think the refs have to come into the games with a clear mind and judge each game as it is. You can’t go into a game thinking, ‘Someone did this, someone did that’. There are reputations out there, but the referees have got to come into it with a clear mind and I think the last two games we have been denied two clear penalties.”John Terry