Referee Andre Marriner deserves Premier League backing

Referee Andre Marriner is rightly back in Premier League action this weekend at St Mary’s and deserves the backing of the PGMOL after sending off the wrong Arsenal player at Stamford Bridge.

Andre Marriner in action (Arsenal v Man City - 21st Dec 2015)
Apology: Marriner said he has been replaying the incident back ‘over and over again’ in an interview with the Telegraph (Picture from Sky Sports)

MILLIONS who witnessed the high-profile incident at Stamford Bridge have had their say on what should happen to Andre Marriner.

“It was the most disgusting, shocking decision I’ve seen,” said legendary Welsh referee Clive Thomas, who insisted the West Midlands based official along with assistants Scott Ledger and Marc Perry and fourth official Anthony Taylor shouldn’t officiate another Premier League game this season.

“I can’t see that would do him in any good whatsoever,” responded former Select Group ref Dermot Gallagher.

Even the Daily Mail’s resident columnist Graham Poll chipped in, claiming human error “happens to the best of us”.

In his own words, he should know – after that blunder at the 2006 World Cup. That’s right, the three yellow cards brandished to one player.

But it’s not down to the ex-pros to dish out the retribution and the PGMOL, rightly, saw fit to retain his position for the forthcoming weekend.

His appointment to Southampton’s home clash with Newcastle came as little surprise to me.

Although the outcome will have no significant bearing on the table, it remains an eighth against ninth match-up.

The case of mistaken identity – sending off Kieran Gibbs instead of his lookalike Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain – was severe, of course it was.

Especially in a table-topping encounter, in the most watched league in the world, broadcast live at primetime on a Saturday lunchtime.

However, the questions it raises are, how often does this happen?

How has this affected Arsenal?

What would dropping one of the Premier League’s best officials – a FIFA-listed ref – into the Championship or a lower division achieve?

Well, let’s assess them. This such occurrence happens rarely, just once this season across all four of England’s top divisions. In a League One game back in November.

The Gunners have had both suspensions annulled following the FA’s review and were 2-0 down at the time, inside 17 minutes, and facing a correctly-awarded penalty nevertheless.

A capitulation waiting to happen, with 11 players on the field or 35. The controversial decision, in relation to the result, was merely academic.

Marriner’s apology has made no difference but what more can he do? The damage has been done, the backlash he expected has materialised. The honest mistake has been acknowledged, the two-minute footage analysed thousands of times over.

The FA, who quickly issued a statement to protect the official and excuse the error, will have been on his case behind closed doors this week while the pundits were gleefully rubbing their hands at the prospect of an official making a wrong call. Another talking point to mull over, in their eyes.

It’s the classic case of shooting a man while he’s down.

Withdrawing the 43-year-old’s services from the Premier League would destroy his confidence, undermine his integrity and set a detrimental precedent. He may come back a stronger character if omitted for a cooling period but staying in the firing line would be better in the long term.

The job in the modern game is hard enough without the increased pressure to contend with. Marriner is not incompetent or hopeless (some of the kinder words used to describe him on Twitter), he is human.

Last Sunday’s El Clasico saw Alberto Undiano Mallenco send off Sergio Ramos and award Barcelona two debatable penalties which have derailed Real Madrid’s La Liga challenge. Has the Spanish official been subject to such intense scrutiny? I think not.

Marriner, from Shetland in Birmingham, could not have hidden his disappointment more if he tried as he walked off the pitch last weekend. Seeing your name on the back-page headlines as a ref is career-shattering and can make or break your reputation.

The whole episode has frankly spiralled out of control and should act as a learning curve, not just for Marriner, but all officials across the board. A beneficial experience to prevent this happening again.

Jose Mourinho brought the video technology issue back into discussion, his way of avoiding the matter in hand.

His adversary Arsene was more sympathetic, and he was the one affected by the repercussions of it all.

Even Everton’s Roberto Martinez had the decency to keep faith with the clan of top-flight whistlers, describing them as the best in the business. There or thereabouts. The gaffer from across town also shared his opinion…

As thousands descend on St Mary’s, many will be wondering if Marriner is capable of finding the right stadium.

The social media jibes have been unrelenting, even five days after the game…

With the press attention following him to the south coast, all eyes will be on the under-fire Marriner to respond to the pressure cooker which has been boiling away all week long.

Every decision will be under the spotlight, he knows that. But if he performs to the impeccable standards we usually observe from the highly-acclaimed European official, the post-match talk will be relatively low-key.

A Premier League ref since 2006, Marriner has plunged himself into the top bracket among his colleagues and is regularly considered for the crunch contests.

As appointments to the FA Cup Final, Community Shield and Championship Play-Off Final testify, his ability is outstanding and has been unjustly doubted in the aftermath of this frenzy.

Ironically, Mark Clattenburg made his long-awaited return after last season’s four-week sabbatical on the same ground and was a forgotten figure by the end of Saints’ 1-1 draw with Norwich.

Marriner will be praying he can slip under the radar just as easily – and return to normality as soon as possible.

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