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No proof that Man Utd bribe referees

I can’t believe I’m writing this article but I think it’s important to give an unbiased and objective assessment of what I think.

I was commenting on Facebook last Monday during the Manchester United v Chelsea game on the various decisions taken/given by referee Martin Atkinson who, incidentally, I felt had a reasonably good game.

For example, there was a big outcry about an alleged handball against Chelsea’s Frank Lampard. The ref didn’t give it and I agree wholeheartedly with that decision. (Remember the hand has to be moving towards the ball and not the other way).

There were also one or two other decisions which the ref didn’t give either and, in my opinion, he was correct.

Counter that with a blatant dive by Ashley Cole in the United penalty area. This was cheating of the highest and most cynical order and the ref didn’t give it either.

Where the ref fell down on the job, in my opinion, was he didn’t give Ashley Cole a yellow card for diving. In fact, you didn’t have to be an expert lip reader to see that Ashley Cole was making that very point – “if it’s not a penalty, why didn’t you book me.” I agree with Mr Cole. Why wasn’t he booked? Only the referee can answer that.

The comments going back and forth between two subscribers on my facebook page on this very issue were quite intense and at times very personal.

I made the point that both parties should “chill out”, adding “it’s only a game of football”. It didn’t have the desired effect and only increased the “banter” between the contributors.

There have been many accusations levelled at Sir Alex Ferguson and Manchester United over the years of alleged, and I stress alleged, attempts to influence match officials, particularly when games are played at the home of United, Old Trafford.

No evidence has emerged to substantiate these allegations and until such time as it does, they should be treated with the contempt they deserve.

There have also been allegations that Sir Alex has attempted to influence the referees by his behaviour on the touchline and sometimes by his comments in the press.

I suppose that could be put down to clever use of the English language – something that can be interpreted one way or the other.

All managers/coaches have that ability to say something that can be misconstrued and misinterpreted in such a way as to mean one thing to some and a totally different thing to others. In a way that’s their job.

When it comes to deliberately trying to influence a referee or an assistant referee to alter illegally the course of a game, then that is a different matter.

I’m not saying that club managers/coaches have or have not done this.

I’m not saying that some referee have not taken bribes to decide the outcome of a game.

I’m not saying that the game is squeaky clean and that all participants are playing to the Fifa laws of the game.

There is ample evidence of wrongdoing on both sides (teams and referees).

What needs to be done is to assess each situation as it arises and for the perpetrators to be brought before the courts, charged, and, if convicted, sent to prison.

They should also be banned from all activities within the game for life – without parole.

Our game is too big, too important, to be ruined by a small (and in most cases, thankfully, very small) minority.

Let’s work hard to keep it that way

Happy Whistling
Dr Errol Sweeney
Twitter: @dr_errol

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