Referee Mark Halsey hits back following criticism over autobiography

Managers and officials are one big family former referee tells Sam Wallace after criticism over autobiography revelations

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The Independent Online

The former referee Mark Halsey said today that referees should be encouraged to socialise with players and managers in response to mounting criticism that his new autobiography revealed him to be too close to leading figures in the game, such as Sir Alex Ferguson.

Halsey, 52, whose book Added Time has been serialised by The Sun this week, said any suggestion that those relationships influenced his decisions on the pitch was unfounded. He said: "People need to read the book to get the full story," he told The Independent. "I am not a person who has ever been corrupt or shown favouritism. The rows I have had with managers will show that. People need to know the full story."

The Premier League has decided not to respond to the revelations from Halsey, among others that the organisation wanted him out soon after he returned following a battle with throat cancer. He retired at the end of last season forgoing the £50,000 that all the top-flight referees are paid at the end of their careers, which is also accepted as a contract not to disclose the details of their working lives.

It has been known for some time that Halsey was planning to write a book and he has now been isolated from the select group of referees, the 16 who oversee Premier League games, who will have one of their fortnightly meetings next week at St George's Park.

The select group referees are under the usual obligation from Professional Game Match Officials (PGMO), the organisation which oversees match officials in English football, not to speak to the media, which includes their former colleagues, newspaper columnist Graham Poll, and Halsey, who now works as a pundit for BT Sport.

In private, the Premier League has decided not to respond because it feels that Halsey is trying to pick a fight with his former employer, with whom he had a difficult relationship before and after his battle with cancer. The league and PGMO regard Halsey as a one-off in terms of his dealings with managers and players and believe that the current generation of referees do not seek out those kind of relationships.

In the serialisation of his autobiography, Halsey confessed to sending a text message to Ferguson asking him to speak out on behalf of Mark Clattenburg when the referee was under investigation for having allegedly made a racist remark to John Obi Mikel. Halsey claims that Ferguson subsequently did so at his behest. Clattenburg was later found to be innocent.

Halsey has also admitted in the past that Jose Mourinho paid for a holiday in the Algarve for him and his wife Michelle, who has myeloid leukaemia. Asked whether he felt those relationships overstepped the mark, given the referees' need for impartiality, Halsey said that was not the case: "People have been crying out for how many years for the referees, managers and players to come closer. We are all a family.

"You look at rugby, rugby league, cricket, players and coaches have a drink after the game. I have been a referee for 15 years in the Premier League and we all make friends." Asked whether he would have been better off keeping those relationships strictly professional, Halsey said: "All I can say is I am glad I am out of it."

He added: "We are a football family and we need to work together. Clubs have two visits a season where the referees go in and train with the players and speak to the managers. What's the difference? What's the difference when they have a day with a club and train with the club? If people want to read the book then they should read the full story. The book is all about me and my wife battling back from cancer and being an inspiration to others."

All select group referees are now issued with integrity guidelines by PGMO which make requesting match shirts from players off limits. There is no communication allowed from within the officials' room at half-time, which means mobile phones are banned, and there is also no access to television coverage. The Premier League claims that it has no concerns about any of the 16 select group referees.

Halsey himself does have a remarkable story about his recovery from cancer and his struggle to regain his fitness and pass the stringent tests with which all officials have to comply.

His wife was diagnosed in December 2008 and he discovered in 2009 that he had a lymphoid tumour on his right tonsil that required immediate surgery. He returned to action in March 2010.

He had always enjoyed a good relationship with Bolton Wanderers. For a period he owned a restaurant in the town and trained regularly at the club, to the extent that he could not be assigned their games in the Premier League under the integrity rules. Since his illness he has fundraised for the specialist cancer Christie Hospital in Manchester.

His relationship with fellow referee Poll was always spikey to say the least but the two men do now have one thing in common. Both of them find themselves very much on the outside of the organisation at which they were once long-serving members.