Jose Mourinho's 'criminal' outburst highlights the febrile atmosphere of blame and distrust that renders the referee’s position impossible

Mourinho is not alone in attacking the integrity of referee week in, week out, but what can they do when players are intent on deceiving them with every decision

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The Independent Football

Jose Mourinho and the football culture in which he is embedded make it impossible to achieve what he so desires, refereeing competence and consistency.

Mourinho did not need to claim the remarkably one-sided, televised platform offered by Sky to project his child-like bias, we hear the same doltish abuse every week. And each attack on the integrity of referees guarantees more of the same next week. He is not alone in that, only in his power and reach does he differ.

These football boys just don’t get it. For every Chelsea player sinned against there is an opponent carrying the studs of one of Mourinho’s own. If it’s not Mourinho it’s Big Sam, Arsene Wenger, Brendan Rodgers etc, all carping away in their self-referential bunkers, highlighting the mistakes of referees in regard to their own players, never the opposition’s.


In this febrile atmosphere of blame and distrust the referee’s position becomes impossible. The chances of any human being performing optimally in this environment is next to nil, yet there is no comprehension of this, no acknowledgement of the harm done by football managers and little understanding of how their actions contribute to the wrongs they perceive.

Mourinho could improve matters overnight were he to return to the Sky pulpit and instruct not the referees to do better but his players to behave like men, never to question a decision on the pitch, to accept the inviolability of the referee’s rule and the integrity of the institution of refereeing.

He might also condemn diving and like stunts aimed at gaining a competitive advantage. The same players who rail at the incompetence of referees see no paradox in the deceit of the dive to gain a penalty when no contact has been made. Diving is a cancer that managers do nothing to treat.

Perhaps the most amusing, if not revealing aspect of Chelsea’s appalling campaign against officials was the interrupted rolls performed by Branislav Ivanovic and Nemanja Matic following the ‘criminal’ assaults of Burnley bogey man Ashley Barnes.

Jose Mourinho appeared on Sky Sports on Sunday morning

Ivanovic in particular was in danger of tearing an abductor such was the velocity at which he propelling himself towards the stands, and then pop, the brakes went on and up he got to remonstrate with the referee.

Either his powers of recovery are super human or he was engaged in exaggerating the impact of the challenge. Simulation is the technical term. Conning the ref, his opponent and the spirit of the game might be another interpretation.

The tackle was certainly high and rum, and none of Ivanovic’s business how retribution might be administered. That’s a matter for the referee and the laws of the game.

Similarly, Matic was mid-roll when he, too, aborted the action to remonstrate athletically on a leg that might have been shattered beyond use according to Mourinho.

In real time the tackle did not appear reckless. Super slo-mo cameras often distort as much as they reveal.  To the naked eye Barnes did not appear intent on inflicting "criminal" damage on Matic, a point made by his manager Sean Dyche in response to the agitating of Mourinho on television.

Nemanja Matic confronts referee Martin Atkinson

Again it is for the referee to decide what is legitimate in the hurly burly of the action. Where Mourinho had a point was in his backing for the introduction of technology to resolve incidents that remain beyond the capacity of the naked eye to see.

In matters of attitude towards officials and use of technology to aid decision-making there is a precedent that football might usefully follow. It’s called rugby.

Here is a sport where participants keep their feet in the tackle despite the attentions of 18st Leviathan’s trying to halve the torso, and accept absolutely the authority of the referee. Only the skipper has a voice and he addresses the official as Sir.

Matic, centre, is led away after being sent off against Burnley on Saturday

And so in an atmosphere in Cardiff as hostile as any when England are the visitors in the Six Nations Championship, the man in the middle, Jérôme Garcès, was able to officiate effectively, free of the ruinous impediments inflicted upon football officials. If only Martin Atkinson and his brothers were afforded the same professional consideration.

There is no haranguing, no dossier of discontent or cataloguing of errors. Just acceptance of the result. Responsibility for outcomes rests with the players and the coach, not the referee. Rugby gets it, football doesn’t and its puerile protests are a pox on the game.