Neil Warnock, the Queen's Park Rangers manager, has launched a withering attack on the "three invisible people" on the Football Association's disciplinary commission who on Wednesday decided to uphold Joey Barton's three-match ban.
Warnock's angry reaction, in which he accused referees of being "star-struck" and said the FA commission was "ridiculous" and "farcical", came after the QPR midfielder was sent off during Monday's 2-1 home defeat to Norwich.
Barton was shown a red card by Neil Swarbrick for an alleged headbutt on Norwich's Bradley Johnson, which the linesman – who had the best view – did not react to. On the same day Frank Lampard put in a rash challenge on the Wolves midfielder Adam Hammill, a tackle that the Chelsea player himself later admitted could have easily been deemed an offence worthy of a dismissal, yet he was only booked. Lampard later scored the winner.
When asked if referees could be star-struck when faced with a big decision involving one of the Premier League's greater lights, Warnock said: "It is like that. Something has got to trigger in their mind, that it might not have been as bad as they first saw it, as they are looking at who it is that did it.
"It has to go through your mind. If it is [Wolves'] Karl Henry or Barton, they are easy targets, so [they think] it would be as bad as they thought it was.
"It has got to have an influence like that. I like Lampard, don't get me wrong. And he would have been disappointed in himself with the tackle. He knew what he had done straight away and he said sorry – but it is Frank Lampard. It's not like it is Joey Barton looking at you, as a referee. But it doesn't make it right.
"Am I surprised Frank Lampard commits a horrendous challenge and Peter Walton gives him a yellow card?," Warnock added. "If that had been Joey, [Karl] Henry or any Tom, Dick and Harry, would that have been a red card or a yellow card? There would have been a lynching of them."
Warnock's angry words could land him in trouble with the FA this morning, but he is concerned that bad decisions could ultimately cost his side survival in the Premier League. QPR are hovering a single point above the relegation zone, having failed to win since mid-November.
Warnock said: "It is hard for managers when we are down at that bottom end, you look at all those decisions. You do feel a bit hard done by.
"Whenever you see something happen on the field of play that warrants a red card, if the linesman sees that offence they flag and flag until the referee goes towards him, tells him what he has seen and then the lad is sent off.
"The linesman did not do that with the Joey Barton incident. It is farcical. There is not even a report from the linesman who has seen this alleged incident.
"I know they have got to look after themselves but I feel really let down as a manager and a club that three invisible people can look at that and not look at the linesman and take that into consideration.
"When you get people like Graham Poll, who is not my biggest fan, and Dermot Gallagher supporting what I am saying, [and] then the three people on the commission go against that, I just think it is scandalous. But I am not surprised."