Referees: love them or hate them, we can’t play without them

With John Obi Mikel recently receiving a three-match ban and a £60,000 fine for threatening referee Mark Clattenburg, just how consistent is punishment for the abuse of officials?

The easy answer: not at all.

Towards the start of the season, many people seemed to keen to forget an incident involving Alan Pardew.  The Newcastle United manager shoved Peter Kirkup in the back after the linesman failed to give a decision his team’s way.  Despite Mikel’s actions still being inappropriate, at least the Chelsea midfielder’s belief of racial abuse was reason enough to confront Clattenburg.  Yet, Pardew’s public assault of an official and subsequent laughter in a post-match interview earned him only a two-match ban and a £20,000 fine, before being swiftly swept under the rug by the media and Premier League chiefs.

In September 1998, almost exactly 14 years before Pardew pushed a linesman, Paolo Di Canio was given an 11-match ban for a push on referee Paul Alcock.  The former striker, then playing for Sheffield Wednesday, had already been sent off when he put his hands on the official.  The Italian’s actions were widely condemned and, despite the situation being taken lightly in later years due to Alcock’s comic fall, the incident was a sign of all that is wrong with the beautiful game.

Today it seems that Premier League players and managers  can do whatever they like and receive a slap on the wrists, whilst amateur footballers playing on a Sunday would immediately be given a sine die suspension for touching a referee.

The word ‘professional’ suggests they should know better, but it seems that they too can forget who the most important person on the pitch is.