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Premier League referees ‘bemused’ by ‘puppet’ Mark Clattenburg’s role at Nottingham Forest

Mark Clattenburg - Premier League referees 'bemused' by 'puppet' Mark Clattenburg's role at Nottingham Forest
Mark Clattenburg (centre) attempted to speak to Paul Tierney after the match - PA/Mike Egerton

Premier League referees are understood to be bemused as to the nature of Mark Clattenburg’s new role at Nottingham Forest – with the former official having attempted to speak to Paul Tierney in the aftermath of the final whistle at the City Ground on Saturday.

Clattenburg was in the tunnel after Forest’s 99th-minute defeat to Liverpool, and the drop-ball decision that preceded the winning goal, and asked to speak to Tierney, one of the select group of referees. Tierney declined the request. Officials can be approached by club managers, players and some coaching staff after the game – but only those named on the official documents listing those selected to sit on the team benches.

Even those conversations are at the discretion of the referee. As Clattenburg was not among those listed on the sheet submitted before the match, it was not a consideration for Tierney. Clattenburg, a former Premier League and Fifa-list referee, once considered the most able in the English game, has been appointed as an advisor to the board by Forest’s owner Evangelos Marinakis.

Clattenburg later spoke to the Telegraph and said that he had attempted to speak to Tierney. It is understood that a member of Nuno Espirito Santo’s staff did speak to Tierney after the game, ordinarily it is Nuno’s assistant Rui Pedro Silva who does that on behalf of the manager.

The question now remains what role Clattenburg will occupy at Forest. It had originally been assumed that he would offer advice on the laws of the game and how officials were likely to interpret those laws, although after Saturday it appears that he is now also a lobbyist for the club on referees’ decisions.

Clattenburg told Telegraph Sport on Saturday that Forest would be seeking a conversation with PGMOL (Professional Games Match Officials Ltd) about Tierney’s decision. As of Tuesday evening no contact had been made between the club and PGMOL.

It has been accepted by PGMOL, the body that organises officials in the Premier League and Football League, that a mistake, under the laws of the game, was made by Tierney in giving the ball back to Liverpool in time added on. Given that the whistle was blown when the ball was at the feet of Callum Hudson-Odoi, Tierney should have awarded a drop ball to Forest. Only when play is stopped when the ball is in the penalty area is the ball returned to the goalkeeper.

Martin Cassidy: ‘I genuinely fear Clattenburg may be used like a puppet’

All drop balls are now uncontested and opposition players must be at a distance of four metres. There was almost two minutes between the decision and Darwin Nunez’s winning goal, during which the ball was out of play on more than one occasion.

For the PGMOL chief refereeing officer, Howard Webb, the error from Tierney is an awkward issue. Webb has sought to be more transparent since taking over at PGMOL. The next broadcast of Match Officials Mic’d Up, the Premier League Productions television show in which Webb explains decisions, with the real-time audio of officials’ conversations, is likely to be in the next international break, although that has not yet been confirmed.

The former Football League assistant Martin Cassidy who is the chief executive of Ref Support, an independent referee welfare charity, told the PA news agency, that he fears Clattenburg could be “a partisan tool to justify ref abuse”.

He said: “I genuinely fear that Clatts may be used like a puppet to give illegitimate behaviour credibility and by proxy justify ref abuse. I feel more clubs should call upon referees’ experience to explain law at every level of football.

“Football is a sport where the majority of those who play it don’t know the laws of the game they play. This is particularly relevant at pro level, which has always been a concern of mine, so I welcome such a role. The worry for me is if this role is then used as a partisan tool to justify ref abuse, and if the referee [analyst] has the freedom to say the referee was correct and the players were wrong.

“There is no doubt that Clattenburg has huge credibility in this field and is someone I hugely admire, but the question that needs to be asked is: Has Clattenburg got the freedom to question publicly the behaviour of Forest as a club for their unacceptable response to this incident?”

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