There has been a lot of talk this season about a conspiracy by referees. The talk has come from Jose Mourinho, manager of Chelsea, who has argued that there is deliberate concerted campaign by referees against his team and even some newspapers have given tentative support to his claim. The Sun for instance in mistaking a Match Delegate Report for an assessor report, claimed that he can feel vindicated. Other managers however heap scorn on his claims. Carlo Ancelotti for instance said ‘I don’t think there is a conspiracy. Football is football, there are mistakes but there is no conspiracy’.
I think differently, I believe there is a conspiracy but the conspiracy is from Mourinho against referees. The question has to be asked however, how much of this is purely mind games intended to influence future referees, or to deflect criticism of his own failures? Look at Mourinho’s comments before their Champions League game against Paris Saint-Germain when they needed victory to remain in the competition. He called PSG the ‘dirtiest team they had ever played against, worse even that English League Two teams’. A not too subtle hint to the referee of that game, that he expected decisions to go against his opponents but also preparing the way for a defeat.
There is another possible reason for Mourinho’s behaviour. We have to ask if he is actually paranoid, thinking everyone is against him. His behaviour is nothing new. Many will remember back to 2005 when he was previously in charge at Chelsea and they were beaten by Barcelona. He claimed to have seen the referee Anders Frisk invite the Barcelona manager, Frank Rickard, into his dressing room at half time. This he intimated led to the sending off of Chelsea’s Didier Drogba in the second half. His lie was exposed when it turned out that a UEFA official was with Frisk and confirmed that Rickard has not entered the dressing room. This revelation was not enough to deter mindless Chelsea fans from threatening the lives of Frisk’s family, which made him withdraw immediately from football. So Mourinho’s lies to excuse or deflect criticism of his team’s defeat and his defamation of Frisk’s character, cost football one of the finest referees of his generation.
Barcelona seems to bring out the worst in Mourinho. Some years later when he was manager of Real Madrid, they were drawn against Barcelona in the semi-final of the Champions League. After they lost the first leg he claimed that it was impossible to defeat Barcelona as they had special powers over referees. Not only that, he mentioned incidents going back over several years that according to him proved his case. He actually named four referees who he claimed were ‘influenced ‘by Barcelona. Prior to that, when he was coach of Inter in Italy it was not just referees he criticised. He insulted three other Series A managers, including Carlo Aceloitti and accused the Italian sporting press of ‘intellectual prostitution’ on their behalf. He said that in Italy he had to train to play with ten men and he had a three week ban for making signs of handcuffs to television cameras after he had two players sent off.
This criticism of others is so easy and catching. Reading manager, Steve Clarke, who worked closely with Mourinho in his first spell at Chelsea, has called for professional referees in the Championship, saying Reading has suffered from refereeing decision this season. I think that anyone who has watched Reading play will agree that their position in the league has nothing to do with referees. People will say Mourinho is a good coach and a ‘character’ but this type of denigrating behaviour, in my opinion, is destructive and permeates down throughout the whole of the game.