The most recent episode of the Racism Monologues has finally come to a conclusion, for most parties at least, and now the debate begins as to what effect it has had on the Anti-Racism drive as a whole. Questions are being raised on Chelsea’s actions, the integrity of witnesses, the actions of the referee’s association and the FA, and here are my thoughts on all of these.
I believe that this incident and what subsequently occurred should be seen as a genuine step forward in the fight against racism, but still leaves a lot to be desired in the way it is handled as an issue. Why? Simple, an allegation was made, reported through the correct channels by those involved, investigated thoroughly and efficiently, and a conclusion drawn, all within the relatively short period of 4 weeks. This is a vast improvement on the two previous cases that have gone before the FA, and hopefully sets the standard moving forward.
From the beginning the whole process showed signs of progress. An allegation was made ” in good faith”. To those questioning the validity of that, picture the scene. In a cacophony of noise at Stamford Bridge, a Geordie was speaking to a Nigerian and a Spaniard, and was overheard by a Brazilian (it’s almost the start of a joke). It is completely plausible that someone who doesn’t speak English as a first language could be mistaken as to what he heard, in that noise, by someone with such a strong dialect. To that end, I don’t believe there is “blame” to be shouldered by those who allege the offence occurred.
Next, Chelsea acted wholly appropriately as Employers, by reporting the allegation to the correct authorities. This they are obliged to do by the Equalities Act which is in place so that a full investigation can take place. Whatever motivation is perceived from the outside about ‘tit for tat‘ because of decisions made during the match, or deflections in the wake of the Terry/Ferdinand saga, they are immaterial. A failure to report the incident would’ve seen them in contravention of the Act, just like Gillingham were in the Mark McCammon case. Also, had they not reported it and then the information found its way to the press through another source, it’s highly likely they would’ve been accused of a cover up and more fuel added to the fire that has recently engulfed the club.
Next, the FA investigated the whole situation with relative speed, even re-interviewing witnesses when new evidence came to light. It seems that all have been happy with the FA’s process, and that the conclusion is fair.
All in all, the process has shown that no-one should be afraid to report allegations of abuse. They will be taken seriously and investigated thoroughly. Equally, someone wrongly accused can have faith that the process is thorough enough, and not afraid, to vindicate them of any wrong doing.
Where this process fell down was at two points. Firstly, the allegation was put to the press by Chelsea FC before any formal process had been concluded. This meant that a huge media frenzy whipped up around Mark Clattenburg and his family. He has stated how this was the most stressful period of his life and I can only imagine how. There must be a way of formalising this reporting process which can reduce the amount of speculation and intrusion. Neither are helpful to any parties involved or the actual process of the investigation. It is highly plausible that someone can be tainted by unfounded allegations and this is where the media must shoulder some responsibility. As much effort as went into creating the headlines, interviews and speculation around Mark Clattenburg’s future, the same should go into his vindication and ensuring his name is adequately cleared. The referees association did the right thing by taking him off the list, subsequently sheltering him from the attention of the media as much as possible. I don’t know if that is their policy, but it is something that was definitely beneficial. It would help all involved if some kind of agreement was reached that incidents were given a certain berth until they were concluded. It is only at this time that they become relevant anyway, anything said before is just surmising and conjecture.
The second flaw was the intervention by Mr Peter Herbert. Reporting this incident to the police, and then publicising it, was of no benefit to anyone involved in the case, or the cause itself. How anybody can report an incident to the police when their evidence source is the Daily Mail is beyond me. This interference was extremely unhelpful, especially when the whole thing was progressing through the correct channels. He stepped in with very emotive, antagonistic comments around a case that he had no knowledge of, and the case itself hadn’t come to any kind of conclusion. We must trust that the FA would report any findings to the police if it were necessary, and this can only be done after they have investigated events.
At the end of what must have been a very long month in the Clattenburg house, I don’t think emotions should be attached to this case, other than the sense of relief that I’m sure Mark is feeling. Our view has to be in terms of the process, and that view is one of satisfaction. It was dealt with far better than previous attempts, but there are still improvements to be made.