Monday, January 17, 2011

The Umpire Strikes Back

Liverpool lost their match against Manchester United last week. They were the worse team, agreed, but they should not have lost the match. They lost it through a dubious penalty awarded to the home team (the referee having been the only spectator bamboozled by an obvious Berbatov dive), and the fact that Liverpool had only had ten men for most of the game. The referee who awarded the dubious penalty and reduced Liverpool to ten men, causing their captain to be suspended for the next three games, was the man who refereed the World Cup Final, Howard Webb.
Nothing new there: Rule 20.5 in the referees’ handbook decrees that bigger teams must get more penalties than smaller teams, especially on their home grounds. (Liverpool have “won” more penalties that any other Premiership team: Everton have been awarded one penalty against Liverpool in the last 73 years. Wolves haven’t had a single one this season.) Liverpool drew 2-all at home to Everton yesterday - one of their goals was a penalty.
We know that Captain Webb is way down the list of a pretty dire bunch, but right now, let’s not get into whether he was justified – except that his body language at the time indicated what politicians call a “U-turn”. Let’s not even get into whether a referee who, simply because he was a native of a neutral country, once refereed a World Cup Final - handing out a record 14 yellow cards in the process - should suddenly become all-seeing if not saintly. Surely a medal from the Queen would suffice?
No, this is about a Liverpool player called Ryan Babel, who saw a Photoshop mock-up of aforementioned Webb wearing a Manchester United shirt, thought it funny, and tweeted it. He has been subjected to the full venom of blazerdom and will be summoned to Lancaster Gate, placed in stocks in Hyde Park and pelted with fruit by buffoons called Platter or Blatini. The club has yet to decide his punishment – they are waiting for the Blazers to tell them what it is.
This just in: Babel was fined £10,000 today. Blazers do not do humour.

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