Referee Mark Clattenburg speaks with Chelsea's John Obi Mikel and  Manchester United's Patrice Evra after sending off Chelsea's Branislav Ivanovic during their English Premier League soccer match in London

Clattenburg, Chelsea, and English soccer’s weekly dalliance with race

2 Comments

It’s easy to make light of another race controversy in English soccer, but you can only laugh at the same joke for so long. To the extent soccer is a reflection of a nation’s broader culture, soccer is showing the boomerang effects of England’s zero tolerance, no room for discussion approach. Racism is unacceptable, but how do you enforce any standard when you can’t agree what racism is? Luis Suárez’s (albeit malicious and excessive) use of a term accepted in South America? John Terry’s terrible context for the adjective ‘black’? Or whatever Mark Clattenburg is accused of saying to John Obi Mikel and Juan Mata on Sunday? England’s need to stop and recalibrate on a case-by-case basis shows both a lack of confidence and certainty. That Jason Roberts and Rio Ferdinand’s attempts to further the dialog were met with derision shows the ignorant externalities that have developed. No wonder this keeps happening.

England’s latest controversy centers on Clattenburg, arbiter of Sunday’s Chelsea-Manchester United affair. Chelsea have accused the match official of using “inappropriate language” toward two of their players, widely thought to be Mikel and Mata. What did he say? Who knows, but it’s assumed to be racial in nature, and despite publicly offering their full support of Clattenburg, the Professional Game Match Officials have withheld him from the upcoming weekend’s assignments. England’s Football Association has opened an investigation, and at least one opportunistically-adorned pundit has speculated Clattenburg may have called his last game.

We shouldn’t assume Clattenburg’s done, but we can consider the more general scenario. What would it mean if a referee racially abused a player? Obviously, the official should lose their job, having shown a type of deep-seated bias that would make it impossible to trust his more superficial in-game judgments. But that’s the least interesting of the implications. More importantly, such an incident would dispel the notion that this type of ignorance is a exclusively symptomatic of a player class characterized as insular, arrogant, uneducated, and entitled. Those qualities were supposed to be precipitants to player (and, in many cultures, fan) transgressions, but if officials are also capable of these mistakes, you can’t write them off to player arrogance.

Gerneralizing beyond individuals’ stupid decisions, there seem three possibilities regarding underlying causes. First, the competitive nature of high-level soccer compels people to fall back on their most base instincts – feelings shame and neglect leave unrefined by the light of fame and fortune. The Suárez and Clattenburg instances both came in highly-charged rivalry matches after provocation (Suárez in an altercation with Patrice Evra, Clattenburg in confrontations with Chelsea players). Just as alcohol tends to being out what lies beneath, perhaps competitive intensity does the same. When my emotions are high, I’ll resort to what I perceive to be my big, must hurtful guns.

There’s also the possibility that we’re just seeing a reflection of a soccer culture that’s always existed. This is almost certainly the case. With every iteration of this controversy we’re told this happens all the time, and we’d be shocked to know all the trash that’s thrown during a 90-minute match. It’s only the attention that’s paid to the modern game that brings these incidents to the forefront, we’re told, a contention that’s impossible to deny.

It would be a mistake, however, to consider this selective enforcement. Just because we didn’t hear about these incidents in the past doesn’t mean we wouldn’t have cared. And even if we didn’t, times chance. There’s clearly no current tolerance for this type of idiocy.

The final possibility is one England needs to come to grips with before these problems go away. While, as soccer fans, we’re used to the face to English soccer being the type of liberal erudition posted by the Guardian or inferred from a commentator’s posh tones, this is only one part of the English landscape. The broader section of English life is more likely to note these controversies and move on, if not (in the case of Terry) actually forgive him. Regardless, there is no discussion. There is no attempt to find a bridge between these views. There’s no national dialog (let alone identity) attached to this issue. it’s almost trite to note, butEngland has always had trouble coming to grips with the legacy of its empire. Soccer’s oblivious response to deeper-resting race issues is a symptom of England’s problematic psychology.

Every nation deals with issues of race, and while soccer brings England’s to the forefront, it’s a mistake to assume the nation’s approach is worse than other countries’. What makes the soccer problem so interesting is the inherent hypocrisy of England’s self-appointed role as the game’s moral authority. When Luis Súarez committed an intentional handball on the goal line against Ghana in World Cup 2010, it was England that led a disproportionately large and ridiculous response. On issues of diving, it’s England’s culture that appeals to a higher, inherent morality that should be imbued in each player. The nation has only two black coaches in its top four tiers and recently had a prominent coach equate the Rooney Rule with racism. That England can’t form a coherent, progressive approach to race but seeks to serve as a moral compass is ludicrous. They know we can see them, right?

The shock, awe and bewilderment we see from England whenever race meets sport reflects a society that hasn’t come to grips with something deeper. That Jason Roberts and Rio Ferdinand get derided for reminding people that a stance is nothing without action serves as a perfect reflection of their state of affairs. If Roberts and Ferdinand’s stances can cause controversy, England is still too far away from conveying the day-to-day, implicit messages that will curtail these problems.

Mourinho to Man United: Key players to be sold? Locker room unrest, transfer gossip

Leave a comment

The papers are having a field day with the Jose Mourinho to Manchester United whispers.

[ VIDEO: Ferrell – “I got Mourinho fired”

Several different outlets are reporting numerous pieces of gossip about Mourinho, 53, taking over at United this summer and now seems like a good time to round it all up and have a look at what is out there.

[ VIDEO: Arsenal-Leicester preview

Here it goes…

[ REPORT: Mourinho tells friends he’s going to United


First up, the wages.

Okay, Louis Van Gaal, 64, still has a contract with the Red Devils through the 2016-17 season but many believe that barring a miraculous finish to the current campaign the Dutchman will be let go this summer. If that’s the case — and with United six points off the top four it certainly seems like another season of disappointment will play out — then El Confidencial is reporting that Mourinho will be handed a contract worth $20 million a year. That may seem like a lot, but actually it would be $9 million less a year than Manchester City is paying Pep Guardiola to be their boss. Interesting.

Juicy nugget number two: The Daily Mail states that Mourinho has already instructed executive vice-chairman Ed Woodward to sell Juan Mata and Marouane Fellaini. The midfield duo aren’t in Mourinho’s plans with the Portuguese coach selling Mata to United during his time in charge of Chelsea, while he doesn’t appear to be a fan of Belgian midfielder Fellaini either.

No. 3: The Daily Star reports that Mourinho will be handed $420 million to spend on new players and totally rebuild the under-performing squad. The same report claims Mourinho has his eye on Neymar, Edinson Cavani, Thomas Muller, Paul Pogba and Raphael Varane to help restore United to past glories and add to his tally of three Premier League titles during five full seasons with Chelsea.

And finally, and perhaps not unsurprisingly, the Sun reports that United’s locker room is split over whether Mourinho arriving would be a good thing. Well, yeah, with a massive cull on the horizon if he does arrive, it’s not too difficult to understand that the general feeling among the players will be one of trepidation. However, the main issue seems to be where No. 2 Ryan Giggs will fit into Mourinho’s plans if he does get the job.

Again, take these reports with a pinch of salt but it’s certainly interesting to keep your ear to the ground and listen to all of the tidbits circling about Mourinho’s potential arrival at Old Trafford.

VIDEO: Preview of the huge Arsenal vs. Leicester City title clash

1 Comment

On Sunday Arsenal host Leicester City at the Emirates Stadium (Watch live, 7 a.m. ET on NBCSN and online via Live Extra) with the Foxes on top of the Premier League as the most romantic story in recent PL history continues to play out.

After all, they will clash on Valentine’s Day.

[ MORE: Foxes title biggest shock ever? ]

Claudio Ranieri‘s team — lead by the goals and general brilliance of Jamie Vardy and Riyad Mahrez — will extend their lead over Arsenal for the title to eight points with a win and all the pressure is on the Gunners.

Leicester has won three-straight PL games with a hugely comfortable 3-1 win at Manchester City last-time out showcasing their growing title credentials.

[ MORE: Arsenal sign influential Leicester scout ahead of title tilt ] 

As for the Gunners, they beat Bournemouth last weekend to stay well in the title hunt and Wenger’s men know they must win on Sunday to claw back the gap on Leicester to two points with 12 games remaining.

Ill be at the Emirates this weekend to provide live coverage, reaction and analysis, but for now click play on the video above to hear the main storylines heading into this clash between two contenders for the Premier League title.

After fan protests Liverpool’s American owners apologize, halt ticket price hike

Leave a comment

Following thousands of Liverpool fans walking out in protest in the 77th minute of their 2-2 draw with Sunderland at Anfield last weekend, owners Fenway Sports Group have halted plans to increase ticket prices for next season.

[ VIDEO: Ferrell – “I got Mourinho fired”

Owner John W. Henry, Chairman Tom Werner and President Mike Gordon have issued a detailed and apologetic open letter to fans of Liverpool, in which they “apologize for the distress caused by our ticket pricing plan for the 2016-17 season” and also confirm prices will be frozen for the next two campaigns.

Henry and FSG stated they felt “troubled by the perception we don’t care about our supporters, that we are greedy, and that we are attempting to extract personal profits at the club’s expense.”

[ MORE: Report – Mourinho tells friend he will take over at United

They pointed to the fact that FSG has put up the $170 million needed to build the new Main Stand at Anfield which will be completed for the 2016-17 season, while they also admit they got parts of the ticket pricing wrong.

Admitting to their mistake has left a warm feeling with most Liverpool fans as their numerous protests over the fact that some tickets would cost £77 ($111) next season were heard loud and clear by the owners.

Here is a link to the letter from FSG in full, while below is a detailed outline of the new pricing policy put in place by the owners under the heading “Message Received.”

It certainly has been.


After an intense period of consultation with LFC management we have decided to make major revisions to our ticketing structure for 2016-17:

  • Removal of game categorisation – regardless of the opposition fans will pay the same price for matchday tickets.
  • The pricing of tickets will be readjusted to result in zero revenue growth from GA ticketing on a like-for-like basis.
  • Though individual ticket prices may move marginally from this season, we are freezing our 2016-17 GA ticket revenue at the 2015-16 level exclusive of newly-added seats in the new Main Stand.
  • The price of our highest general admission ticket will be frozen at the 2015-16 level – £59.
  • The price of our highest season ticket will be frozen at the 2015-16 level – £869. The lowest price reducing a further £25 from the 2015-16 level to £685, as well as all other tiers being frozen or reduced.
  • £9 GA seats will be offered for each and every Premier League match, an allocation of more than 10,000 tickets across the season.

We would hasten to add that the other initiatives announced last week in the 2016-17 plan will remain:

  • 17-21 young adult concession – 20,000 tickets across the Premier League season available at a 50 per cent reduction for young people.

  • 1,000 tickets to Premier League matches across the season will be given away free of charge to Liverpool schoolchildren based on merit, as recommended by their teachers.

Spanish playmaker Bojan signs new long-term contract at Stoke City

Leave a comment

Bojan Krkic will be a Potter for plenty of years to come.

On Thursday Stoke City announced that Bojan, 25, has signed a contract extension keeping him at the Britannia Stadium for another four-and-a-half years.

[ MORE: New-look Stoke to progress

Since arriving from Spanish giants Barcelona at the start of the 2014-15 season the playmaker has been a revelation in the Premier League.

Despite suffering a serious knee injury midway through his debut season in England, Bojan has battled back this campaign and has scored five times in 23 outings for the Potters.

Speaking to the club website, Bojan revealed his delight in signing the contract extension that will see him stay with Stoke until the summer of 2020.

“I am very happy and motivated. Stoke City gave me the opportunity to play in the most competitive league in the world, the Premier League, and I have only words of gratitude for their trust and for the way they have treated me since the first day I arrived to England,” Bojan said. “Mark Hughes convinced me to come to Stoke, he has helped me and showed his trust in me from the beginning, he followed closely the recovery process from my injury and there is no doubt I have signed an extension of my contract thanks to him.”

With Mark Hughes’ side battling for a top six finish, being knocked out agonizingly on penalty kicks by Liverpool in the League Cup semifinal and still in the FA Cup, it’s been another stellar season for Stoke as their progress continues.

Bojan’s presence has been central to attracting top names to join him at Stoke, with the likes of Xherdan Shaqiri, Ibrahim Afellay and Mark Arnautovic all part of a new-look attack which in-turn has provided a much more attractive team to watch on the pitch.

Amid interest from plenty of other teams around the Premier League and Europe, Stoke have kept hold of their main creative hub and fans will be delighted to see the Barca academy product progress with the Potters over an extended period of time.