Date:Monday February 20 2006
Referee Ray Olivier would appear to have condemned himself over his controversial sending off of Leicester City defender Patrick McCarthy on Saturday.
In the eyes of many fans his decision, so early in the match, ruined what was shaping up to be a cracking Championship game against Leeds and now Olivier has conceded that there may have been some doubt about its correctness.
Sendings off should be about what referees are sure of not what they think might have been the case. At least that would be common sense.
But Mr Olivier talked in riddles when he told the Leicester Mercury's Blue Army website: 'There was a shirt pull (fully accepted) and the judgement you make is on whether it 'clearly' denied the player a goalscoring opportunity. It is 'clear' in my mind that it was a red-card offence.'
And yet, told that City believe a covering defender (Richard Stearman) may have been able to take late preventative action he responded, 'Yes, may have been able too - 'may', it's a big word. I stand by my decision."
So there you have a referee saying it was 'clear' that it was a red card but conceding that Stearman 'may' have been able to intervene. In which case, how could it be 'clear' and how could it be correct?
Olivier remained as confusing in his own defence as he was in his officiating on Saturday, a performance which had Leeds boss Kevin Blackwell saying he was 'baffled' by many of the decisions.
'Just maybe,' he said sarcastically, 'those three (officials) were right and 25,000 people were wrong.'
Blackwell lamented the fact that managers are 'quite rightly' hammered in the media when things go wrong but managers aren't supposed to criticise referees if they have a poor game.
And that protection means that when this whole sorry business gets it's due official consideration the referee will probably get support, his doubtful, some would say stupid decision will probably be condoned, and Paddy McCarthy will serve a two-match suspension he 'may' not have deserved by the referees own apparent admission.
'May', dictionary definition 'expresssing uncertainty' is a wonderful word which is used by the best referees to avoid making any number of potentially far-reaching decisions in relatively innocuous circumstances when there is any element of doubt.
It may be a 'big' word but not as big as Saturday's referee. He knew better. His duty was 'clear' even if Stearman 'yes, may' have intervened.
And that was exactly like his performance generally - contradictory and repeatedly inconsistent.
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