Exclusive: Referees revolt against FA over Rooney charge
Published 23:02 07/04/11 By Alan Nixon, Mike Walters
Wayne Rooney’s swearing ban has sparked a revolt among Premier League referees.
In a bizarre new twist, they claim match official Lee Mason was put under pressure to write a report that would enable the FA to charge the Manchester United striker.
Mason’s admission he would have sent off the England star for swearing at a TV camera after scoring against West Ham had he been aware of the incident, was the spark for Rooney to be charged.
The two-match banwhich followed was upheld yesterday and Rooney says he is “gutted” to be missing the Premier League game with Fulham and FA Cup semi-final against Manchester City.
There is anger among Mason’s refereeing colleagues who insist he was ‘used’ by the FA who wanted Rooney to be charged – but wanted the referee to review his decision and come up with the conclusion that led to a ban.
A source close to the row said: “Lee should not have been put on the spot like this. If the FA wanted to ban Rooney they should have done it themselves.
“There is no way one of the senior refs would have sent him off for that or said they would when they reviewed it. Lee was put in a terrible position.
“This has caused real anger. There has not been a reaction like it before. We all feel for him and think he should have been protected – not hung out to dry.”
Senior refs felt that the FA should have simply charged Rooney rather than put the onus on the match official and have complained to their chief Mike Riley that he should have offered more protection to Mason.
However, another former referee Jeff Winter insisted Rooney has got off lightly.
And the Teesside official called for Rooney’s suspension to become a “watershed moment” in the Respect campaign where big clubs have promised to clean up their act.Winter said: "I have been amazed by the feeding frenzy over Rooney's punishment because, if anything, he got away lightly with a two-match ban.
"He would have been banned for 35 days in parks football if he had used such gutteral language in such a graphic context. And at this stage of the season, that would mean him missing eight or nine games.
"Pundits and the phone-in brigade tried to make his behaviour sound acceptable because raw emotion is all part of the game and Rooney's reaction was somehow above reproach because it was spontaneous.
"But you wouldn't swear in the face of your parents like that, you wouldn't do it in church and you wouldn't let off steam like that in the middle of a crowded supermarket, so why should you get away with it at a football match which is being shown all over the world live on TV?
"It doesn't help when you have Gary Lineker and the Chuckle Brothers sniggering every Saturday night and making sarcastic comments on Match of the Day when they have a platform to outlaw such appalling conduct.
"In the past I have been critical of the way the FA have dealt with serious disciplinary matters, but in recent weeks - better late then never - they have bared their teeth, first by giving Sir Alex Ferguson a touchline ban and now giving a major semi-final to consider his behaviour at leisure.
"This is not a question of being anti-Manchester United, it's about backing up the Respect campaign with meaningful sanctions.
"You can only hope this will be a watershed week when players at all levels - from the Champions League down to grassroots - get the message.
"And now we have drawn a line in the sand, let's take it a stage further. The next time players let off steam by effing and blinding in a referee's face, we need to see some red cards in the most extreme cases."