Former Premier League referee, Mark Clattenburg has opened up on the 2012 racism row which involved him and ex- Chelsea superstar, John Mikel Obi.
In October 2012, Clattenburg was accused by Chelsea of racially abusing John Obi Mikel and Juan Mata following a 3-2 defeat by Manchester United at the Stamford Bridge.
Mikel’s former team-mate Ramires claimed he heard Clattenburg say ‘shut up you monkey’ to Mikel in Chelsea’s 3-2 defeat by Manchester United at Stamford Bridge in the Premier League.
Clattenburg had sent off two Chelsea players, Branislav Ivanovic and Fernando Torres, and the officials missed an offside for United’s winning goal.
In an exclusive extract from Mark Clattenburg’s autobiography Whistle Blower, the former Premier League spoke about how the racism row almost ruined his life and how former Manchester United boss Sir Alex Ferguson stepped in to offer his support.
Read the extract from Clattenburg’s autobiography Whistle Blower, as he tells his side of the story.
I knew to expect a tirade of abuse from Chelsea supporters, but I was not beating myself up over my performance. It was then that I heard a commotion outside the dressing-room door.
What the hell’s going on out there? Before I get to the door it swings open, and with some force. I jump back, instinctively. What the f***? John Obi Mikel bursts in. I can see the rage in his eyes. Chelsea manager Roberto Di Matteo and coach Eddie Newton are holding him back. Mikel is out of control, he’s trying to get at me. ‘I’m gonna break your legs!’ he shouts. F****** hell, he’s swinging for me. There are arms everywhere. I’m ducking to avoid them. A security guy is grappling with Mikel, pulling him away. That’s not easy, Mikel is strong. I’ve got my boots on, I’m slipping all over the place. I’m knocked backwards into some seats. I just try to defend myself. He’s still hellbent on hurting me. Get him out of here! Mikel is eventually dragged back into the corridor. What the f*** has just happened?
Di Matteo eventually returned to my dressing-room. Like me, he was shaking. I got the impression Chelsea were concerned about what I was going to include in my report.
I have to be clear here – and this is extremely important – at this point there had been no mention of racism to me, either from Mikel or Di Matteo. No one had made any accusation of that nature.
Was I going to report Mikel for what he had done in the dressing-room? Absolutely. There was no disputing what he did. Mikel would be facing a lengthy ban.
I left Stamford Bridge in the people-carrier and, as we made our way out of West London towards Heathrow, I had just one thought in my head. ‘Get me out of here.
My phone is buzzing in my pocket. I shouldn’t get it out, I’m going through airport security. I take a quick look, there’s a social-media notification on the screen . . . ‘BREAKING NEWS: CHELSEA ACCUSE REFEREE MARK CLATTENBURG OF RACIST COMMENTS’. What the f***? Is this a joke? A fake account? Mike Riley, my PGMOL boss, calls immediately. I answer. It has been leaked to the media that Chelsea are saying I racially abused Mikel and Juan Mata. My conversation with Riley is short and we don’t have any details beyond what is being reported. It seems the press have more information than we do.
During those early hours overnight on the Sunday of the game, I realised the power of football clubs, the hold they have over the media and their influence on public opinion, driven by the blind loyalty of their fanbase. It was terrifying. It was the European champions against a referee – who would you believe?
I am trapped. A prisoner in my own home. A prisoner in my own head. I am not allowed to speak. Not allowed to tell the world I am innocent. I can’t sleep. No chance. I’m upstairs, downstairs, cups of tea at 3 a.m. I’m reading the newspapers online. I’m watching the TV news. I’m checking social media. It’s not healthy but I need to know what is being said, I need to try to make sense of this. The bolt is on the door but my head is being invaded by the outside world. If I dare to look out from the window the photographers and journalists are there, waiting. Then they hide, like snipers, all around, all wanting the first picture. There have been lots of tears. This could ruin my career. It could ruin my life. The fear is worse than going to prison. I am being called a racist. That is a real life-sentence, you don’t come back from that. Guilty until proven innocent, that is the English way.
Within twenty-four hours of the game, my team of officials at Stamford Bridge told the PGMOL they had heard no racial language down the headsets. The sound quality is crystal clear, it was inconceivable that my two assistant referees and fourth official would not have picked up on something of that nature being said.
Chelsea were leaking information to the press every day, trying to control the narrative. They let it be known that the Mata allegation involved me calling him a ‘Spanish twat’, which simply was not true.
Two days after the game, Chelsea midfielder Oriol Romeu revealed that Mata had, in fact, not heard those words. The club withdrew the allegation.
It was also reported that Mikel himself had not heard any racial language, although I still did not know what it was they were alleging. Chelsea were now briefing the press that Brazilian players Ramires and David Luiz would back up the club’s claims.
Surely this undermines the entire thing? How can we trust anything coming out of Chelsea? They’re making it up as they go along. This is all b******s This has to be over, right?
Wrong. Chelsea made a formal complaint to the FA three days after the game. They were saying I had racially abused Mikel and, for the first time, I was made aware of the specifics of their accusation, which was also leaked to the press.
According to Chelsea, I had said to Mikel, ‘Shut up, you monkey.’ The language disgusted me, it was damaging and fictitious.
I’m crying. I feel sick. Why? Where has that come from? My friends and family have never seen me like this, I’m beaten. Chelsea are out to get me and they’re going for it, and it seems like people believe them.