It’s hard to know how further into the gutter football can get, writes John Payne.
But football must learn the lessons, and quickly, from the fall-out from Mark Clattenburg’s refereeing performance in the Chelsea v Manchester United game.
The accusations that Clattenburg made “inappropriate comments” of a racial nature towards two Chelsea players towards the end of the game should end the way that top-flight football matches are refereed in this country forever.
Football is so far behind both codes of rugby in the way that matches are officiated it beggars belief.
While the Met Police and FA launch investigations that appear destined to be one word against another, I hope football’s authorities consider exactly why referees aren’t wired up so that comments made both to them and by them are recorded and can be played back.
In rugby, TV viewers get a remarkable insight into referees’ decisions by hearing exactly what they are saying.
A fall-out involving a referee was inevitable at some point given the fact that referees flagrantly fail to apply the laws of the game.
You can argue about video evidence until you are blue in the face – and most of us have – and the FA can implement all kinds of Respect campaigns.
But, however laudable, they cannot fail to hide the fact that, for years, referees have failed to make players go back 10 yards at free kicks and failed to show red cards to players who shout a volley of foul abuse in their faces.
Contrast that with rugby where, despite his black eye making him look like a boxer this week, you simply could not imagine newly-reappointed England captain Chris Robshaw behaving in that way.
As the Harlequins star said: “Most of the time the referee will only speak to the captain and if everyone else starts speaking or arguing the team gets sent 10m back.
“If you’re the one that gets done for that you’re the one doing extra fitness in the week.”
In other words, the referee will apply the laws and even the team-mates won’t stick up for those who disrespect him.
Rugby players may be more likely to use their fists to settle some on-field disputes, but at least when they do they feel the full force of their sports governing body – more often than not.
When, oh when, will football’s authorities grasp the nettle?