Rafa Benitez has been charged by the FA for mentioning that Andre Marriner likes to give Newcastle players red cards, something that is quite hard to deny when you look at the figures.

Of course, I don’t know the ins and outs of every red card that Marriner has issued and I have neither the time nor the inclination to look at them all, but when you do a basic stat analysis, it’s hard to understand what the FA are playing at by charging Benitez.

Speaking before Newcastle’s game against Crystal Palace at the weekend, Wilfried Zaha called for greater protection and, in response, Rafa said, “(Marriner’s) record with our players is not the best in terms of red cards, but I am quite confident.”

His record is ‘not the best’. That’s it. That’s all he said.

(Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

A statement from the FA, released this week, read, “Rafael Benitez has been charged following pre-match comments he made on Friday (21/09/18) about the appointed match referee for Newcastle United’s game against Crystal Palace on Saturday (22/09/18). He has until 6pm on 28 September 2018 to respond to the charge.”

But what did he say that was so wrong?

He didn’t insult Marriner and he didn’t call him a cheat. He didn’t even question his integrity. Benitez merely pointed out something that can be backed up with facts, Rafa’s favourite sort of thing.

Let’s take a look and, again, remember, I am not making comment on the validity of any of these reds, merely looking at the numbers to determine what Benitez was talking about and where that comment might have come from.

Over the course of the last five seasons (excluding 16/17 when Marriner didn’t referee any Newcastle games), he issued a total of 43 red cards in 452 games.

On average, that’s a red every 10.5 games.

NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND - AUGUST 29: Aleksandar Mitrovic (2nd R) of Newcastle United is shown a red card by referee Andre Marriner (1st R) during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Arsenal at St James' Park on August 29, 2015 in Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)
NEWCASTLE UPON TYNE, ENGLAND – AUGUST 29: Aleksandar Mitrovic (2nd R) of Newcastle United is shown a red card by referee Andre Marriner (1st R) during the Barclays Premier League match between Newcastle United and Arsenal at St James’ Park on August 29, 2015 in Newcastle upon Tyne, United Kingdom. (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

With Newcastle, his overall rate is almost double that – a red every 5.66 games.

It looks even worse if you break Marriner’s record down by season:

  • 13/14 110 games/13 reds 8.46 games per red
  • 14/15 125/2 62.5
  • 15/16 120/5 24
  • 16/17 n/a
  • 17/18 97/5 19.4

He has taken charge of 17 Newcastle games over this period and issued three red cards – more than he issued over 125 games in the 14/15 season.

While I understand that the FA want to protect referees from undue criticism and pressure, the fact is they act when they have no need to and fail to act when required.

It has now got to the stage where you cannot even make a factual statement about referees without facing the risk of a charge and that is something all football fans should be concerned about, not just Newcastle fans.

Marriner is also, of course, the referee who sent off Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain for Kieran Gibbs’ foul. Marriner apologised for that error after the game but the FA took no action against him, appointing him for the next round of fixtures where he took charge of Southampton v Newcastle.

Newcastle lost that game 4-0 but Marriner issued only one card that day – a yellow for the Magpies’ Massadio Haidara.

Referee stats via soccerbase.com