Rafa Benitez has been fined £60,000 for his comments about Andre Marriner before Newcastle’s game against Crystal Palace despite simply stating a fact.
The Magpies’ manager was asked by a reporter for his thoughts about Wilfried Zaha’s comments that he was not protected by referees. He told the reporter, “I am surprised [about Zaha’s comments] because normally the FA deal with these comments. I have a lot of confidence with Andre Marriner.
“He has a lot of experience, even if his record with our players is not that great in terms of red cards. He is an experienced referee.
“Zaha is a good player, no doubt about that, but I think the FA have to deal with his comments. I think Andre Marriner will not have this in the back of his head.
“The way that he [Zaha] plays, normally, he will receive more tackles than other players because he likes to run at players. It won’t make any difference for our players.”
For that statement, he was charged (and found guilty) of improper conduct and/or bringing the game into disrepute as FA rules state managers cannot speak about specific refs before a game.
But what did he actually say that was so bad?
Benitez stated that “his [Marriner’s] record with our players is not that great in terms of red cards” and this is true.
He didn’t insult the ref 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, please note, 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.
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