By 90Min
December 06, 2017

Mark Clattenburg was always a referee who divided opinion with his style of refereeing on the pitch, and his erratic behaviour off it. Now his claims about one of the most iconic games in recent Premier League history has put the controversial official back in the spotlight.

"The Battle of the Bridge" in May 2016 saw Chelsea fight back from 2-0 down to draw 2-2 with Tottenham, in the process ending Spurs' championship hopes and securing Leicester's famous title victory. 

Clattenburg showed nine Tottenham players yellow cards in that game, but revealed to NBC's Men In Blazers Podcast that he could have sent three Spurs players off, but instead decided to let the North London side "self-destruct" so as to avoid any headlines accusing him of "costing Tottenham the title."

The former referee subsequently claimed that he was able to avoid influencing the result of the game, something that is difficult to believe given he chose not to send three Spurs players off.

But as hard as those comments are to agree with, it is equally as hard to understand his claims that he went into the game with a plan to allow Spurs to "self-destruct". 

Not only was he taking a risk that the game would indeed go in the direction he intended, he was also ignoring his main objective of refereeing each individual game as a one off.

As former referee Dermot Gallagher told the BBC: "We are duty bound to treat every player in every game firmly, fairly and consistently,

 "He [Clattenburg] certainly didn't. It was all about him, wasn't it?"


In spite of Clattenburg's claims that he was attempting to do the contrary, Gallagher's comments that he made the match "all about him" appear to be true, at least in Clattenburg's own head.

Anyone who saw that fixture between Chelsea and Spurs, with perhaps the exception of the most ardent of Spurs, would have been stunned that Mauricio's Pochettino's finished the match with their full complement of eleven players, and as a result, few would have pointed the finger at Clattenburg of deciding the destiny of the title had he sent certain members of the Tottenham contingent for an early bath on that fateful Monday night.


Indeed, had Tottenham seen red in that match for the brutal nature of some of the tackles dished out to their London rivals, then many viewers would have been left in little doubt that Spurs had well and truly, as Clattenburg put it: "self-destructed".


In the end, Spurs would finish the season some eleven points off Leicester, and having gone into the game at Stamford Bridge eight adrift of Leicester with just nine up for grabs, Clattenburg's overall influence on the title race as a direct result of the Battle of the Bridge would have been minimal to say the least.

In making these comments, Clattenburg has done no-one any favours, least of all himself. For Chelsea, Tottenham and Leicester, this is a game that was done and gone eighteen long months ago, for Clattenburg's refereeing successors, further scrutiny that they almost certainly didn't need will now be heaped on them whenever they take charge of a game with a similar magnitude. 


While Clattenburg has only served to tarnish his already contentious reputation, by essentially admitting that he set out to referee a match that meant so much to so many people with himself, as a neutral observer, as his main priority.

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