Referee Andre Marriner has been spared demotion from the Premier League for his mistaken identity blunder at Stamford Bridge.
It’s been announced that he would be in charge of the match between Southampton and Newcastle at St Mary’s on Saturday.
In the midst of Premier League leaders Chelsea’s 6-0 thrashing of London rivals Arsenal last Saturday, Marriner sent off the Gunners’ Kieran Gibbs for handling a goal-bound shot on the line when it was Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain who had committed the infringement.
Eden Hazard duly put Chelsea 3-0 ahead from the ensuing penalty.
Marriner later apologised for his error, which led victorious Blues manager Jose Mourinho to re-iterate his plea for officials to be given access to video technology.
However, that cut little ice with Clive Thomas, one of British football’s most respected referees.
It may be more 30 years since the 77-year-old Welshman, nicknamed ‘The Book’ for his strict adherence to football’s rules last controlled a senior match, but Thomas was in no doubt that Marriner and his linesmen should all face a lengthy ban.
“It was the most disgusting, shocking decision I’ve seen,” Thomas told the BBC before Marriner was appointed to the St Mary’s fixture.
“In my opinion these four wouldn’t officiate another Premier League game this season,” added Thomas.
However, Dermot Gallagher — a more recently retired referee — disagreed with Thomas and said a lengthy ban was the last thing the 43-year-old Marriner needed.
“I can’t see how that would do Andre any good,” Gallagher told the BBC.
“You’ve got one of the leading referees in not only England but in Europe, and you’re going to stand him down? That doesn’t do the Premier League any good because he is a top top-flight referee — he’s made one mistake and his confidence would be shattered if that happened,” added Gallagher, also speaking before Marriner’s latest appointment was confirmed.
In a statement released after the game, Professional Game Match Officials Limited said: “Andre is an experienced referee and is obviously disappointed that an error of mistaken identity was made in this case…He expressed his disappointment to Arsenal when he was made aware of the issue.”