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The FA have set a dangerous precedent by switching referees for Tottenham game

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Referee Kevin Friend was stood down from refereeing the crucial clash between Tottenham Hotspur and Stoke City this weekend after a social-media driven campaign claimed him to out him as a Leicester fan.

The 44-year-old, who began refereeing 30 years ago, is actually a passionate Bristol City supporter who happens to live in Leicester which has resulted in him attending a few games at the King Power Stadium.

Referees of course endeavour to remain impartial, yet the FA have effectively undermined Friend by suggesting that he would subconsciously make decisions in Stoke's favour to assist Spurs' title rivals.

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The problem now is the precedent which they have set. Certain refs do have an affinity to certain clubs which is totally understandable, but where do you draw the line?

Two of the Premier League's best and youngest officials, Mark Clattenburg and Michael Oliver both support Newcastle who are battling against all odds to avoid relegation.

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By the FA's logic neither man should be allowed to take charge of a Magpies game nor should they be allocated a Sunderland or a Norwich City match, as the three teams are in direct competition.

Former Premier League referee Mark Halsey believes the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) have made a rod for their own back with recent allocations.

He suggests that Oliver rejected Norwich's penalty claims in last week's relegation scrap with Crystal Palace, because giving a spot-kick could have been detrimental to his own team, Newcastle's survival chances.

He went on to reveal that Anthony Taylor, who took charge of Manchester United vs Aston Villa on Saturday, lives less than two minutes away from Old Trafford.

A.F.C. Bournemouth v Manchester United - Premier League

This new unwritten 'conflict of interest' rule needs clarification. By highlighting Friend's supposed attachment to league leaders Leicester, the FA will have only served to increase accusations of bias from already paranoid football supporters.

Arsenal have had a long running 'feud' with Mike Dean which reached boiling point after their defeat to Chelsea earlier this season when Gabriel was sent off despite Diego Costa appearing to be the villain of the piece.

Gunners fans were so enraged by the Dean's naivety and general incompetence that they started a petition to ban him from adjudicating any future Arsenal games.

Of course, the move never stood a chance of success. Why should Arsenal avoid Dean's calamitous decision-making while the other 19 Premier League teams still have to endure it?

Gunner boss Arsene Wenger was particularly scathing of the decision to replace Friend with Neil Swarbrick.

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He said: "I am completely against this decision. We have to accept referees make mistakes and I believe we have to give them more support with technology in the future, especially on offsides.

"But they must also be treated as professional, responsible people who make decisions not linked to emotional situations."

That's the bottom line. If a referee has a poor performance and on review has made errors, then by all means punish him and perhaps demote him down a league or two.

But don't castigate him before he's even had a chance to make a cock-up, that's just frankly ridiculous.

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Topics:
Leicester City
Tottenham Hotspur
Football
Premier League
Arsenal
Arsene Wenger

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