The scandal of Tom Henning Ovrebo’s performance as referee in the second leg tie of last season’s Champions League semi final between Chelsea and Barcelona is now complete: he will referee tomorrow’s Juventus v. Bordeaux Champions League game. Hardly a small-time fixture: Ovrebo’s terrible performance back in May has clearly had no bearing on his career development whatsoever.
Ovrebo’s woeful performance at Stamford Bridge, in which he ignored at least three obvious penalties for the home team, could be interpreted in one of two ways: one, that the Norwegian is incompetent or two, that he was acting with some wider agenda.
Let’s remind ourselves how Matt Dickinson of the Times reported Ovrebo’s performance back in May:
“Conspiracy theories flew out of the Chelsea dressing-room faster than you could say Jose Mourinho last night, but there is one simple way of measuring if they are true. Should Tom Henning Ovrebo officiate a match above under-13 level outside his native Norway, then something is rotten at the heart of UEFAs headquarters."
He has a point and, regardless of the accuracy of any conspiracy theory (and they're just theories), something is rotten at UEFA's HQ. The loyalty UEFA have showed the referee in the face of his abject performance at Stamford Bridge serves only to reinforce the perception that UEFA is a corrupt organisation only too pleased to see Chelsea put out of that competition. What other way can its reaction to Ovrebo’s display – or to put it more accurately, its lack of reaction – be explained? We have heard nothing from UEFA to explain their actions – they have only been concerned with punishing Chelsea for the post-match reaction of the players and fans. If UEFA were to come out and say something, everyone would be better informed.
We shouldn’t be surprised. UEFA in no way can be said to represent the best interests of the game’s main stakeholders, the fans. No other business, organisation or governing body could so seriously ignore its customers and expect to survive. Back in June in a post on Ovrebo’s performance I wrote:
“Most crucially, UEFA’s lack of accountability spits in the face of football fans. When Chelsea went out of the Champions League to that late Iniesta goal, it was after a 12 game campaign that saw Blues fans watching 18 hours of football. Supporters going to all the home games would have paid at least £300 (plus programme, food and travel costs). It is an investment of time, money and emotion that was made redundant by a single inept performance of a referee. UEFA would do well to not take that so lightly.”
It seems no-one at UEFA reads this blog. UEFA have made no public recognition of the Ovrebo issue – even just to say that they thought his performance was good enough. Their complete lack of open comment is insulting to anyone who watched the game that night. They clearly feel they are an omnipotent organisation sitting far above reproach or question. Again, this is something I referred to back in June:
“Where am I going with this? If UEFA scrutinise clubs like Chelsea for their actions, they should accept a level of scrutiny themselves. They should be an accountable body, open and willing to look at failings and challenge itself to improve. Perhaps a UEFA statement on a review of Ovrebo’s performance will be forthcoming. But I wouldn’t bet on it.”
I also wrote:
“Drogba called Ovrebo’s performance ‘a disgrace’. It was. But turning to look at the bigger picture, the real disgrace is UEFA’s attitude in their running of the game. There has been no public admission that the referee’s performance was sub-standard and no hint that it has (or will) come under review. Which of us, in whatever walk of life, could make mistakes on that scale without serious repercussions?”
I dearly wish I could bank on the kind of support Ovrebo received from his employer should I make such a big mistake at work. UEFA are propagating a refereeing system that rewards incompetence (or competence at putting Chelsea out, either way). There is no way that Ovrebo should be allowed to referee another Champions League game this season – it’s an unfathomable decision.
I’ll be writing a letter to UEFA to request they let us know how they reviewed Ovrebo’s performance and what the result was. I will also be asking for an explanation as to how he can be back refereeing at the top level so quickly, and I’ll post the letter here for you all to read. I’ll also keep you updated on any response – although UEFA’s track record on supporter relations suggests I’ll receive no reply.
To be clear - my issue is with UEFA, its behaviour and how its lack of openness has a negative effect on football. How scandalous is Ovrebo's quick return to the Champions League? Post a comment.
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