Yesterday afternoon whilst Everton were playing Chelsea at Stamford Bridge I was at AFC Wimbledon watching my second team, Mansfield, lose 3-1.
Just after half time at that game, with Mansfield leading 1-0, AFC Wimbledon equalised, or at least they thought they had. A pretty simple through ball cut the Mansfield defence in half and Wimbledon's Lyle Taylor scored - however it was clear to everyone that he was at least five yards offside, and despite that Wimbledon celebrate and Mansfield get ready to kick off again. But then the referee (Fred Graham, I name him here so he can get some credit for this) approaches the linesman. Now one of the joys of lower league football is that we were close enough to not perhaps hear exactly what they said, but we could certainly tell what they were talking about. The referee was asking the linesman if he thought that a Mansfield player had touched the ball on its way through, and he confirmed that he thought it had. The referee (correctly) knew that it hadn't and therefore the player was offside. He blew his whistle, gave the offside and ruled the goal out.
Now none of this mattered because literally thirty seconds later Wimbledon played another ball through to Taylor, this time well onside, and he scored again. But it was strong refereeing to rule that goal out in front of the home crowd, it would have been much easier just to let it stand.
Fast forward 52 minutes and travel a few miles north to Stamford Bridge. It's the 98th minute (of a supposed 97) and John Terry, clearly in an offside position, scores for Chelsea to make it 3-3 against Everton.
When I say clearly offside, I mean clearly:
A he's at least a yard off and a Premier League linesman, looking directly across the line, should spot that easily. In fact I've no doubt that he did spot it.
Now I want to be clear that I don't think the officials here were biased, I think they were lazy.
There was some confusion as to whether the final ball to Terry came from Oscar (in which case offside) or Jagielka (in which case not). From the referee's angle it would have been obvious, but the only possible explanation for why the linesman didn't give it is that he wasn't sure who it came off. He couldn't have been sure it came of Phil Jagielka, because it didn't, so at worst he needed to check with the referee, who will have seen clearly what happened, but of course can't judge the offside.
But it's the 98th minute, they're tired and it would be a really unpopular decision to make in front of a very emotional Stamford Bridge. So the referee, Mike Jones, and his assistant, Peter Kirkup, just don't bother.
The proof of this is in another little inconsistency. When Ramiro Fumes Mori had scored for Everton five minutes earlier he ran to the crowd to celebrate and was booked for his trouble. The referee, we're told, also added an extra minute on due to the celebrations. When John Terry scored he, again, ran into the crowd. But he wasn't booked, and no time was added on (the whistle blew literally the moment Everton kicked off).
So you have to either think that the officials are biased (which I don't) or that they just can't be bothered to do their job properly because, in the end, it doesn't matter. We know that the Premiere League don't actually sanction referees for bad performances and this crew will be out next week ruining another game in The Best League In The World (tm).
That's now sadly something that fans have to put up with, but it doesn't have to be that way. Next time the Premier League are looking for a referee to promote, they should give Fred Graham a call.