Mark Halsey reveals incident he claims he was told to lie about by referee bosses as Gary Neville calls for investigation
Mark Halsey's explosive claim that he was "told" to lie while he was a Premier League referee was met with a mixture of shock and defiance yesterday amid calls by Gary Neville for an inquiry.
Halsey posted on Twitter that he had "seen an incident and been told to say I haven't seen it" following the three-match ban handed out to Sergio Agüero, who will now miss next Saturday's Manchester derby.
The 55-year-old was referring to an incident he had recounted in his 2013 autobiography, in which he claimed to have felt "under pressure" from his boss, Mike Riley, to change his mind over not sending off Steven N'Zonzi for "two supposed elbows" during a game between Stoke and Blackburn in 2011.
Halsey's tweet went further by alleging he had been instructed to lie about not seeing the incident so N'Zonzi could be banned retrospectively - a claim that prompted former Manchester United captain Neville to post, "Is that not corrupt?", and call for an investigation.
Neither Professional Game Match Officials Ltd, the body in charge of elite referees, headed by Riley, nor the English FA plan one.
PGMOL stuck by its statement on Saturday which read: "Match officials submit their reports, including critical incidents, directly to the FA. Match officials ensure that their reports are a full and accurate description of the incident. There is no pressure from the PGMOL to include or omit anything."
The FA contests Halsey's version of events. The governing body said in a statement last night: "The FA compliance team deal with all disciplinary matters with the utmost integrity."
Recounting the 2011 episode, Halsey said in an interview with a Sunday newspaper: "I was furious. I didn't want Steven N'Zonzi charged. I was not happy. I'm honest but what can you do when the management tell you to do something? You can't speak out but you should not be put in that situation.
"It's obvious why they do it, as some get charged and others don't. I know it goes on because other referees have told me."
Halsey also wrote in his autobiography, Added Time: "I was in the same boat as Lee Mason that time when Wayne Rooney swore into a TV camera in a game at West Ham.
"No referee would have sent him off for that but Lee came under pressure to report he hadn't seen it but would have given a red card if he had. That way, as in my case, the FA could take retrospective action."
Neville posted in a series of tweets: "An official in high-ranking place has told a referee to lie so that a player gets banned!!
"I always thought refs might play the 'didn't see it card' to protect themselves but never instruction from above!!"
Neville criticised the PGMOL denial, writing: "I'm sorry!! How can you deny it without investigation!!!
"The issue with these bodies now!! Deny/Deny/Deny!! Rather than 'we better get to the bottom of this'. So the PGMOL think Mark Halsey is a liar? @RefereeHalsey did it happen?? Does it happen now?"
The rules on so-called unseen incidents changed after Halsey retired, with the FA now able to take retrospective action for an incident even if the match officials saw it, provided they acknowledge their view was not a clear one.
Andre Marriner's decision not to send off Manchester City striker Agüero for an elbow on West Ham's Winston Reid last Sunday would have been assessed on that basis.
Agüero was charged with violent conduct, something he and City contested on the grounds that Marriner was close enough at the time to adjudge if action was warranted. There is no suggestion Marriner saw the incident. (© Daily Telegraph, London)