Lee Mason withdrew from officiating Liverpool’s Premier League match against Sheffield United last night with a calf injury following his “embarrassing” error the previous day in one of the biggest refereeing controversies of the season.
Having initially allowed Brighton to take a quick free-kick, from which Lewis Dunk scored, Mason blew his whistle as the ball crossed the West Bromwich Albion line after spotting that goalkeeper Sam Johnstone was not ready.
Mason first ruled out the goal before then awarding it and finally being told by the video assistant referee that he had indeed whistled just before the ball crossed the line and so the goal should not stand.
Dunk angrily called it an “embarrassing, horrendous decision” and accused referees of hiding by not coming out to explain their actions to the media after the match. Brighton, however, had also missed two penalties during the 1-0 defeat, prompting the charity Ref Support UK to contrast the language used to condemn Mason with how mistakes by players are described.
The Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) confirmed that Mason would miss yesterday’s match at Bramall Lane, but cited the injury he sustained late on Saturday.
Sam Allardyce, the West Brom manager, suggested the confusion was a consequence of the myriad rule changes. “I just feel that a referee today has far too many rules and regulations to adhere to – to try and even remember what he can and can’t do,” Allardyce said. “I think that causes confusion because there’s far too many changes, there’s actually been changes as the season’s gone on. The natural way to play football or referee a game is with a clear mind and I don’t think referees today are allowed to have a clear mind to just referee how they feel, with their personality and experience and give what they see within a small set of rules.”
Mason was criticised by Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp this season after allowing Fulham’s goal in a 1-1 draw, and Southampton asked that Mason and Mike Dean be stopped from doing their games after some controversial decisions.
Dean recently stood down from an entire round of Premier League matches after being subjected to death threats on social media.
Ref Support UK has called for a culture change in the way referees are treated, saying that “for too long refs are classed as a role in football that can be legitimately abused”.
There is also frustration at the notion that referees are not held accountable. A match delegate attends and assesses every fixture. Every decision – usually around 250 – of every match is then analysed by a PGMOL evaluator. This all goes toward a referee merit table from which match allocations are made.
Mason has been on the PGMOL’s select group of match officials since 2006. His former colleague Dermot Gallagher said Mason had momentarily “lost focus” during the Brighton game.
Telegraph Media Group Limited