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Wednesday, 3 May, 2000, 15:59 GMT 16:59 UK
Flashpoint: Players v refs
Paul Durkin
Paul Durkin is escorted from the pitch by police
The simmering relationship between players and referees boiled over once more on Tuesday night as Arsenal's match with West Ham ended with police officers moving in to protect Paul Durkin.

West Ham players confronted Durkin after Emmanuel Petit's last-minute winner was allowed to stand even though the ball appeared to have struck Petit's hand.

He's a bad referee. I said that before the game and he didn't disappoint me

Derby's Jim Smith on referee Neil Barry

Durkin booked Paolo di Canio and Trevor Sinclair for their protests and Sinclair received a second yellow seconds later for a trip on Ray Parlour.

After the final whistle, West Ham players again surrounded Durkin and Paulo Wanchope, Marc-Vivien Foe and John Moncur appeared to jostle the official before three policemen came to Durkin's aid.

Relations between referees and players have rarely been out of the headlines since Paolo di Canio infamously pushed Paul Alcock to the ground last season.

Di Canio received an 11-match ban and was recently fined 5,000 for another incident when he made an obscene gesture in West Ham's game with Aston Villa.
Paul Alcock after Di Canio's push
Paul Alcock crumples to the ground

But Paul Durkin himself is no stranger to controversy. Only last month, he was caught in a melee of Chelsea players in the Blues' defeat at Sheffield Wednesday.

That came in the same week that Chelsea received a 50,000 fine for failing to control their players when their game with Wimbledon exploded into a brawl in the players' tunnel.

It seems likely that Chelsea haven't heard the last of the incident at Hillsborough.

Perhaps the most serious case of referee intimidation this season came when Roy Keane led almost the entire Manchester United team in surrounding Andy D'Urso after he'd given Middlesbrough a penalty at Old Trafford.

It led to the FA clamping down on player insurrection and the irony is that while no action was taken against the United players, Middlesbrough were charged after a similar incident in the return match at the Riverside.

The referee was on first-name terms with them, but he doesn't know our players well enough. He asked how Posh Spice was, where they were eating tonight and then sent our fella off

Jim Smith on Mike Reed

Then United's fourth goal in a 4-3 win was allowed to stand although Boro's players were adamant that the scorer, Quinton Fortune, was offside.

Just as in the first game, the official was later shown to be correct.

Communication between managers and match officials is little better.

John Gregory has been fined twice and given a 28-day touchline ban this season alone for comments about referees.

Gregory accused Dermot Gallagher of "not engaging his brain" after he sent off Benito Carbone in Villa's FA Cup win at Everton.

Only last weekend, Derby's Jim Smith was in the news for comments made about Neil Barry who sent off Stefan Schnoor in The Rams' game at Spurs.

Gunners and Hammers clash

"He's a bad referee," Smith said.

"I said that before the game and he didn't disappoint me."

Ironically Schnoor's sending off against Manchester United earlier in the season prompted Smith to say that Mike Reed was biased.

"The referee was on first-name terms with them, but he doesn't know our players well enough. He asked how Posh Spice was, where they were eating tonight and then sent our fella off," he said.

That said, Reed has not kept a low profile.

He infamously punched the air after Liverpool scored against Leeds earlier this season and said he was celebrating a successful application of the advantage rule after a Leeds infringement.

The FA cleared Reed of misconduct, although they did concede that his action was inappropriate.

Less than proficient

Rob Harris did not get off so lightly when he allowed a player he had already sent off to be substituted in Tranmere's FA Cup match with Sunderland.

Harris was suspended for one month after the FA's referees commission decided he had "less than proficiently applied the laws".

And yet earlier this season referees were being lauded for taking a more lenient approach.

Durkin himself was singled out for praise for his handling of Manchester United's game with Arsenal.

But next season things could get worse as the FA introduces a new "10-yard rule" for dissent.

This will see yellow cards awarded and free-kicks moved 10 yards closer to the opposing goal if players abuse referees.

And if players persist they will receive a second yellow. It should act as a deterrent, but if it doesn't Tuesday's game could seem like a quiet night in comparison.

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See also:

03 May 00 | FA Carling Premiership
Fuming West Ham face FA rap
02 May 00 | FA Carling Premiership
Robson charged over ref row
28 Apr 00 | Football
FA adopts rugby rule
Links to other Cricket stories are at the foot of the page.