Southampton have protested against having Mark Clattenburg officiate any of their fixtures until an investigation into alleged abuse from the referee against their players has been completed.
However, the Premier League has acted quickly to end the matter, according to reporter Ian Abrahams:
An allegation was made by Southampton that the Premier League official "abused and insulted" Saints midfielder Adam Lallana during their 2-1 loss to Everton on Dec. 29, 2013.
The Daily Mail's Neil Ashton writes that referees' chief Mike Riley has taken charge of the matter, which is said to have happened late in the match. Southampton were denied a penalty after what looked like a fairly obvious handball by Antolin Alcaraz in the area.
An excerpt from Ashton's article reads:
Lallana confronted Clattenburg at Goodison after his cross was met by the hand of Everton defender Antolin Alcaraz. The referee turned down Southampton appeals for a penalty. According to sources close to the incident, Clattenburg spoke to the player in a manner that is ‘not what you might expect of one of the game’s top officials.’
Saints manager Mauricio Pochettino was furious with Clattenburg after the game and claimed the South Coast club should have been awarded two spot-kicks.
It isn't the first time Clattenburg has come under fire for his treatment of players. In Oct. 2012, the County Durham native came under investigation for alleged racist remarks aimed in the direction of Chelsea midfielder John Obi Mikel during the Blues' 3-2 loss to Manchester United.
However, as the Telegraph's Mark Ogden reported at the time, the Football Association cleared Clattenburg of all charges as the Premier League official was found innocent of the allegations.
Ironically, Clattenburg's return as a Premier League referee came roughly a month after that incident, when the 38-year-old took charge of a fixture between Southampton and Norwich City in Nov. 2012.
Saints boss Pochettino was clearly incensed by Clattenburg's failure to award what he saw as two very clear and potentially decisive calls in the defeat to Everton. Per Ashton's article, the Argentinian said in his post-match comments:
I don’t mean any disrespect against any referees but anyone watching the game can see there were two clear penalties that weren’t given or should have been given.
I am saying that should not be forgotten in the overall analysis of the game and they need to be said. We don’t want to be judged by our young, handsome, good-looking players. We just want what’s fair. We can be a******s as well.
The home crowd felt differently, however, and The Times' Rory Smith reported that supporting Evertonians showed their appreciation of Clattenburg's decision:
The game at Goodison Park a week ago was Clattenburg's first refereed match at Everton, per the Independent, since the Merseyside Derby controversy that saw him send Tony Hibbert off in 2007.
Having initially shown the intent to give the Toffees right-back a yellow, Clattenburg seemingly changed his mind after Liverpool captain Steven Gerrard intervened. He also failed to show Dirk Kuyt the same punishment for what looked like a clear red-card offence of his own.
Some Everton fans will feel that the Premier League official has made up for that particular controversy, although Southampton's complaints are of an altogether more serious nature.
Clattenburg, until proven otherwise, remains innocent of any allegations pointed in his direction.