Constantine Hatzidakis has said he will take any punishment from the FA on the chin after Andy Robertson appeared to take the assistant referee’s elbow on his.
The Premier League official has spoken to the press for the first time since the incident at half-time of Liverpool’s draw against Arsenal at Anfield.
The FA are looking into claims Hatzidakis elbowed Reds left-back Robertson in the face and the 38-year-old will not officiate any Premier League games while the investigation is carried out.
Speaking at his home in London, Hatzidakis said (via the Daily Mail): “Whatever happens, happens. There is nothing more I can say at the moment. I can’t talk about what happened.”
The incident between Robertson and Hatzidakis was caught on camera with Liverpool players profusely protesting to match referee Paul Tierney.
Robertson, Tierney and his teammates who witnessed the clash will be asked to make statements to the FA while Hatzidakis is off duty.
Sky Sports pundit Roy Keane branded Robertson a “big baby” for his reaction.
“Does Robertson grab the linesman first? I’m not sure but Robertson’s then complaining,” the Manchester United legend said.
“He should be more worried about his defending. Do you know what he is, that Robertson? I’ve watched him a number of times, he is a big baby, that’s what that guy is.
“Just get on with the game and concentrate on your defending. He does grab the linesman first.”
Keane’s former Red Devils teammate Gary Neville said: “I’ve never seen an official raise an elbow to a player. I think he’ll be in a lot of trouble after this game ends.”
Fellow Sky Sports pundit and ex-Manchester City right-back Micah Richards added: “I’ve never seen anything like that in my life.”
Meanwhile, Keith Hackett, formerly head of the PGMOL, told BBC Radio Five Live: “Ultimately, if he is found guilty of this, his career is in jeopardy.
“I was trying to find an excuse as to why he did it and I came up with was he in fear? He shouldn’t be, because he’s in a protected environment with plenty of security.
“But he reacted in a way that he shouldn’t have reacted at the end of the day and here we are talking about a match official and not a decision, but an action by a match official – and he’s clearly lost his composure.”
Another former top-flight referee, Mark Halsey, put the spotlight on Robertson’s behaviour and believes a ban is the most likely punishment for Hatzidakis if he is proven to have committed an offence.
Writing in The Sun, Halsey drew a parallel with Fulham striker Aleksandar Mitrovic, who was recently banned for eight matches for pushing referee Chris Kavanagh.
Halsey said: “To me, it looks like Robertson goes to grab Hatzidakis, who brushes him off with his arm and catches him accidentally.
“I cannot think why an assistant would throw his arms into a player’s face. Sure, from one camera angle it does not look good. But you have to ask why has Robertson gone to approach the assistant referee?
“I have heard people say this is the end of the linesman’s career but, just like Aleksandar Mitrovic, it is his full-time job. However, if he is proven guilty and did intentionally use his elbow then he will face the same consequences as the Fulham frontman.
“Match officials are the guardians of standards and must be accountable if found guilty for that type of behaviour towards a player.”
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