For once I agree with Alan Shearer, while watching Match of the Day, he stated something that I have felt for a very long time, that 'referees understand the rules but not the game itself'. This was in reference to some rather tasty tackles that were punished rather variably by referees around the country yesterday.
Referees do know the rules, but unfortunately have never played the game themselves at any decent level, they were most likely the unathletic child who stood by the touchline watching his classmates have a kick around. This means they can't tell the difference between a dangerous aggressive challenge and a mistimed inocuous challenge. This was perfectly demonstrated yesterday by Clattenberg's straight red for Bowyer, when he failed to stop two shocking challenges from Hayden Mullins which both involved two straight legs and studs up.
One game I particularly remember from this point of view was the Arsenal Bolton fixture of 2003, the loss of two points cost us dear in the end but it was the way Bolton played that was the disgrace that day. Sam Allardyce, the contemptible fat walrus, created a side in his own image, a filthy thuggish bullying side that played the lowest form of football possible. Bolton players repeatedly lunged in with studs showing, with straight legs and studs over the top of the ball, but the referee allowed it to go unpunished and as a result Bolton were unfairly allowed back into a game, in which they had no right to be. Teams like Bolton are allowed to prosper by poor officiating like this, and in the long term English football suffers as good technical football cannot succeed as it would otherwise do. Good refereeing is therefore key if English football is to continue catching up its competitors technically, so referees should learn the game as well as the rules.