The FA announced today that Anthony Taylor will be officiating the FA Cup Final between Arsenal and Chelsea. To put it mildly, that is a bad appointment.
In the interest of full disclosure, I think Taylor is a bad referee. If you do a Twitter search for tweets I’ve sent with the words “Anthony Taylor” included, you will see a consistent disapproval at his performances, even in matches where Arsenal are not involved. (You will also see a tweet about the offensive talent on those great mid-1990s Florida football teams but feel free to disregard that.)
Ok, so it’s been established that I dislike Taylor, but that is subjective and I’m very like an idiot. Why, then, is this objectively a bad idea? To show that, we need to jump all the way back to February of this year when Taylor and Arsene Wenger were involved in a verbal spat during the match against Burnley at the Turf Moor. That spat spilled over into a handbag-y physical altercation. According to Taylor’s own report, the Arsenal manager told him he was “dishonest to his federation” and then told him to, pardon Arsene’s French, “f*** off” twice. This led to Wenger’s dismissal from the match. For whatever reason the Arsenal manager thought he could watch the match from the tunnel. When Taylor came over to insist that, no, he could not, Wenger pushed away the official’s pointing arm twice. Wenger received a fine and a 4 match touchline ban for the incident.
Apparently Wenger was wrong about Taylor’s dishonesty to his federation because that federation has appointed him to their biggest match of the season. It beggars belief that the FA would willingly re-hash the most embarrassing confrontation between referee and manager this season. This appointment does nothing but fuel crazy fan conspiracy theories. If Arsenal have a big decision go against them, Arsenal fans will be up in arms that Taylor is holding a grudge for a very public altercation. If a big decision goes Arsenal’s way, Chelsea fans will be up in arms claiming the FA is doing this to prove how fair and unbiased their officials are, giving a call after you’d expect them to be biased.
This all easily could have been avoided by appointing a non-controversial selection. Presumably, the FA believes they have a bevy of top officials in their stable. I’m not sure why Taylor merited this selection, but given the club involved in the final, there were other options that would have taken away any but the kookiest claims of bias and impropriety. It’s a shame the FA didn’t pick one of those options.