Former referee Keith Hackett has slammed ‘hapless double act’ Mike Dean and Lee Mason for making yet another high-profile error in the Premier League at Craven Cottage, claiming the pair should ‘step down’ from their roles.
Dean and Mason grabbed plenty of headlines again on Saturday after West Ham’s Tomas Soucek was controversially sent off at Fulham in the closing stages after elbowing Aleksandar Mitrovic.
After consulting Mason, who was on VAR duty, Dean sent Soucek off following numerous checks of his pitchside monitor but West Ham have since won their appeal and the red card has been overturned.
Mike Dean’s decision to send Tomas Soucek off against Fulham was met by fierce criticism
Lee Mason, who was on VAR duty at Craven Cottage, has also come under intense scrutiny
It was a second straight match where a red card has been overturned by the FA in which Dean was referee and Mason acted as VAR, after Jan Bednarek was harshly sent off for after Anthony Martial went down in the box following minimal contact with the Polish defender at Old Trafford during the week.
And just days before that fixture, the roles were reversed and Dean was on VAR duty for Southampton’s game with Aston Villa while Mason was the referee at St Mary’s. Southampton were controversially denied a penalty following what appeared to be a blatant Matty Cash handball. They also had a Danny Ings goal ruled out for a marginal offside.
And after the latest error at Craven Cottage, former head of Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) Hackett has admitted he was in disbelief at the Soucek decision.
‘I think the time is long overdue for Mike Dean and Lee Mason to step down as referees following their hapless double act when adjudicating on West Ham United’s Tomas Soucek,’ Hackett wrote in the Telegraph.
Soucek was controversially sent off for this elbow on Fulham striker Aleksandar Mitrovic
‘I would love to know the conversation that took place between the two before Soucek was shown a red card. It was clear that the contact between Soucek’s elbow and Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic was accidental.
‘Soucek had not used excessive force and/or endangered the safety of an opponent to meet the requirement for a sending off.
‘The way Mitrovic dropped to the ground as though he had been shot probably deceived Mason at Stockley Park and led him to ask Dean to watch a replay on the pitchside monitor.’
Hackett added: ‘In the case of the Soucek incident, I was shocked when two experienced referees could make such a bad decision. It is the sort of decision that makes life hard for the 27,000 referees officiating in local parks (when there is no lockdown).’
Dean and Mason came in for fierce criticism following the weekend’s dramatic decision, with some refereeing displays overshadowing matches currently.
Dean controversially sent off Jan Bednarek vs Man United – another decision that was later overturned by the FA
It has since emerged that Dean and his family have received death threats in the aftermath of a series of high-profile, controversial decisions and he has asked to be taken off duty this weekend.
Dean, 52, has reported the threats to Merseyside Police and has been asked to not be put in charge of a Premier League match this week. He will still take charge of Wednesday’s FA Cup game between Leicester and Brighton.
Sportsmail understands the abuse was sent on social media platforms and, while Dean is known to be a resilient character within the Premier League hierarchy, the threats to his family were a step too far.
Dean and wife Karam have two daughters and live on Merseyside.
He was scheduled to take a break from officiating duties this weekend, however it is usual for referees to stand in as the fourth official or VAR. Assignments had not yet been allocated by the Premier League but Dean requested that he not be included.
Working as VAR, Dean denied Danny Ings a stoppage-time equaliser for Southampton against Aston Villa – in which Mason was refereeing – because his ‘sleeve’ was offside
Aston Villa’s Matty Cash appeared to clearly handle in the box in the same match at St Mary’s – but Southampton weren’t awarded a penalty
Mike Riley, managing director of PGMOL, said: ‘Threats and abuse of this nature are totally unacceptable and we fully support Mike’s decision to report these messages his family received to the police.
‘Nobody should be a victim of abhorrent messages like this. Online abuse is unacceptable in any walk of life and more needs to be done to tackle the problem.’
Merseyside Police added: ‘We can confirm officers are investigating allegations of malicious communications reported today, Monday 8 February.
‘The reports relate to social media accounts and enquiries are ongoing. We monitor the internet, and if we identify any offences we will take action.
‘Those who use the internet to target others, and who commit a criminal offence [eg hate crime/malicious communications], are not beyond the law – and can + will be investigated and brought to justice.’