HERE we go again, again.
Another row over football matters becomes a row over race.
It’s not enough that the biggest game of the season so far is marked with two exceptional goals in five, a couple of sending-offs and some breathtaking action.
You’d think that would be enough drama for one day - even in a top of the prem clash at Stamford Bridge.
We have to keep up with the hysteria of the moment.
WE have to turn it into a race row.
In years to come critics, scholars and columnists will look back on our current obsession with race, racism and how to deal with it and maintain some emotional distance from the subject matter.
With that distance they’ll be able to distinguish between what really happened and what was perceived to have happened through the prism of our recent obsession with race issues.
Maybe by then we will be able to see that we were swept along on a tide of hearsay, allegation and speculation and that the deeper issues that brought this madness to the surface really must be addressed.
Every row has to be a race row at the moment which does nothing for the image of football and footballers, nothing for blacks and Asians and nothing for every right-thinking person in the country.
But, for now, it does help the bigots to have their agenda on every sports and news website, TV station and back and front page every Monday and Thursday.
Unless Mark Clattenburg is a complete idiot - and there is no suggestion that that is the case - he surely wouldn’t have made a deliberately racist remark to John Obe Mikel or anyone else?
Well would he?
I don’t know what kind of man he is but I know that he knows that if he were to make a racist remark to a player his career is over.
All the statements so far from FA, club and players suggest that he used ‘inappropriate language’.
The bit that says ‘believed to be of a racist nature’ is tagged on after.
Has any player actually said he made racist remarks? Or is it just ‘understood’ that he did.
We are in danger of disappearing up our own black and white backsides here.
What could he have said that could be ‘interpreted’ as racially offensive, in this current hyper-sensitive time for race relations, that wasn’t actually racist?
If he had been using racist language we’d know what it was by now.
We need to get a grip of ourselves and pause for breath.
The highly-rated Newcastle-based Clattenburg official is known for an informal communication style on the pitch - something which is not universally liked within the game.
But he’s no mug, he refereed last season’s League Cup final and the men’s Olympic final.
None of which means he can’t be a racist but let’s have the investigation - the linesmen and fourth official will have heard what he said - and let’s judge him on what he ACTUALLY did say.
If he made a racist remark he’s finished and rightly so.
But at the moment press, fans and pundits resemble a medieval Monty Python mob with pitchforks and flaming torches ready to storm castle football.
We need to have a serious word with ourselves, start being rational and not tear football - or him - apart just yet.