UNDER-SCRUTINY ref Lee Mason has been taken out of the firing line by being relegated to fourth official duty for the next 10 days.
Mason was criticised by Southampton for not awarding them a clear penalty in the defeat by Aston Villa.
The Bolton official was then on VAR duty when recommending Mike Dean issue a red card to West Ham’s Thomas Soucek for his alleged elbow on Fulham’s Aleksandar Mitrovic.
Dean will not be working this weekend or midweek after requesting time off following a number of online death threats to him and his family.
And while Mason will be involved in Saturday’s game between Leicester and Liverpool and next Wednesday’s rearranged clash between Everton and Manchester City, he will only be operating as the fourth official.
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It should ensure no more controversy surrounding Mason, who has already been fiercely criticised by Wolves boss Nuno Espirito Santo this season.
Former refs' chief Keith Hackett has been among those calling for Mason and Dean to quit after their "hapless double act".
Hackett, who headed the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), was especially baffled at their Craven Cottage cock-up.
He wrote in the Telegraph: "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
"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 was "shocked when two experienced referees could make such a bad decision".
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