By Walter Broeckx
This is the last article in this series where I will give you other possible reasons for poor refereeing in the EPL. But even then after this article it will not be over. I think it never will be in fact. But before we start here’s a list of the articles so far…
Now part five, including sections 10 and 11.
It can be argued that some powerful people in powerful clubs have certain other people on their pockets. People who have access and influence on refs. People who can give instructions to the refs.
This could happen in two ways. For instance the boss of the refs picks his phone and is telling a ref: You have this game and we would like to see club X not winning or win the game. One could say a kind of mini conspiracy between two persons. No one knows about it except them.
So if this happens that ref will know that he has to do his best to please his superior.
That might seem a rather crude approach, but it can also happen more indirectly. Once the person who is responsible for the refs tells the other refs which is his favourite team then this can influence the refs who are doing the games of that team. People who are working will know that it is always a nice move to keep your boss happy. So refs who are working indirectly for their boss will also have this kind of attitude.
Again that might seem a bit obvious and crude – but it is possible that such knowledge can subconsciously affect the refs’ mindset. The problem for a ref is that even if he doesn’t want to give in to such a pressure it could be in the back of his head during a game.
Now if the first approach of overt instructions to refs to swing a match did exist in football I would be sick of it. No tree can be high enough to hang the persons who would do such a thing. They should be hanged, drawn quartered and whipped at the same time.
But could it happen? Why not? Like I said the boss-employee relation also exists in football so if a boss calls you over and tells you to do something you can say: “Okay I will do it” or you can say: “No, I won’t.” And then you know you are doing your last hours as an employee or in this case as a ref.
And as most refs actually like their job they will not give it up that easy. And once you have done it for the first time, there is no stopping any more. Then you are in their grip and they are in your grip.
No one can come out in the open with it. The ref can’t because it will kill his job and future as a ref. The “boss” can’t as otherwise it could come in the open that you are a criminal. And do remember that the person issuing the instructions only has to pick and choose a handful of referees to do the manipulating – because each ref handles so many matches in the Premier League. Which means the top man can get to know the personality of the referee first, know what he is like, and introduce him to the idea step by step.
So then both parties involved have all the interest in the world that was has been said amongst the boss and the employee stays between them. Once you are on the inside you want to say in the inside.
As it just is more fun doing games in the EPL than in the championship.
The instructions problem is closely linked with the next: rewarding the refs.
Because apart from the regular money the refs get, there is also another way in which refs can be tempted to do things they normally wouldn’t do.
Because being a ref in the EPL is very nice; you feel like you are near the top of your profession. But then you meet the refs who have a Fifa badge. And you hear them talking about their trips to Spain, Italy or whatever. And how great it is to be a Fifa ref. And then you also want such a badge. As this is the highest level you can achieve.
So how do the local FA hand out those Fifa badges? Well the local FA chooses the Fifa refs, present the list to Fifa who agrees with it. So it is almost completely in the hands of the leading figures of the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) and their General Manager, Mike Riley to hand out the Fifa badges. And also together with these Fifa badges come other nice things. Like being sent, for example to the U19 world cup. Can you imagine: one month being treated as a king in another country, do some youth games and come home with a lot of money. Because those tournaments are very well paid for a ref.
So to whom shall you give the Fifa badges if you would be boss of the refs? Would you hand them to the best refs or would you hand them over to your best friend-refs? And reward them for their loyalty to you?
The latter could be very much reality. So the boss of the refs has a very strong weapon in his hands to persuade the refs to fix some games if he wants them to. He could tell a young ref arriving in the EPL: “if you do me a favour in this game I will think of you when we have to hand out the Fifa badges”.
Rather perverse? Yes it is! I agree. But like I said in the instruction reason: the boss – employee relation is existing and this is a very good way to have the refs eating out of your hand as a boss. Could you imagine some people being tempted by this and thinking: “what the hell I will do it his way and I will get my reward?” This could be a human reaction. The will is strong but flesh is weak.
Another form or reward can be to get a high place in football once you have stopped as a ref. Just look at the name of the general manager of the PGMOL and you know what I mean. There are many ways of rewarding willing refs. And the refs are well aware of this.
And once you have said yes to this you cannot go back. You are trapped in it, they are trapped in it. And from then on the most important thing is: keep your mouth shut. Maybe you won’t get shot for coming out with the truth but you will be a pariah for the rest of you live in football. And there’s one other thing: it could well be extremely difficult to prove the allegations you want to make.
Actually it is very simple – so simple in fact that it is hard to understand why these solutions are not implemented, unless there is something seriously wrong in the world of refereeing.
1: Base the Fifa badges on clear and open numbers from assessing the refs during the season.
2: Make sure that the score the refs have got are made public.
That’s it. Two points that would be a way to stop handing out favours to refs who are willing to go along with such things.
This was the last article in this series about possible reasons for poor refereeing. Before I make a final conclusion of this I will give my view on the most used excuse against someone who claims that refs are biased: the fact that they are not competent. If you listen to commentaries on football matches on the radio you will hear time after time the allegation made that the referee has made dreadful mistakes, with the implication that he is not competent – so that allegation needs investigating.
After that I will try to make a summary of where we have got to in this series.
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