By Tony Attwood
If there is a moment that we might one day eventually look back to, as being the time when we achieved a breakthrough in Untold’s constant highlighting of referee problems in the Premier League, it could just be Arsenal v Wigan 14 May 2013.
Of course there is nothing so sad as seeing the newspapers pretend that the referees’ issue does not exist. It reminds me of the way in which both the English and Scottish media chose to ignore events at Rangers, even though on the internet you could hardly move for the story of the club’s imminent collapse. When ultimately the papers could ignore it no longer they somehow pretended that “legal considerations” had stopped them doing anything other that towing the official line up to that point. I don’t think anyone was fooled; the only good that came out of it was that the newspapers’ reputation in terms of football reporting went through the floor.
So it is with the referees. Regularly BBC Radio 5 has commentators complaining about referee errors, and yet they refrain from (or are ordered not to) talk about WHY referees make these errors. Meanwhile in the press there is no comment.
Last night at the Ems the referee was booed onto the pitch – a clear indication that many in the crowd knew what was coming. As the game progressed he crowd got very agitated at the refs failings. He was booed off the pitch at half time and back on in the second half. Mention of it in the papers? Well in those I saw this morning, there was not a sausage.
But there are two more factors: it appears that Sky did actually made mention of the crowd being on the ref’s case, and Walter has told us that the Belgian media has noted the issue of the ref.
Meanwhile www.refereedecisions.co.uk is gaining visitors month by month – over 32,000 a month (which is huge for such a specialist site) and of course Untold chugs along at half a million plus a month.
So the story is out there: that there may be something very wrong with refereeing in the Premier League.
But is the similar to the issue that has been faced in Italy?
I can’t say that it is, because I don’t have access to the phone taps of private conversations between refs, the media and clubs, that were used to expose the corruption in Italy. But we do have enough issues lurking around that demand investigation and explanation. Issues such as:
1. Why is it that some clubs find it virtually impossible to win a game under certain referees?
2. Why are there so few referees that certain clubs get the same ref half a dozen times or more in a season? Surely, a basic system set up to ensure that corruption never got a foot in the door would require that there are enough refs around so that no club gets the same ref more than twice a season. That is just a simple basic precaution. So why is it not implemented?
3. Why was the PGMOL web site shut down after we started investigating the issues surrounding PGMOL and referees?
4. Why, when we have seen corruption in other countries and when there is a constant level of concern relating to the issue of match fixing across Europe, is point two not implemented? Even if there is not the slightest trace of match fixing in the Premier League now, why is the number of referees used by PGMOL not increased to make it harder for criminals to fix matches in the future?
5. Why, given the above, do programmes such as Match of the Day or Panorama not start to mention that there are concerns expressed in some quarters, and start investigations? We know that in Italy part of the match-fixing arrangement was made to work by “encouraging” TV companies not to show certain “contraversial” decisions on their programmes – and so we start to get suspicious about the fact that no one in the media which broadcast football on TV is talking about this issue.
6. Why, even if every other point is rejected, does BBC Radio 5 not take up the point so often made by Alan Green in his commentaries that the referee seems to be getting an awful lot wrong? If that is so, as Mr Green has said, why does no one ask “why?”
7. Why do radio and TV stations continue to persist (if pressed) with the view that wrong decisions by referees “always balance out in the end” without the slightest bit of statistical evidence to support this – not least when such evidence as there is suggests exactly the opposite.
8. Why do some referees have to do two games in a week, and why are the referees not announced further in advance?
The pressure from ourselves will continue, the questions will continue to be asked, and slowly, step by step, the press and TV stations that refuse to acknowledge that there is an issue to be investigated will look more and more odd and more and more isolated for ignoring the issue.
All in all, if I had to put it down to one point it would be this – why are there so few refs available when having more would help stop corruption should anyone ever try to fix the system as happened in Italy? Why is such a simple anti-corruption procedure not being implemented?
It’s a simple question – but answer comes there none.
The most detailed study of Premier League Refs ever:The referees 2013.