By Walter Broeckx
Match fixing is something for Italy and other countries around the Mediterranean like Greece and Turkey. Impossible in England. As England is clean in all ways of life. Nobody in England breaks the laws, does on tax evasion. Or do some?
I know this is not true of course because as in any other country there are people who don’t abide the laws of society. This is so in my country, in Spain and in England. Now for some strange reason when it is about referees the assumption that referees will never break any law is fixed. Referees break laws as much as any other person does. Referees do step in their cars being drunk even though they shouldn’t do it and even though they are referees. Referees are not holier than the pope as the expression is in my mother language. [That’s a good one Walter – we don’t have that in English. I think we should introduce it – Tony.]
Now there is some interesting news from Spain about referees and a possible case of match fixing. An assistant referee who is in the running to do the clash between Real Madrid and Barcelona next month has gone to the police and has put down a complaint.
The complaint is that the referee and the assistant have been told by a member of the Spanish referee committee that in this match they should make the decisions in favour of Real Madrid. The Spanish referee committee is what we probably would call the PGMO in England.
The referee was contacted in September and told do to it like that (= favour Real Madrid). The referee informed his assistant and passed the message he had received. He told his assistant that the Spanish referee committee had put him under pressure to favour Real Madrid.
The referee was not really pleased with this pressure and let this be known to the Spanish referee committee. The Spanish referee committee then tried to manipulate the assistant referee. He got a call and they asked him to talk with his ‘boss’ (= the referee-in-chief) and try to persuade him to favour Real Madrid. And if the referee-in-chief wouldn’t go for it, then he (=the assistant) should try to manipulate the match himself. They said: ‘In fact this is even easier as the main ref is standing more in the picture than the assistant referee”.
But the assistant had enough of this and went to the police and informed his lawyer who informed the anti-corruption department of the police.
The name of the referee or his assistant is not known because they fear for their own well-being, reasonably enough, but the police is investigating the complaint.
Of course a Mr. Jose Angel Jiminez Munoz de Morals, a member of the Spanish referee committee (to repeat, what we in England would call the PGMO) is saying that he has no idea where this story is coming from. And calls the accusations out of proportion.
Barcelona has reacted and hoped that this story is not real. And said that it would result in enormous harm being done to the reputation of La Liga.
A little detail is that Atletico Madrid coach Diego Simeone had said that some people would do all they could to make Real Madrid the champions this season. Saying one title in seven years for Real Madrid is something cannot be allowed to happen. Real Madrid of course was not happy with these words.
Now the most important thing in fact is that in my articles about refereeing (a few hundred if not a thousand by now I think) I have talked about the possibility of pressure being applied on referees. When I mentioned this some laughed it away. But apparently it can happen. And not just at pub league level. No at the very top of Spanish football there seems to be something going on.
The problem is that if this referee and his assistant would have given into the pressure (that could go from: you might lose your Fifa badge in the future …or you will be sent to lower league matches …. or…. well, fill in the alternatives yourself) and they would have done their dirty work on the field, nobody would have noticed it. Of course if the ref made big errors the media would notice it.
But it would be filed under the name of bad day at the office from the referee. The ref had a shocker. Or whatever words that will be used to describe the man “his honest mistakes”. And nobody would know that in fact it wasn’t honest mistakes but fabricated mistakes in order to fix matches.
So the question is: is such a situation possible in England? Would it be possible that some leading person from the PGMO puts pressure on a referee in order to fix a match? A referee that has been the face of some media criticism for not sending off a player with a second yellow card, who gets punished with not having another match in a month in the PL? And then again another month no match in the PL. And then is sent out with the team he let off the hook (according to the media!).
Wouldn’t that ref feel any pressure then? Might it be that he will do all he can to please his boss in order to keep getting matches in the PL in the next weeks and months?
The question we should ask is not: is this possible? No, the question should be: is this impossible in the PL? And then it comes down to what I said at the start of this article. Are referees beyond every and any suspicion? Does putting a whistle in your mouth mean you will not be pressurised in any way? As we have read from a few retired referees there was a certain pressure at Old Trafford, meaning you tried to avoid them losing at home as it would cost you matches in the PL and at Old Trafford for a few months and in some cases even more than a year.
In fact it happened in the past in the PL that referees were left open to pressure as we and they all knew what would happen if Manchester United lost because of an error from the ref. So given that it is clear for me that this type of illegal pressure on referees has been done before in the PL and nobody can guarantee that it will never happen again.
Footnote from Tony:
If you are a regular reader of Untold you’ll know that normally we stand alone in suggesting that PGMO does not have rigorous enough systems to ensure that there is no match fixing in the Premier League occurring with the aid of referees or their assistants.
However the story reported by Walter above is actually making (little) waves even in the English Media. The Guardian has for example a story from Sid Lowe, its correspondent in Madrid, which opens Spanish football faces a potentially huge match-fixing scandal after an unnamed linesman alleged he had been told to favour Real Madrid in next month’s clásico against Barcelona.
And we’ve reported corruption in the Spanish League before. As with our article in March this year, for example, which included this commentary:
The former Osasuna director, Txuma Peralta, is remanded in custody, the former president Miguel Archanco has been released on bail. Players from Real Betis, Rayo Vallecano, Osasuna and Espanyol have been charged with conspiring to fix matches. Those who have spoken have denied the charges.
This is a story that is growing and will not go away.
Two more anniversaries
- 23 October 1935: Arsenal lost a Charity Shield match for the first time ever in a 1-0 home defeat to Sheffield Wednesday in front of 30,000.
- 23 October 1994: Freddie Ljungberg made his debut for Halmstads. He played 79 games for the team before moving to Arsenal in 1998.