By Tony Attwood
To put people into boxes, there are broadly three types of football fan. Those who look at all the issues considered in the previous article about possible corruption in the Premier League and think, “this looks odd, there should be an investigation,” those who really don’t care about such matters and just like to get on with the support either at the game or from a distance, and those who reply to the points made in the last article by saying, “you’re just a conspiracy theorist”.
The problem with the last group is one that is prevalent throughout contemporary Britain, and I suspect in many other societies: the notion that answering an argument by a spot of name calling is actually a reasonable response. If it were then all questions about anything happening on the planet could be dismissed as a conspiracy theory and we never would get to discuss (and therefore never discover) anything.
My opening position is quite different: I’m curious. I like to look at things and ask questions as to why they are as they are. Which probably means I should have been a physicist, but for most of us things never turn out how they should. I studied psychology instead and got fascinated by the psychology of perception. It’s just how things go.
For the people who love to respond to detailed points of view with one liners, the answer to my curiosity is “Curiosity killed the cat,” (except that with the increase in the number of mice with the toxoplasma parasite that should be “curiosity killed the mouse” – but that’s another tail) (Tale – geddit?). (Mice with toxoplasma parasites chase cats’ tails, get eaten, the parasite enters the cat, the cat dies, other mice eat the remains, the parasite lives on. But I suspect that is just a conspiracy theory.)
I digress. I’m curious. Not about everything, and I most certainly don’t experiment by trying everything, or even most things, but I often find myself wondering why x happens and what y is all about and whether the story z I’ve just read in a magazine is actually widely accepted as truth by others, or just another journalist flight of fancy.
So I am curious about things like…
- Why is the refereeing organisation that runs refereeing in the Premier League so utterly secretive unlike those in virtually every other country? What benefit does this absolute and total secrecy give?
- Why is the number of referees working in the PL so small that refs get to officiate the same teams over and over and thus leave themselves open to accusations of match fixing? If it is so that the refs get games every week and thus earn a decent salary, why not put the salaries up and charge the PL more for the service. It is not as if the PL is poor.
- Why is the selection of referees so regionally biased?
- Why do we see what appear to me, and some other people, such strange behaviour by referees on pitches, allowing a certain type of foul from side A but not side B?
- Why are the rules applied in matches in the PL so different from the rules applied in European top leagues?
- Why is there no historic awareness of the fact that there was a huge match fixing scandal in Italy and there have been such scandals in England. Are they really like the householder who says, “Oh you don’t get burglaries here, there is a very safe village,” and so never locks his front door? Is that attitude right for a multi-billion pound industry?
- Why does PGMO pay its referees £50,000 on retirement on the provision that they never ever talk about refereeing to the media, and never write about it? What is the benefit to referees, to football clubs, to football supporters or anyone else in this system existing?
- Why are the statistics that PGMO put out for a very short while so different from ours, and why then did they stop publishing them?
- Why don’t the clubs together revolt against this system and throw out PGMO and bring in a new body to run refereeing?
- Why are these questions never debated in the media?
I can offer all sorts of answers to these questions – but of course they are just my answers, no one else’s. They can be laughed at, denounced, or agreed with, but the point I would make is that, to my mind at least, all ten questions are valid and need some sort of proper discussion. And even when people do provide answers other than “you are just conspiracy theorists” they tend only to answer one or two of the questions, possibly in an attempt to keep it all very simple.
(Which then reminded me of the story we found in 2009 where the Sun state that Arsenal did not win the league because our players were too short. The BBC picked up on the story and ran it later that day. But on checking we found the basic fact was quite untrue. Arsenal were not a particularly short or tall team. Leaving aside whether size matters, the fact is Arsenal were not a short team).
Indeed I am curious about the fact that I have never seen anyone put forward an answer to point one above at all. And you’d think that with a dozen or so national newspapers around, all fighting for extra readership and extra revenue, one of them would raise that question. But they don’t.
Is that because undermining the whole basis of a system is something never brings in more readers? Is it because the press have a really cushy number just toddling along to games, interviewing managers and then making up stories? Or is it because the League has said to the media, you’ll lose your licence to publish fixtures if you print stories that suggest that the ethics of the League are bent?
My view for what it is worth, is that there’s a combination of factors which keeps the questions about refereeing and the organisation that runs referees out of the media. But at the top of the list is the belief by the media that readers, viewers and listeners are simple folk who don’t like complicated stories.
Just look at the stories day after day that surround football. They are for the most part single issue stories relating to something quite simple. The matches themselves, which are phenomenally complex affairs are reduced to 500 words. The tracing of developments invariably comes down to one basic recent event. The whole notion of announcing transfers that have not happened and will not happen as being worthy of news coverage is bizarre. (We do our best to expose the insanity via the Sir Hardly Anyone tales, but we are pretty much on our own here).
And all this comes before the make-believe. The invented story that I will never publish that had the press howling at the gates of Highbury on Mr Wenger’s first day in office, and which Man U then saw fit to have on a recording of Man U songs that the sold via their shop. The invented story that Arsenal got more red and yellow cards than anyone else in the early days of Wenger’s reign. The invented story in more recent years that Arsenal gets more injuries than anyone else. The invented story that most transfers make a difference. The myth that most managerial changes make a difference. The Sun’s invented story about players’ height.
All of these inventions, when there is actually one huge story waiting to be investigated:
Why is the organisation that runs refereeing in the Premier League so utterly secretive when other top refereeing organisations in Europe are not?
- There’s a bit in the latest Uefa fiasco that the media is missing, and it is a key issue.
- The Brickfields Gunners Blog – Fantasy Football Series Part 2.
- Why it is so important that we have a full and open investigation into Premier League refereeing corruption now.
- What is Wenger saying to us through his team selections?
Untold Arsenal has published five books on Arsenal – all are available as paperback and three are now available on Kindle. The books are
- The Arsenal Yankee by Danny Karbassiyoon with a foreword by Arsene Wenger.
- Arsenal: the long sleep 1953 – 1970; a view from the terrace. By John Sowman with an introduction by Bob Wilson.
- Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football. By Tony Attwood, Andy Kelly and Mark Andrews.
- Making the Arsenal: a novel by Tony Attwood.
- The Crowd at Woolwich Arsenal by Mark Andrews.
You can find details of all five on our new Arsenal Books page