by Tony Attwood
Have we proven that there is something wrong with refereeing in this country?
It is a question that comes up each time further revelations are made about refereeing by Untold, and I had decided a little while ago not to go over the same old issues of “proof” again. But two events made me change my mind.
One was my own experience in court as a defendant last month (and the fact that I am still here writing means that I wasn’t locked up as a result of the experience, undoubtedly to the frustration of the aaa and their fellow travellers).
The other was a speech made this past week by a man famed for his investigations into the Mafia. It was widely reported in England, and stated that the UK is the most corrupt country in the world.
Together they made me reflect anew on the PGMO, and if you will stay with me for five minutes, I’ll explain how, and why, and where it got me.
My legal case involved a minor car accident in which my car scraped along the side of another car, while I was trying to get out the way of a giant articulated truck that was changing lanes without signalling, and was about the squash my low profile soft top car. Under British law, the accident was my fault, even though in taking the action I avoided a much worse accident.
I admitted it was all my fault, exchanged details with the lady driver of the other car, and told my insurance company. Then some months later I was told that the other driver claimed that she had suffered whiplash, plus massive damage to her car and items within her car. My view was that this was impossible since the cars had slid past each other at 15 mph.
She pressed her claim (using a no-win-no-fee legal firm as I understand it) and so eventually we had our day in court. Each of us had a barrister to speak for us, and our cases had each been prepared with the aid of a solicitor. We took up a full day in court and so the costs of the whole affair mounted. There were no independent witnesses, so it was my word against hers, backed up by the photos I took of my car (again just on my word that the pics were of my car after the accident) and the logic and consistency of our arguments when we each took the stand and gave evidence.
Logic and consistency of argument won the day. There were no witnesses contradicting us, it was all a case of “what would a person in such circumstances be likely to do?”
In the end the judge awarded in my favour. Then my side argued that the lady driver was deliberately trying to mislead the court throughout in order to get money out of me, and that her case made no sense: she didn’t act consistently as one might expect of a person who had the injuries she claimed and the damage she claimed.
The judge agreed with my description of events and I was awarded £5000 costs. Unfortunately I don’t get that, as it goes to pay the court costs, my barrister, my solicitor etc. So it means the whole affair didn’t cost me anything. It did cost her £5000, and since she was on a no-win, no-fee legal scheme, her legal team won’t pay her. She didn’t win, she gets nothing. Except a bill for £5000. (Which I think is a warning to anyone approached by the people who sell no-win no-fee legal services. If you lose, the costs to you can be large).
My point is that the arguments my barrister presented in court were of the same type as those Untold uses against PGMO. We don’t have recordings of dodgy club owners bribing dodgy referees, just as I didn’t have any witnesses to the accident. But it is still possible to draw conclusions as to what is likely. If the lady had had the injuries she claimed surely the first thing she would have done was get to a hospital. She went instead to a solicitor. It was like that all the way through.
Same with PGMO. My argument is, if one is trying to do everything above board why organise the PGMO in the same way that the Italian refereeing system was organised when it was corrupt. Why not follow the approach of all other major leagues in Europe? If there is nothing to hide, why be so secretive? Why pay referees huge sums to stay quiet after retirement?
I also ask, why will the media not entertain this evidence and these questions? Why instead do they simply run the same old “it is time to stop arguing about referees” stories without actually considering any of the evidence?
And thus we come to my second point, for I suddenly got an insight into this when I read the story in the Independent, the Telegraph, the Express, the Mail, the Guardian… which basically says.
Britain is the most corrupt country in the world.
The piece was based on a speech made by journalist Roberto Saviano, who is highly regarded as a man who has written exposés of the Mafia in books such as “Gomorrah” and ZeroZeroZero. Rather unsurprisingly he now lives under police protection.
In his speech he said, “If I asked you what is the most corrupt place on Earth you might tell me well it’s Afghanistan, maybe Greece, Nigeria, the South of Italy and I will tell you it’s the UK.
“It’s not the bureaucracy, it’s not the police, it’s not the politics but what is corrupt is the financial capital. 90 per cent of the owners of capital in London have their headquarters offshore.
“Jersey and the Cayman’s are the access gates to criminal capital in Europe and the UK is the country that allows it.”
The Independent expanded on the theme commenting that, “Many of the criminal corporate activities within the City of London which have dominated the headlines over the past decade are not classified as corruption by Transparency International.
“Instead, the media and financial regulators refer to these institutionalised corporate crimes as “inappropriate conduct” or “mis-selling”.”
Now let’s pause there, because what Roberto Saviano said was that the media go along with the financial regulators in hiding this corruption by using words chosen to cover up what is going on. He didn’t say why, but rather that this is the sort of thing that they do. They go along with the status quo and use the language that the powers that be use, in order to hide what is going on.
So maybe I have been wrong to keep asking why the media will not investigate refereeing standards and organisation in England. Maybe I should never have expected them to ask such questions anyway. After all they never asked questions about why the FA kept on investing money which could have been spent on grass roots football, in bidding for a world cup. And they insist on calling institutionalised corporate crimes “inappropriate conduct”.
The Guardian quoted further from Roberto Saviano’s speech saying, “Today, the criminal economy is bigger than the legal economy. Drug trafficking eclipses the revenue of oil firms. Cocaine is a £300bn-a-year business. Criminal capitalism is capitalism without rules. Mafia and organised crime does not abide by the rule of law – and most financial companies who reside offshore are exactly the same.”
And suddenly I thought, ok, if Roberto Saviano is right and Britain is corrupt from top to bottom, then we shouldn’t start from a position of presuming everything is ok, but from one of presuming that all things are corrupt and that the natural position of the press is to ignore this.
Of course if PGMO were a car crash, I think I might stand a chance in court by saying, “Why would anyone set up an organisation in a way that mimics an earlier organisation doing the same job but which was proven to be corrupt, when it is just as easy to set the organisation in a way that other countries use and which avoids the danger of corruption seeping in?”
But PGMO is not a car crash, it runs refereeing in a way similar to the way in which refereeing was run in Italy in 2003. That doesn’t mean PGMO is corrupt, not that any of the referees are corrupt. But it is always a valid question to ask why they do it this way, and why they are so secretive.
But then, if Britain is the most corrupt country in the world, well, its all just everyday, and what we might expect.
- Arsenal won the Fair Play League this season. I wonder why the media didn’t mention it.
- The reform of the FA is now down to a man particularly familiar with lap dancing.
- REF REVIEW ARSENAL – NORWICH: interesting observations or just coincidence
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