Former Premier League referee Mark Halsey claims he was told to say he’d not seen incidents by refereeing body
That is the headline from the Daily Mirror and it is popping up in quite a few newspaper web sites now, originally mostly finishing with a pompous statement about how the newspaper has contacted (ie sent an email to) either PGMO or Mr Halsey to ask for clarification, later printing a bland statement from PGMO saying “it weren’t us” or words to that effect.
The Mirror’s view is that
“The PGMOL will face serious questions after Halsey’s accusations, with Gary Neville asking if it constitutes corruption.”
So it looks like we have the first breach in the universal agreement among news sources not to question, indeed not even to mention (unless running one of their press releases) the PGMO – the highly secretive organisation that controls Premier League refereeing.
Untold of course has been exposing PGMO activities for years, both in terms of the bias of referees and their organisational structure. This summer we showed how alone among European federations, the PGMO still used a structure based on the discredited Italian model that allowed the Calciopoli scandal to happen:
Mark Halsey retired at the end of the 2012-13 season, and refused to sign the PGMO gagging order which most ex-refs sign, even in the face of a £50,000 offer to sign. He made his comments in the debate over Sergio Aguero’s appeal against a three-match ban for violent conduct in elbowing Winston Reid in Sunday’s game between Man City and West Ham.
Manchester City have challenged the ban by the FA on the grounds that TV images showed that referee Andre Marriner was close, looking at Aguero at the time of the incident, and therefore did see it. If he saw the event then the rules say that there can be no retrospective action be taken against a player.
Marriner however clearly said he had not seen the incident therefore permitting a subsequent video review, which is interesting because if the appeal were to be allowed it would say that the refereeing was lying. That would be a first in relation to a match event. Halsey however wrote,
“I have been in that situation when I have seen an incident and been told to say I haven’t seen it,” adding, “To be fair to the FA… it’s not them. It comes from within the PGMO.”
Gary Neville then asked, “Mark, I’d like to know who told you to say that!”
Untold’s campaign against PGMO has been based on a range of issues including the peculiar behaviour of referees as revealed on the website “Referee Decisions” in which referees reviewed the work of other referees across two seasons of Premier League games. But we have also expressed deep concern about the highly secretive nature of the PGMO organisation, and its decision significantly to limit the number of referees and follow a model utterly different from that used in every other major European league.
This we see as an extraordinarily dangerous approach to refereeing since it means that if there were to be a corrupt referee among the employees of PGMO, that referee is likely to be able to influence the results of a particular club multiple times in a season, and thus have a chance to influence the outcome of the league table. We have proposed that no referee should control a game of any single club more than twice a season. All it needs is more referees.
Newspapers and TV stations, on the rare occasions they have mused on the possibility of potential referee corruption, have focussed on a referee promoting a particular team in a match. Thus if, for example (and this is just an example, not a suggestion of an actual case), a referee had been bought by Manchester United, the simplistic approach is to suggest that he would referee a Man U game in favour of Man U and against whoever they were playing.
But the Italian Calciopoli scandal revealed something far more sinister, in which bent referees were also induced to help a team indirectly by influencing the results of their rivals’ matches.
For example, let us imagine that Manchester City and Chelsea were neck and neck at the top of the league, and Manchester City (again, just an example not an accusation) were in the business of influencing referees, they might they might find themselves with a relatively easy match at home that they were sure of winning. But they also suspected Chelsea could win their game. So they might invite their favourite referee to edge matters as far as possible (without being spotted) against Chelsea.
This form of refereeing bias is much harder to see, because it appears to favour different clubs each week and thus gives rise to the “it all evens out in the end” view of referee errors. As a result when an analysis (such as we have undertaken) starts to show that quite often there is a cumulative bias against one club (Arsenal in our case) by referees, then it is easy to laugh the accusations away, without considering the evidence. To suggest that referees are against Arsenal seems to ludicrous – and thus the issue is never debated.
The way around this is to ensure that no referee can referee any side more than twice in a season, to have video refereeing, to have referees drawn equally from across the whole country and to have the whole operation run by a very open (rather than hyper-secretive organisation).
PGMO does not even have a website that fans can see (it used to, it closed it) and the top reference to it on Google for most enquirers, is a very warped article on Wikipedia. Any attempt to reflect any controversy on that page, no matter how accurately reflective of reports, is quickly removed.
PGMO fails on all four important counts by which it should be measured, as we have repeatedly shown. The number of referees is kept very low, so that they do get to ref the same clubs repeatedly. PGMO is highly secretive and has no public face. There is a profound regional bias in the selection of referees and there is of course no video refereeing.
Also interesting is the way that until this moment the media has been resolutely against any questioning of the organisation of referees in the Premier League, largely because any suspicion that things are not right would greatly affect the public’s interest in the league worldwide. And of course broadcasters, and to a lesser degree the press, pay money for Premier League rights – we suspect that there is a secondary contract in each case about what can and what can’t be said. Thus Untold, and for two years Referees Decisions, have remained pretty much at the forefront of the issue, rather out on our own.
It will be as interesting to see whether PGMO attempts successfully to stifle debate, as to see the outcome of the appeal. So far they have said, ““Match officials submit their reports, including critical incidents, directly to the FA. Match officials ensure that their reports are a full and accurate description of the incident. There is no pressure from the PGMOL to include or omit anything.” That is around 40 words. 40 words more than they have ever said on anything else other than how they are at the forefront of video refereeing (!). The Guardian says, “The body in charge of Premier League refereeing has denied claims made by the former match official Mark Halsey that he was put under pressure to say he had not seen controversial incidents take place in matches.”
So don’t expect too much by way of exposition. But at least its a mention.
A review of last weekend’s refereeing decisions – with video evidence.
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