By Tony Attwood
Arsène Wenger’s comments about referees after yesterday’s match were largely ignored or treated as more bleating by a man who won’t face up to his own team’s failings. And this was inevitable given the fact that the media has refused to engage in the debate as to why the PGMO (which organises referee affairs in the Premier League) is as it is. They have no debate to base further comments on.
It is, as you might expect (if you have followed our debate about refereeing) utterly different on the continent. But the media won’t ask why we have gone our own way on refereeing and so when the issue arises they are stuck. As I will show in a moment, the media in Europe is much more liberated on the matter. It is primarily England where the lights have gone out.
To start with Arsène Wenger’s view expressed yesterday. He accused referees of being protected “like lions in the zoo” pointing out the errors in officiating before the Man C goals.
At once the Telegraph denied the validity of anything Mr Wenger might say by following that comment not with an explanation of what Mr Wenger meant but with the statement that “Arsenal threw away a lead for the second Premier League game in six days.”
“Threw away” obviously means it was Arsenal’s fault so the debate is over before it is begun.
Mr Wenger said, “Both goals were offside, which is very difficult to accept in a game of that stature. The second he is five yards offside. But as it is well known the referees are protected very well, what is right, like the lions in the zoo, so we have to live with their decisions.
“I want them to be very well protected. I want them to be safe. But if they could make the right decisions it would be even better.”
A journo asked Mr Wenger to define “safe”, and Mr Wenger said, “It is too long a subject, I do not want to make referees the subject of the press conference. I just feel it is right they are safe and protected but if they make good decisions then even better. I can understand City look very happy, I would be as well. But I think the goals were offside.”
Petr Cech also said, “I have to say that there were players in front of the goal so I didn’t see the shot and there were people running across and I don’t know if one of them was David Silva or not. But I didn’t see the ball because it was behind the players.”
And there it will be left apart, probably from some comments about Whinging Wenger. But matters are different elsewhere. Take the Swiss newspaper 24 heures which has just run the article “Il est grand temps d’aider les arbitres, de gré ou de force”
In Switzerland they are not stuck with an ultra secret refereeing body that models its approach on the methodology used in Italy in 2006 during their refereeing corruption scandal known as “Calciopoli”. Juventus, Milan, Fiorentina, Lazio, and Reggina were among the major clubs implicated.
24 heures piece last week welcomed the new trials of the video box that Walter demonstrated on Untold a few days ago – trials that allow the ref to see the game from multiple angles.
Such technology has hardly been mentioned in the UK press – but in Switzerland they are already going beyond its introduction and considering any possible difficulties that might arise from the process subsequently, and how these can be overcome. They are already debating what to do about head in the sand referees who argue that somehow the new video box approach is not right for the game because it reduces their power. Referees who refuse to consult the box, or do so and still give the wrong decision.
So while the British press do nothing but sneer at Wenger’s “moaning”, and haven’t even started to consider the new technology, in Switzerland the media, not tied to the hands of an autocratic all-powerful refereeing lobby like the PGMO, have gone way beyond that and are onto the next step.
The whole article is translated below, but there is one other point I would make. This article in part sees Switzerland as being way behind in adopting modern approaches to the game and links that backwardnesss with the fact that the Swiss haven’t been in any major finals for a while. If Switzerland is backwards I don’t know where that places England. But it is an interesting view on why England do so badly on the international stage.
Here’s the article in full.
“It is time to help the referees, willingly or by force.
“Refereeing in football must evolve. It is no longer an option but a real necessity. With increasingly fast-paced pressures – notably economic pressures – getting increasingly strong, it is no longer reasonable to expect referees to be up to speed in all circumstances. Especially since there are ways to help them.
“After the introduction of the technology concerning the goal line (to see if the ball has crossed it or not), the use of the video appears as the most appropriate measure to eliminate the most commonly seen errors. Then we might be able to eradicate, for example, the scene seen on Saturday with a shameful penalty awarded to Vaduz in the final seconds of the Super League match.
Revolution in motion
“This revolution is on the march. Last September, the friendly match between Italy and France served as a bench test for video assistance for the referees. At the same time, in Japan, Fifa is testing it in the framework of the World Cup of Clubs.
“The Hungarian Viktor Kassai granted on Wednesday, the first “video penalty” in history on the basis of the images that he was able to see instantly. These experiments involve a dozen countries (Germany, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, the United States, France, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, Portugal, Qatar and the Czech Republic) and will run until March 2018, when Fifa may advocate them for wider use at the World Cup in Russia.
“Among the countries most interested in this development are the United States. Thus, Major League Soccer – the North American championship – has already announced that it will use the first half of the 2017 season to carry out tests and the second to officially introduce the use of video. Of course, it will still be necessary to clarify its use: how many times per match and by whom, for what kind of scenes? But this codification will not represent a major difficulty.
“If even then it still remains a matter for discussion, the professionalization of arbitrators, as it exists in some countries, can no longer be sufficient. In recent years, adapting to the evolution of the game, most team sports have made changes to the refereeing, often by putting an additional man on the field – so as to increase the viewing angles beyond just being seen from the side, like those beside the goal assistants we see at European competitions and who give the unfortunate impression of not serving any particular purpose – or at least not much.
The question of power
“It is therefore urgent that football – at least at the professional level – acquires the means that go with the times. A reality that, for now, does not seem to impress some people in the Swiss League. How can we be surprised that Switzerland has not been represented at the final tournament level with such a view.
“But there remains, perhaps, a pitfall which is not immediately thought of by reference to the concerns of arbitration. It belongs to the psychology of those whose mission is to defend the rules of the collective game par excellence. More specifically, referees themselves!
“Those who do not necessarily like the help that comes at the expense of some of their prerogatives, their power. These guys, contrary to the idea one might have, often shine neither in their modesty nor in their dedication to the cause of football. Their ambition is strongly personal, and it is a view that may not be suitable enough for technical assistance. We want to believe that error is human. But is this sufficient reason to persevere with the old approach?