By Tony Attwood
Of course we need to be clear here: referees have been protected by the media for years because of the fact that the media will always put their own self-interest ahead of the need to report reality.
Thus ever since the 1970s TV has been in the business of promoting football as being exciting and entertaining (with only a few exceptions) in order to keep its audience up. In that decade there are several instances of the newspapers actually criticising TV companies for the way they falsely reported football, but gradually as the newspapers’ own influence has waned the press have adopted a totally meek attitude to football. “All is wonderful, it’s very exciting, Arsenal are rubbish, and any fans who say otherwise are demented.” That (to bend the phrase) sums the media all up.
But just recently, with newspaper audiences falling faster than a rock dropped from 50,000 feet (which as I am sure you will know will fall at 32 feet per second per second), and with TV doing nothing to help the newspapers shore up their crumbling empires, publishing moguls have been looking around for ways to stop the rot.
And thus slowly, very slowly (and charted, if I may be so bold as to say so) by Untold (and virtually no one else) the newspapers are changing. And from that the tiny bloggettas who of course do little other than make up a headline and copy a bit of text from a paper, have started to follow.
Thus throughout this season we have had articles commenting negatively on referees (although, of course, never asking why the ref might be this bad). And now we are starting to see the second front.
Wait for it.
Criticism of pundits.
Paul Merson continues to get his predictions spectacularly wrong
is the bold claim in the Telegraph, carefully hiding the fact that Telegraph pundits don’t do that well either.
Of course Paul is a bit of a soft target since the dear old lad does ramble on a bit, and has the old Tony Adams school of thought, which reads, “he’s foreign, what does he know about football?” Paul’s latest demise in that regard came about with an attempt to make a prediction about the success or otherwise of Marco Alexandre Saraiva da Silva (I think Paul calls him “that foreign guy”) at Hull, which, on the grounds of him not coming from Harlesden, was thought to be about less than 1%.
The attack on Paul in that regard is a bit unfair since his fellow Sky pundit, Phil Panellist, was just as “countryist” (we can’t really call it racist since I don’t think being Portuguese is normally called a race), and their concept that only English managers can make a success of the Premier League does not take much scrutiny.
Hull had won one league game in the previous 16 when the new man came along and has since won three, drawn two and lost three, which is a fair old improvement.
Of course there is a great danger in criticising a pundit from elsewhere because it can all come round and bounce back, but still there are some tempting idiots out there to hit. Take R Savage for example. He did a long spout on radio about how video replay facilities for referees could not possibly work because the games would go on all night if replays were introduced – unaware that they had already been tried out in a Fifa tournament a month before his wild rant, and had been acclaimed by everyone to be a great success.
Until now Savage has been given column space on the BBC’s website to defend himself, which has done by careful editing of his rants and a new twist on reality, but now it seems the time might be ripe for other outlets to pick him up.
The fact is that much of the time most pundits get things very very wrong when they make predictions because most of their predictions are basically saying, “same as last year except Arsenal will do worse”. Even with very simple predictions like the top four, only about 25% of them get it right. At most.
Of course if you make the same call often enough your prediction will eventually happen, but it is hard to find anyone who predicted Chelsea’s demise last season, or Leicester’s rise. Nor the inability of Man U to make the top four since Sir F Word’s departure. Nor Man City’s inability to win everything even when supported by 10% of the world’s gas supply.
And yet, they go on and on and on and on making predictions. Just like the media in general has, until just recently, gone on and on and on and on suggesting that there is nothing wrong with refereeing, when we can all see it before our very eyes, and any serious analysis will show, that the opposite is true.
Just like the media go on and on pretending that their transfer rumours are actually going to happen, that players transferred generally make a difference in the first season, and that a change of manager generally improves things.
And just as they have for years and year soaked up the totally fabricated story about Arsenal injuries, and only gave up when we started publishing the injury tables every week.
So could this be the moment we will look back on and think – the spring of 2017, when amazingly the media stopped publishing unmitigated gibberish as predictions and hit the reality button?
Wouldn’t that be nice. Evidence based football punditry? You never know!