Football out of control
- Saka is being kicked to bits, and the refs are doing nothing about it
- What the media won’t tell you about football, referee home bias
By Tony Attwood
There are commentaries still appearing on the subject of the assistant referee Constantine Hatzidakis pushing away Andy Robertson in the Liverpool v Arsenal match. Andy Robertson was shown a yellow card for dissent by the referee after he argued the point to the referee, and Constantine Hatzidakis has been given a metaphorical red card, in that he has been “stood down” from further games for a while.
And there the matter waits, with a lot of press coverage of the incident but, and this really is the big point, no commentary in the media (at least none that I have seen) on the context.
Yet this is the fundamental point here: why did Robertson feel entitled to go up to the assistant referee and talk to him and seemingly harangue him? Why in fact does every player feel able to surround referees these days and argue their point repeatedly? Indeed how did football in England get to the point where referees are regularly surrounded by players?
Verbally or even physically attacking a referee or an assistant referee would seem to be in many ways the death of football since quite clearly the game cannot be played without a referee to decide what is and what is not happening.
And I guess the total nadir of football in this regard, in which anything is possible arrived when “PSG president Nasser Al-Khelaifi ‘threatened a Real Madrid employee’ during a FURIOUS rampage to find the referee after their dramatic Champions League exit at the Bernabeu, claim reports in Spain” as the Daily Mail put it in March last year.
Now as far as I know Al-Khelaifi’s behaviour was documented in the referee’s report, where it was stated that the PSG chief and others “behaved aggressively and tried to enter the referee’s dressing room. When the referee asked them to leave, the president hit a piece of the assistant’s equipment, breaking it.”
However, although Uefa clearly opened an investigation into that affair Al-Khelaifi escaped punishment for his actions. As of course he had to because Al-Khelaifi is chair of beIN Media Group which handles the rights to a huge amount of football across 43 countries. And he is chair of owned by the Qatar finance ministry, the Qatar Olympic Committee (which is part of the sovereign-wealth fund in Qatar) etc etc. Annoy him, and the money dries up.
So how did we get to the situation in which players can regularly surround a referee, and another can chase after an assistant referee and harangue him? Well, there’s the answer – because we are in an age where a senior football official and club owner can burst into the referee’s room after a game and harangue him, without anything happening, and without any punishment being handed out.
To bring this back to the English situation, we must add that PGMO has for years followed a path in which nothing is explained. There is no public face of PGMO – it sits there in silence as the power of the referee and officials is gradually eroded.
Now there is an important distinction here between referees and assistants getting decisions right, which we all want, and the retention of the authority of referees and assistants on the pitch – for without the authority of the officials being retained we don’t have football any more.
Of course, the TV companies love events like this because it gives them ever more to discuss – indeed one can imagine that the producers of the live coverage were desperately trying to find a picture showing a player hitting referee: they just want the sensationalism.
But the PGMO incompetence is also to blame for not maintaining the authority of the referee and assistants on the pitch – for without that we have no game. Indeed in this regard we can think back to the old notion of “Fergie Time” – that concept that when Manchester United were losing, additional “added time” was added by the referee as Sir Alex Ferguson ceaselessly paced, shouted and pointed at his watch. In fact Opta did an analysis of this which showed how the amount of time added to Manchester United games increased year by year.
TV companies of course love this – the Hatzidakis and Robertson event was a god-send to them, giving way to ever more opportunity for instant opinion and hyperbole.
Yet it is interesting to note that in Germany they have no problems of this nature, seemingly because the referees talk on TV – in England that is not allowed under PGMO ultra-secrecy rules.
Why did Robertson feel entitled to harangue the assistant official in this way? Because it was assumed that Liverpool would win, because Liverpool invariably win at home. Because Saka was not shown a red card as expected. Because… the whole situation has got totally out of control.
- Arsenal v Newcastle: the team and league positons AFTER the game.
- Arsenal v Newcastle: injuries, yellow cards and recent form
- Arsenal v Newcastle: the referee who just doesn’t oversee home wins
- Newcastle United’s weakness revealed and what they could do. Arsenal v Newcastle United.
- Arsenal v Newcastle: the tackles, fouls and yellow cards compared