Why the media were united over the issue of Man C players not being sent off




There has been a lot of reaction to the issue of yellow cards in the Arsenal v Manchester City game – I am sure you can’t have missed it, but just in case you did there’s a piece in the Liverpool Echo which summarises the approach of much of the media.  

As one of my colleagues at Untold pointed out to me, rather aptly I thought, there is an approach to sending offs and other punishment which seems to suggest that a) if a referee colleague is having a bad week he needs  to be helped out, and b) that the laws of the game are to be interpreted according to the moment we are at in the game.   

The Liverpool Echo said, “The defeat for Pep Guardiola’s side was overshadowed by the decision not to send off midfielder Mateo Kovacic for a rash tackle on Martin Odegaard. Minutes later, the Croatian lunged in on another Arsenal midfielder, Declan Rice, but escaped punishment in the form of a second yellow card.”

“Overshadowed” is somewhat odd – it certainly didn’t feel that way in the ground.  Joy was unbounded not just where I sit, but everywhere within the ground, everywhere outside the ground, and in the nearby pubs where fans gather to watch the game.

And a little later the comment was added, “Our referee is one of the best referees in the world, he will view that, he doesn’t want to have a negative impact on the game by overreacting to something.”

Now that “one of the best” comment is particularly interesting because it is something that has turned up in the media quite a lot recently.  There’s no justification for it, no analysis, just the statement, “He’s one of the best,” and we are expected to believe it.  So I guess most people do.

What is missing from that and every other analysis that I have seen is the fact that Untold covered in March last year that “Arteta and his team have developed a set of videos that show exactly how each referee works”.   As we noted, “This is in fact merely an extension of the policy of two seasons ago in which the club changed its approach to tackling and so reduced the number of yellow cards from over 80 to around 40.  

In other words Arsenal, and presumably other big clubs, change their game according to which referee they get.   Yet it is unlikely that you will have read about that anywhere else, which is not a point I make in order to crow about how informed Untold is (although we are!!!) but rather the fact that most of the media reports football in the same way, not mentioning the PGMO secrecy or home/away bias issue, changing tactics because of the ref the game has etc… .

The explanation for this is very simple: most of the media that covers football in England is owned by a tiny number of companies.  In terms of newspapers and their websites that means just three: News UK, Daily Mail and General Trust, and Reach plc.

The only alternative source of news concerning football on a national basis comes from TV, and again there are just three outlets in the UK: the BBC, Sky and TNT.

News UK and General Trust are each owned by right-wing billionaires.   News UK owns The Times, The Sun,  talkSPORT, Times Radio, TalkTV and Virgin Radio UK.

Reach owns the Mirror group, Express, Daily Star, Daily Record, Manchester Evening News, Liverpool Echo, WalesOnline, MyLondon and many many more outlets.

With such a small number of owners of all the media, it is not difficult to see why there is a certain unity in the way that any particular topics (such as the quality and impartiality of referees, and whether PGMO is fit for purpose) are covered, or utterly ignored.

And this is where the danger lies, because when there are so few organisations covering a topic, it is normal and natural for the small outlets (such as the privately run blogs) to imitate and follow the route that the mainstream media lay down, in order to take on the look of being “mainstream” rather than “fringe.”

Which means that since the “mainstream” outlets don’t and seemingly won’t talk about oddities in refereeing in the Premier League, except when it slaps them so hard round the face that they would odd if they didn’t report it, so most of the smaller publications follow suit.

Big issues are covered of course.  So the issue of referees trotting off to the middle east, rushing back and then making a balls up of the VAR in a Liverpool match obviously splashes itself across the headlines, because once it was revealed it could not be ignored.

But the fact that Tottenham has almost two and a half times as many yellow cards as the team with the least cards (Crystal Palace) is maths, and the media doesn’t do maths.  

So we also don’t get told that Aston Villa players this season have been fouled almost twice as much as Manchester United players.  Why is that?  I don’t know, and since the media, working in unity, simply won’t engage with this topic, we don’t find out.



5 Replies to “Why the media were united over the issue of Man C players not being sent off”

  1. Referees in football are not very good and do not get fired because they don’t do their jobs very well. That’s hardly news, its been the same way for as long as I can remember. Its not even confined to either the UK or football. To be fair I think rugby refereeing is a bit better but the worst I ever saw was actually in tennis. The umpire was questioned as to why he wasn’t enforcing the time rule on Nadal by his opponent. He stated, to the whole TV audience, that he was the umpire and if he chose to favour certain players he was entitled to do so. While a football referee might think the same way he’d certainly keep quiet about it. The point is bad officiating is widespread, always has been and is not news.

  2. The problem is that if PGMOL start firing referees they will not be able to man each game….this most probably would put them at odds with the contract this organisation has with the PL and put it’s existence in danger.
    So they just keep chugging along, saying that this referee is the best in the country or galaxy etc etc and as no one attacks them, they are still there, a gleaming example of how the logic of old boys networks end up destroying competence and performance, from football to the economy and politics.

  3. Why should we expect higher standards from referees ? You only have to look at the low standard of our pygmy politicians from all parties both national & local, the police force, teachers & NHS (who pay out millions in compensation). No our referees’ standards mirror the lowering standards in other walks of public life. As their incomes go up their standards go down. Which is par for the course.

  4. Adrian

    “The police force, teachers & NHS. As their incomes go up their standards go down.”

    INCOMES GO UP!!!!!

    Whether the standards of Policing, Teaching or Nursing have gone up or down is a matter of opinion, but whether their incomes have gone up is not:

    “Police officers have seen a real-terms cut of 13% since 2009”

    “Salaries for more experienced and senior teachers have fallen by 13% in real-terms since 2010.”

    “The average pay of an NHS nurse has fallen in real terms by 8% since 2010”

    I take it you don’t wok in the public sector Adrian? Whether you do or not, you’ve certainly been reading the Mail too much if you actually believe their money has been going up.

    Don’t want to get in to a political debate, but to suggest such is very odd.

    It’s all out there if you care to look beyond the pages of the Daily Mail.

  5. The answer to this has been suggested more than once on this site. There are not enough referees on the panel, whether this is a financial constraint or not only the PGMOL can say but without an increase in the number of referees on the panel the same qestions will be asked repeatedly. VAR is as subjective as any other refereeing decision, and of course influenced by the dynamic between the referee and the VAR official. Even offside which is a matter of fact can be wrong from VAR, Liverpool being the latest victims alyhough Brentfords goal last season still sticks in my craw. The removal of a referee and/or a VAR official for a game or two doesn’t really work either, if they were retrained in the period of their suspsenion that would be a help but the low number on the panel prevents a proper suspension. In the case of a goal being wrongly disallowed then a minimum suspension outh to be one month with compulsory training within that suspension. The fact is that the PGMOL is not fit for purpose and it is only the clubs who can change this, their insistence on a better arrangement would lead to change and I don’t understand why they are not more vocal on the need for change. Appologies are great but they don’t change the league tables as their mistakes do.

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