- Arsenal: not the youngest team in the PL but certainly the team with the most potential
- There is something very strange going on with yellow cards this season
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.
- Arsenal v Lens: the team, the home/away form and the strange coincidences
- Arsenal v Lens: they had a poor start but are now flying
- Where there is power, money and greed there is corruption
- Why do Tottenham players get fouled more than those of any other club?
- The media, the League and PGMO. An insidious agreement rears its ugly head