Arsenal’s protest over VAR shows club have had enough, and the disgraceful bias of much of the media



By Tony Attwood

Arsenal have finally taken a public stand against PGMO in no uncertain terms with a statement saying that “Arsenal Football Club wholeheartedly supports Mikel Arteta’s post-match comments after yet more unacceptable refereeing and VAR errors on Saturday evening.”

Additionally it is being claimed that the officials handling VAR were Andy Madley and Stuart Burt who it is being said, have jobs with the Saudi League which is owned by the Saudi Arabian Public Investment Fund, an organisation which coincidentally also owns Newcastle United.  These allegations have appeared on X, but we don’t have any way of confirming this yet.

However, the force of the reaction against Arsenal’s statement today condemning the way the Newcastle game was officiated from certain media outlets that consistently refuse to criticise middle east investment in clubs, suggests that these comments are getting close to the mark.

Indeed the speed with which the forces of reaction came trundling out after Arteta’s claim that something was seriously wrong, and after Arsenal FC took the unprescendted step of backing him up, was something to behold.

If you’re a regular reader you will know this issue has been a central campaign of ours since we started Untold: that there is a lot fundamentally wrong with refereeing in the Premier League, and the PGMO needs investigating.   There are many articles on this theme on this site, and you might like to look at How referee bias works: the details and the statistics as one starting point.  But if you want to go back a long way how about this from 13 years ago Quantifying the bias of Arsenal’s referees vs the rest of the league  

And of course there is our classic analysis of referee decisions in160 games complete with video clips: 160 games analysed.

Although all of our efforts (until now) to show that something is seriously wrong were ignored, we have since turned to a statistical analysis, using the official data on such matters on home and away bias but all the while waiting for one club to break the silence and back us.

And now it has happened – and would you believe it, it was Arsenal that did it.

This is not to say that Arsenal have been following our campaign; indeed I’ve no idea if they have any knowledge of what we have been writing about for 15 years.   But the fact is that with that statement Arsenal is the club who have been brave enough to bring the matter out into the open, and I’m very proud it is Arsenal that have had the guts to do it.

The reactionary media have of course been caught on the wrong foot.  Having backed PGMO all these years they have no option now but to carry on defending the indefensible.  The Mirror for example has ceaselessly supported PGMO and its referees, so of course now has to attack Arsenal, as it has done with  “Gary Neville slams Arsenal for ‘undermining’ statement”

Football London, published by the same company as the Mirror, however quickly started to establish a get-out-of-jail route for the newspaper group by publishing a statement to the effect that Arteta “did not hint at there being a specific bias from officials against Arsenal – something Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp and former Everton manager Frank Lampard have done in the past. Back in May, Klopp was suspended from the touchline for two matches and fined £75,000 following his comments to the media after the match against Tottenham Hotspur on April 30.”

Of course, others have not been silent. 7am kick off ran the headline “Major decisions that the referees have gotten wrong … in February this year in which they found “four major incidents where Arsenal have been very clearly harmed by poor or biased referee decisions….”

The Daily Mail however is on the side of PGMO giving much more publicity to a repost from Michael Owen suggesting he called “Mikel Arteta ’embarrassing’ and ‘disgraceful’ for criticising refereeing standards after his side’s 1-0  defeat by Newcastle – and slams ‘classless’ Arsenal for releasing a statement in support of their manager.”  (The Mail calling Arsenal “classless” – that’s something worth reading!)

The Daily Star also comes out on PGMO’s side with the headline “Mikel Arteta told he’s ‘biggest hypocrite in Prem’.”

Of course, PGMO could now come out and suspend Arteta and fine him and ban him, and tell the club that if there are any more instances like this the club will lose points.  I have no idea if PGMO can remove points from a club, but they normally claim they have absolutely unlimited powers so it is something they could try.

But whatever else we think, it looks like after well over a decade of campaigning against the PGMO and pointing out what a biased and bent organisation it is, suddenly some of the media have decided that this might be the time to change sides.

24 Replies to “Arsenal’s protest over VAR shows club have had enough, and the disgraceful bias of much of the media”

  1. That PGMOL officials can oversee games in the Saudi Pro league & then games in the Prem with a club owned by the Saudi investment fund beggars belief.

  2. To call Arteta/Arsenal hypocrites is utterly ridiculous. Pot and Kettle.

    Here again is what Mark Irwin said in the Sun a couple of weeks ago:

    “What exactly is refs’ chief Webb hoping to achieve with match officials Mic’dup?”

    “Because we really don’t want to hear him and Michael Oliver telling us how VAR has f***** up”

    “We’re already well aware of the wrong calls the Premier League’s elite officials have made this season”

    “Replaying those errors with running commentary from Stockley Park is just going to p*** us off even more”

    “So maybe Webb should stay silent if the best he can come up with is ‘yes, we’re useless, but at least we are honest about it’”

    So it’s okay for The Sun to throw these accusations at the PGMOL . Accusations such as:

    “….how VAR has f***ed up”

    “We’re already well aware of the wrong calls the Premier League’s elite officials have made…..”

    ““Replaying those errors….

    ‘F***ed up’ ‘Wrong Calls’ ‘Errors’

    So they know they are crap. They say it themselves. If the Sun criticise Arsenal for saying it then surely they should sack their own columnist for saying it?

    Arteta and Arsenal have just said what Irwin, The Sun, and everyone else knows, and that is that the PGMOL is utterly useless to the point of completely incompetent.

    The difference is Arsenal think something has to be done, whereas the media don’t.

    One has to wonder why?

    As for the likes of Neville and Owen. I don’t know a single person who gives any validity to a word they say.

  3. Like many others I alternate between thinking that the refs are fantastically incompetent and that they are bent. That it is one or the other, or both at the same time, is without question. To those that doubt that a whole organisation can be so useless and or corrupt I could ask you to look at our government….
    I must say also add that this site should be praised for consistently calling this out over the years. I fully accept it’s not just Arsenal that suffers, some other clubs have also been victims of PGMOL BS and indeed may suffer more because not everyone has our resources.
    The whole of football would benefit from a level playing field.

  4. Bruno Guimarães was extraordinarily fortunate to stay on the pitch yesterday. In addition to the yellow he received for grabbing Fábio Vieira’s throat (an offence Xhaka received red cards for), he should have received a red for the elbow into the back of Jorginho’s neck, a yellow for shoving Jorginho in the back off the ball, and at least a yellow for kicking the ball at Havertz.

    The failure of the officials to punish the last three of these offences is inexplicable if you believe that the role of the officials is to apply the laws of the game.

    So what are the officials actually there for?

  5. GodWoreTen

    “I fully accept it’s not just Arsenal that suffers”

    I agree, even though I do think we get screwed more than most, but hey I’m an Arsenal fan so I concede I may have a different perspective than fans of other clubs, although in my defence, over the years, untold, myself and many others have produced stats that tend to support the notion we are indeed screwed more than most.

    But others do indeed suffer, and it’s with that in mind that I hope against hope that reasonable fans of other clubs, and even other clubs, stand behind Arsenal in the calling out of the utter incompetence of The PGMOL, and in their wake the referees and VAR operators, because as Arteta and Arsenal say, it is an embarrassment and it is played out in front of the rest of the World on a weekly basis.

    Alas I just cant see it happening because football fans are just far too tribal, and clubs are completely immersed in self interest.

    But we can but hope.

  6. If it’s true , you can’t help wonder who else is on the payroll , not just in the PGMOL but the media also.

  7. seismic

    1: grabbing Fábio Vieira’s throat (an offence Xhaka received red cards for),

    2: the elbow into the back of Jorginho’s neck,

    3: shoving Jorginho in the back off the ball,

    4: kicking the ball at Havertz.

    When you put it like that it is simply astonishing that somehow the media has turned what was a refereeing and VAR travesty against us.

    And that’s not even mentioning the goal.

    The events of yesterday and the subsequent fall out has made me despair for us, AND the game in general, more than ever before.

    Given the tragic events throughout the World, this is of course within the context of football, but nether the less, within that context, it is the worst I have ever felt. It is just so depressing and to be honest the situation feels hopeless.

  8. I agree with the article 100% and pretty much all the comments. A couple of points that have not been mentioned.

    I believe there are 21 referees that officiate in the Premiership. How can it be that 12 of them are from the Greater Manchester area and and apart from 2 from the West Country not one from south of Nottingham. No wonder there is bias!

    The other point is who the hell are PGMOL, who appointed them to rule over all officiating at the games. The refs used to be appointed by the FA. Who allows this self appointed secret society to run the game.

  9. I like the fact Arsenal have now come out swinging. This statement is not just a statement. It is a gauntlet being thrown.
    And I would not be surprised that in the case PGMOL tried something like punishing Arteta or the club for these statements, Arsenal go to the courts.

    Litigation is something US companies know about and usually are not scared of.

    And if it is confirmed the PGMOL incompetents infield did indeed have some paid activities down in Saudi… I believe this will escalate seriously.

    That being said, when you compare the statistics as Tony has done for years, you do see a bunch of incompetents morons, each n his own way : too many away wins, too many home wins, etc. And you see that thea behave the same way over years.

    Armed with such a group of incompetents, any person in charge of nominating the referees can organise them at will, each moron being a weapon of sorts against one of the teams.

  10. well the hounds have been freed and it starts with the guardian.
    10 talking points, 2 attacking Arteta straight on. Like a hysterical woman, incompetent in his handling of the goalkeeper issue, it is all his fault.
    The owners do have some financial firepower and can I hope afford the long view and not step back fromthe fight.
    This is about to get ugly.
    I do hope the Arsenal fan websites do not take the bait and stand behinr club and manager

  11. Chris

    It’s classic mis direction.

    The officials were incompetent. The referee, and VAR especially, made huge errors. They do it all the time, hence a multitude of apologies.

    Of all this there is no doubt.

    Even Neville, one of the loudest and biggest attackers admitted it was a foul on Gabriel, but tried to defend the referee by saying ‘it was just a small foul’ as if that is some sort of mitigation.

    If I went round his house and gave him a punch on the nose, just a small one you understand, would that mean it actually wasn’t a punch on the nose? Would that make it okay?

    Yes your honour I did punch him on the nose but it was just a small one.

    That’s alright then, case dismissed.

    But they don’t want to talk about any of that, so lets ignore it and make it about Arsenals goalkeeper. Pathetic.

    This is going to get messy, I just hope our club take this as far as they need to expose the utterly incompetent PGMOL, and hopefully expose the media for the disgraceful, complicit apologists they are.

    It may well cost us in the end but I don’t give a f*** because as it is we wont be allowed to win anything anyway.

    Personally I think our biggest argument will come from the establishment of a connection between the Saudi’s and The PGMOL. In fact I think that connection has already been established with the use of PGMOL officials in their Leagues.

    If being paid extortionate amounts of money by people who own clubs in this country that you officiate the very next week is not a conflict of interests, I don’t know what is?

    It’s not only a conflict of interest with officials that have already done that, it surely creates an issue with other officials who may want a piece of the Saudi pie?

    If referee X is keen on pocketing some big bucks from the people that own Newcastle or Man City, surely that at least leads to the possibility they will referee them in such a fashion as to not upset them?

    I can just imagine the outcry if Kronke was paying our referees extortionate amounts of money to referee in the states.

    The media would be going apoplectic.

    And they have the audacity to call us hypocrites.

  12. @Nitram,

    Fully agree with all your points.
    I just hope that this time Arsenal as an organisation and it owners will not back down and not give in.
    Something has to give and this travesty of neutral and competent referees that the PL and PGMOL have been delivering us needs to end.
    Some other teams will get screwed playing against Newcastle or City and the total incompetencce of referees at large will be showcased again, between some moonlighting in the Arab Peninsula. They are so incompetent they cannot see that the shit is hitting the fan. Their so british arrogance will be at some point their downfall.

  13. @Phillips Lyon

    “I believe there are 21 referees that officiate in the Premiership. How can it be that 12 of them are from the Greater Manchester area and and apart from 2 from the West Country not one from south of Nottingham. No wonder there is bias!”

    Right on the point.

  14. Predictably ALL the usual suspects have ganged up in their reaction to deflect on the complete ineptitude/ corruption? Of the PGMOL officiating of the match.O’ Hara,Neville the snake,Owen,Irish media,Lineker.The Guardian,the Mail,the Star,the Mirror,the Sun,Talkshite radio,etc etc etc.The attempted backlash.
    Let’s hope PGMOL are stupid enough to threaten points deduction etc.Then Arsenal can really go to town.Court of Arbitration for sport.Drag their sorry Arses in there.
    Arsenal must have a file on contentious decisions & VAR cock ups as thick as war & peace.Bring it on.

  15. Proud of my club who finally (this is years tooooooooo late) have come out and made a strong statement about the PGMOL. Should and could have done this years ago in the Wenger era. But better late than never.

  16. The other thing I feel proud of is the way the Gunners did not flinch, did not let the constant aggression stop them and how they did not show fear of it. I’d even say some players relished it. They won’t be bullied as easily as some of the teams past.

  17. Something else I noticed on Saturday was that were were punished for a foul-throw. In itself, this is not a problem, but when I see at lease 5 or 6 every week in the PL, and Arsenal are the only team punished, the smell of corruption becomes even stronger.

  18. The media is full of stories recently concerning the £100 million transfer of Ivan Toney to Arsenal in the January window. The story is being pushed by all of the “newspapers” as if it is a done deal. Toney was recently charged with 262 breaches of betting regulations, and found guilty of 232 of them. Why would any club (let alone Arsenal) want to take a £100 million gamble (see what I did there?) on a player with a history of breaking gambling rules? Imagine if he came to Arsenal and did the same thing again, leaving Arsenal lumbered with a player banned for an entire season, or possibly longer. Toney’s gambling included placing bets on his own team to lose. I know I wouldn’t feel comfortable signing off £100 million in these circumstances.

    I’m sure Arsenal are not stupid, and are aware of the situation, but the media keep banging on about him being the obvious signing to sort out Arsenal’s “attacking problems”, and won’t let the story go.

    Now, add these relentlessly parroted stories to the constant moaning about Arteta’s “rants”, and it’s not difficult to see the media as a mouthpiece for somebody else.

    I wonder who.

  19. it was a terrible decision. It is not isolated and it is clear that VAR is not the problem -the decision makers are. It is absolutely clear that a huge injustice occurred when Newcastle’s goal stood. Northern bias is alive and well in English football. We will never prosper as a footballing nation until we get our head out of our arses and realise that English officiating in football is a huge weakness in our game and needs reform. If a goal can stand after such a foul it just looks like we condone foul play when a team plays at home in front of a rabid screaming home crowd.
    Nevilles views are irrelevant- he is not a neutral observer. Sadly he is part of the football establishment opposed to change and reform.

  20. Ignoring the ‘goal’ as too much opinion has been written about this already. I would just like to focus on the issues surrounding Bruno Guimares and Jorginho, which appear to have been conveniently ignored in all the controversy.

    Before I do that I would state that the Havertz tackle could have gone either way. Longstaff made a meal of things because it was the trailing leg that caught him. This is not like the two Dan Burns ‘enforcers’ as Stuart Pearce used to call them, where he went straight through the back of Saka. What did the referee do? Give a freekick but NO yellow card. Havertz could classify himself as lucky bearing in mind the knee brush by David Luiz at Wolves a few years ago.

    Now ‘Bruno’. His forearm smash to the back of Jorginho’s head was with intent and VAR should have seen this. That is assault out on the street and is violent conduct on a football field. Violent conduct is a sending off offence. So why did VAR and Stuart Atwell ignore this and refuse to produce a Red Card? A few minutes later ‘Bruno’ deliberately ran 20 yards at Jorginho and shoved him to the ground after Jorginho had passed the ball. We were not talking split seconds here either. There was plenty of time for him to pull out. This was clearly visible to both the referee and VAR. Why was no action taken? Stuart Attwell should have taken action immediately after this.

    Stuart Attwell has previous with us. I am sure that if Jorginho had committed the two offences on ‘Bruno’ in reverse a red card would have been the outcome before the second offence.

    Personally, I think the Club’s statement of support on Arteta and Arteta’s justifiable rant will come back to bite us on the bum. I can already see many many more questionable decisions going against us because the Cartel that is PGMOL don’t like being taken to task.

  21. The link to the Said Pro League is confirmed for Stuart Burt.
    He was the assistant ref in the game between Al Hilal and Al Nassr on 18th April this year.

    Both of the clubs in that game are owned by the PIF , the Saudi Sovereign Wealth Fund that owns Newcastle.

    It is an absolute scandal that the PGMO would be placing officials into Newcastle games that have been paid by Newcastles owners for lucrative gigs in Saudi Arabia.

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