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By Nitram and Tony Attwood
A recent headline in the Sun read, “DISGRACED: Mikel Faces Ban Over Ref Rant.” It was a clear case of judging first and having the trial later. We can only feel relief that the people who own and write for the Sun don’t (as yet, at any rate) run our court system.
“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, if Artetas measured, if somewhat critical take on all things VAR is a ‘rant’, what on earth is “how VAR has f***ed up”?
That actually goes further and uses much more insulting language than Arteta used. But the media can claim what they like it seems, but those within football don’t have that freedom. And indeed we remember how Arsene Wenger suffered massive fines and suspensions (reduced or withdrawn when he appealed) for making comments about referees and international football bodies.
And some of Wenger’s comments were indeed informative and amusing. Like the one about Uefa and Fifa being like car thieves, except that having taken your car and run it into the ground, they had it back demanding that you have it repaired and ready for next time.
To be fair to the Mirror their headlines about Arteta are not quite so bombastic although they still use the word ‘rant in the subheading:
FA REACH DECISION ON PUNISHMENT FOR ARSENAL STATEMENT AS MIKEL ARTETA AWAITS FATE
Which rather suggests that the FA have reached their judgement first, and then will have the hearing later. Which actually, doesn’t come as a surprise.
Indeed that Mirror comment is actually quite mild given the relentless attacks from them and their associated outlets over the years, but nevertheless they are hardly getting behind Arteta, which is a surprise given how nearly every one of their journalists pretty much agrees with every word he has said about referees.
For example, following a weekend of VAR controversy back in September 2022 the Mirror decided things were getting so bad they asked a range of their reporters what they thought of VAR, and how we should move forward with it. This is what they had to say about VAR back then:
James Nursey: “VAR is in the spotlight again after a disastrous controversial weekend which must test the faith of even the most ardent backers of the system.
“Fans could even be forgiven for pining for the days when we just left everything in the hands of the matchday referee on the pitch. There has since been a clamour for VAR to be ditched entirely with the likes of Jamie O’Hara hitting out…. the referees and VAR officials at Stockley Park do need to be held to account over the weekend’s fiasco.”
That is quite a change from today’s position. But the writer at that time continued…
“Having legitimate goals ruled out is the last thing any supporters or teams deserve. I think the sensible plan is for the officials to review their performance, which is taking place, and for the Premier League to closely assess this winter’s World Cup where Fifa plan to use semi-automated offside technology.”
Or we might care to look at the Mirror’s Nathan Ridley who wrote, “The PGMOL can spout the clear and obvious narrative all they want, but that consistently hasn’t been the case, particularly this past weekend. What actually seems to determine whether a decision is checked or not is the amount of harassment officials receive from players and coaches in the immediate aftermath of incidents, or the magnitude of the game.”
Then the Mirror reporter David Maddock asked “What should we do with VAR?” And his answer was “Just scrap it in its current form. We were supposed to get a discreet background system of checks, which corrected the massive and obvious howlers.
“Instead, we’ve got something that seems to forensically check everything. Waiting minutes and minutes to know if you’ve scored a goal is not what football is about. To then discover later that the officials making those laborious checks got it wrong, is insane. It drains the whole essence of sport.”
VAR operators should be “Held to account” made to “Review their performance” because it “Can’t continue in its current format” and “should be scrapped.” These comments are all indicative of the Mirror’s take on the appalling standard of the VAR interventions, and that was a year ago, and as far as I can see it has just got even worse.
Arteta’s statement contained nothing any more contentious than the views expressed by five reporters in the Mirror. In fact he was less scathing than most, as he never suggested for one second it should be scrapped, just that its implementation needed to be improved, because as we stand today it is embarrassing.
Unfortunately, it seems the Sun and The Mirror haven’t got a clue that their very own reporters in fact agree with every word Arteta said. And let’s not forget VAR has continued in the same incompetent fashion this year, and the reporters’ opinions haven’t changed either. For example the Mirror in August this year said, “Despite the new season still being in its infancy, officials are already under pressure after a string of high-profile and contentious calls. Nottingham Forest are considering lodging an official complaint following their dramatic 3-2 defeat at Manchester United, with divisive calls on a red card and a penalty both going against the visitors.”
By 2 October this year, they were headlining, “VAR’s five howlers this season as PGMOL hold crisis talks to solve Liverpool fallout.”
After that game, Liverpool lodged a complaint and demanded to hear the audio between the officials, but that was okay apparently and did not result in any charge against the club. And The Mirror’s Samuel Meade summed it all up saying, “Those using it (VAR) have ‘failed’ Players, Managers, and Fans.”
And yet when Arteta speaks out in the same way, it is a “rant.” The level of hypocrisy we are witnessing from the media is simply astonishing and actually shameful.
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