How the media caved in leaving no one who is willing to challenge PGMO and the referees



“The boys in the studio, as we once knew them, are not there to play football: they are there to discuss it. There is demonstrably a difference between being really good at doing a thing and being good at talking about it.”

That is most certainly true, but there is something else to note in that simple statement.   For it ignores the key point, “What exactly is allowed to be part of the discussion?”   Can anyone step outside of the norms of the discussion and actually keep his/her job as a pundit or commentator or journalist or whatever else we want to call the person?

Now within this debate there is the statement (made in the same article and given as a quote by Joey Barton that, “Obviously it helps to talk about the men’s game if you have played that men’s game, and the higher the level arguably the better because it gives you a unique experience.”

Except that playing of the game will have been in the context of an agreed unified approach to discussing it.  An approach in which, for example, a key element is the nature of the referee is ignored, for that discussion is not something we have ahead of each game.   Players yes, recent results yes, but the propensities of the referees to favour the home team or the away team, or to fail to give obvious penalties?  No, that’s not on the agenda.

Seen this way, it doesn’t matter whether an ex-player or a professional journalist provides the commentary, there is an unwritten agreement that the nature of the issues discussed is the same each time.

Now we could argue of course that since the ex-player pundit has played in the game at the highest level he would know if refereeing is a key issue in the match.  But then if he or she starts talking a lot about the referee the chances are that the player will be quickly “put right”.

The one commentator who stood out against the standardisation of commentary as I have mentioned before was Alan Green who in his commentaries stood up to both referees and managers, saying of Sir Alex Ferguson for example, “He either bullies or frightens. It’s the way he exerts his control over the media. He would be a fantastic propaganda minister. He knows how to manipulate and some of my colleagues take it in.”

As the Guardian put it, “From Sir Alex Ferguson to a sheep dog, Alan Green has upset them all.”  Indeed to show how much clubs worried about just how close Green got to the truth we might also note that in 2006, he was banned from Bolton Wanderers’ Reebok Stadium for saying that Bolton played “ugly” football.   In 2007 Allardyce left Bolton and the club quickly made it clear that Green could return.

In an article for The Belfast Telegraph in Belfast Telegraph. 22 September 2010, Green wrote: “Am I alone in thinking Sam Allardyce must be the most arrogant football manager that’s ever lived?”

Certainly an awareness of what Sam Allardyce was, was shown when he was appointed Engand manager and behaved in exactly the way that Green would have predicted, being willing to accept backhanders in a newspaper sting operation.

Did the media learn anything from this?  No, it seems they didn’t.

Now of course it can be argued there is nothing wrong either with refereeing, or the ability of the media to dig behind the scenes and expose what is really going on in football.   But to do so means that the fuss that supporters make about refereeing in the games they see is merely fans looking for a way of excusing their own team’s failures.

And maybe that is true.   But the problem is that because the media to not acknowledge that there is a problem there at all, we simply don’t know.

What we do know however is that the behaviour of referees is a fundamental part of debate among those who go to games, and yet that whole part of fan experience is ignored.   If all you ever did was listen to broadcasting commentators and read reports in the newspapers, you’d have no idea that one of the things that fans talk about the most is the inadequacy of referees.

Which raises a very simple question: why?    Why does the media (print and broadcast) ignore one of the most talked about issues in professional football?

The media can’t answer that point because they don’t acknowledge that refereeing is an issue that might be debated.

But as a result, we have an enormous disconnect between what the media says about a match and what the people who were at the match actually say.

Which when one comes to think about it, given the amount of media coverage there is of football, is weird.

3 Replies to “How the media caved in leaving no one who is willing to challenge PGMO and the referees”

  1. Interesting post.

    I remember I used to watch games on TV and listen to Alan Green on Radio 5. He was the best football commentator bar none.

    He was also the only one to say that the match was poor when it was. I hate the way commentators rave about games that remind you of Sunday league football. I know they are paying a lot of money for the broadcasting rights but honesty would be good now and then. I know sometimes he would talk about other things but he usually pointed out that as nothing was going on in the match he would entertain the audience.

    I also thought Alan Green was very perceptive about referees and the law “changes” that were brought in in the last few years.

    He was of course, as you point out, correct about Sam Allardyce

    The media seem to live in a different reality to football fans. According to them there is no cheating at any level of the game – especially not in the EPL. The fact that clubs have used dubious financial ideas is fine. That this financial doping lets you build ridiculously large and expensive squads and deny players to your competitors is all in the fans imagination.

    According to the mainstream media referees are impartial and very very honest – they would never dream of bending rules to suit their preferences. They only make mistakes now and then. The PIGMOB said they are 99% accurate. Funny how in some games I have watched there have been at least 10 errors per 45 minutes of football. I am amazed when I see a referee punish a foul throw (it is so rare) and they certainly don’t force players to move 10 yards away from a free kick. Time wasting has become an art form in the EPL – most games struggle to have 55 minutes of the ball in play – some are as low as 35 minutes. – with 15 minutes of injury time!

    The truth is the reality of football from the fans perspective and what the media tell us are diametrically opposed to each other.

    Fans are realising that what is happening is that there is not a level playing field but tweaking games from the official bodies who are supposed to be impartial.

    I speak to lots of people who have become very disillusioned with football and don’t bother watching any more. I have found I turn off games quite often when i see that a referee is determined that a certain side should win. What’s the point when this is happening – I might as well be watching something else and viewing something worthwhile.

    Keep up the good work! – you are a beacon of sanity in football reporting.

    Sorry if I sound disillusioned about the game – but I am. I used to accept errors but the sheer amount of them make me believe there is more at work here than human error.

    The sad thing is I say this as a neutral fan – I don’t support any team as such I just USED to enjoy the game.

  2. I keep seeing the phrase “Howard Webb explains” used in connection with his TV extravaganza on SkySports. To my knowledge, he has never explained anything. His utterances are completely at odds with the facts. Misleads would be a more appropriate verb.

  3. Peter Walton is the latest PGMOL stooge to pile-in on Arteta (and Klopp), claiming that their behaviour incites violence towards referees. What a load of rubbish. Walton is trying to deflect attention away from the referees’ own failings which, were they to be addressed, would leave everyone in a far more harmonious and peaceful state of mind.

    It’s called passing the buck.

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