- If Everton find the Premier League is corrupt, what does that mean?
- Can we really predict the outcome of the league table from earlier in the season?
“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.
- How far down might these points deducations take clubs?
- Big clubs that foul less lose fewer players of their own to injury
- What takes clubs up and down the league: attack or defence?
- Referee Extremism: the situation in Spain and in England
- Didn’t appreciate KO time, M1 is a disaster, but watching Arsenal is a joy