- Arsenal’s great experiment which wasn’t and United’s failure which was
- This is where secrecy and denial invariably lead, and PGMO is taking us ever further inwards.
By Tony Attwood
If you are a regular reader of Untold you will know that we have long held that there are fundamental flaws with the ways in which refereeing is conducted in the Premier League. Indeed we even conducted a massive analysis of 160 Premier League games and presented the findings complete with video evidence to prove our case.
In recent days we have shifted the emphasis somewhat and focussed on the structure and secrecy of PGMO who run refereeing, and this season there appears to have been a very slight change in the attitude of the referees assocaition toward what it does.
But major problems remain, such as the fact that some referees have a propensity to oversee a lot of home wins, while others have exactly the opposite outcome in their matches. This has been traced back to the infuence of the crowd upon referees – a fact proven by some remarkable research undertaken by Ignacio Palacios-Huerta, who was on the board of Athletic Bilbao for seven years and is professor of management, economics and strategy at the London School of Economics – part of the University of London (and against which I will hear nothing since the University of London is where I did my research degree).
Meanwhile the issue of the shortage of referees, and their refusal to answer the public debate has continued, and despite ever greater public awareness of their failings PGMO remain above reproach in the eyes of the media. Referees travel to Saudi Arabia to handle games for large financial reward, fly back and then almost immediately work on games where one of the clubs has Saudi ownership, there are controversial decisions and then… nothing.
As for the media they join in, ceaselessly calling Mikel Arteta’s protests about the failings of VAR a “rant” – a word which itself implies his guilt before there has even been a hearing.
But now there has been a hearing and the Telegraph reappraises “rant” and gives us his furious outburst at referees. And would you believe it the newspaper has reported that he has not been punished as all “in part because the Premier League has itself acknowledged the deficiencies and weaknesses of the Var system.”
An independent commission has found that Arteta’s comments after the Newcastle game, in which he described the decision to allow Anthony Gordon’s winning goal as a “disgrace” and “embarrassing”, neither insulted the officials nor brought the game into disrepute. The Guardian we might note is less forgiving going with “Manager escapes punishment after ref rant” but we have known for many a year that it will never give an inch in its protection of referees or its criticism of Arsenal.
So what turned the issue around?
One point seems to be a meeting that Mikel Arteta had with PGMO overlords just before the match in which he expressed his views about the failings of VAR and other matters, but at which PGMO would not give an inch. This reveals that in his “rant” came after he had warned that this sort of thing could happen.
Against this it appears that the FA said that Arteta should be punished strongly a) because he dared criticse, and b) because he was so high profile. That was an extraordinary claim, in that is says that punishments are not determined by the crime but by the profile of the person involved: a total abandonment of the notion that rules apply equally to everyone. This was quite likely one of the key tipping points against the ultra-secretive FA tribunals.
There was also evidence from Joe Willock who was of course previously an Arsenal player who revealed that the ball had indeed gone out of play in the build up to the disputed goal.
The appeals panel accept that Arteta’s comments were directed at the deficient state of the VAR system approved and operated by PGMO hierarchy rather than against this official. Indeed su the VAR was and is clearly defective it (the system) does bring the game and the PGMO into disrepute itself.
In an utterly amazing and laughable defence the FA then argued that although the comments were clearly about VAR they were also insulting towards the referees and so inflammatory that they brought the game into disrepute – despite the fact that is the FA that has approved VAR in its current format.
But the independent commission quite reasonably said that Arteta was simply saying that the League had itself said earlier – that there were problems with VAR. In short if Arteta was guilty with bringing the game into disrepute so was the whole league which had admitted “systemic weaknesses” with VAR that were found in the game betweeen Liverpool and Tottenham.
So finally some justice as the enquiry acknowledged that Aretat’s views were identical with “the acknowledgement by the Premier League in early October 2023 that improvement in the Var system and processes operated by the Premier League is required”.
Countering this the FA then came up with must be surely the most infamous defence of all time that as the Telegraph says, “Arteta’s high-profile status was relevant to the case, and that his words could breach rules even if those same words might not be a breach when said by lower-profile managers.”
If that had been agreed then it would have ended the notion of one set of rules for everyone would have been overthrown.
But the fact that the FA could even contemplate putting this argument forward shows how low that body has sunk in terms of understanding the notion of one game for all. Surely more than any other suggestion or mistake, this one shows that the FA really needs to be wound up as fast as possible.
What should happen now is that the whole role of the FA is this awful affair should be investigated and their actions in this affair should result in them being charged with bringing the game into disrepute.
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