Referee hyper-secrecy continues even when it comes to handling complaints


By Tony Attwood

According to ESPN the “Spanish Football Federation have filed a report with the police after extracts of the VAR audio from Real Madrid’s 3-2 win over Almería were leaked.”

The audio consisted of discussions concerning Vinicus Junior and Chumi and whether either player was overly aggressive.  However, as a result of the discussion the referee did not look at VAR and took no action and play continued.  

The conversations were concerning events in which the VAR referee and match referee agreed that there was no infringement.  But the referee association is saying that the release of the private conversation is an offence.  In the game itself Madrid won through a goal in the 99th minute.

In Spain, conversations between officials where VAR is involved are released to  broadcasters (something that is strictly forbidden in Premier League at the behest of PGMOL).

But even though it keeps some conversations secret, Spain is much more liberal than the Premier League in these matters, and we can contrast the above incident with the one which led Nottingham Forest to demand that the operation of VAR be changed.

This relates to a recent case in which in taking a free kick Ivan Toney of Brentford twice moved the ball on from the position in which it had been placed by the referee, and also rubbed out the marker line indicating the position of the free kick.   The referee took no action for any of these three offences.  

The offences were clearly visible to anyone watching on TV, but VAR was not able to do anything about this because the ball was not in play!

Now this issue highlights (as many have done before) the rank stupidity of the PGMOL stance in maintaining its secrecy no matter what the cost to football.  There is no discussion about why VAR could not flag the incident, nor from the referee on why he took no action in terms of any of these offences.  We’re left to work it out.

Self-evidently issues such as this, seen on TV, merely bring PGMOL and indeed the Premier League into disrepute, but PGMOL don’t seem to care a toss, probably because their ultra-secrecy stance has left them in disrepute for years anyway.

At least Nottingham Forest are speaking out on the issue – something that most clubs won’t do, as they did last August when they expressed concern over Jones’ ability when he was in charge of VAR when Forest were beaten by Manchester United.

The PGMOL has explained the rules that underline the decisions made and how the VAR does not have the power to influence them in some cases and Forest agree they generally receive reasonable replies when they contact the PGMOL to raise concerns. 

But behind the scenes in many clubs there is a feeling that refereeing is now out of control – as we saw when Newcastle scored a goal that should never have been allowed against Arsenal.

Reports suggest that within Nottingham Forest there is a perception that other clubs have seen them as naive when it comes to dealing with PGMOL and so would be unwilling to fight the highly secretive organisation over perceived injustices.  Forest are trying to change this view.

However we must be fair and note that PGMOL have started to reply to some complaints from clubs – something that did not always happen in the past, but at the moment there is no sign of any changes being made in terms of their trademark secrecy.

But now we know that VAR operators do not have the power to notify the ref that a  free kick is being taken from the wrong place, and yet VAR operators and referees, and indeed many players, are clearly aware that this weakness in the rules is there, and players are exploiting it.  All the VAR officials have to do is tell the referee and give him an estimate of how far the ball has been moved.  But PGMOL will have none of it.

Of course (and thankfully) PGMOL can’t change the rules of football itself, but the highly secretive organisation could write to IFAB who control the rules of football, and say that they have referred the matter on.

The fact that it does not seem to have done that is rather odd given that it has told the media that (as the Athletic has reported) it “actively encourages feedback” from clubs.  Unfortunately, at the same time PGMOL maintains its demands for utter secrecy and when matters are referred on, open debate is not forthcoming. 

As for the notion of referees discussing a match on TV before and after a game – that common practice in Germany looks to be a million years away in England.

Quite how the PGMOL came to be this all-powerful is not clear, but it would be interesting to know.


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