Football, and the decline of law and order



By Tony Attwood

By and large, the maintenance of law and order is based either on fear (as in a dictatorship) or trust (as should happen in a democracy).   

But it would appear that all trust in the safe operation of Greece’s top division has broken down as it has been declared that all games must be played without fans for the next two months.  This follows a severe injury to a police officer after a… volleyball match in Athens last week.

Now that might seem to be a bit of a non sequitor – but that is explained by the fact that the volleyball match in question was between Olympiacos and Panathinaikos.  The two volleyball teams are owned by the football clubs of the same name, and the authorities took it that football fans were moving their rivalry away from the controlled arenas of football matches to other locations.

Meanwhile in Cyprus the government’s intention seems to be that all remaining matches in the championship and the cup this season have to be played behind closed doors.  In response to that, footballers are currently debating the idea of striking if the government goes ahead with its plans.

Of course, the response is not just because of one match but follows numerous other incidents.  And in Greece attempts to clean up football from the point of view of spectator behaviour have been ongoing, but clearly haven’t got very far.   At a recent game over 400 people were detained for a while after there was an attack on a police officer, but nothing further seems to have happened.

In England however something different is happening.  This picture, which I took from my seat in the upper east stand during the Liverpool match at Arsenal stadium, shows just how many seats were left empty in order to keep Liverpool supporters away from Arsenal fans.  It represents a big loss of income to Arsenal, but as far as I know, it worked – although I didn’t walk past the Liverpool exit after the game was over.

However what we do know is that by and large many stadiums are full, and fans do not trust referees, and in many countries players and coaches are restricted as to what they are able to say about referees and their work.   That does not go down well in a democracy, where as a fundamental part of our life, we are allowed to criticise freely, although not accuse without recourse to evidence.

Thus when Untold criticises PGMO it does so on the basis of  the evidence of its lack of communication with the wider world (in that it has no website and does not let referees talk to the media as happens in Germany), and the seeming bias of some of its employees, as with Stuart Attwell seeing 63.6% of his games through as home wins while for Paul Tierney it is only 23.1% (data from Whoscored).

Perhaps that could be shrugged off in the past, but the variance in home and away win rates, and the research on how crowd noise affects refereeing decisions undertaken by a team at the University of London, show that there is more than likely to be real bias going on.   Of course it is just possible that this isn’t the case, but the refusal to engage with the point and investigate suggests that PGMO know what’s going on and want to hide it.

So what’s going on overall?  The Athletic has a piece which opens with the thought that the Premier League  “is inexorably grinding its European rivals into the dirt, hoovering up revenues and ruthlessly asserting its financial strength.”

As a result, it is argued, fans elsewhere believe that PL clubs are heading toward total domination.

But at the same time we should note that many countries have a situation in which the same team wins the league most of the time, and yet now they are starting to slip.

We’ve noted the situation in Spain where Barcelona are having problems due to their financial ineptitude, while in the league Real Madrid have been overtaken by the City Group’s Spanish club.    Elsewhere Bayern Munich aren’t top of the league at the moment, having won the league for the last 11 years.

Add to this the point that as the Athletic pointed out “Sheffield United can spend as much as Borussia Dortmund while Brentford are matching Inter Milan,” and we can see that change is afoot.  And fans who have had things their own way for so long, really don’t like that, while fans of clubs that never win, feel that once again they are going to be excluded from the new world order.

There is nothing in what is happening at the moment, that looks like it might ease the tensions, which suggests things are likely to get worse.

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