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By Tony Attwood
This article follows (rather logically I thought given that it is called “part 2”) from part one which is here.
The first step towards resolving the issues raised in part one must be to ask what we feel about the quality of refereeing. I believe the first article reminded us that there are anomalies in the current situation, such as the fact that some referees in England are flagrantly ignoring and disobeying Fifa rules – such as the rule about hampering goalkeepers, or the one about playing advantage to a defender. I also brought up the fact that in using a consistent marking system for refs, some refs do fall very short of the mark, and clearly have problems in running a game. Not all, but some. And we observe that nothing happens to these refs.
These simple facts – and Walter’s series of articles dealt with these in much more depth, and they are all still available on this site – suggest that something odd is happening, something which does not fit with the “nothing is wrong” or “it all balances out in the end” theories. Combine this with Dogface’s analysis of referees made before games and the fact that it is possible to make predictions about how individual referees will behave, and we clearly have something to be concerned about.
But here is my real point. Everyone can see that Fifa instructions are not being carried out by refs in England, and yet no one is doing anything about it, and the refs are not commenting on it. Even if you don’t go along with any other point being put forward here, you do have to ask, “Why? is this happening?” Or if you want something fairly straightforward to resolve try this one: “How come that the FA and Fifa can’t even agree whether the FA has the right to take action in the Rooney affair?” We are not actually talking here about whether Rooney committed a foul or whether he should have been shot at dawn, but actually we are asking, does our governing body have the power to take action? If even that can’t be agreed then something has gone desperately wrong with the governance of the game.
And that is all before we get to the Dogface analysis. So this is my main point. We can keep this debate dead simple and look at very easy to grasp issues, and even at that level there are huge issues that urgently need answering.
Can you imagine this elsewhere in our society? “I don’t think we can handle this in the County Court,” said the District Judge. “Well its certainly not our area,” says the Bench in the Magistrates Court. “Not one of mine,” says the Judge in the High Court. “Ah well, better just leave it then,” says everyone. Put like that it sounds crazed, and that indeed is exactly what it is happening in football. Makes a bit of news for half a day and then it dies away – and yet the questions being raised here are utterly fundamental to the game. Without the resolution of these issues there is no game, because key issues are being ignored.
This is why I think that comments such as “let’s stop arguing about this and face the fact that Wenger is no good” really don’t get it. If the League is bent, as I am suggesting given the evidence presented over time on this site, then it doesn’t matter how good or bad Wenger is. Not a bit.
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Put all this together and what really concerns me is that there is nothing being done to investigate the growing level of evidence that something is wrong, save in the very specific area of match fixing for gambling purposes. For example there is a Fifa enquiry going on into a couple of international friendlies in which every goal scored was a penalty. As usual the statements emerging are those that talk about “unusual betting patterns”.
As I am sure you will know, investigations often take place into “unusual betting patterns”, and some refs are suspended for collaboration. The betting industry has a great interest in protecting its own huge earnings from football, so any thought that some punter is cheating gets them on the move immediately.
I am quite happy to say that match fixing of that type (1000-1 against every goal in two games being a penalty) is being controlled in English football. But there is nothing happening anywhere to investigate match fixing on the Italian “Calciopoli” model where refs were continually given favours in order to give occasional decisions to certain teams.
It is not as if top level English football has always been immune to such activities – if you have read the story of Arsenal’s promotion in 1919 you’ll know that is was caused in no small part by the club’s determination to publicise the match fixing by Manchester United and Liverpool, which the League wanted to sweep under the carpet. That wasn’t Calciopoli but it was corruption on a significant scale – corruption to ensure that a London team went down in the final season before the cessation for the First World War, rather than a northern team.
And it almost worked – until Sir Henry Norris stepped in and demanded that the matter be properly discussed – and ultimately three Man United and four Liverpool players were banned for life – but no action was taken against the clubs.
Of course my historic comparisons don’t show us that match fixing in the Italian style is happening. And yes, my thought that there is something seriously wrong with refereeing in England might also be explained through the fact that there are some very poor refs out there, and Walter has made the very strong point that we have such a tiny number of refs, and the moderating of these refs is so secret that it is not surprising something is wrong.
But that leaves us with the question, why are we in this situation? Why do we have so few top level referees? And why are the marks they get not revealed? And why are refs who get under 70% marks not removed to a lower division? Why do we not have refs that follow Fifa rules, and why do authorities in England allow them to get away with this? Why can’t our FA and Fifa even agree as to whether the FA has power to look again at the Rooney Event.
My point therefore is simple. If you argue that there is no Italian style corruption, you have to answer the questions in the previous paragraphs. If you can’t find an answer that involves no corruption, then corruption is all you have left.
Given that Dogface has shown us that it is possible to predict which ref will cause problems for Arsenal, then we begin to see that even with an answer to the “why are we in this situation” question in some way, we are still not in the clear. The problem is much deeper, because without giving any evidence to suggest everything is fine, and without even bothering to consider our evidence, the powers that be are just pushing on saying, “oh its all ok really.”
Indeed we could begin to argue that it is the fact that nothing is being done in the face of this evidence that something is wrong, (other than the continuous attempt to show that the problem either doesn’t exist – as in the “refs are getting fed up with all this criticism” type of comment – or that if it does exist it is only as a result of gambling and the gambling industry always lets us know) that actually does show something is seriously wrong.
In short, if nothing was wrong, the authorities would have no difficulty in knocking down the arguments and points made by Walter, Dogface, and (as summariser) myself.
If the authorities were being straight about this situation they would be investigating Dogface’s predictions, and putting the obvious errors (lack of refs, not removing refs when they get low marks, differences with Fifa) to right.
It is the lack of activity that is the final nail in the coffin of a just and fair EPL.
So let’s conclude with a look at why the authorities in the UK, and their allies in parts of the media, don’t want us to even think that something might be wrong.
The EPL makes big money out of TV and some money out of gambling. The gambling industry makes money out of the EPL. The media invest big money in football rights, and then gradually get that money back (or in Sky’s case, quickly get that money back).
If the feeling began to develop that there really was something wrong and that an Italian style corruption had seeped through the game then the league, the FA, the media and the gambling industry would all lose out very heavily. In fact one can say that the whole bunch of them has a very strong vested interest in football being shown not to be corrupt.
That is why they not only don’t take the allegations seriously, but also why they don’t bother to answer any of the evidence put forward. They can’t risk the notion being put about that football is bent. Exactly as 100 years ago.
But it is even worse than that. By refusing to answer the very basic questions like why there are so few referees, and why directives from Fifa are routinely ignored by some referees in England, and why the marks given to refs are not made public, and why refs with poor marks are not removed more often, it is clear that there is something wrong. If there were not, then no one would be hiding behind ridiculous excuses like “it balances out in the end” and “referees are getting fed up with all this criticism”.
When public faith in a body set up to examine or to rule is upset, everything gets blown out the water. And that is what the FA, the league, Sky, Fifa, the BBC, Micky Mouse TV and ITV are all seeking to protect.
Let me finish with a repeat of one basic point. If the English authorities and Fifa can’t actually agree on whether the English authorities could look again at Rooney’s actions on the field play, what the fuck is going on? It is a fundamental rule. A basic point from the rulebook.
Whatever it is that is going on, it certainly isn’t straight.
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