By Tony Attwood
Imagine you are taken to the roof of a tower block and invited to jump off. More than like you will say, “well actually no, if you don’t mind, I won’t.” Or words to that effect.
“Why not?” enquires the awfully nice chap with you who is inviting you to do the deed.
You explain that by and large you would expect to fall to your death.
“Ah!” says the man with you. “How do you know? Where’s the proof?”
And indeed that is the problem. You might argue that gravity will do you in, but your counterpart could argue that in terms of gravity we don’t have much idea of how and why it works. We experience gravity, but we can’t explain it. In fact we are still groping our way to understand why objects have mass. And in the light of such a lack of evidence it is rather silly to base our daily lives on the assumption that this thing called gravity exists and will continue to exist.
But we don’t have such debate because lack of proof is what we live with once we get outside maths. We can’t prove that scientific theories are right all the time – we can only prove that they are wrong, when we find examples that counter the theory.
Some people (and we’ve had a few of them on this site) therefore argue that any theory we might put forward about football matches being fixed is useless because if we don’t have the movie of the rich club owner giving the ref the keys to the luxury yacht while saying “anything you can do to see us right would be welcome” while the ref smiles and says, “of course boss, anything you say,” then we don’t have proof.
On such a basis we can’t prove nothing much, either in terms of why things fall to the ground when dropped from above or why a disproportionately high level of wrong decisions are given by referees against Arsenal.
But we can bring some observations to the situation, we can make predictions and we can evolve theories. We can start for example by predicting that the number of wrong decisions against Arsenal through the season will be higher than for any other club, and that the old addage about bad ref decisions all balancing out in the end, is a load of baloney.
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So we predict Arsenal will suffer under the hands of refs more than other clubs, we measure the figures week by week and then we see if our prediction is correct. (It is, by the way, as you might have guessed).
Then we ask why this is so. To answer that we can use the commonplace sociological observation that all human societies are (as New Scientist put in on 22 October this year) “subject to vast inertia”. If things don’t have to change, by and large we don’t change them – and since there’s a lot of people who are doing very well out of the Premier League (players, officials, TV stations, gambling companies) there’s even more reason not to change.
So we make our second prediction – that nothing much will happen – which is what John Maynard Keynes, the economist, would have expected when he pointed out that our society is by and large controlled by defunct thinking.
In the case of ref doping in football matches that defunct thinking centres around the fact that bent football cannot exist in Britain. Yes it has been around in the past, in terms of individual players such as David Layne who played for Sheffield Wednesday and was involved in the match fixing scandal of 1964. Or about the match fixing of Manchester United and Liverpool in the 1914/15 season when they conspired to fix matches so that Chelsea would get relegated.
But it is argued – this is ancient history. So nothing needs to be done. In fact, Despite all the issues that we reveal here about how things are seriously wrong (the refusal by the authorities across Europe to discuss refereeing issues, the refusal to increase the number of referees, the insanely high number of ref errors and the clear evidence that it doesn’t “all balance out in the end”, and the fact that on average 30% of decisions in English Premier League games are wrong nothing is done.
Indeed the clever trick is that the Premier League and its referees manage the situation so that there is no debate. The question “is the Premier League fixed?” is not even a question, because no one recognises it in the UK. Elsewhere, yes, but here no.
And all this despite the fact that the corruption of Fifa is so well documented that there’s no point my even going through the list. The FA is a paid up member of Fifa. The Premier League is under the rule of the FA. Are we really expected to think that Fifa can be that corrupt, and that it has not filtered down to other organisations that subscribe to its rules and bend the knee to its directors?
Apparently yes. Just as we are expected to believe that although an analysis of referee errors shows us that consistently three clubs benefit from the errors, while the rest suffer we have to believe nothing is wrong.
No, it doesn’t happen in England, because if it did, someone would be talking about it. Wouldn’t they? And the mere fact that our level of proof is much the same as the level of proof that Galileo had in order to show that the moons of Jupiter circled the planet, and that the planets circle the sun (and not the earth), is considered not enough. Galileo looked, drew conclusions, and then made predictions. We do the same.
Yet somehow in Italy they do keep on chasing the situation, and they get results. The former Atalanta captain Cristiano Doni and 16 others have, it seems, been just arrested over new match fixing charges.
Gazzetta dello Sport says that there is an inquiry going on into Serie A and B games including Brescia v Bari, Brescia v Lecce and Napoli v Sampdoria. Former Inter and Roma player Luigi Sartor, and the former Portsmouth player Alessandro Zamperini have also been arrested, it is said.
Back in June 16 other people were arrested. The Guardian reports that Cremona prosecutor Roberto Di Martino said, “This is not the end but just a starting point. Let’s hope it’s a starting point in cleaning up the beautiful game that is football. One of the suspects has admitted that these operations have been going on for over 10 years.
“At the top of the organisation are men from Singapore who are those who move the money, but the shareholders are divided from the west, to the far east, to South America and they manage with their men how to change the outcome of football matches.”
So we look to the far east as always. Murky waters there – not like lovely clean England where nothing could happen even when almost one third of all decisions in a football match will be wrong. This week a top Chinese referee confessed to receiving bribes to fix games including a Manchester United friendly. The ref, Huang Junjie, was shortlisted for an award in 2009, but admitted receiving money in relation to Man U’s 6-0 win over Shenzhen in 2007.
Corruption hearings against some of China’s leading officials with over 20 officials and refs booked to appear in court after state media said that officials routinely fixed matches, including national team and league games, by allegedly buying off the teams or referees involved. The state television network now refuses to broadcast Super League games.
Which is exactly the opposite of the situation in England where everyone clambers for the rights to broadcast matches and no one will say a word.
Should they be debating the issue? Well, if you look at Walter’s article yesterday which shows that only one in five red cards is correctly given you can see that the answer is yes.
We have to ask, “is three decisions in ten incorrect how football should be?” and the answer is clearly no. So then we ask, “How many of those three in ten decisions are wrong because of match fixing?” Since a match can be fixed by just one or two wrong calls among the 30% that are wrong, (for example calling Van Persie’s goal against Man City offside), it really is very easy for matches to be fixed within this backdrop.
The FA could investigate this, could look at the bias that there is in referees’ activities (they could start by reading Dogface’s regular column for each league match), and could look at Walter’s overall figures.
Yet they won’t – just as none of the referee groups from across Europe would respond to our questionnaire earlier this year. Are questions are not welcomed.
Yet one thing is certain: only a serious look at the issue by independent assessors can reveal exactly what is going on. And that is the one thing we are not getting.
The prediction remains: Arsenal will get more wrong calls against them than any other team in the EPL this year. You can check it at the end of the season.
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- REFEREES: The shocking truth, only one in five red cards in the Premier League is correct
- HISTORY: History in the making – why we keep changing the Arsenal story
- REVIEW: Avery good looking ugly win, a bounce back, a satisfying win
- PREVIEW: Villa versus the Arsenal, plus a little chat about Gibbs.
- RETROSPECTIVE: What we learned from the Man City game
- REF REVIEW: Man City/Arsenal – and guess what Dowd scored?
- MATCH REVIEW THE SECOND: the man on the inside Phil Gregory
- MATCH REVIEW: One extraordinary fact about the Man City game
- Match Preview: City host the Arsenal
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