By Tony Attwood
I have just uploaded a couple more in our ref review series through which our dedicated team of referees review the effectiveness or otherwise of their fellow men-in-the-middle.
One of these is particularly interesting (Tottenham 5 Newcastle 0) in that it relates to two of the five teams trying to secure third and fourth place. In that game the ref made a huge error on the hour – and on such things can turn the result of matches. Of course in this case it didn’t really affect the outcome of the match – but what went wrong in that match was the result of a fundamental and absolute misunderstanding of the laws of football as laid down by the Almighty Fifa.
And that leads to the question: if the referees themselves don’t know the laws of the game, who does?
It is a frightening thought that the chance to be in the Champions League could come down to either a mistake by a ref, or a blatant error by a ref who has been “persuaded” to “go easy” on a certain team and “see off” another team. If ever we saw such an occasion it was in the Arsenal Tottenham match, where the ref gave every indication that he had helped the Tinies into a two goal lead, done his bit to get his reward, and now all the Totts had to do was hold on.
Of course I have no direct evidence that the ref was bought in this way – none at all although the video of his celebration of the Tinies goal is extraordinary – I merely say that to me as an outsider it looked just like it. And given the way the professional body that controls EPL refs behaves, my feeling is encouraged. But it is just a feeling. Maybe the ref in each of these games was just lacking in ability.
But back to the Champs League next season. We take it that Man C and Man U will be there – and that doesn’t worry me too much. There are clouds circling in both cases. I had almost given up on Financial Fair Play until I read the Council of Europe committee report this week that said that clubs like Man C should be prohibited by Uefa from being sponsored by companies closely associated with their owners. The £400million deal between Man C and Etihad airline was called an “improper transaction” in a Council report as was Real Madrid’s sale of its training ground for more than 400m euros.
Maybe, just maybe, Uefa will act – or if not maybe the clubs, seeing Uefa not acting will themselves take action against Uefa. A long shot, but there is hope.
As for Man U, despite their recent profit the drain on their finances by the owner looks unsustainable, as does the long term future of the manager who, although Arsenal fans will always dislike him, is the most successful manager there is. Soon he will be gone. Not a positive way to look at things, but it is a fact.
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Arsène Wenger said not qualifying for the Champs League would be a “disaster” and we have had some near misses in the 14 continuous years in the League. Remember that one when Aston Villa were going to pip us a couple of years back. So confident were they that their manager (O’Neil) sent a reserve team to Russia for a Europa fixture, duly got knocked out, focussed on the EPL and duly came… sixth.
This season, as we all know because they keep saying it, the very Tiny Totts are going to come 3rd, but I am not so sure. They haven’t had a really bad run this season, and maybe are due one at sometime. One thing that we have got in store though is the thought that one day, sometime, Arry will leave Tottenham. And we know that every club Arry leaves then has the most extraordinary financial troubles: WHU, Bournemouth, Southampton, Portsmouth, they have all hit rock bottom financially. So happy days ahead.
If money bought everything Chelsea would be neck and neck with Manchester, what with them having spent £900m between 2003 and now. By now they were supposed to be the model for FFP – Mr Abramovich’s idea being to spend the fortune on players and a youth system to rival Arsenal before FFP, and then bring in FFP so that no one else could do the same.
Hasn’t worked though. In the year to 30 June 2011, Chelsea lost £68m, far beyond the €45m loss they are allowed in 2012 and 2013 under Uefa’s rules. And will the new manager sell players to get the figure down? Of course not, they will spend like mad. The youth project there has failed to produce the likes of Wilshere and Frimpong, the import of youth project has failed to bring in a Ramsey or a Chamberlain, and basically Terry and co are old men (comparatively). The must spend – and they will then challenge FFP.
Worse, if they don’t get fourth place, their losses for this financial year would be £100m. Abramovich can pay, but what about FFP? In the 2011 accounts Chelsea says financial fair play “provides a significant challenge” and that is assuming they qualify.
Of course last season Chelsea paid £28m compensation to Ancelotti and co. A one off. Except this season, they’ve done it again. What a strange club.
Newcastle don’t look the most likely of clubs to get fourth, but if they did it would be a bonus. Not getting it doesn’t matter because they haven’t budgeted for it. But although people mostly talk about Arsenal losing players if they don’t get into the Champs League, think of Newcastle. Demba Ba might not go, because of injury problems, but Krul, Tioté, Cabaye and Coloccini might expect bids. They are the club that will find it hardest to hold players since they don’t have the wealth of Chelsea, the secret money flowing in from tax havens that Tottenham has, or the accumulated profits of Arsenal.
Newcastle’s best hope is to become the Academy centre for the north east – and it looks like Sunderland and Middlesbrough won’t stand in their way on this. Their biggest worry is that the owner – famously caught drinking beer in the away support section of the Emirates and yet inexplicably not banned from the ground for life, might one day say he has had enough.
And then there is funny old Liverpool. Endlessly torn by race issues and with an owner who says they must qualify, they spent £118m last year, and £70m recovered in sales – all for… what? At the moment, not a lot. They can’t even get the new stadium sorted.
And again, if they fail, the vultures will circle. Luis Suárez is a problem they could probably do without, given his lack of goals and his interest in the finer points of racism and diving. They might sell him and try again, if they don’t get into the Champs or Europa.
But back finally to the clubs in 3rd and 4th. To say Tottenham are slipping is to allow my wishes to interfere with analysis. It was nice to see that at last the fact that they too have terrible divers in their team is becoming a matter for debate, and they’ve just (as I write this) lost a couple of matches. True they got through their Cup match after a replay, but even then the controversy over diving reared up again. Unless they are fixing referees (and I have no knowledge of this) then the exposure of their diving instincts can only harm them.
Everything points to the owner in his secret hideout selling the club once it is in the Champs League for a second season, and then, who knows? But if they can’t qualify even with Arry, what then?
As for Arsenal – of course it could all change on monday night. A flukey goal and a ref of dubious ability could throw us off course again. But these last four league games and the victory over Milan give me some hope. Not just for fourth, but for third.
Fourth will be a problem because of the Olympics for which Britain must enter a football team (normally we don’t). If our players play in that, they won’t get a break between the end of this season and all-important preliminary round. Third would be better.
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