By Walter Broeckx
Ever since the day I started the referee reviewing system on Untold a few seasons ago the one thing that came out of most numbers was that we could see a bias in favour of Manchester United.
For years we have been suggesting this was the case, and got it confirmed by our numbers that there is something suspicious in the PL when it comes to referees and Manchester United. We examined, in the course of the seasons, around 400 games in the PL. And two things came back all the time: a certain bias against Arsenal and a certain bias in favour of Manchester United.
Some people didn’t accept what we found. They said that the fact that we found bias against Arsenal was because those of us who started the referee reviews are Arsenal supporters and so the results are biased. Those people ignored the fact that last season the majority of referee reviewers didn’t support Arsenal at all and still the final result of the numbers showed once again a big bias against Arsenal. And a bias in favour of United.
A few weeks ago the first revelations appeared concerning what might have affected the bias in favour of Manchester United. It involved Halsey talking about himself and the mighty man at Manchester United, and their relationship. And about the fact that they had regular contact on the phone and texted each other.
Now Halsey said that this was about the Clattenburg case. And even if this was from a humane point of view acceptable, it showed up that favours were asked and been given. And as we all know: nothing comes for free. All and everyone has a price.
What Halsey did was illegal; contact between refs and managers is not allowed. And despite a few Manchester United fans coming to this site saying that anyone can have Sir Alex Ferguson’s number (so it was no big deal) it was still illegal. (Incidentally we then asked them to give us the personal number of Ferguson so we could phone him ourselves but we are still waiting to get a valid phone number).
Obviously, I doubt it that Sir Alex Ferguson will share his personal number around with all and everyone. He will only give it to a select group of people; his inner circle. And the fact that at least one ref (actually a former ref now) was in that inner circle is something that is unacceptable. And also illegal according to the instructions from the PGMOL.
The silence from the PGMOL apart from reminding the refs that such things are illegal is deafening by the way. I haven’t heard of any investigations being started to check if other refs who are still active had got the number of Sir Alex Ferguson. If they had they should be thrown out of the PL. But nothing of that kind ever emerges from the PGMOL. Perhaps they are too busy inventing ridiculous statistics to prove how great the refs in the PL are.
And now we have the next former ref who seemingly is trying to live with his feelings of guilt. Thanks to a link send to me by a reader of Untold (and do send them in as I cannot read everything and do miss some things) I found another article about referees in the Mail Online from the hand of Graham Poll.
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A very interesting article. And one that confirms our suspicion that some unacceptable things have happened in the reign of Sir Alex Ferguson. Things that make me wonder if the ‘Sir’ is still appropriate to use. Because it seems that despite having the title, he surely didn’t have the actions that I would associate with a knight of the realm.
So what did Poll say? Just read it and look for the things I underlined. The words from Poll are written in italics. And just the title is saying more than enough:
Sir Alex Ferguson’s influence no longer affects referees when officiating Manchester United but it used to and one can’t help but wondering if that has played a small part in the champions’ start to the season.
So here it is a former top ref and world cup referee openly saying that Sir Alex Ferguson did have an influence on referees when they did Manchester United. And he connects this with the poor start they had this season. But what Poll should have said and mention or question is how much it has helped them in the past.
I clearly remember visiting Old Trafford for the first time and was well aware that my life would be made a misery by the home manager if things didn’t go well for his team.
So even before his first visit Graham Poll was well aware that he could be in big trouble if he didn’t give it to Ferguson.
You might remember me saying that refs talk amongst each other on training, courses. Well it seems that refs knew even before going to Old Trafford that they had to be very, very careful to not do anything that might upset the big boss of English football.
This clearly indicates a regime of fear and this is unacceptable.
Whenever the result was not as Ferguson expected you would be made aware – in no uncertain times.
Oh Mr. Poll please tell us more about that. We would love to find out.
Whether it was not awarding United a penalty, failing to send off an opponent or not allowing enough added time you would get a blast of that infamous ‘hairdryer’ – and yes he really did come into my dressing room and bemoan the lack of added time after a draw with Everton.
So “Fergie time” did exist my dear friends. It was not an invention of disgruntled supporters of other teams. It was known as that even by refs.
That never made me deliberately favour United but sub-consciously who knows what affect those tirades took..
As a ref myself I recognise ‘ref-speak’ when I see it. Not many refs will openly admit: “hey I gave them all they wanted just to be sure I wouldn’t feel the revenge of Sir Alex Ferguson.” You know the revenge that happened to refs who didn’t do it ‘Fergies way’ and saw themselves go from Old Trafford to Northampton the next week. Nothing wrong with Northampton itself of course but PL refs don’t like being banned to lower divisions.
Now the ‘ref speak’ is that Poll is saying that he now accepts that he might have sub-consciously been giving decisions to Manchester United that he wouldn’t give to other teams. Just because of the fear factor that was Sir Alex Ferguson. But when I look around me in the referee world I know that in fact this is him saying: “I know I did it”.
For me as a ref this is an open confession of guilt. When refs talk amongst themselves they will say it in another way than the ‘maybe sub-consciously it affected me’. They will call it more like it is or was. They would admit the fear and frustration they had when they had to give in to the pressure from Ferguson.
David Moyes does not strike that same ‘fear’ into officials and nor do any other current PL managers – so if United did gain an advantage, however unintentionally from the referees’, it’s a level playing field now.
So now the word is completely out. Now the playing field is level. But for all those years of trophy winning Ferguson at United there was no level playing field. Remember Wenger saying in the 2007/2008 season: “I’m not an idiot, I can see what is happening”. This was in a period of time when all referee decisions suddenly went against Arsenal starting from the Dean travesty refereeing at Birmingham. Wenger was not an idiot although the media painted him like one. There was no level playing field.
There was a playing field filled with refs who shivered from fear and tried all they could to not upset the most powerful person in English football.
Graham Poll is using the word ‘unintentionally’ and again I recognise this as a word of ‘ref-speak’. Because even unintentionally giving decisions one way is wrong. And as the refs were well aware of the Ferguson-factor in the PL we don’t have to hide behind such words. No, the refs knew it before the game started. And if you know it before you do it, then you have to come out with it at that moment in time.
A ref should have said in public: Sorry PGMOL, sorry FA, sorry PL but I will not do any games of Manchester United until you give me 100% assurance that there will be no consequences when I make a mistake that doesn’t please Mr. Ferguson. Just like no other manager can have any influence on my career, I don’t want that Mr. Ferguson can influence my career.
But as they all remained silent (in order to not disturb their career) and in a way this is already giving in to the pressure and is an example of cowardly behaviour they all are in fact contribution to the not level playing field we have seen.
So very slowly the word is coming out. Very slowly the truth is being revealed: for many years the PL was no better than world wide wrestling. A big show where some people behind the scenes (and sometimes in the open) influence the outcome of the league.
Is there really a level playing field now Mr. Poll? My main question is: why did it take you so long to come out with this? Was it because even as a retired ref you felt afraid of Sir Alex Ferguson as long as he was in charge at Manchester United? My God, imagine those poor refs that went to Old Trafford. Would they be able to resist him if even Poll now admits he might have not resisted his influence…
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