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August 2021

Rotten to the core

By Tony Attwood

Untold has been suggesting there is something fundamentally wrong with English football for about five years now.  

During much of that time we’ve been a bit of a lone voice despite all the mountain of evidence produced which shows that the old notion that referee errors don’t matter too much because “it all evens up in the end” is quite untrue.

The response of the media has been one of total silence on the issues we highlight.  They have attempted to make us seem rather like the people who believe that the earth is flat, that the United States never landed men on the moon, and that Rangers FC were acting in a wholly improper way – so odd in our beliefs that we don’t even need to be mentioned.

It has been a clever ploy, because it means that the media has no need to debate any point we make.  They define us as irrelevant, and thus not to be considered.  The only problem is that while some people with strange ideas are deluded, occasionally there are some who are not.  You can usually tell which are which by the amount of evidence they bring to the story.

And it is that evidence which is probably the reason why Untold is read by the very people who like to pretend we are not here.  We are seen not just by people interested in the notion of football from an Arsenal perspective, but by journalists, referees, and those inside the clubs.  We know because occasionally they quote us, or use one of our arguments.  Indeed the spread of the notion that England’s problem as a national team is down to not having enough coaches, has been copied from the posts of Untold so often that it is now more or less mainstream.   

But in the last year or so there has been a move.  Not a move to suggest that others will recognize there is a problem with referees, but a move to recognize there is a problem.    

There’s no need for Untold to debate the spot-fixing scandals that are circling around.  The fact that they exist has been known about for years and for years the authorities have preferred to do nothing, or only do something behind closed doors.  But it is interesting that now they are increasingly coming out into the open.

This might be a good thing – except that it could be a new ploy to keep the notion that there is something wrong with referees out of the way.   If you want to keep an unpalatable truth out of the way you can do so either by ignoring it, or by putting up another issue instead.    Spot fixing is caused by naughty foreigners tempted naive English boys who don’t realize that some things are not done in England.

So it was that I had little expectation that the issue of referees would be on the cards when I saw Sir Bob Russell MP, the Lib Dem member for Colchester, describe English professional football as “rotten to the core”.  

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No, Sir Bob was not talking about refs, but about “parasitic agents” who cost the clubs a fortune, and take the money out of the game.

The Sports Minister Helen Grant said that more “definitely needs to be done” with agents.  But Sir Bob retorted, “I think there’s general agreement that professional football in this country is rotten to the core, not least parasitic agents taking millions of pounds a year out of the game, with football wasting its riches in the same way successive governments wasted the North Sea oil revenues.”

That was more helpful in that the agents were only “included” and not the exclusive cause of the problem.

But the minister saw the trap and replied, “The football authorities brought in and introduced some reforms in August.   Those reforms included smaller boards and a new licensing system to deal with ownership and financial matters and to try to improve relations with supporters.   A start certainly has been made, more definitely needs to be done and, of course, if it’s not done there’s always the option of legislation.”

So there we have it.  Sir Bob speaks up, the minister says, we’re already on to it, and the central issue of referees is once again swept aside.  Instead we can wait for DJ Campbell and his fellows to be investigated for spot-fixing.  

Even the indisputable fact that by having a small number of referees, ref fixing is easier, is not debated.  Even the lack of proper statistics from PGMOL as to referee accuracy is not considered.    

As I noted the other day, the closest we have ever got to the issue on the media is Alan Green on Radio 5 who regularly would criticize referee decisions.  But even he could not be drawn into a debate about why a referee could get things wrong.

And that’s all that’s needed to kick start the debate.  For one major media outlet to say, “actually refs do get quite a lot wrong.  Why is that?”    Do that, and then the debate would begin.

So, nice try Sir Bob.  Who knows you might even believe what you said about agents.  But all you did was let the minister say that the authorities are changing football.

As for Untold, we won’t be stopped by this attempted side tracking.   There is something wrong, and we’re not going away.

The books…

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47 comments to Rotten to the core

  • wam

    You’re not wrong, thought it since the premierships inception. It got to such a point where if you put your cynical hat on you can pretty accurately start to predict events happening.

    Maybe you could bring the referee errors and betting full circle, and use the reliability of referee unreliability to place a bet. Maybe media would sit up if Untold were raking in the money/ appeared to control the referee’s

  • GoingGoingGooner

    Compare this to the National Hockey League which does its utmost to get the decisions right through the use of a centralized ‘war room’ that reviews decisions in real time. Decisions are even reviewed retroactively. An example would be a goal that went in and out too quickly to be noticed by the human eye. At the next whistle the play is reviewed. If football were to get rid of the pre-industrial revolution idea of the referee deciding time and stopped the clock at every stoppage (60 min game maybe), these could be implemented easily. Suspensions and the like are accompanied with explanations. The league is not perfect but it is at least transparent.

  • Mick

    What we need to happen is for someone with the skills and sheer tenacity of Andrew Jennings (the man FIFA fears most) to pick up the baton and run with it. Once he gets his teeth into something he will never let go.

  • norgunner

    I have no doubt in my mind that some refs in the EPL are corrupt. I have seen so many bad ref calls against Arsenal these last 6 or so years and it just cannot be random. Not to talk about how the media always tries to portray Arsenal in the worst possible way. I think it has to do that Arsenal do it the right way economically and in general. I think some of the wrong people (higher ups) dont really like that and that these certain people use thier influences to bash Arsenal through media, refs, fixtures, etc.

    Media is a very dangerous tool being used world wide, controlled closely by a select few. That is a fact, not a statement. And football is just a small part of the bigger picture here.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Hopefully there is a Watergate inspired journalist out there, though I would admit some Watergate investigative methodology is these days somewhat frowned upon in the UK at least. But keep it up Untold, like cases such as Hillsborough, some unpleasant personalities that once worked for the BBC and many other scandals, sometimes the truth everyone knows , just sometimes this truth will out

  • Pete

    I see that Mark Halsey has been sidelined by BT Sport – apparently after pressure from the Premier League.

    Refereeing performances really are the elephant in the room!

    Sooner or later.

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    Writing to Sir Bob is on my
    ‘To do’ list for later today. I don’t expect a reply but if I do get one I’ll send it to you. I think he picked the wrong target. There was an interesting post this last week on the”football is fixed” blog listing a number of points that, if addressed, would eliminate most of the fixing in football. Most have been covered here extensively. Untold is not alone even if it sometimes feels like it is.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Pete are you serious???

    The plot thickens….. and we are just a bunch of deluded idiots they say….

    Because I usually refer to Mike Riley when I attack the PGMOL as he is the head of the PGMOL. But above the PGMOL there is another organisation of course: The PL. Both cannot exist really without the other.

    Now for all these calling us some idiots just try to let this sink in:

    If the PL can pressurise an organisation like BT sports to dump Halsey this is to protect the PGMOL and their refs.
    Now who is one of the big boys in the PL? Isn’t there someone who became head of the PL after having a career in….the media.

    And what a coincidence….this person is also….a referee (or former referee).

    And my mole has been pointing the finger in that direction.

    A head of the PGMOL who did what he did and who can get away with it without the media making a fuss.
    One of the big boys in the Pl who has big influence in the media and who is a former ref and knows both sides of the coin.

    And you wonder why the media doesn’t touch it?

    Someone of my moles (I have more 😉 ) once said that Riley is just a pupet on a string with his own little agenda. Look further my mole said… Are you seeing the light?

  • WalterBroeckx

    The title of this article couldn’t have been picked better.
    Excellent as usual Tony.

  • Don’t know just asking, have Mike shit Riley apologized for the shit that was done against d Arsenal/ Mac$ity game or its as he wanted it!! I hate the communists but I like their laws.

  • WalterBroeckx

    I think he will have cracked a bottle of his best champagne together with another referee I think

  • greencardusa

    If we can get an address to mail comments about biased refeering to the Referees Association and Premier league, fans from across the world can mail in and deluge these organizations with our concern. We may simply print out and mail the very article Tony or Walter write up. Perhaps this, done consistently will bear some fruit. We may even consider sending such mail to a significant media outlet to force some attention.

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    Writing to Sir Bob is on my ‘To do’ list for later today. I don’t expect a reply but if I do get one I’ll send it to you. I think he picked the wrong target. There was an interesting post this last week on the”football is fixed” blog listing a number of points that, if addressed, would eliminate most of the fixing in football. Most have been covered here extensively. Untold is not alone even if it sometimes feels like it is.

  • SeedyJ

    Honestly… this is just making me laugh now.

    “We’re whiter than white! We’re English, this sort of thing doesn’t happen here! We’re special snowflakes!”

    It’s sad admitting that nowadays I get more fun from playing World of Warcraft or EVE Online than from watching a footie match. But I do. I’d rather watch paint dry now.

    Nowadays it’s just a f*cking pantomime out there, like WWE, and all you can see on the street are poor deluded fools who believe that the game still means anything to all the little rich boys.

    And the media? These guys are just dealers providing “entertainment crack”. They’ll say nothing till they’re up against the wall.

    Any other sport that’s actually worth watching guys?

  • TommieGun

    Walter, here is a challenging thought:

    That person (the “Puppeteer”), is there since 1999. We have won quite a lot with him in office.

    Why the sudden change? I mean, the only thing I can think of (and it does not mean that I understand why, it is just a chronological correlation) is David Dein ousted.

    Do you think those things are connected? If not – what is the explanation for the changing winds ?

  • Gord

    Jack Wilshere has been charged by the FA for making an obscene gesture. He has until 6pm tomorrow (Dec 18) to respond.

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    1 in 2,097,152. That’s one in two million ninety-seven thousand, one hundred and fifty two. That’s the chance of tossing a coin twenty-one times and getting heads (or tails) each time. The chance of a referee in an Arsenal game getting twenty-one calls wrong and all against Arsenal 100%.

    That’s how written the Premier League is!

  • Gord

    I will grant you it is close to sure Andrew. But you need to leave that little bit of doubt.

    Here’s a situation for you, not football. A plastic stir stick is what, 12cm long. If you tossed one, it might travel further than 3m, but I suspect more often than not it wouldn’t. Someone has a cup of coffee to which they had added whitener, and they want a stir stick to distribute the whitener. I toss them a stir stick, and they miss catching it with their hands. It lands in the center of the cup of hot coffee, standing straight up. And stays that way for a minute or so. What are the odds of that happening?

    It’s not as long as the odds of a sugar cube spontaneously reforming in a cub of coffee. But it did happen, I threw the stir stick.

  • bob

    As a practical, actionable measure, Arsenal fans should consider bringing their (home-made) red cards to the Ems and greet each act of refshite with an ocean of red cards. Let them edit that out of their in-game lens crafting and post-match cover(up)age. Some millions watching might then notice, in real time, some correlation between what happened on the pitch and the fans’ red-carding of the refshite. It will also expose the presenter pundits who will do their usual piling on to slag Arsenal; but dare they take on the paying customers? And, the red-carding by fans could catch on, so that other clubs’ fans might do the same. This will put the Riley-ites and string-puller(s) on the back foot, methinks. If our own fans could muster enough common interest to do the red card thing, or some such action (petition, whatever), then it could move mountains. That our own fans won’t take the time for this is a worry; and it’s what keeps the lenscrafters and stringpullers so worry-free. Well, it’s once again hunting season on us and it’s time that gooners went public with a visible expose of what’s chronically being hidden in plain sight, on the pitch itself, by the craven media.

  • bob

    p.s. and the club and/or private vendors could sell the red cards at concessions (with or without the AFC logo) and do well by doing some good.

  • Matt Clarke

    A1, ace idea bob – bring it on

  • Pete

    Walter – I read the Halsey thing last night on some web outlet. Can’t remember where but thing it was semi-credible at least. But the fact is, he wasn’t there on Saturday to give an instant opinion on decisions. Are these two events related?

    TommieGun’s theory is very interesting. I am aware that DD does have some relationships with the club hierarchy behind the scenes (other than Wenger his mate, of course). For example, I am reliably informed that he has given the odd word of advice to Dick Law – and I would be surprised if he didn’t have some kind of relationship with Gazidis. Dein is an exceptionally able football politician so absolutely should deploy him in a capacity here. I’m sure he could have a quiet chat with Walter’s friend?

    Dein’s problem was with Fiszman. Now that Fiszman is (sadly) deceased and Dein is no longer involved with Usmanov I very much doubt that hostilities are anything like the level they used to be.

    Regarding Walter’s comments, I believe the individual in question supports a lower division team so that can’t be the problem. But would it be unsurprising if his obsession with increasing revenues resulted in clubs popular with global fanbases and/or having extremely rich owners perhaps getting slightly more smooth than rough…?

    When was the last time a club other than MU, MC or Chelsea won the League? (Don’t worry – I do know the answer!) And did this occur before or after Dein left Arsenal?

    Final off the wall comment… would be interesting if someone sued the PL/PGMOL for the cost of their football season ticket given that the matches were not on a level playing field – quoting UA reviews as evidence? Imagine the publicity!

  • Krause

    DEAN DOWD PROBERT IN THAT ORDER TO CLOSE OUT THE YEAR…THANKS RILEY…seems like they are releasing the appointments sooner than past years…happy holidays all.

  • SouthernGunner

    Over in Italy, ex-AC Milan, World Cup Champions League winner player Gennaro Gatuso is being investigated for alleged match fixing. I realise it in regards to another league, but he is a well paid & high profile figure. Who’se to say it can’t happen elsewhere?

  • nicky

    @Andrew Crawshaw,
    The Australian Test skipper appears to be narrowing those odds, Andrew. Three matches and three correct calls of the coin.

  • Stuart

    On the subject of legislation, as Sir Bob says, I don’t think there is much that can be done as having tried starting a petition on the Number 10 website, (which if enough signatures were received would force a parlimentary debate), I was refused on the grounds that the government will not interfere into matters related to football.

    I urge readers in countries outside of the UK to write into their newspapers and news outlets (on a regular basis if practical) to highlight the problem with offiviating in the Premier League as quite often is the case that newspapers over here start reporting something if foreign newspapers cover it enough. This way, we are more likely to see the matter dealt with – initially on the basis of getting one up on the English (much like we do with anyone outside of England) and eventually by the media over here once they cannot ignore it.

  • Stuart

    I like the first comment by Wam. Perhaps we can create some suspicious betting patterns on Premier League matches. If everyone goes and bets on Arsenal receiving 3 yellow cards in the Chelsea game.

    With enough bets, on the this factor, it can’t be ignored. Do this enough times and over enough games (not necessarily just Arsenal games) and someone will have to do more than just scratch the surface. It wouldn’t need to be huge bets either, £2 would do (you might just win too) however it would need to be the same bet by everyone.

  • AL

    Your call to the readers out of the UK to start writing to their local papers could even work for us. In this global world it should just be a case of dropping the paper an email, and we could target a few famous papers across the Atlantic or Europe. Don’t think Australia would work as it’s Murdoch’s territory. I’m sure if a reputable paper in say a country like Canada, or the US, got several emails from these shores saying the same thing that our papers are refusing to expose corruption it just might take one of them to report on it.

    Meanwhile it seems the plot is thickening in the Halsey/PL saga;–Charles-Sale.html

  • Stuart

    Canada or US would be good however I was thinking along the lines of Germany, Spain, Italy first and foremost as well as the rest of Europe as these are direct competitors of the Premier League who stand to gain most from it. I am with you on the email thing and being to write in from anywhere but as I don’t communicate in other languages fluently enough, I don’t feel up to it (I am beginner level at German so maybe one day). I think regular discussion could be stoked up in newspapers that would eventually not go away.

  • AL

    Yes, I see your reasoning and it makes perfect sense, European countries have more of an interest in this than their American counterparts. Unfortunately the language barrier will mean most of us won’t be able to contribute…

  • Mahdain

    @AL interesting link on Halsey. Thats yet another reason for anyone to question the integrity of those running the PL but alas people will turn a blind eye and pretend Halsey is a lunatic. They are hounding him off air the same way they hounded Rafa out of Liverpool for speaking his mind.. I would like for all the doubters to ask themselves if all is right in the PL then why are the powers that be trying to tone Halsey down/get him sacked? i mean if there is nothing to hide then why go all lengths to get a retired old man fired from his job?

  • Shakabula Gooner

    Breaking news
    Capital One Cup result:
    Sunderland 2 Chelsea. 1

  • Pat

    Well, according to BT Sport, Halsey will be back commenting on Monday. We shall see.

    Excellent article, Tony.

  • Bob’s idea of supporters carrying a red card to signify refeering shortcomings is a brilliant idea that I wholly endorse. Please, this is simple enough to put into action; can we do this on Monday? Also, we need multiple forms of reaction to have any positive effect so I think we should act on all the ideas above. It would help if we can identify specific media outlets and share them on this site so we can get busy. Lets change this and do what we can to make football tolerable and need I add, enjoyable.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Yes, great idea Bob, show the world and embarrass the Epl/FA/ PGMOL. As has been posted, foreign press will be more likely to latch onto such things than our own.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    I think bob’s suggestion is a good one ,but would like it if someone would start the ball rolling with a ” UNTOLD ARSENAL IS WATCHING YOU ” banner .
    As there are already 800,00 visitors here monthly , it could further increase awareness that the EPL is crooked, as well giving this site more clout ( and probably more money !)
    As Halsey is quite free ( and probably furious too) , why not invite him to ‘contribute’ in some manner here .What a coup it would be .Tony could pay him a stipend from the money he would be raking in !

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Something along the lines of the late Don Martin ‘s legendary “Fonebone is watching you ” poster ‘ – only we’d have Tony ‘s frowning caricature on it !

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Tis the season to be jolly , merry and weird ?

    The annual chringe

  • menace

    @Tommie Gun – you are close to the reality. It’s a church (syn) of very organised people. The bergs the blacks the whites and my life.

    I find it a little strange that Jack was picked on with his finger salute but Wayne was allowed to kick out at competition with both feet. It’s the Fergie effect that ensures his boys against FA reflective correction.

    There was also some very poor (taste) singing when the female refs assistant pulled up Man U for off side. It was certainly worse than a bite on the arm considering it was of a sexual nature. FA – well they did FA as usual.

    Halsey will have first hand knowledge of these things and might gently open the cage and allow some ‘birds’ to fly.

    An internet petition to number 10 will bring high visibility.

  • menace

    @ Stuart the bet should be ‘Arsenal to get more than 2 yellow cards v Chelsea’. It allows for a win yet creates a incident in the betting.

  • Stuart

    I’m down with that one. So anyone who has a betting account should bet 2 or more yellows every game!

  • bob

    Stuart, menace,
    in such betting, are you not encouraging the very market-corruption whose influence you aim to curb? not being snarky here, just please explain…

  • Stuart

    If enough people place the same bet on the same game then it would indicate suspicious betting patterns ie – something has been arranged to happen. To be fair, it would need to be more specific like Arteta to get a yellow between minutes 16 and 30. If enough bets are placed it would raise suspicion and if it happens enough, it would need to be investigated to see if there is any corruption.

  • Gianni Dioro

    What I can’t understand is why is it not okay to flip someone the bird (2 match suspension), but players can routinely tell the ref to F*kc Off.