By Tony Attwood
If anything seems to represent the style and approach of Professional Game Match Officials Ltd company which employs Premier League referees, it is a combination of complacency and secrecy, with a side order of arrogance thrown in.
This is a most dangerous combination, because the secrecy inevitably leads to a lack of belief that all is well with the game, and ultimately reduces the credibility of the matches that these referees run. Meanwhile the complacency makes matters worse, and when the organisation does suddenly wake up to the need to act they inevitably turn up with the traditional “too little too late”.
You can just imagine the bosses of the organisation sitting in their equivalent of Versailles, ignoring the pleas for reform and claiming that no one would dare act against their royal majesties, while forgetting the lessons of history from 1789 onwards.
Untold has been playing the role of the Third Estate in challenging PGMO for quite a few years now and the response of the organisation has been silence – and indeed on occasion the silencing of some of those who talk to us, not to mention the removal of their own web site and the ceaseless vigilance over their Wiki entry in case someone slips in a word of concern.
Meanwhile the media has continued to report the bad refereeing decisions, but not contrasted them at all with the PGMO’s own bizarre reporting of how it sees referee decisions as having gone. A brief attempt to respond to us via the Daily Telegraph, over the issue of the video referee, looked like a very quickly cobbled together press release, and the newspapers subsequent article suggested in-fighting within the organisation itself. Since then we have been back to silence.
The media’s position is ultimately unsustainable, because as always they are never asking “why?” Why are we seeing so many mistakes, and why are actions not being taken to resolve the situation? We could add the question “why does the media ignore the issue?” Is it because PGMO apply pressure, is it in the contract (“you can show these matches on TV but you must not question the competence of the ref”), or is it because in their arrogant manner the media thinks the issue of referee competence is too complex for their average readers?
That we don’t know, but there is on the horizon a warning of where this could lead if someone does not wake up soon.
For as I write this, games in all the professional leagues in Greece professional leagues are indefinitely suspended after a referees’ committee official was admitted to hospital following a violent attack. This in turn follows earlier violence against referees in Cyprus.
In Greece Christoforos Zografos, the assistant director of the central refereeing committee, was attacked by two men using clubs, in Athens last weekend.
Now of course I am not saying such appalling action could happen in England, but I do say that silence, and complacency, leads to this sort of situation.
The Hellenic Football Federation denounced the action as a “murderous attack” and simply stopped appointing officials to matches until steps were taken to protect match officials.
Clubs in Greece have for a long time been seeking the intervention of overseas referees to take on matches to stop what is perceived as wide-spread match fixing through the bribing of referees, in the style that we have become familiar with in Italy. Match-fixing scandals have indeed occurred several times in Greece.
Thankfully we are nowhere near such violence in England, but we have seen this season increasing numbers of managers risk the wrath of the FA and Premier League by openly questioning the decisions of referees in games – something that they all know is completely beyond bounds.
Ultimately PGMO will have to open up, just as ultimately the press will have to start reporting the concerns that we report week after week. They will do so of course using their “1984” technique of simply changing their approach and pretending that they have been concerned all the time. That is a given, but at least they will eventually start reporting the issue.
The problem is not that it won’t happen, but rather that it might well happen only after the situation gets so bad it is ultimately irredeemable.
The future in terms of refereeing in England, is not looking bright.
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