By Tony Attwood
Just two weeks after Untold published its 10 point plan for how an open, honest and honourable referees’ organisation would look, and PGMO allowed a journalist into their hallowed offices for a chat.
Coincidence? Of course it was. Untold is just a blog run by a few enthusiasts who feel that PGMO is one of the key reasons that there is something fundamentally wrong with football in England. The notion that we can have any influence is fanciful.
A number of Untold readers wrote in and noted the interview in the Independent, which took place in the offices of PGMO. I’ve held back on any commentary until now, just in case there was more to follow. But all seems to have gone quiet again, so it is time to take a closer look at the report and what it implies.
The article was an interview with Howard Webb technical director of Professional Game Match Officials, and looks to be like an opening salvo in re-imaging PGMO into your nice, warm, friendly, cuddly bunch of everyday football lovers.
There’s lots of talk about Webb refereeing the Christmas truce game in Ypres as part of the commemorations of the First World War, and refereeing an under 15 schoolboy game that his son was playing in when the appointed ref did not show.
It is all homely stuff, and of course such everyday story of refereeing folk can be of interest, but it is hard not to think that this is little more than a smoke screen, following on from the sudden first move by PGMO, when they followed Walter’s commentary on the lack of action on having video refs at games with a press release that the Telegraph published.
What happens is the none of the big issues of fanatical secrecy levels and the lack of enough refs to avoid anyone handling any team more than twice a season, are addressed. Instead we get Jack’s Under-15s game at Oakwood High School in Rotherham.
And, hey, all those allegations on Untold about the utter and complete incompetence of their referee analyses which suggest near perfect referees striding the turf each day of the year, well, no need to worry about them because after the interview with the Independent the father of Jack (of under 15s fame) is “due to see a software developer about a project to help analyse the select group referees in even greater detail.”
But wow, they don’t need to – it is just that they’ll always go that extra mile…
“Not that they are not already under the microscope. Webb can tell you from the statistics on his phone that match evaluators in the Premier League have assessed every game in minute detail and say that up to the round of 15 matches so far this season there have been, collectively, 38,718 decision moments for referees. Of those, they say, 98.4 per cent have been made correctly.”
Yipee. Everything is perfect. All we have to do is take their word for it, because they sure as hell aren’t going to reveal their analyses in detail so that we can see exactly what happens. Conclusions without evidence. I can think of quite a few dictatorships that have worked the same way.
And that is the difference between the Untold analyses of referee performances and PGMO’s. We publish the analysis line by line by line. Event by event by event.
And what do they do? They tell us they have 98.4% correct. And utterly amazingly, the Independent, a newspaper whose very title suggests it is, sort of, Independent, just believes it.
But, let’s not get into this too deep, because in a trice, the interview moves on to the homely stuff, moving jobs and how he misses the games.
“You’d be crazy to say you don’t miss those big games or that great feeling of satisfaction when a game has gone well and you can relax a bit,” he says. “I could have carried on for 10 more years. I could have coasted but that was never the way.”
You can almost feel the honey dripping off the walls.
The one thing the “interview” does it let us know that PGMO are most certainly not going to give in to the suggestions made by those of us deeply concerned about the standard of refereeing and the way that PGMO is run as a secret society that makes MI5 look like open house.
Of Webb the interviewer says, “He is passionate about the high standards of the 17 select group referees…” so we know we are in safe hands.
The whole PR exercise is just that – diverting attention from the fanatical secrecy of PGMO and its refusal to engage in the real debate. Instead we hear that there will be a DVD to clubs sent out about holding in the penalty area. Oh yes, and subsequent to Walter’s piece about video assistants Webb has been to the Netherlands to take a peek at video assistants. Well now, what a coincidence.
But in essence this is a piece about diverting attention. Telling us that they are already on the case we suggested they were not on (video refs) and reiterating their statistical claims without a single, solitary shred of evidence.
Instead we get a review on Clattenburg leaving the ground on his own. That’s what the Independent, or maybe PGMO, think is a BIG STORY.
I guess, having had this sort of thing in the Telegraph and now the Indy, we are going to see more drip feeding of PGMO stories across the press.
The only issue is, will each newspaper be taken in by the chance to have a free article, rather than do any serious investigative reporting.
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