By Tony Attwood
The FA has a section on its web site called “Media comments and Social Networking cases – Charging guidelines”
It says in part,
The following types of public media comment, including on social networking websites, may be considered to be in breach of FA Rule E3:
- Comments which are improper, which bring the game into disrepute, which are threatening, abusive, indecent or insulting.
- Comments about match officials which imply bias, attack the officials’ integrity or which are personally offensive in nature
The way this rule is interpreted has always been a matter of variance and conjecture, but there is not doubt that this rule and its predecessors in place before the advent of social media, have been used to stop people in the game criticising the referees. The rule is in fact a fundamental part of the secrecy that surrounds the way refereeing works in professional football in England.
The essence of the second part of the rule suggests that if you work in the game you can’t say a ref is biased, although you might get away with saying he made made a mistake.
As you’ll probably have gathered I am thinking of the comments made by Messrs Mourinho and Wenger in their post defeat conferences and whether they might be charged by the omnipotent FA.
But before we go into that, we might also consider something else. Five years ago I think criticism of referees was much rarer than now, and when it did happen it was crushed by the FA. Now there is more outspokenness – not because PGMO wants it (far from it of course) but because people are slowly waking up to the phenomenal danger that the game is under, given the existence of PGMO.
It is a revolution that has hardly been commented upon, and it is a revolution that has been slow in gaining momentum, but it is happening all the same.
Of course the FA still does pop up sometimes, as with Brendan Rodgers last year when he said that the performance of the officials in the Liverpool loss at Manchester City was “horrendous”. He also asked why a Greater Manchester referee, in Bolton’s Mason, was appointed to the fixture. (That’s one that we all know the answer to – PGMO deliberately keep the number of refs very limited, and employ few (or in many seasons zero) refs from the south, so such clashes of interest are inevitable).
Swansea manager Garry Monk however was not charged after he accused Stoke player Victor Moses of cheating to win a penalty. He didn’t make a direct accusation about the ref.
In 2011 Ferguson was charged after he said of ref Atkinson in a game against Chelsea, “It was a major game for both clubs and you want a fair referee. You want a strong referee and we didn’t get that. I don’t know why he [Atkinson] got the game. I must say that when I saw who was refereeing it, I feared the worst.”
Warnock and Moyes have also been charged in similar circumstances.
If you follow the referee commentaries on Untold you know that our concern is that Premier League refereeing is in a shocking state, and there is evidence of downright bias, and the whole refereeing situation is controlled by a highly secretive body that has set up processes, decisions and rules which represent the opposite of openness and which give rise to serious cause for concern.
Those who accuse Untold writers of indulging in conspiracy theories only have to look at PGMO and its secrecy – anyone creating a conspiracy would be proud of such an organisation.
In this situation, I’m personally very glad every time a manager has the guts to stand up and point out something is wrong. Indeed I would say that if only a few more managers would do this, then the continuing Untold campaign to get the PGMO opened up, could take a major step forwards.
And it does seem to me that yesterday’s games gave us two commentaries from managers that helped this process a bit.
In a TV interview he said, “Mr Dowd was too slow to follow that ball. He was 40 yards away, but made the right decision. The decision he was 10 metres away he couldn’t make.”
“We are speaking about two matches [Southampton and Tottenham], six points. We had one [point] out of six when two crucial decisions would give us six points. What matters are the points. The decisions – the normal tendency is for people to forget the decisions.”
Meanwhile Mr Wenger commented on Craig Pawson’s bizarre decision not to dismiss Florin Gardos for tripping Sanchez, 20 minutes from the end saying, “It was of course a sending-off. I was surprised, a definite red card.”
The actions of the FA seem to be increasingly random in this field, rather like an out of touch and ineffectual headmaster throwing punishments to naughty school children at random, and wondering why their behaviour gets worse and worse rather than better and better. So it is impossible to guess if they will do anything about either statement.
But personally I hope that every manager stands up and criticises the refs when they find they are wrong. It will be one more strand of attack in the battle to get a more general debate on PGMO and its bizarre, eccentric and perverse way of managing refereeing.
Of course we have taken steps forward before, only to find that the clubs trying to edge towards reform back down when they are no longer the ones being challenged. Just one year ago Southampton (the beneficiaries of one of yesterday’s bizarre refereeing decisions) complained about a comment by Mark Clattenburg during a match to a Southampton player after two penalty appeals were turned down.
PGMO dismissed the complaint and Southampton issued a statement saying that they did not accept the verdict and it would not be “appropriate” for Clattenburg to referee any future Southampton matches.
The FA refused to investigate PGMO or its actions, and Southampton FC made it known that they wanted further complaints against officials dealt with outside PGMO.
Nothing was done – and the matter has passed, but, and this is the key point – it was another assault on PGMO, and I believe it is important to keep on making this assaults, until eventually the organisation is closed down and replaced by something far more open and more appropriate. It is sad that Southampton were willing to step up to the mark when it suited them, but have since backed away. Perhaps others will be able to take a more persistent view.
I want to finish however with a different complaint.
I have mentioned before about how Man City appear to have found a loophole within FFP by having Lampard bought by the club their owners control (New York FC) and then loaned to Man City.
Mourinho was asked about this and said: “Lampard? They can bring any player from New York FC. They can bring anyone and nobody will stop them. ”
OK, it wasn’t as strong as I would put it, but the man has spoken out again, and that must be applauded. Let’s hope Uefa will note Fifa’s ability to stand up to Barcelona over child trafficking, and will themselves have no difficulty in standing up to Mansour bin Zayed Al Nahyan.
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