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October 2020

Who controls football in England? It’s more difficult to answer that question than you might imagine.

By Tony Attwood

It seems such an innocuous question: who runs football in England?  And yet the more I think about it, the more confused I get.  (OK I know I am often confused, but on this one I am even more confused.)

The list below of the institutions, bodies, groups, and collections of organisations, is put in order of the power level exerted.   But I have to say, since I started trying to write this piece, I’ve changed the list over and over both in terms of what I have included and more often in terms of the order herein.

There’s 20 items all told on my list, and here I’m just dealing with the top five.  I hope to come back to the rest in the next few days, in between matches, transfers and other events.

And I’m sure you’ll disagree.  Hell, having done it, I disagree, but I have to stop making changes somewhere.

1: TV stations

There’s no doubt they choose when the fixtures are played, and in their arrogance, which clubs are seen and which sets of fans have impossible journeys based on these decisions.

But there is more, because they choose what we see – cutting away from time wasting, failing to look in detail of awful refereeing decisions, giving equal weight to moronic comments (“The jury’s still out…”) as they do to interesting insights (as with Thierry Henry’s early analysis of Coquelin).

Likewise their insistence of using the same “pundits” over and over, who have biased viewpoints, and their creation of and the repetition of what they consider to be key points (Arsenal have an injury crisis, Arsenal must sign players, signing players is a sign of determination, sacking managers is inevitable…) defines the issues, and then controls the discussion around them.  They tell us how to construct our thoughts on football and this is indeed supreme power.

Worse, because the PL is now dependent on TV money, there is no way out of this.  Power is control, and if TV companies get together and say, “we want more games on Sundays or else no deal” they would get it.  (Of course TV companies banding together to fix the market is illegal under EU rules, but I doubt this would stop them, and anyway it is possible that the UK will pull out of the EU, at which point we’d be back to the utter freeforall in which large corporations run everything without anything to hold them back).

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2: The newspapers and radio stations

Newspaper circulations have decreased, but they still have big on-line readerships. Newspapers could stand up against the way in which TV interprets the world of football, but instead they play the game, desperate to be seen as relevant in football.

So because TV decides that grossly incompetent or bent refereeing is not a matter for debate, they don’t debate it, don’t mention it, and don’t say anything about it, because it is not part of the accepted agenda.

Occasionally they even sink so low as to take handouts from dubious organisations like PGMO or Barcelona and reprint these handouts as news.  When you are not following a story closely it is hard to tell news from a press release, so the power increases.

Radio stations have discussions with “experts” who repeat the standard mantra devised by TV and republished in the press.  Phone in shows are manipulated so that fans with views that are outside of the norm are laughed at.  Manage to get onto a phone in to complain about the referee and you’ll be laughed at or squeezed out.

I suspect that a huge percentage of people driving away from grounds after a match have a sports programme and then a phone in on – which makes radio a major part controlling factor in how people think about the game.


There’s no doubt that PGMO are out of control, with the League seemingly powerless to stop them or move them away from their bent vision of football.  A vision in which it is ok to have most referees from the north, in which referees who put in disastrous performances get rewarded by yet more fixtures, a vision which says it is vital to have a tiny number of referees, so that if any do get looked at carefully as match fixers or incompetent, nothing can be done because there isn’t anyone else.

A vision that says that if you criticise the ref you are just looking for excuses for your club’s bad performance.  A vision that has learned nothing from Spain and Italy.

As a result PGMO quite often decides the results of games, either deliberately or through their decision making of having a small clique of referees from the north.

Goodness knows how many matches would have different results if it were not for PGMO, but it would be a lot, in my view.  In fact a case can be made for PGMO being the most important element in football in the Premier League, for they directly affect results.  The media only affect how we think.

4:  Sponsors 

Sponsors of competitions and clubs pay big money for the privilege and demand things in return.  And to some degree we can fight back – we don’t have to call it the Emirates Stadium, or the Emirates Cup (I tend to call them the Ems and the FA Cup).

But they do have real power, and the worrying thing is that much of it is behind the scenes, and only on parade on rare occasions.  Does anyone really think that Fifa might have continued untouched until last year if Coca-Cola, Adidas and Visa hadn’t been deadly silent, pumping billions into the corrupt organisation?

We might also think of Ched Evans who was convicted of rape and whose case is now in the court of appeal.  When Sheffield Utd considered re-hiring him after he had served his time inside, two major sponsors of the club threatened to pull out, and the matter was dropped.  As a result of the publicity he is without a club, while awaiting the outcome of the appeal.  The sponsors had control, not the club management, not the fans, not the owners of the club.

(I’m not trying to debate the right or wrong on this; I recall Blacksheep and I having a very long debate in the pub on the merits of the employers right to choose who to employ against the “he’s served his time as the state requires, and now deserves the right to take up employment”.  It is complex of course, but my point is simply that it was the sponsors who took the decision.

Sponsors can decide where the club plays (such as on overseas tours), when club plays (working with TV to maximise the number of matches that can be shown), and can ignore fans’ wishes in terms of kick off times etc as they seek maximum publicity.

They can demand exclusivity, leading to a small group of young women in South Africa being arrested in the world cup, and thrown in an appalling prison for appearing at a game wearing T shirts with the “wrong” beer shown on the front.  They have power.

The fact that sponsors have no long term interest in football or the club they sponsor is the worrying factor here.  TV, radio, and the media do have a long term vision – they want to keep the game “clean” by not discussing certain matters, so they can keep their audience – which means they want the game to continue to be popular.  Sponsors’ prime consideration is themselves, not the well-being of the club.

5.  Players

Players, of course, help decide if the team wins, along with PGMO.  And players can decide where to go and who to play for.  Alexis famously decided on London, not Liverpool because fairly obviously most people wouldn’t want to go and live in Liverpool if they could afford to live in London and had the choice.

Although some do love their club, and have the highest regard for their manager, many are just contracted individuals.   We don’t expect a team of builders who tip up in Hartlepool to build 100 new houses to have an affection to Hartlepool, but we expect a player who signs for our club to be positive about it.  And they play the game, and then go.

Players can be motivated or de-motivated, injured or fit, trying or not trying, dissolute in their everyday lives, or wholesome creatures who look after their bodies, insightful into what the manager wants, or not.  And their abilities affect results.  When PGMO allows.

Conclusion on the first five

What surprised me as I played this little game of trying to arrange these and 15 other factors into an order is that I ended up with only one in the top five that is actually, centrally involved in football as we know it on a daily basis.   I didn’t start out to do this, but as I played the game, that’s how it seemed to come out.

Four of the five factors that have the most power are not directly associated with the clubs and their supporters.

Makes you think (or at least, makes me ponder).


Two more anniversaries

12 January 2011:  John Jensen who was implicated in the downfall of George Graham signed a 6 month contract with Blackburn as assistant manager.

12 January 2012: Philippa Dawson, a direct descendant of Jack Humble (Woolwich Arsenal’s first chairman, and a director into the 1920s) addressed an AISA meeting in the House of Commons.  She was the first member of the family to do so for four generations.  The meeting was addressed by Jeremy Corbyn, MP for Islington North, who in 2015 became the Leader of the Labour Party.


Insult of the day: Here is a silly stately style indeed! (Henry VI part 1)


Coming soon: One of the most famous players in the history of Arsenal, has written an article exclusively for Untold.  More details anon.


37 comments to Who controls football in England? It’s more difficult to answer that question than you might imagine.

  • Arthur

    Betting companies bribing referees, the sums involved are huge. Certain agents e.g. Key sports management.

  • Tai

    Great article Tony…

    While waiting for the other 15, I wonder where you put the Home Office, who decide what player to issue work permit or not…and Her Majesty’s Revenue Office, who may be interested in promoting the interests of clubs that spend big for sake of players’ weekly taxes.

    I’m compiling my own list of why Arsene Wenger and Arsenal have been evidently been frustrated to have gone out of business. There’s something clandestine going on in EPL…and clearly, Sir Alex Ferguson and later Jose Mourinho know every bit of it.

  • Usama Zaka

    Some guesses for the some of the next 15…

    Betting Companies
    Billionaire Owners
    Players’ Agents
    Social Media..
    English FA

  • The undisputed No.1 is TV companies. No one comes anywhere near them. The PGMOL is the rat infested organisation it is because the TV companies allow it to be. The day that SKY decides to go after referees equally and fairly for bad decisions is when fairness and competence will begin in the league.

    I still recall with great annoyance Howard Webb demonstrating with video on BT Sport that Southampton’s first 3 goals were wrong but with the conclusion that it didn’t matter because Southampton were (of course) the better team. I don’t know when that became a justifiable reason to gift goals. Today, that game is regularly used by Arsenal’s detractor for why we wouldn’t win the league.

    If we are still leading by game 30, I am expecting some horrible officiating just like we experienced in 2007/8. The Eduardo case has made most of us forget the role that poor/biased officiating played in depriving us of the title that season.

    The TV companies are so powerful because the referees are scared shitless of them.

  • Jambug


    You have them as 1 and 2 and rightly so.

    As you, and most on here will know, I have been advocating for years that it is the Media as a whole that dictate the footballing landscape.

    They are judge Jury and executioner of everything from Club owners, managers and players right through to the officials.

    They will hound owners to eternity if they don’t follow there belief that they must spend spend spend, irrespective of whether the Club actually has the money or not. Because if the Club hasn’t got it then they should be spending there own money.

    They will pick and chose which managers they want to deride and hound out of work.

    Benetez or Wenger will say something and it’s the ranting’s of an irrational fool. If Fergie or Fat Sam says the very same thing they are portrayed as making a valid point, and there words of wisdom, no matter how idiotic, should be gratefully embraced.

    They, and they alone will decide if a referee has had a good game or not, in total deference to what decisions they actually made during the game.

    We all know the media and there pundits actively promote the physical assaults on Arsenal players.

    We know it, so you can rest assured the referees know it.

    So in turn the referees obviously know that there performance on the pitch will be judged against the will and desires of there media executioners, who will be either praising or slaughtering them in the studios, and on the back pages, depending on how they shaped up to there expectations, so it’s hardly surprising they referee in such a way as to please the executioner.

    I’ve also said this many times, that if one of the media darlings, such as Fat Sam or ‘Arry was our manager (God help us) then we would be refereed entirely differently because we would be treated entirely differently in the media.

  • Andy Mack

    In my opinion, although these all have an influence on the ‘product’, it’s controlled by the marketing dept of the PL.
    The press & radio have very little influence and are scared senseless that their ‘privileges’ will be revoked.
    The sponsors have influence but new sponsors can be found if the ‘product’ is attractive enough for the marketing men.
    TV is the biggest influence and the PL does make it’s product for them, but there are a number of TV companies so they just strongly influence rather than control the game.
    The PGMO are the ringmasters for the PL marketing dept, and do their best ensure each game is an exciting episode within the premiership scripted soap opera, so they are the biggest influence on each individual game, but they don’t control the PL it’s self.
    But they do answer to the Marketing dept rather than any other part of the PL.
    The players are just well paid workers. Very few of them are clever enough to be anything more.
    The PL marketing team decide who would be the best winners each year from a PR perspective and the PMGO assist in trying to make that come true but it’s not a necessity that they win, just that they are ‘there or there-abouts’.
    Man-bore-united and Liverpoo both have enormous followings and need to be in the top group if possible but other teams can grow their following like $iteh and Chavski have, so it’s in the PLs interest that none of them stay at No.1 for more than a season or two. The marketing team decide how each team/manager/player is to be viewed in a stereo-typical way, Fat sam as a straight talking northerner who can get the best out of 2nd rate players, Old Red Nose could bully his team into giving 100% and Le Prof is the flakey but clever French guy (but with the generic French ability of running away from a fight and blaming others when possible), the list goes on…

  • Very analytical article!

  • proudkev

    Great article Tony.

    TV Companies
    The huge sums of TV money flowing into the game with the saturation of live games has encouraged the increased sponsorhip into the game. SKY kicked this all off. The TV Companies are ultimately in control.

    Follow the money. Money corrupts and I am afraid that this great game we love has been thoroughly corrupted. FIFA is probably the perfect example of that. Now Look at the match fixing that happened in Italy, Greece etc. Look at Bayerns domination of German football. Barcelona? Look at what happened when huge sums of moiney were spent by the rich oligarchs.

    I am uneasy about a lot of what goes on in the game. I like to think that the game here is clean but with so much money swimming around and the strange behaviour of the FA and PGMOl, concerning match referees, I wonder. If you only have 16 referees, of which 14 are operating, it does leave it more open to ‘control’. I still find the fact that we have no Southern referees in the PL at odds with my sense of fair play. Especially when the explanation is given that this is purely a training issue and this is reflected in the merit table. All very odd and makes no sense to me, I am afraid. I thought all referees applied the rules of the game, not sure about this regional bollocks tbh.

    Follow the Money
    My biggest gripe is the way money gets filtered into the pockets of the agents and the players instead of a subsidy to the paying public. We need families and young people going to games. Instead, all we have is a bunch of online experts giving us their expert views who have never atended a game in their lives. Walking into the Emirates makes you realise how great it is and offers a real sense of what Arsenal has no become. That cannot be appreciated ona widesecreen TV. I still get those goosebumps every time I walk into taht stadium. A sense of real pride sitting there. No amount of money can replace that. We need more people to feel that but at £60.00 a seat not possible. Needs to be subsidised in some way.

    The Media
    As far as the media is concerned, they have a huge amount of influence. The competition for page views in a world saturated with online football content has lead to the demise of fact based, researched journalism. Now we have poorly researched, inaccurate reporting (often recycled) aimed at quantity over quality. Much of this will have an underline, nasty message aimeed at insulting or abusing someone. The sole aim is to antagonise the reader or entice them to rise up.

    The media try to control a lot of what goes on in the game, an example is the hiring/sacking of managers. This really gets them off. I detest the media in this Country. Watching the clueless being so smug gets my goat. Neil Ashton, Henry Winter, Martin Samuels; in fact SKY’s Sunday Supplement has helped to show these planks for what they really are. Nasty, vindictive indivuals who know very little about the game. Members of the group I refer to as the ‘Fantasy Football Managers’ – a group of people that grow in number thanks to computer games, online fantasy football leagues and the recycling of so much utter bollocks.

    Can we have our game back please.

  • Rich


    Don’t know which one of the five this is most relevant to but I saw an astonishing stat on the weekend. It was a list of the top 20 teams who commit fewest (average) fouls per game in the big European leagues.

    The premier league had well over half (bout 12-14). It was basically Real, Bayern, Barca, PSG, another 1, maybe two from other countries, then all premier league. Stoke and West Brom were in there!

    Annoyingly, I’ve not been able to find it again (was on twitter; I lazily thought I’d make a note of source later on, then forgot to).

    Reminds me of the joke where a concerned old lady hears alarming news on the radio and rings up her beloved husband :

    ‘Be careful, Arthur. There’s a lunatic driving the wrong way on the motorway’

    ‘I know, love. Try not to worry, but there’s not one there’s thousands of them!’

    So, are the rest of Europe getting it wrong with fussy refereeing, or are we, with a more physical league than any of them, letting too many fouls go?

    Can’t find the stat I’m looking for but this’ll do as a taster. Average prem fouls per game this year (I think/hope)

  • Pat

    Following Captain Hindsight’s tip, I had a look at Football is Fixed. What a scary picture it paints. Thank goodness to be an Arsenal fan and still be able to go to a match and enjoy it confident that whatever may be the status of the referee, the manager at least is incorruptible.

  • Andy Mack

    proudkev, there are a few games with cheap seats that aren’t sold out, so more people can go if they can really be bothered. I find most of the people who say that don’t go because of prices are only interested in the high profile games rather than actually supporting the club.

    As you say, the Stadium Wenger is a really special place. Highbury had an aura as well, which many other clubs didn’t have. Many of them felt more like cow sheds next to a grazing pasture but Highbury was always a historic place. The Stadium Wenger is almost more like a theatre than a football ground and when the place is rocking it’s like a rock concert. If anyone in London hasn’t been then they must go, even if it’s to an U21s game. An awesome place.

  • Pete

    OT: The BBC is running a poll for a PL team to take on the Ballon D’Or team (as no PL players made the cut). So far, Cech narrowly lost out to De Gea, Bellerin is RB and Monreal is leading the LB voting…

    If you want some harmless fun:

  • Andy Mack

    Pete, If the Ballon D’Or vs PL game is officiated by the PL refs then the PL just needs to pick the 11 players most likely to foul their way to victory….

  • Pete

    Andy: 😉

    As for Football is Fixed, it is so terrifying that I try not to read it too often.

    Manifesto for change:

    – Scudamore to go. Now.
    – Referees wired up conversations to be publicly broadcast (as rugby)
    – Full video reviews, including manager referrals.
    – Full transparency from PiGMOB.
    – Agents to be properly regulated and all fees to be disclosed.
    – Law enforcement authorities to properly investigate suspicious betting patterns – following the leads wherever they go.
    – Many more PiGMOB referees, evenly geographically distributed. No referee to officiate a team within 50 miles of their home location. Ideally, use entirely non-English referees.
    – Announce refereeing appointments the day prior to games.
    – Ensure referees do teams no more than twice a season (one home, one away).
    – Match officials to disclose all their assets.

    Stream of consciousness. Probably a lot more. But a starter.

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    If you are looking for control then a solid guide in most fields is to follow the money. In football by far the largest sums of money are in the field of gambling. This is undoubtably the source for the majority of the corruption which in turn leads to the strange refereeing decisions and some of the odd ‘howlers’ that we all see on the pitch (remember you can bet on anything these days so a foul throw probably means someone has just made money). Betting firms sponsor clubs and in some instances virtually own them, they are also completely intertwined with a number of the players agents.

  • Pete

    Andrew – all true.

  • proudkev

    Andy mack – totally agree mate.


    You said: “Many more PiGMOB referees, evenly geographically distributed. No referee to officiate a team within 50 miles of their home location. Ideally, use entirely non-English referee”

    Sorry but as much as I agree with you, that made me laugh. It is the FA that promotes the referees based on their merit tables (complied on assessors reprots) and PGMOL can only appoint from that list. As ‘Southern’ based referess aren’r deemed at the right level/don’t interpret the rules as required by the FA (as confirmed by Keith Hackett AND the merit tables!!), there is no chance of a fairer distribution of referees.

    Teams in the North West, like the Merseyside and Manchester clubs have a high likelihood of getting a local referee for their games.6 referees in the North West, Anthony Taylor lives 5 mins from OT.

    (all distances to the centre of London)


    1. Lancashire – Anthony Taylor (Approx 380 Miles round trip)
    2. Cheshire – Mike Jones
    3. Lancashire – Lee Mason
    4. Lancashire – Neil Swarbrick
    5. Merseyside – Mike Dean
    6. Staffordshire – Phil Dowd

    1. Yorkshire – Martin Atkinson (Approx 420 Miles round trip)
    2. Yorkshire – Robert Madley
    3. Yorkshire – Jonathan Moss
    4. Yorkshire – Craig Pawson

    1. Midlands – Andre Marriner (Approx 260 Miles round trip)
    2. Midlands – Kevin Friend
    3. Oxfordshire – Graham Scott

    1. Northumberland – Michael Oliver (Approx 630 Miles round trip)
    2. County Durham – Mark Clattenburg (Approx 540 Miles round trip)


    1. Wiltshire – Roger East (approx 225 Miles round trip)
    2. Wiltshire – Lee Probart


    Mr Bloody Nobody (Approx 20 miles round trip)


    Mr Bloody Nobodys Brother (Approx 50 miles round trip)

    It is interestiung to see just how ridiculous this whole thing. Of the 20 teams in the Premier League, there are:

    5 in the North West (Liv/Everton/Man Utd/City/Stoke)
    5 in London (AFC/spurs/chelsea/Palace/West Ham)
    4 in the South (B’Mouth/Soton/Watford/Norwich)
    3 in the Midlands (Villa, WBA, Leicester)
    2 in the Northe East (N’castle/S’land)
    1 in Wales (Swansea)

    It gets worse every time you look at it.

  • Jambug


    “Betting firms sponsor clubs and in some instances virtually own them, they are also completely intertwined with a number of the players agents.”

    You seem to be suggesting that it is in some way the bookies that are the determining factor.

    If that where true wouldn’t you of thought that the ‘howlers’ would favour the underdog?

    If we take as an example 3 ‘debatable’ penalties at the weekend.

    -One favoured Manchester United and secured them a win.

    Surely Utd where favourites and therefore this was a bad outcome for the bookies?

    -One favoured Chelsea and helped ensure there victory.

    Surely Chelsea would of been favourites and this would of again been a bad result for the bookies?

    -One favoured Spurs and stopped Leicester winning.

    Surely a Leicester win was the outside bet and therefore the best outcome for the bookies?

    So all 3 of those ‘debatable’ penalty calls favoured the favourite and therefore would surely of cost the bookies money.

    And decisions favouring Man Utd and Chelsea, in games they are often favourites to win, are, as we all know, very common. Surely it would suicide for the bookies to be behind this?

    If you where suggesting betting ‘syndicates’ where behind it I would see your point, although I wouldn’t personally agree, but I cant for the life of me see why the bookies would be behind getting the ‘favourite’ to win.

    Unless I’m missing your point of course in which case I apologise.

  • Mandy Dodd

    All the choices are valid, though I feel the PGMOL, as odious as they can be are just the foot soldiers for something much bigger.(and, being near the bottom of the chain, they will be the first to be targeted with righteous indignation when things get uncovered….have a feeling those at the top of their body know this)
    The media are certainly part of it, but perhaps not right at the top of the chain
    Above the MSM, I would put the English football authorities
    Above that, the real problems, corrupt world and europe wide authorities, IFAB, then, corrupted agents, money laundering oligarchs and states, illegal bookmakers, organised crime.
    Quite a charming bunch, all in many ways as bad as each other, the greedy, the ambitious, the compromised, the willing bidders at the bottom, the silence…and at times complicity from the media and regulatory bodies,then, some real criminals.
    There may be short term gains, but would not want to be in a chain like that, as ultimately, it is only those at the top who will really benefit over time, as with all criminalised networks.

  • insideright

    Don’t forget that four of the (then) ‘big five’ clubs voted against Sky having the TV contract for the EPL. The one that voted for them was Spurs in the person of their (then) owner Alan Sugar who owned the company that made satellite dishes.
    When his work was done he sold the club and went to work for the BBC – amongst others!

  • proudkev


    You may have missed my article on this but I KNOW why there are no referees from the Southern Counties.

    Its a TRAINING issue.

    I had a conversation with Keith Hackett on this subject. Keith used to be head of PGMOL and one of our top referees. He claims that the FA were aware of the fact that Southern refeees needed additional training regardin the way they ‘should’ interpret the rules of the geam. The reason why southern referees are not at the top of the Merit tables, based on assessment, is because they are not refeeering teh games teh same way as the Northern County refs. As bizarre as this sounds, this is the reason why refereeing is dominated in the North.

    Neale Barry at teh FA is aware opf this issue but despite warnings has decided to do nothing about it. Keith Hackett raised concerns about Manchester based referees officiating at games involving the Manchester clubs. Mike Dean is a Liverpool fan so he does not get their games.

    So Southern referees are simply applyimng the rules not in a way recommended by the FA, whatever the hell that means. I understand it is the ‘interpretation’ of the rules and a less tolerant approach to physical tackling.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Sky are certainly a major player, witness their desperation to have Jose replace LVG after the former was sacked. Makes a good story, but ultimately, what have Utds internal affairs got to do with them?
    I believe the Englsh game is not quite at the tipping point, and with strong leadership and help from the media, it can yet be saved from the crininalisation other countries and sports have…and are seeing, but not a lot of encouragement out there this is happening.
    This league generates too much money not to keep a very close eye on it, and secrecy obsessed organisations, and media silnce are not the way forward. Remember, we have only just moved on from an era whereby a manager was in effect selecting referees for his teams games, if manager can do that, what could someone with true wealth and power get up to?

  • Jambug


    If true, that is simply amazing and very worrying.

    A few questions:

    1) Where is Keith Hacket from?

    “He claims that the FA were aware of the fact that Southern referees needed additional training regarding the way they ‘should’ interpret the rules of the game.”

    2) Who has set the guidelines as to how the ‘Rules of the game’ ‘should’ be interpreted? Someone, somewhere must be appointing themselves chief ‘Rule Interpreter’ and by definition has decided that the ‘Northern’ interpretation and NOT the ‘Southern’ interpretation is the correct one?

    “Neale Barry at the FA is aware of this issue but despite warnings has decided to do nothing about it.”

    3) Warnings from who?

    Cant be from Hacket as he seems to be in agreement that the Southern Referees need additional train because “He claims that the FA were aware of the fact that Southern refeees needed additional training….”

  • Gord

    To me, Keith Hackett is of the opinion, that breaking someone’s leg is only a foul if it is intentional.

    That someone plays a manner likely to break other people’s legs is not relevent. And should a collision with that kind of player occur while this person is carrying out their “job” on the field, it isn’t even a foul. It is “part of the game”.

    In large respects, Keith Hackett is part of the problem, not the solution.

  • proudkev

    Jambug, Gord and anyone interested………..

    Keith Hackett was the former general manager of PGMOL and a former top referee. He is therefore an informed source. I believe he comes from Yorkshire.

    When I asked him about this subject and the appointment of referees, he wrote to me and said the following:-

    “You make an excellent observation and one that certainly was a worry for me when i held the office of General Manager at the PGMOL. At one stage there was neither a referee or assistant referee in Cornwall and i ran a series of Training meetings to aid this problem.

    One official did come through to the Football League.

    I note the list that you produced and can add to your concern.

    I do not attach any blame onto Mike Riley at the PGMOL he can only promote referees that are at the top of the merit tables. Geography cannot play a part in the selection process.

    Therefore who takes the rap……..sadly Neale Barry Head of Senior Referee at The Football Association who has failed to focus on this problem,
    In my time there were many officials from London and the South of England. The Football Association need to act”

    I call that pretty damning.

  • Rich


    I did read that article with interest recently but must’ve failed to grasp the main point.

    I came away thinking it- rule interpretation- was a big factor, not THE factor.

    Honestly, I’m more dispirited than ever to find out that’s the case. It seems literally incredible.

    Doesn’t change what I was saying that much,though: if it’s a training issue, train them ( even if it has to be in the supposedly superior Northern style)

    Again you can only conclude it is not deemed important, let alone an urgent priority.

  • proudkev


    I was incensed when Anthony Taylor, who lives in manchester, was allocated our game with manchester United at the Emirates. I laughed about the prospect of this joker travelling down on their coach. It was such a weird and senseless appointment I asked Keith hackett what he thought.

    This is what he told me:

    “Maintaining high levels of integrity in officiating is a vital ingredient to the success of our game. Interestingly there have been a number of cases around the world where referees have been found guilty of corruption.

    In my time in office I introduced a new section into the Contract criteria for our match officials that officiate in the professional game. It states; NO GAMBLING ON FOOTBALL WORLDWIDE. It is essential that our reputation for honesty and integrity is maintained. Your observation on the graphical hotspots for the group of our professional referees is well made.

    So I shuddered when I first saw the appointment of Anthony Taylor to a game involving a Manchester Club in a Premier League game. If the game had gone wrong then he is put at risk to verbal derision which can also have an effect on his family. I would not take such a high risk and frankly this type of exposure can be avoided.

    I believe that the situation that you have highlighted is a reflection on the current failure of The Football Association and Football League to address this issue.

    • Recruitment and retention
    • Mentoring
    • Career Pathway etc.

    Sadly I think that things might just get worse”

    So here we have an experienced referee who held the position as general manager of PGMO, stunned about the way things are now being run. These clowns in the FA and PGMOL are not fit for purpose.

  • Jambug

    So it’s not Riley’s fault there’s no Southern Referees at the top of the merit tables?

    So the question has to be, WHY isn’t there enough Southern referees at the top of the merit table?

    Well, we know that really don’t we. It’s because they don’t referee in the correct way.

    But the big question is, the correct way according to who?

    Who is it that is decreeing that the style of refereeing in the south is wrong?

    Who guides the assessors?

    Whoever that is is ultimately to blame for this geographical imbalance then?

  • proudkev


    It’s the FA who dictate how the rules of the game are applied. They run the referee training programs, Tge referee assessors and the merit tables. Riley can only choose from the referees at top of the merit table. These,are always Northern based referees.

    Riley is responsible for appointing referees to games.

    Neale Barry at the FA is at fault. He has decided how the rules should be applied.

  • Jambug


    Thanks for that.

    Another couple of questions.

    How and by whom is he appointed?

    Hasn’t this Northern bias been around for ages though, well before Barry?

    The fact is, Barry’s interpretation of the rules seems to be universally accepted within the ‘game’

    Is the entire media Northern?

  • Mandy Dodd

    Can see the Newcastle fans having a petition against Dean now!
    Both teams should have had a pen, but only one got one so far

  • Menace

    Great article Tony. It points to one major controlling factor – MONEY!! The root of all evil when uncontrolled.

  • Menace

    January 12, 2016 at 2:33 pm

    Agree with most of what you write, except I think PIGMOB must be disbanded & replaced by FA appointed officials. The officials must be directly employed by the FA & not a Limited company. The wages etc must be transparent so that all that goes on is cleanly accounted for.

    The PIGMOB are worse than a cancer on football. They are closely related to Agents who are an infested tumour.

  • Menace

    Proudkev – what is Hacketts opinion on the fact that the PGMO has no non white officials?

    Does the FA state that the PGMO ‘must not disclose ethnicity or religion’ when appointing officials?

  • proudkev


    To be fair, the selection of referees is based on where they finish in the merit tables. Ethnicity or Regionality are not used to weight the results.

    The issue for me is the fact that Southern referees are judged by the assessors with lower marks than Northerne ones. Keith Hackett says that is a training issue regardng Southern refs – the implication being they apply the rules differently.

    I think regionality should be used to wieght the results. It makes absolute sense to me that you 1) Better manage the distances travelled by referees and 2). eliminate allocating referees to their home town clubs. Giving a monitor the the 4th official etc would also eliminate the risk of ‘bias’.

  • Jambug


    “Keith Hackett says that is a training issue regardng Southern refs – the implication being they apply the rules differently.”

    Not just ‘differently’ but ‘wrongly’ otherwise it wouldn’t be an issue.

    I assume it is this Barry guy that has deemed the Northern interpretation of the ‘Laws of the game’ to be the Internationally accepted interpretation then?

    This, despite the fact that the Northern interpretation seems to be entirely at odds with the rest of Europe, and presumably FIFAs own interpretation of the ‘Laws of the Game’.

    Very very sad and one of the main reasons, along with a lack of coaches, why our football lags so far behind our European counterparts.

    But why do we, as a Nation, seem happy to go down this route?

    Why is it Kev, that we at Arsenal, or even worse, just us here at Untold, seem so often to be just a voice in the wilderness?

    Personally I think it’s routed deep in our jingoistic view of ourselves. A view that is far more entrenched in the traditionally industrialised North of the Country than the much more cosmopolitan and culturally diverse South of the Country.

    That Jingoistic view sees ourselves as ‘tough’. No one messes with us, least of all those foreign nimbi pambies coming over here thinking they can tell us how to play football.

    We invented the game for pities sake !!

    That’s why we still get adverts that take the piss out of French and German accents. Try doing that advert in a West Indian or Asian accent and see how far you get.

    That’s why, despite the beauty and success of it, we still get digs banded about regarding ‘ticy tacy’ football, and incredulity when a team dares to pass it (oops sorry walk it) into the net.

    That’s why we love it when those prancing foreigners get there comeuppance from the Shawcrosses and Taylors of this World.

    Personally I despair as nothing, simply nothing seems like changing any time soon