These days, when a ref makes a dubious decision, the inclination of most people is to blame the ref’s ability. The suggestion is that referees today are simply not able to keep up with the speed of the game.
What most commentators don’t suggest is that the ref might have been bought.
In Italy of course it is quite different, because there we have recently seen Juventus, Milan, Fiorentina, Lazio and Reggina implicated in ref bribing.
Yet I find it curious that when we see so many odd decisions, not just in Arsenal games, but in other matches as well, that the notion that a ref has been bribed is not raised.
Of course there are legal issues here, and there is a major interest for gambling (which is much more strictly regulated in Italy than here. Indeed it took a European Court of Justice ruling to show insist that the Italian government could not bar gambling companies from other EU states from doing business with Italians. (Just go to Slovenia, where there are casinos everywhere, and you’ll find them packed with Italians).
So perhaps it is easier for Italians to contemplate fixed football matches than it is for English supporters.
Of course there used to be open discussion of fixed matches in England – and 100 years ago Manchester United and Liverpool were seriously implicated in such issues, although the Football League worked hard to keep it quiet (ultimately to Arsenal’s benefit, as it allowed us back into division 1 after the first world war.)
But I just don’t believe that highly trained referees can get individual decisions so clearly wrong, just on the grounds of seeing it differently from everyone else.
Of course, I have no proof. I am merely an observer. I look at games, and I read the details of what happened in Italy and think… what is it that has stopped anyone even suggesting something might be amiss here?
There are legal issues naturally, and the Italian system of corruption was uncovered by getting hold of the phone taps. Phone tapping is not impossible in the UK, but harder to do – we have a greater sensitivity to human rights and personal freedom. And maybe that’s the trade off. We have a personal liberty, which is wonderful, but as a result we can never quite be sure if the ref really is not up to the job, or else if he has been bought.
We do know that FIFA – the organisation at the very top of football – is completely bent. As the December 2006 court ruling stated, “Fifa lied repeatedly…” FIFA reacted to that typically by saying it would appeal. It didn’t – but the statement kept the issue quiet for a big longer. Oh yes, and Blatter called the court ruling “biased.”
So if FIFA has the ability to lie and lie, what does that say about the morality of the rest of football?
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