By Tony Attwood
There’s an increased focus on referees this season – which is rather interesting after the years and years of work that Walter and his team has put into looking at refereeing from every possible angle which has been utterly disregarded by all and sundry.
We saw the first hint of this new move last year as various newspapers started to do their own little investigations, and now the website Squawka has weighed in with “Why Lucas’ Liverpool howler shouldn’t have stood – and six other big refereeing decisions rated.”
The problem with the report is obvious of course – they, like the Sun last season, are just taking individual incidents and rating them, and as a result saying that club x was lucky or hard done by, by the referee.
What they really need to do of course is to see the whole set-up of every part of the game to see how accurate the referee was throughout, and whether there was bias one way or another. For an example see the link at the end of this piece.
None of this however is music to the ears of the Guardian which recently commented that
“They may have hung up their whistles, but it seems there are no shortage of former rent-a-quotes ready to top up their pensions with often informative but occasionally unhelpful scrutiny of their former peers. Halsey, Graham Poll and Howard Webb are among the better known rent-a-rulebooks who are regularly canvassed for their opinions on controversial decisions and it is heartwarming to see that, even with the benefit of time to think and endless replays from every conceivable angle, they are still capable of getting things wrong.”
That quote comes from the second piece in a matter of weeks on why we should not talk about referees. The other piece said, “there remains an excessive focus on referees – their mistakes, foibles and perceived biases – that perhaps most obviously manifested itself in the removal of Kevin Friend from the Stoke v Tottenham match in April, even though Friend supports neither side. However, the fact that Friend (a lifelong Bristol City fan) lives in Leicester and often goes to matches at the King Power Stadium was enough to see him removed from duty at the Britannia Stadium – following, predictably, a clamour on social media.”
They speak of the fact that referees have become a “central figure in every match’s drama”.
And herein is the point. If there was never any suggestion that there was anything amiss with refereeing in the Premier League then there would be no talk about them. By and large not many people think that the length of the grass has much impact on games, so we don’t debate that. But all the evidence to hand shows that there is something troubling with English Premier League refereeing, with referees regularly getting below acceptable levels of accuracy, and some getting accuracy levels so low that a robot handing out decisions at random would do better.
The Guardian made a big point about the “opprobrium heaped on Jon Moss after his erratic performance in Leicester’s tempestuous draw with West Ham last month, including from former members of his own profession, hardly helped either.”
What that comment misses out is the fact that the referee is controlled by an organisation which is highly secretive, and which has been shown (alone in Europe) to have modelled itself on the Italian approach to refereeing prevalent during their match fixing era. The Guardian writers can only afford to be not worried by such a situation because they refuse to acknowledge either fact.
But the PGMO, like so many secret societies, is adept at deflecting criticism and any suggestion that something is wrong. Mark Halsey’s claim he was told to lie while he was a Premier League referee has now vanished from the news. No one is banging on the PGMO’s door demanding more information, largely because no one really knows where the door of the ultra secret society actually is.
So with the media only interested in the most recent events, everything marches on, and no one is pursuing the matter (except Untold). And a few sites doing their quick summary of half a dozen events, which by and large tells us nothing.
The Daily Telegraph told us that no-one contacted by the paper was willing to speak out about the latest incident, but failed to mention the £50,000 gift given to referees by PGMO if they maintain a silence. Indeed no one is asking why the PGMO feel it is necessary to do this. Surely if there were nothing to hide the PGMO could hang on to its money and let people speak.
Gary Neville criticised the PGMO for making an announcement following Halsey’s claim without an investigation, as he was quoted as saying that we were faced with a world of “Deny / Deny / Deny!!” Rather than- “we better get to the bottom of this.”
But despite all the criticism of PGMO by Halsey and Neville, not only does PGMO march on without any attempt at investigation by the media, the Guardian in particular seems to be heading in the other direction, criticising anyone who criticises referees.
They can be critical sometimes – as when they said, “Despite his largely undisputed status as the Premier League’s best referee, Clattenburg was actually responsible for several high-profile blunders this season. In one match, between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur, he and his assistants combined to award three goals that should have been disallowed for offside, while Clattenburg was the subject of justifiable criticism for awarding Spurs a penalty for accidental handball in the reverse fixture. He also sent off West Ham’s Cheikhou Kouyaté against Crystal Palace, a harsh red card that was subsequently rescinded.”
But then, just as we think that the Guardian is getting the hang of what refereeing should be about they print this:
“The Battle of Stamford Bridge, a marvellous evening of cartoon violence which could have been ruined by a more fussy official.”
But this is not right guys. The referee allowed that game to get totally out of control. Calling it “cartoon violence” doesn’t escape what was going on, and what the referee allowed, when he should not, according to the rules. You can’t ignore the rulebook just because you think the result is amusing.
Following their new approach, one of their most common excuses goes like this:
“Jon Moss was subjected to a tsunami of spiteful and monotonously predictable abuse from quite a few largely ill-informed ‘experts’ in the stands and on social media during a pell-mell match between Leicester City and West Ham, in which a furious Jamie Vardy jabbed a finger in his face and called him a “fucking cunt”.”
This is where basic logic comes in. Just because a lot of people criticise referees wrongly, that does not mean that everything is ok. What is needed is proper analysis of referees to see how accurate they are, and if they are biased, and then to look at whether video referees can help. Just because a bunch of morons on Twitter criticise a referee wrongly, does not mean everything is fine.
When they say that “it’s worth remembering that if the Leicester striker subjected a National Railway employee, civil servant or NHS nurse to the same sort of abuse he’d probably be arrested,” they are not being completely accurate. I can’t speak for the first two groups, but I know for sure that NHS district nurses do face unacceptable situations, but have a duty of care to everyone, and so carry on up to the point where they are in danger.
But even with that caveat the Guardian’s argument does not hold up. The issue is, did the ref get things right or not, and when not, is there a consistent bias? That is the issue, not the whole thing about whether if one called a man working on the railways a “fucking cunt” one would be or should be arrested.
Maybe it is true as the Guardian says that “Nobody should have to put up with such abuse as they attempt to go about their work,” but to divert us into that debate looks very much like a deliberate ploy to me. We used to think that the Telegraph was the house paper of PGMO, because of the way it reprinted PGMO press releases wholesale. Now it seems that onerous task has moved on to another newspaper that really ought to know better.
If anyone wants to see what a review of refereeing activity really looks like, take a look at the latest effort from Untold’s team – complete with video examples. It would be awfully nice if a national newspaper or major TV channel took up the reporting and started asking a few questions.
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