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Video referee trials have begun in the PL, and England’s disgraceful links with Qatar revealed for what they are

By Tony Attwood

Blimey!  I say again, “blimey!”   I take the day off to go and see “Kinky Boots” – the wonderfully funny feel-good musical in the West End, and return to open the computer the next morning and find not just one, but two football stories that made me feel good.

One of the two tales is about something awful, I must admit, but it is used by the writer as way of attacking the UK’s appalling government policy on sport.  The other really makes me feel like maybe, just maybe, all the work by Untold’s writers on refereeing across the years has been really, really worth it.

The good coverage of an awful tale comes in the Guardian and is by Marina Hyde.  This is for me a real case of credit where it is due because I’ve been having a bash about the paper’s way of tackling football for a while.

But the piece “Welcome to the UK, ethically challenged butler to Qatar’s World Cup dreams” absolutely hits the nail where it should be thumped.

It all started with a tweet from  trade minister Greg Hands, in which he announced: “In Qatar to open our #SportIsGreat conference, supporting Qatar’s 2022 World Cup & offering UK to be the partner of choice for delivery.”

Ms Hyde then tells us that “Greg wrote an obsequious comment piece for the Peninsula, the Qatari English-language daily, in which he widened his focus to include all the 437 major athletic events to which the … sport-mad, is it? … autocracy has now acquired hosting rights.”

Now I won’t go on quoting line after line of the article, you can obviously read it yourself, but allow me, if you will, to give these snippets.

“Maybe democratically elected governments are, to quote a phrase, at the “back of the queue”. There is, of course, a rich precedent for this. In the arms sector, Britain has long operated an autocracies-first policy, with almost half our exports last year going to 21 of the Foreign Office’s 30 “human rights priority countries” – places where “the worst, or greatest number of, human rights violations take place”. So if we can live with that, I think we can make our peace with being the ethically challenged butler for the globally popular idea that is the Qatar World Cup.”

And a little later

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“UK has marked itself out as keen to assist in Qatar’s creepy project to launder its reputation via the medium of sport. Because as almost everyone can see, that’s what’s going on here.”

In essence, if you have shared Untold’s dismay and disgust at the Qatar World Cup, do read the article.

But there is also something else that is hiding in all of this.  Something else that is rather close to my heart.

If you do drop by occasionally you will know of my persistent (and undoubtedly by now utterly boring) rants about the lack of evidence when writing about football.  Indeed it was the utter misuse of evidence that kicked off my complaints about the Guardian in the first place.  And you will have seen the correspondents here who when asked what evidence they have for some assertion about Arsene Wenger holding the club back, or Ozil nicking a living whatever, they say, “the evidence of my own eyes”.  To which I, of course reply, “that’s just like the evidence that the sun goes round the earth – because that’s what your eyes tell you.”

Well now we have the government doing the same.   Accused by the Leader of the Opposition in Parliament of not having a plan for getting the UK out of the EU the Prime Minister said words to the effect that “Of course we have a plan. Our plan is to get the best deal for Britain”.

It’s bad enough when football journalists do that sort of thing, but when the government uses it as its prime response, I get the feeling we are in real trouble.  Cozying up to the likes of Qatar via the medium of sport really does show where we have got to.

Anyway, moving on to the Telegraph.   And Walter, Andrew and Usama you might want to sit down before reading this one…

“Premier League begins conducting secret video technology trials”

Yep, it seems that week after week, month after month, year… well you get the rest… of banging on and on about the terribly low quality of refereeing in the Premier League, and of how in some matches one would get a more accurate response to events if one had a computer giving judgements on incidents at random, something might be happening.

You may well have noticed how we’ve really challenged the ultra secretive PGMO clique this season by publishing in depth referee reviews of Arsenal games, and cumulative week by week analyses of referee competence, and the effect it has on each club overall, plus reviews of all the major incidents in all the PL games each week, complete with video evidence.

Well, is it too much of a leap from that to say, this time we have finally pushed the appalling misleading and inept organisation that is destroying the very heart of football (with the connivance of the media I must add – including the Telegraph which once ran a couple of PGMO press releases as news), into a modicum of action?

Here’s what the Telegraph says…

“Secret video technology trials are being conducted during Premier League matches this season, Telegraph Sport can reveal.”

At first site seems that PGMO have been by-passed, because these are “unofficial tests”, but reading on, it looks like once again the Telegraph are publishing the official PGMO press release line.

Now we know that the referee association, so secretive that it makes the Masons look like a Come All Ye down at the local, is utterly, totally, completely, and 101%ly against this video malarkey – so yes, it was always on the cards that the trials would to be in secret and then leaked out to the one newspaper it could rely on.

Part of the reason is, as the Telegraph rather misleadingly puts it, “England has yet to sign up to formal trials that are already being conducted in other countries”.   In fact PGMO claimed via the Telegraph a year ago again in a press release that they were at the heart of the issue.  But we all knew what this meant was that they had been bringing in extra reinforced concrete for the walls of PGMO House, while digging ever deeper trenches outside.

In the test matches two refs watch the match and practice intervening to tell the ref he’s wrong.  So not quite the open refereeing that we have wanted but a step towards the approval that the IFAB gave to video refereeing last year.

The Telegraph also announces that these trials have “flagged up between two and four decisions per match that would qualify for video analysis.”   And assuming that these are “important decisions” in the Untold lexicon then that’s a fair start.

The infamous Mike Riley is quoting (and I think these are the words in the secretive memo from PGMO to the Telegraph) that, “We have trialled using video assistant referees for 12 Premier League games so far this season.”   So there we are.  What Untold, with zero resources save a group of highly dedicated referees and enthusiasts, have been doing year after year after year, finally PGMO has done… wait for it… 12 games.  We’ve done every PL game this season, and they have done… twelve.   Oh but some internationals (not involving England) have been done too.

The Telegraph’s summary is that, “All live experiments involve a video assistant referee having access to replays during the match and either reviewing an incident on request by the referee or communicating with the referee proactively about an incident that may have been missed.  The tests will take place for two years before the IFAB decides whether to change the laws of the game in time for referrals to be used at every match at the next World Cup…”

But despite all the attempts of the Telegraph to paint their chums at PGMO in a good light and suggest the PL is in the vanguard of evolutionary reform, even they have to announced that the Italian Referees’ Association are contemplating starting live video refereeing next season.


12 comments to Video referee trials have begun in the PL, and England’s disgraceful links with Qatar revealed for what they are

  • para

    UK supporting Qatar?
    There’s an old saying: “birds of a feather….”

    Video ref?
    Well not before time, but 2 years testing?
    There are enough games in a season to be able to finish testing video ref-ing much sooner.

  • MickHazel

    When they say they will review major decisions do they mean only the incident itself or will they, as in rugby, review the whole play leading up to the main incident.
    Eg. The Dembele penalty only, or the whole play where the Coquelin shirt pull just before the penalty would be included. In rugby the Dembele penalty and subsequent goal would have been disallowed because of the prior shirt pull.

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    If the video referees are also appointed by the PGMO then there is all chance of anything improving from the Arsenal point of view. No-one will be allowed to see any of the footage and the whole thing will still be shrouded in secrecy.
    If this is to happen then the video footage needs to be shown on the stadium screens and club captains also must have a right to request reviews. Dream on folks it ain’t going to happen in any meaningful manner.

  • Leon

    Bloody hell, it’s only just been announced and already being criticised. Give it a chance, it may actually work.

  • Goonermikey

    @ Leon

    Theoretically, I suppose you’re right

    The thing is, unless it’s forced upon the FA/PGMO all I can see happening is that they’ll say they’ve trialled it but it made no difference to the already impeccable standard of refereeing they already preside over……….

  • Gord

    OT: Corruption News

    Tony has a Qatari story, and FIFA provides another one as well.

    A few hours ago, apparently FIFA announced that the head of Qatari football (or something like that, Al-Mohannadi) had been banned for not cooperating with an inquiry.

    Is the ethics committee following a plan of the infant one, since the ethics committee is NOT independent, but is under the control of the infant one?

    And it seems some Russian official is under consideration for a banning. Kind of odd that this news breaks from Macau?

    And, Malawi is lowering the boom on a group of referees for not doing a proper job.

    I read the article, and 😈 Mike Riley is NOT mentioned.

  • Goonermikey

    I’ve tried to post a link to a Spud website which makes an appalling attempt to discredit the UA ref reviews. I’m not sure if UA block web links so you might try googling:

    tottenhamhotspur+blogspot nld tactical analysis and refereereview

    It’s hilariously poor

  • Norman14

    Our officials have a perfect tool (not Riley), that they could modify to take the questions away from their decisions. Their own communication system. It really annoys me to see referees, assistants and 4th official, jabbering away to each other throughout matches, but “we” – the paying public, aren’t allowed to hear what they are saying.

    Maybe if we could actually hear them explaining decisions, perhaps, we might understand them a little better.

    Just a thought 😉

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    A 2 year testing of the Video Referee application by the FA/Pgmol is too far before the facility will be officially introduced for application in the PL, where the bone of contention to start using it soon is. Why not limit the testing to this current season, then start applying it in the 2016/17 PL season like the Italian FA are proposing to do? Then introduce the using of the application in the Championship divisions the following season if the using of it is successful in the PL the previous season.

    I don’t think the FA & the Pgmol have something to lose if they allowed VR to be introduced in the PL next season. Rather, they will have much to gain by allowing the app to be used instead of them to be employing delaying tactics that will prolong the introduction of using the application. Because all the controversies which have been surrounding the Pgmol referees officiating decision making in the PL games should be minimized to the barest minimum if VR is used. Thereby give the FA & Pgmol rest in this regard from PL club managers accusations of intentional bad call/mistaken bad call by the Pgmol.

    But as the managers and players will complain less due to the use of VR, the FA will not be making much money anymore as the opportunity of charging managers for inappropriate comment on referee decisions will no longer be frequent as it used to be. Maybe that’s one of the reasons the FA/Pgmol are showing lukewarm attitude to embracing the use of VR.

  • Menace

    Leon – give it a chance! We have been getting screwed for over 15 years by the PGMO & you want to give them a chance at being transparent & honest. You must love flying pigs because until you see one, you will know that we don’t get a fair chance.

    The officials use radio communications at the moment. Why is that not broadcast as it is in Rugby? Must be someone giving them a chance!!

  • Leon


    Yes give it a chance. No point in condemning it before it’s even started.I get the impression that there are commenters on this blog who would be most unhappy at improvements in the refereeing system as it would give them nothing to moan about and the whole conspiracy thing would collapse.
    I see Bellerin is out for a month. And I got it wrong saying the injury was from the San Marino match. It was as Mick said Danny Rose.

  • Notoverthehill

    It would seem to me, that Marina Hyde, would be better, interviewing a certain chef, who is reported to employ “underpaid” labour?

    She gives no evidence, only assertions.

    IF, the conditions are so horrendous, then the migrants would depart ASAP!

    The interference by the U.S.A. and the U.K., in recent years in that area of the world, has led to genocide?


    As for the TV replays, what about the 5th official, who allegedly, sits in the stands? It would seem that Riley’s 99.99% correct decisions, is based on the 5th officials?


    OT, we have stories about the retractable seating at the Olympic stadium, which leads to questions about the retractable field of play, at the new WHL? Is Levy going to remove the grass, blade by blade manually?

    We have joke Sports Journalists of the Year, here are two stories being ignored!!