England’s refereeing in the dark ages. In Europe they are already talking about the problems AFTER the video box

By Tony Attwood

Arsène Wenger’s comments about referees after yesterday’s match were largely ignored or treated as more bleating by a man who won’t face up to his own team’s failings.  And this was inevitable given the fact that the media has refused to engage in the debate as to why the PGMO (which organises referee affairs in the Premier League) is as it is.  They have no debate to base further comments on.

It is, as you might expect (if you have followed our debate about refereeing) utterly different on the continent.  But the media won’t ask why we have gone our own way on refereeing and so when the issue arises they are stuck.  As I will show in a moment, the media in Europe is much more liberated on the matter.  It is primarily England where the lights have gone out.

To start with Arsène Wenger’s view expressed yesterday.  He accused referees of being protected “like lions in the zoo” pointing out the errors in officiating before the Man C goals.

At once the Telegraph denied the validity of anything Mr Wenger might say by following that comment not with an explanation of what Mr Wenger meant but with the statement that “Arsenal threw away a lead for the second Premier League game in six days.”

“Threw away” obviously means it was Arsenal’s fault so the debate is over before it is begun.

Mr Wenger said, “Both goals were offside, which is very difficult to accept in a game of that stature. The second he is five yards offside. But as it is well known the referees are protected very well, what is right, like the lions in the zoo, so we have to live with their decisions.

“I want them to be very well protected. I want them to be safe. But if they could make the right decisions it would be even better.”

A journo asked Mr Wenger to define “safe”, and Mr Wenger said, “It is too long a subject, I do not want to make referees the subject of the press conference. I just feel it is right they are safe and protected but if they make good decisions then even better.    I can understand City look very happy, I would be as well. But I think the goals were offside.”

Petr Cech also said, “I have to say that there were players in front of the goal so I didn’t see the shot and there were people running across and I don’t know if one of them was David Silva or not.  But I didn’t see the ball because it was behind the players.”

And there it will be left apart, probably from some comments about Whinging Wenger.   But matters are different elsewhere.  Take the Swiss newspaper 24 heures which has just run the article “Il est grand temps d’aider les arbitres, de gré ou de force”

In Switzerland they are not stuck with an ultra secret refereeing body that models its approach on the methodology used in Italy in 2006 during their refereeing corruption scandal known as “Calciopoli”. Juventus, Milan, Fiorentina, Lazio, and Reggina were among the major clubs implicated.

24 heures piece last week welcomed the new trials of the video box that Walter demonstrated on Untold a few days ago – trials that allow the ref to see the game from multiple angles.

Such technology has hardly been mentioned in the UK press – but in Switzerland they are already going beyond its introduction and considering any possible difficulties that might arise from the process subsequently, and how these can be overcome.   They are already debating what to do about head in the sand referees who argue that somehow the new video box approach is not right for the game because it reduces their power.  Referees who refuse to consult the box, or do so and still give the wrong decision.

So while the British press do nothing but sneer at Wenger’s “moaning”, and haven’t even started to consider the new technology, in Switzerland the media, not tied to the hands of an autocratic all-powerful refereeing lobby like the PGMO, have gone way beyond that and are onto the next step.

The whole article is translated below, but there is one other point I would make.  This article in part sees Switzerland as being way behind in adopting modern approaches to the game and links that backwardnesss with the fact that the Swiss haven’t been in any major finals for a while.   If Switzerland is backwards I don’t know where that places England.  But it is an interesting view on why England do so badly on the international stage.

Here’s the article in full.

“It is time to help the referees, willingly or by force.

“Refereeing in football must evolve. It is no longer an option but a real necessity. With increasingly fast-paced pressures – notably economic pressures – getting increasingly strong, it is no longer reasonable to expect referees to be up to speed in all circumstances. Especially since there are ways to help them.

“After the introduction of the technology concerning the goal line (to see if the ball has crossed it or not), the use of the video appears as the most appropriate measure to eliminate the most commonly seen errors.   Then we might be able to eradicate, for example, the scene seen on Saturday with a shameful penalty awarded to Vaduz in the final seconds of the Super League match.

Revolution in motion

“This revolution is on the march. Last September, the friendly match between Italy and France served as a bench test for video assistance for the referees.  At the same time, in Japan, Fifa is testing it in the framework of the World Cup of Clubs.

“The Hungarian Viktor Kassai granted on Wednesday, the first “video penalty” in history on the basis of the images that he was able to see instantly. These experiments involve a dozen countries (Germany, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, the United States, France, Italy, Mexico, the Netherlands, Portugal, Qatar and the Czech Republic) and will run until March 2018, when Fifa may advocate them for wider use at the World Cup in Russia.
“Among the countries most interested in this development are the United States. Thus, Major League Soccer – the North American championship – has already announced that it will use the first half of the 2017 season to carry out tests and the second to officially introduce the use of video. Of course, it will still be necessary to clarify its use: how many times per match and by whom, for what kind of scenes? But this codification will not represent a major difficulty.

“If even then it still remains a matter for discussion, the professionalization of arbitrators, as it exists in some countries, can no longer be sufficient. In recent years, adapting to the evolution of the game, most team sports have made changes to the refereeing, often by putting an additional man on the field – so as to increase the viewing angles beyond just being seen from the side, like those beside the goal assistants we see at European competitions and who give the unfortunate impression of not serving any particular purpose – or at least not much.

The question of power

“It is therefore urgent that football – at least at the professional level – acquires the means that go with the times. A reality that, for now, does not seem to impress some people in the Swiss League. How can we be surprised that Switzerland has not been represented at the final tournament level with such a view.

“But there remains, perhaps, a pitfall which is not immediately thought of by reference to the concerns of arbitration. It belongs to the psychology of those whose mission is to defend the rules of the collective game par excellence. More specifically, referees themselves!

“Those who do not necessarily like the help that comes at the expense of some of their prerogatives, their power.  These guys, contrary to the idea one might have, often shine neither in their modesty nor in their dedication to the cause of football. Their ambition is strongly personal, and it is a view that may not be suitable enough for technical assistance. We want to believe that error is human. But is this sufficient reason to persevere with the old approach?

Untold Arsenal

The Arsenal History Society


38 Replies to “England’s refereeing in the dark ages. In Europe they are already talking about the problems AFTER the video box”

  1. ”These guys, contrary to the idea one might have, often shine neither in their modesty nor in their dedication to the cause of football. ”

    A great first line for a novel.

    Thanks for the post Tony. The dark ages indeed. Is the lassitude of the lads the visible onset of their realisation that to win the EPL as Arsenal FC they must play the opposition and the referee every game, from August to May?

    They cannot rely only on their ability to play football.

  2. I’m a football fan but for sure refereeing in England is killing the beauty of the game.

  3. We lack people with guts working in the mainstream media, or someone would have reported on this anomaly by now.

  4. Very helpful to see an article advocating use of video technology and explaining why. Thanks, Tony. Let us hope the British press will take the hint. But don’t hold your breath.

    By the way, I’ve every confidence our team will get back into winning ways at the next match. They’ve got great mental strength as well as being fantastic players. Come on the Arsenal!

  5. Pat
    The next match is against a team that does not matter. We should win it anyway. The problem is the big teams and our lack of ability to beat them despite the referees. Tactically we are just not good enough. This has been the case for many years. So it’s ok saying “come on Arsenal” but it starting to sound a bit stale.

  6. OH no Al! they all have guts but are glorying in the riches that their employers feed them. They do not have any love for the game just the money it brings them.

  7. Felt for Arsene he sure did look down in the dumps after the game . We will inevitably bounce back but don’t think we have enough to win the league this year .Losing 2-1 to Everton and Man City is certainly no disgrace we were close but unfortunately second best .

  8. Love or Hate Gary Neville, I thought he did well on the Sunday Supplement yesterday, raising the points that he did. For all their bleating and protestations, not one of the four self esteemed gentlemen of the print media ever mentioned that essential word, “TRUTH”.

    Whether by choice or more likely, direction, Mr Neville fell just short of calling the media “liars” before a hasty retreat to the first commercial break was called by Comrade Ashton.

    The world is full of fake news, and none more so than in the UK sports media.

    Once Rupert has control of the lot, the door will be shut forever on exposing top level corruption in our game.

  9. Anybody know what the “free kick” count was yesterday because it felt at one stage like it was about 25-6

  10. Menace
    Yeah unfortunately so it seems. They’re corrupt, the whole bunch is. Incredulous though that we can’t find at least one person willing to break ranks and report on this.

  11. I feel Wenger by saying what he said about refs yesterday he’s thrown down the gauntlet, and it’ll be interesting to see how the fa respond. I’m tempted to think they’ll ignore him as they don’t want to focus spotlight on this and open a can of worms.

  12. Hmmn, the linesman at the far side of the field to Arsenal’s left side of the field ought to have seen Sane in offside position as he collected a pass and started running towards Arsenal goal to make him raise his flag for offside.

    Immediately Sane scored, i said to myself it was an offside goal even before the replay of the incident was shown and the commentators on my TV said, Sane looked to be offside. I think the linesman at the far side saw the offside but I suspect him to have deliberately refused to flag Sane off.

    What can we do now to forestall a repeat of robbing us points again by the Pgmol officials in our upcoming PL matches? Just make a press conference remark on the ugly incident? And be making comments on the matter on the pages of the blog/newsprint on the internet? Those are not enough if we are to get a fair deal from the Pgmol officials in our subsequent matches. I think Arsenal should make an official protest to the FA to review the 2 offside goals scored by Man City against us at the Etihad yesterday.

  13. I watched the PGMO apologist Dermot Gallagher this morning – his predictable take on the City goals was: –

    No 1 – only marginally offside (as in hard to see), so any referee or linesman would give the goal.(Strange that the same linesman saw Monreal offside!)

    No 2 – Silva was not in Cech’s eyeline, therefore even though Silva tried to kick the ball the goal was valid.

    Re the first goal, offside was obvious & surely linesman are trained to look for offsides?

    Re the second, I don’t know enough about the rule to debate the point, but did Silva’s run make Cech expose the gap at the near post?

    But, as I stated in an earlier post, I am not making excuses – our play was nowhere near the level expected.

  14. Haven said what I’ve said in my last comment posting, it is not as if Arsenal are blameless in their last 2 PL games which they’ve lost. There performances in these games had some faults. But that doesn’t mean the Pgmol officials are licensed to be allowing offside goals and making wrong calls against Arsenal in their games.

    Our performances in our last 2 PL matches leave much to be desired. We have caved in under pressure to concede possessions to the opposition teams dangerously. We can’t followup by scoring a 2nd goal after scoring the 1st in our game to dampened the opposition game spirit despite us having numerous chances to score more goals to kill off the opposition team mentally.

    The Gunners do switched off when the opposition has stepped up in their game. Why? We shouldn’t be switching off in pressurizing the opposition teams but keep pressurizing them to breaking point. This is how Chelsea, Liverpool and even Man U have been playing in what they call high pressing sustained game.

    Against WBA and C Palace at the Ems, we may switch off a bit to rest if we are tiring in our playing. But in the big games in particular and also in a game where the opposition team is increasingly becoming tougher to play against as they grow in the game, we can’t afford to be switching off for a longtime in the game. If we did, we could be punished.

    I feel for Bellerin yesterday as he raced with ball from our own half to Man City’s box but no Gunners deemed it fit to be racing along with him to receive assist from him. And Bellerin lost the power of his legs in the sea of Man City defenders and thus couldn’t finish off the prolific attacking promise he has started. He should try to finish off such attacking incursion into the opposition box as he attacked into it yesterday and not play into the gallery again. This is what differentiate Cristiano Ronaldo, Lionell Messi and Louis Suarez from others.

  15. It’s quite obvious why the FA, the EPL, the PIGMOB and the media are actively resisting moving forward in a fairer way. Quite simply, the fairer the refereeing becomes the less they would be able to choose their favourites and give them officiating benefits.

    This isn’t just about Man City. We were poor. But having seen Man U gifted points and avoid red cards by the bucket load over the past few weeks, this is becoming even more increasingly unacceptable. What’s more, it p*sses me off hugely when the aaa’s are gifted the opportunity to crawl out from under the stone of irrationality.

  16. Norman14

    The fouls partition as 9 by ManC and 13 by us. In addition, ManC was offside 5 times and us once.

    By that measure, ManC should have had 14 free kicks, and we should have had 14 as well.

    ManC had 4 cautions and we had 2. I don’t think the foul counter moves when advantage is played, so it is possible for a foul to occur and not be counted (played advantage) and then later a yellow card issued once the advantage has finished. It is also possible to acquire a yellow card without a foul.

    In any event, according to game statistics, the free kick count should have been about equal, not heavily in favour of ManC.

    Trying to pick free kicks and offsides out of commentary
    3 Arsenal 0-1
    6 ManC 1-1
    11 ManC offside 1-2
    26 ManC 2-2
    30 ManC offside 2-3
    33 Arsenal 2-4
    38 Arsenal (Caution to David Silva) 2-5
    40 ManC 3-5
    41 ManC 4-5
    44 Arsenal offside 5-5
    45+1 ManC 6-5
    51 Caution for dissent Was their a kick?
    54 Arsenal 6-6
    60 ManC offside 6-7
    66 ManC offside 6-8
    76 ManC 7-8
    78 ManC 8-8
    79 Arsenal 8-9
    80 Arsenal (de Bruyne cautioned) 8-10
    86 Arsenal 8-11
    88 ManC 9-11
    89 ManC 10-11
    90+1 ManC 11-11
    90+3 ManC (Gabriel cautioned) 12-11
    90+5 Arsenal (Fernando cauitoned) 12-12

    42 injury restart
    50 injury restart
    52 injury restart
    89 injury restart

    I didn’t see the game. The above is from LiveScore commentary.

  17. We live in a world where truth is chopped to pieces and sold for the price of the whole truth. When it comes to the referees, I would argue the lion in the zoo argument as I believe it’s an insult for the lions. Hyenas, however…

    Anyway, from where I stand, Arsenal have multiple problems, internal and external, that have been a burden in big matches like the one yesterday.

    Externally, Arsenal have problems with:

    1) the referees who don’t want Arsene Wenger to win the league ever again,

    2) the media who have been repeating the same story-stories until they become truth in the eyes of an average consumer and

    3) former players who want to sit their butt on two chairs – one at Arsenal FC and the other one at BBC and other media where they would criticize their work-mates from the club.

    Internal Arsenal problems are:

    1) the whole Ozil & Alexis saga has become a burden to players and the manager, especially to Ozil who has been rather poor lately,

    2) inability to find a replacement for Santi Cazorla for the second year running and

    3) ineffective or passive Board who have done nothing to help the manager with external issues. I guess millions of pounds of damages in the merit money as the consequence of actions of PGMO employees are either not important to Arsenal FC lawyers or they feel the causality can’t be proven, I don’t know. If the latter is the case, then we can all only pray that one day someone will make a change and introduce a non-biased video-ref.

  18. You’ll never in a million years guess which blog I cut & pasted this from:
    “I have to put the excuses on the table right away. The refereeing decisions were unacceptable. Losing out to two offside decisions is pretty painful in a game of such importance, but until we start giving refs tech to work with we’re going to keep facing these issues in a game that pushes the boundaries of speed with players, but continues to hire old refs well into their late thirties and early forties. The solution is too simple and too available to work myself into a frenzy. I also believe we should rotate refs from Europe to remove the obvious localization bias that exists.

  19. OT: Is there more than one England (and PGMOL)?

    Football Australia just sent 3 officials to England (and PGMOL) on an exchange program to _improve_ Australian football. As part of their exchange, they officiated at some U23 games. Apparently they thought it a wonderful experience.


    Were these Aussies on hallucinogenic drugs? Out of all the countries in the world to try and learning officiating from, why would they pick England?

  20. As I suspected, it looks like no action is to be taken against Wenger for his comments because that would open his views to discussion and investigation.


    We already know that our referee’s perform differently in Europe than they do at home, so I can understand those comments by the Aussies who came here.

  21. @Josif

    I agree with you about the lions & hyenas.

    But, just imagine the oproar if AW had referred to hyenas! 🙂

    While the bandits in black are indeed protected and consequently are free to practise their incompetence/bias – football in the EPL is not protected from their predations!

  22. As of today, the 19th, Arsenal’s record in all competitions going back approximately one calendar year (to 21st December 2015) is:

    Played : 55
    Win : 29
    Draw : 15
    Loss : 11

    Within that time frame, we’ve played top six sides 11 times and only lost four of them.

  23. The truth is; referees have been biased against Arsenal since they became The Invincibles. I have noticed a worrying trend of ref decisions going against us. Remember how we lost 2-0 Man.utd to stop us from going 50 games unbeaten? Tony Attwood, you’re the stats man. You’d find that our tiff with the ‘PGMO’. Although Arsenal have been dismal in recent years and two recent games, who knows what would have been if they’d just given us fair officiating.

  24. Tony
    Thank you for bringing this to my attention. Please keep an eye on its progress. Momentum starts small but soon it becomes unstoppable and one day video will be here officially.

    We will still not always see eye to eye with the wrong ones but should agree more often.

    I remember the debate in cricket but few deny the positive contribution it makes.

  25. Josif

    I’m a part-time reader, and I repeatedly see the suggestion here that the referees have an agenda against Arsenal and Arsene specifically, but I’ve never seen anyone attempt to explain why. I know fans of most clubs believe that the referees are out to get them, but is there something other than feeling hard-done-by that would explain an agenda? If that article exists, I’ve missed it, so some direction would be helpful.

  26. Scuba – there must be some information somewhere. However, the primary reason for this agenda began when Wenger & another (currently working with Wenger at Arsenal) gave evidence against corruption in France where Marceille was punished. There are other reasons for the hounding, and those are because he is French. The media began hounding Wenger right from the start of his Arsenal career but never succeeded in damage to him personally. They have got so petty as to pick on his zipping of his coat.

    They have however damaged Arsenal with biased reporting, influencing some supporters against Wenger. There are always going to be some who believe the media.

    I and many others on this site look up to Wenger as one of the greatest football brains in the history of the game. His achievements have been honest & within the Laws of the Game as well as being morally exemplary.

  27. Emmanuel Chike Bassey

    We would be the “Harlem Globe trotters” of football that’s what. I find Arsenal are playing a lot of their games with “brakes” on for some reason.

  28. Seasonal Greetings to all!
    In the last two games, similar things have happened. In the Everton game, we could not respond to their second half physical and pressing onslaught. I was very impressed by them and felt that they would probably have beaten any team playing like that, with their great crowd support. It is a shame for us that they brought their level up against us, having not done so for many games previously. It was certainly a wrong decision that led to their winning goal but the Sanchez penalty was 50/50.

    In the City game, something died in us at half time. Why would this happen? It looked to me like a total lack of mental strength. Sanchez was not himself and this has happened before. It’s like he sees his team-mates, including Ozil, not doing anything at all to help and eventually gets despondent.

    Whilst there were one or two poor decisions and they could have affected the results in both games, we have in fact been on the end of similarly tight decisions in our favour this season, which have resulted in points for us. Unless I misread the niggling fouls completely, which I thought came from us as well, I think that we have a huge problem with mental strength. It is so bad that I hope the new psychologist can do something about it. Wenger’s nerves definitely sap the belief out of the team. It may be that he feels the team getting nervous and so gets nervous with them but that cannot work. Against City in the second half, we simply laid down and invited them to beat us. I can’t in all honesty come to any other conclusion.

    One of our big problems is a lack of desire and intensity. My son and I often look at how often we win the second ball or retain possession after throw-ins. It is abysmal. 30% maybe. That is a complete indictment of the way our players are molly-coddled by Wenger and he makes excuses for them. If we won even 50% of second balls, we would be in a very different position. That can only be down to a lack of intensity and an inability to ‘man-up’. We will certainly win nothing except the odd cup until ALL our players and not just Sanchez, Cech and Koscielny can give 100%.

    In recent seasons, I do believe that the referees have conspired massively against us, so there is that hurdle to jump. You have to wonder, is it the referees which make them give up or the lack of mental strength. This season, so far, I don’t think we can blame the referees for our lack of effort in some games. It seems just when we are about to reach the summit, we completely implode and play like a Sunday league team but without the intensity. A couple of bigger, stronger players would help the feeling of mental strength.

    Anyway, it is still early days and Chelsea haven’t won anything yet. Presumably they will have a blip. I personally regard them as the poorest squad of Liverpool City, us and them. But an 11 game winning run is definitely title winning form. How much help have they had? I don’t think they’ve had any more decisions (except against City) than is usual for the team at the top. Two 50/50 decisions which went the wrong way and bad officiating of the Chelsea/City game have left us 9 points behind. On top of our too frequent lack of desire in big games or when we are favourites or top of the league, we have been very unlucky as well. Can the new psychologist bring back the self-belief and desire, so as we can raise out game. Will that allow us to make our won luck? Let’s hope so. Somethings to be done, not just a change of the PGMO.

  29. @Sally

    Alexis lost the momentum once he picked a knock in the first half. He was never the same afterwards.

    Chelsea have most of the team that won the league in 2014-15 with 87 points and a manager who isn’t a paranoid douche. They have added the best Leicester player last season and have no European obligations to distract them. I see them as the strongest candidates to win the league with a few games to spare. Even if somehow cut the gap, we have four ambushes at the end of the season waiting for us: Spuds away, United at home, Stoke away and Everton at home.

    Arsenal don’t have luck with the referees who see Mr Wenger as the foreign intruder who wants to spoil beautiful rugby-like English tradition of big lumps in the attack and in the defence. Mr Wenger could have won the league 20 times in a row but Charlie Adam would still be closer to the true spirit of “the English football” than Mr Wenger.

  30. @ Emmanuel Chike Bassey – ” Although Arsenal have been dismal in recent years” Really? So consecutive 2 FA cups, never failing to get to the Champions League knockout stages and finishing 3rd and 2nd in arguably the most competitive league in the world, all that accomplished with the additional 12th man that Arsenal have to play against practically every single game; that’s what constitutes as “dismal”, is it?

  31. The short version of the above can be easily and simply summarised:

    “AFC are not a mafia club”

    You know the sort of club that doesn’t sell Luiz for £50M to the Qatari laundrette in Paris before buying him back for £25M.

    All fairly simple and easy to understand. In fact, most do. It’s why many follow the good ship Arsenal, no doubt about it. Which makes the Meedjah silence or Omertà all the more obvious.

  32. Sally,

    Mental strength is a fickle mistress. Leicester’s title win being a fine example; pure power last season, abject and conciliatory in this. Their only hope of making next season’s CL is to win the current one, whereas Arsenal’s consistency and experience will enable at least a top three finish in my opinion, whilst still having qualified for the knockout stages in Europe. The Foxes are unlikely to win the title for another 100 years, if ever, but the likes of City, Arsenal, Chelsea, Liverpool and United are always in with a chance – it is simply fine margins which prevent any of them from achieving it: a bad penalty decision here, a crippling injury blow there.

  33. Josif,

    If you are right, then Guardiola will not be allowed to win the title. City haven’t had the best of refereeing decisions either, have they! The type of teams you are talking about are the United’s under Ferguson, the Chelsea’s under Mourinho and the Arsenals of George Graham’s tenure. The Invincibles were a breath of Fresh air in an otherwise ‘Charlie Adam’ league.

    On Alexis, I remember now. It is good to know that he didn’t just give up out of hopelessness, anyway even though it’s a shame some thugs like to put him out of action rather than compete with ball skills. Against City in the 2nd half there was definitely a distinct lack of effective effort and a massive air of panic until the last 10 minutes, where we had no luck even with better penetration. We definitely need to lose the panic mode when a team changes tactics or improves effort. How much has Mustafi contributed to our strength? Maybe quite a bit, although it’s hard to fault Gabriel. He’s decent! The stats with Mustafi playing are pretty awesome.


    I agree with what you say about mental strength but I don’t think that with us, it has been just tight margins which have worked against us in previous seasons. Hence the referee reviews, which are an indictment on the PGMO and a good example of investigative journalism. Once independent journalists and lawyers get their teeth into it, we can enjoy the results and have confirmation that we weren’t making it up. Presumably that’s an ongoing thing, which we may or may not hear about just yet.

  34. Having read al l interesting comments herein, now I understand d reason Arsenal nd Arsene are subject of such mindless media umbrage nd PGMO unrelenting bias, wich hve bin baffling to me.so d uk media nd PGMO cee Arsene as an intruder who attempts to change d English Football culture , nd a foreigner, meaning. Even in Europe a French man is an alien?now its clear why Arsenal has bin pummelled, abused,given unrelenting negative commentaries nd open biased officiating;frm all dis its imperative for our players nd handlers to be mentally strong always ,d opposition is truely massive.may d lord help us inn d coming months !Shalom.

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