By Tony Attwood
As I was preparing myself for another day’s publishing on Untold this morning two curious things happened.
One, not curious in itself, was that Andrew sent me his regular match preview for the weekend concerning the referee for the forthcoming Arsenal match. The other was that the Daily Telegraph newspaper attacked PGMO and what it does in the most overt way I have yet seen.
I’ll publish Andrew’s full piece before the game in the normal way, but I want to take the opening and publish it here…
Before I start on the match Officials for our game on Saturday I want to bring to your attention the latest piece of game management by the PGMO.
This coming week is matchweek 21 and Michael Oliver has been appointed to the Manchester United v Liverpool game on Sunday afternoon. This will be the fifth time that Liverpool have had Mr Oliver this season and this most certainly isn’t healthy for the Premiership. Our evidence shows no signs that Mr Oliver has favoured Liverpool in terms of Important Decisions in any of the three games we have reviewed. To be in charge of a team every four weeks is just plain wrong.
Now if you are a regular reader of our referee previews and post-match commentaries you will know that this is a regular beef of ours. By having a tiny number of referees on its roster PGMO has set itself completely outside the norm laid down by other top leagues in Europe.
There is nothing new in this point, but it certainly needs making each time it happens, and until now we have been a loan voice on this topic. But now Keith Hackett in the Telegraph has written to say he was
“absolutely staggered to see Kevin Friend in charge of Manchester United’s win over Hull City at Old Trafford after two matches in the previous two days.
“He started off his marathon stint when he refereed Chelsea’s FA Cup win over Peterborough United on Sunday. I thought he had a very good game, as was shown by the unsuccessful appeal against his decision to send off John Terry.
“But it was a physically challenging game so I was very surprised to turn on the television on Monday evening and see that Friend was the fourth official for Cambridge United’s FA Cup match against Leeds United.
“Being a fourth official is not just about carrying the board – they have to keep an eye on the pitch for the entirety of the match, while also contending with the occupants of the technical area.
“So, how he was then given the task of travelling up to Manchester to take charge of such an important match as an EFL Cup semi-final first leg is beyond me.”
Later he goes on to make the point that “officiating three games in three nights is incredibly poor management from the Professional Game Match Officials Limited. It has displayed a lack of duty of care and been fortunate to get away with it. Officials drive themselves to matches, so they not only have to worry about in-game pressures, but the difficulty in adequately preparing.”
Further on he points to “the risk of physical injury and the risk of mental fatigue…. It is beyond me how this was allowed to happen.”
It is a point Andrew has been making for several seasons (you may want to look back to “Why do certain clubs get the same referee so often? Referees 2015/16 Half Time Review” as one example) and is part of our overall point that PGMO does things its own way. It not only has far fewer referees on its books than its own targets say it should have, and it has far fewer than other leagues. And it is unquestionable because it is a highly secretive organisation.
Also it can be bizarre. In July 2015 we published an article that said…
the PGMO constantly tell us that over 99% of referee decisions are accurate. Indeed in 2013 PGMO claimed this for the third year running, while our figures constantly showed far lower levels of accuracy. Yet PGMO utterly refuse to give any details of how they get their figures, and thus we are unable to compare their claims with our numbers that are much lower.
Unfortunately the page the link under the phrase “PGMO claimed this for the third year running” led to, was then chopped when the Premier League’s website moved. Click on the link now and you get the very droll statement:
Sorry, the page you are looking for is no longer available.
www.premierleague.com has a new look for the 2016/17 season. Many of the old pages exist on our new site, but it seems the page you want has been released on a free transfer.
So I went searching by typing PGMO into the search function on the PL site. Not one single instance of the use of PGMO could be found. As you will probably know, PGMO has no website of its own.
Thus there is silence. Utter, stupefying silence.
What makes me mention all this is that before we started talking about the PGMO and its funny ways, no one ever mentioned them, let alone analysed their activities. But now, we’ve got downright criticism of how they handle things, exactly along the lines that we have been talking about for years.
I don’t care a jot that the Telegraph is piggy backing on our work. Of course it would be good to be recognised, but the main point of all this research into refereeing in the Premier League is to get change, and if the cost of that change is the Telegraph and its team pretending that they have just discovered this issue, rather than nicked it from us, I’ll take that if as a result we get change.
What is interesting is that the more we, and now the Telegraph, push and probe, the more PGMO retreats. It doesn’t do its 98% figures any more, the old web pages are taken down, its silence is absolute.
In short it is closing in on itself, while slowly, very slowly, the media continues to stir.
When journalists do finally do their job properly and undertake a fulsome investigation into what PGMO is doing, and why it has chosen to mimic the approach to refereeing that was evolved in Italy in 2006 to accommodate corrupt practices more readily, then we shall be getting somewhere.
And I must make clear that I have never suggested that PGMO or any of its staff are corrupt. Rather my point has always been the same. Making PGMO incredibly secretive while following the approach of restricting the number of referees (an approach, as I say, that is not followed elsewhere) leads to curious consequences, as noted above. Likewise the figures PGMO used to put out, appear unbelievable.
So my questions remain the same. Why restrict the number of refs so severely? Why be so utterly secretive? Why stop putting out the figures about 98% accuracy and remove the web page? Why not justify them and continue publishing annual figures?
I don’t expect them to answer little Untold Arsenal. Rather these questions just seem so utterly obvious, I think they should be answering them because it is the right thing to do. But now, with the Telegraph shuffling along behind us, maybe there will be that bit more pressure on them.
Let’s hope so.
Untold Arsenal and the Arsenal History Society…
The index of the major articles about Arsenal players is now complete. It comes in two parts: A to K and L to Z Of course there are many other sources of articles on Arsenal players but I do like to think that the articles here add a lot more detail, and have often found stories and issues that have been missed in other reports. I do hope you will give us a try.
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