By Tony Attwood
Although it is generally forgotten by commentators who come to Untold without reading about its background or history, one of the reasons that Untold was set up was that of being a campaigning site. For example, campaigning about the way in which the mass media reported refereeing – and about the refereeing itself.
When I started the site some nine years ago, the notion that any commentator would say something like “How bad is some of our refereeing in the PL? Simply awful,” was just fantasy land. Yes Alan Green would criticise referees a little, but he was told to shut up by his employers (possibly under pressure from the League), and ultimately he did. Subsequently the most we might have hoped for was a mild, “well, I think the referee might have been mistaken there, but of course these days the game moves so far it must be very hard for the referee.”
“Absolutely Brian. We have the best referees in the world.”
But it has been changing during the past year, and although many will laugh at me for this, I do think the long running referee previews and reviews, followed by the review this season of the first 160 premier league games of the campaign complete with video evidence, has made some people in the mass media rethink their position.
And the final proof is the comment reported in the headline above, as said on TalkSport today.
It has always been my view that the media will of course self-censor to protect their investment – the money they have paid the PL for the right to broadcast. If it ever becomes a prevalent belief that refereeing is so awful that the League table is not a true reflection of what happens, then suddenly that investment becomes worthless.
It has been quite a challenge to find a way to beat this barricade of silence, a barricade so strong that many correspondents on this site are moved to jeer at the notion that there is anything wrong with refereeing in the Premier League.
And we have always be careful to suggest that from the evidence we have it is impossible to tell if this is incompetence or deliberate match fixing. The activity of the PGMO makes it impossible for us to be sure which is which, although the statistics do point in one direction. (Incidentally if Untold ever suddenly changes its tune, you will be able to know we have been threatened with legal action. Risking my house against the Premier League’s billions is not really an option).
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The approach we’ve had has been one that quite simply aims to beat the media into submission. If we could get more and more people to recognise that the evidence (particularly that from the first 160 games of the season, and from the two year production of Referee Decisions written by referees who have no connection with Arsenal) then ultimately the media would realise they are starting to lose the hearts and minds of their audience. The media (or at least the Daily Express) will tell us that there has been a previous mission to Mars with the aim of establishing a colony there, but if the League leans on them to stop them talking about dodgy refereeing, they will always bend the knee.
Which is why today’s outrage by Talk Sport presenters at the end of the first half of the Sunderland v Man U game, is so noteworthy.
It has been a long campaign, but over the past year or so we have seen some previous real movement, but this was another step forward as the outrage expressed in the first half by TalkSport commentators was unremitting.
Now it is true that in the second half they said nothing more on the subject, which makes me think that the editors and executives had urgent words with the commentators, but we have heard some significant comments about “wrong calls from the officials”. Now all we have to do is to get them to ask “why?”
We didn’t get that but among the things that were said we had
“If that is a red card it is a waste of time taking the field.”
“The refs know so little about the game…”
And later speaking of the PGMO, “They will club together and say everything is all right.”
And then, “Refereeing is just terrible.”
OK it is still going to be a long journey from here to get them to talk about “why?” but we have now broken through the first hurdle. So we can say, “Now for part two”.
So to the commentators and media people who I know do, from time to time, read my rambles on this site: the gate is open there is no going back. If you are not going to be left behind you really have to face the question seriously: Why is refereeing in the Premier League so awful? Debating whether it is awful or not is no longer a current topic.
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