by Tony Attwood
Headlines from German and French language papers about the current football crisis in Germany give a warning of the path that they might be tempted to follow
- The German Football League calls for a new order of referee structure in Germany after the recent chaos.
- An independent organization of refereeing should solve the problems that have arisen so far.
- Despite the dismissal of Hellmut Krug as a project manager, the Deutsche Fußball Liga (DFL) wants to stick with the video evidence.
The German Football Association (DFB) must “as soon as possible, set up an independent organisation of refereeing with the involvement of the DFL”, says a DFL letter. “Lack of clarity in areas of responsibility and personal disputes should not interfere with this meaningful move.”
But the letter goes on to say: “Only if players, coaches, clubs and spectators can understand the processes and rule interpretations as well as their use, is it possible to gain the necessary acceptance for a meaningful innovation.”
This is where we need to pause with this talk of an “independent organisation of refereeing” because that is exactly what the Premier League has got. The PGMO.
Of course I don’t know how independent it really is of the Premier League, but it certainly acts like a totally independent body – and that is the problem. Because the PGMO as an independent body has gone down its own route, doing its own thing, setting rules about what referees should and should not do, offering bribes to ex-referees not to publish memoirs or talk to the media, and becoming a secret society that has no face towards the media and the footballing public.
I know it is an argument I have expressed here 1000 times before, but still people come on this site saying things such as “Do you seriously believe Arsenal lost this match because the ref is bent?”
And that is not the point I am trying to make. My point is primarily that we do see a lot of very curious refereeing decisions (just read the reviews of the first 160 games of last season which come complete with video evidence).
The question that I then want to ask is ” Why do we have so many referee errors?” Is it because refs make lots of bad decisions just because they are not able to make the right decisions all the time (because they are incompetent, because the game moves too fast etc etc) or is it because something nefarious is going on?
There is also the fact that PGMO employs few referees compared to the top leagues in other countries. This raises a potential danger, in that it means that a team like Arsenal can get the same referee six or eight times in a season. This does not automatically mean the referee is bent, but it means that if the ref were to be bent his influence could be dramatic, since if he were being bribed to fix matches against Arsenal, then instead of having a maximum of two chances to go about his dirty work, he might have six or eight chances in a season.
Restricting the refs to two games per team per season is what most leagues do, and it is a reasonable safety measure. Doing this doesn’t say refs are bent, but it is just a simple safety measure just in case. A bit like having an overflow on your bath. You know you are not going to leave the tap running and let the bath overflow onto the floor, but just in case you do, there is a way of allowing the water to run out without soaking the carpet. In all walks of life we take basic precautions against things that rarely happen, just in case. But not, it seems with referees.
This is where the PGMO brings suspicions upon itself. It has chosen to employ a small number of refs, refusing to allow them to speak out during their careers, doing everything it can to stop them talking publicly after retirement, refusing to openly engage with the football going public and people’s legitimate concerns, and apart from in a few rather odd press releases issued a year or two back, saying nothing at all. And when it has spoken it has said things that are palpably untrue, like claiming 98% of all major decisions are accurate.
This situation of secrecy in a world in which information is ever more important, is damaging to football and raises suspicions. Why should PGMO be so secret? What benefit is there to football in having his secrecy?
I can find no benefits, but there are two major disadvantages. Secrecy encourages scepticism and disbelief and encourages such disbelief to continue, because there is no open debate. I want to see PGMO officials sit down and go through a match minute by minute debating each and every possible refereeing error. Maybe it is not riveting viewing, but do it a few times and it could resolve all my doubts – unless of course the error rate really is as huge as we found in our 160 game analysis.
So when German football talks about an independent referee body I become worried, and from my far off position in England, and with absolutely no influence over anything that happens in German football I would just issue a plea that the German football authorities look at what is happening in England and see it as an approach and a process to be avoided at all costs.
Never, ever, lose control of your referees, because if you do, they will (like all special interest groups) start writing their own rules for their own benefit, not for the benefit of us all.
- Fake news index: striker next season, striker we should have kept, horrific loans
- Dear ESPN: Expected Goals do not account for refereeing errors
- Who will Arsenal’s next manager be and what we can learn from Moyes?
- How much have Arsenal’s rivals spent on transfers in recent years?
- Why is it becoming so difficult to find a sponsor for new football stadium?
- Corruption flares up again in Italy, as Premier League figures don’t look too clever
- How much does a club have to spend on transfers to get a trophy?
- Does the team that is top after 14 games usually go on to win the league?