By Dr Billy “the dog” McGraw. Head of psychology at the University Hospital of the North Circular Road.
As you will know, if you have followed our coverage of PGMO, the high secretive organisation that makes the Masons look at a come-all-ye at the local pub, the refereeing control body does not talk to outsiders.
Absolute secrecy and control are their watchwords – except it seems where Manchester City are concerned. For most other teams they hand down their rulings, will brook no suggestion that they might be wrong about anything, and persuade the press to follow the line, even when their statements are so barmy that they go around claiming an accuracy level for referees in league matches of over 100%. (This latter masterstroke occurring when they claimed accuracy ratings for decisions of 98% before the introduction of VAR, and then expressed the view that VAR would make them 2.5% more accurate than before.)
So the rule is clear: neither the clubs nor the media is allowed to question PGMO. Except that now along has come Manchester City FC and they have been granted their own private (and of course ultra-secret) meeting with PGMO. The subject matter is the accusation that referees are being soft of players who have the absolute audacity to tackle Manchester City players.
The meeting will occur in about three weeks time and of course immediately we might think that if there is to be a meeting why there should be such a delay. After all it is not as if the referees are particularly busy, apart from handling matches – of which there are more in March than there are in February. So why not meet now?
And then we look at the fixture list and find in quick succession two games between Arsenal and Manchester City.
Quite clearly when the PGMO officials meet Manchester City they will be discussing recent decisions – which means decisions affecting Manchester City. And the PGMO will want to show that it is not being unfair to Manchester City by looking at… well… a couple of recent matches such as those against… Arsenal. Which of course means the order goes out: just remember next week’s meeting lads.
Of course I will be accused of paranoia here, as normal, but consider the facts. PGMO does not ever hold meetings with individual clubs about the way referees treat the clubs. Except now. There is no reason why the meeting should not be held immediately – but it is being put back a little. And which club is certainly not the friend of PGMO? The results are clear. Arsenal.
Better still from everyone’s point of view except Arsenal’s, the referees will go into the meeting with a cover story. Man City are asking for questionable challenges to be subject to retrospective reviews. PGMO will say no, and point to recent games – that is to say the two games against Arsenal, and show just how “balanced” their decisions are.
Man City will push their point that nine decisions against Man City were wrong. If any other team did that they would be severely sanctioned for questioning the integrity and ability of the refs. But Man City? No, they get a meeting, because of the wonderful opportunity that this meeting gives the refs to show the world what they are really up to.
What Guardiola wants is mass sendings off. For him it is not enough that Man City, through its access to the sovereign wealth fund of a repressive regime, can effectively win the League before Christmas. He still wants, he still demands, more. And who better to give it to him than… Mike Riley.
Worse there will be no retrospective sanctions on Man City players or officials for expressing the view that the referees are not doing their job. De Bruyne, for example, recently said, “I don’t know what they are thinking – you can also pull a shirt, that’s more effective than a tackle. Sometimes it gets frustrating. A lot of teams are making a lot of fouls against us. We make a foul, we get a yellow card, I don’t know how it’s possible sometimes.”
Anyone from Arsenal saying that would themselves be hauled up before the PGMO and sanctioned.
So it goes.
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