by Tony Attwood
Sean Dyche made a number of serious accusations against Arsenal players in particular, the Arsenal team in general, after the match yesterday and complained about the behaviour of the referee in this match and referees in general through commenting on the fact that (he claims) Burnley do not get given penalties.
The issue now arises as to whether in so doing he was bringing the game into disrepute through comments that would make the general public to think less or poorly of the Premier League football and whether he was improperly seeking to influence the action of referees in the future.
In short, Dyche went far far beyond saying “that was a stonewall penalty” when pointing to a specific incident, but instead complained both that Arsenal players constantly fouled Burnley players with impunity and that no matter what opposition players do to Burnley players, Burnley never gets a penalty. (His exact phrase was “Where do you want to start with the decisions? Shall we start with the 61 games without a penalty?”)
Taking Dyche’s comments as a whole one could draw one of these conclusions…
1: Arsenal were diving, pushing, fouling and cheating repeatedly and the referee was incompetent by not giving penalties, free kicks and other punishments. The referee thus should be suspended or at least severely reprimanded.
2: Arsenal were not diving etc and thus the referee was not incompetent on this score but refereed the match in a balanced and reasonable way. Dyche’s allegations are therefore untrue and the matter should be investigated with a view to seeing if Dyche was bringing the game into disrepute by alleging the wholesale failure and possibly bias of the referee.
3: In matches, clubs are repeatedly using the tactics specifically against Burnley. Indeed the clear implication of Dyche’s comments is that referees are repeatedly biased against Burnley. This would suggest some sort of anti-Burnley conspiracy by referees and to consider this the FA would have to investigate PGMO which employs the referees.
Thus the issue I am considering thus is not so much if Dyche was right in his accusations, but what the League, the FA and PGMO should do about these accusations.
To ignore the allegations and do nothing about the implications suggests that any manager can now make any allegations – allegations which in any other field of professional life would almost certainly lead to legal action for slander.
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What was particularly interesting is that the media generally have reported Sean Dyche comments, so they very much are in the public domain, but not considered the implications.
And it is not the question of whether Arsenal players dived throughout the match (Dyche particularly mentioned Mesut Özil and Granit Xhaka as being offenders), but rather whether managers can now say anything with impunity.
Here’s an example:
“We’re on about blatant, no touch, no contact; about phantom touches and people just jumping up in the air and going over. The absolute cheating, dives. No one seems to want to do anything about it, apart from me. If one of their players had been booked for it – he would have been off.
“I want to see people banned because if they were, it would evaporate. I’m not talking about gamesmanship. You clip a centre-forward in the box and he goes down. End of story. I’m talking about blatant diving. Cheating.”
This is such a clear statement of referee incompetence that to ignore it means that anyone can allege anything now – and that is the issue the authorities face.
But if we move on there is another matter, if we listen to the diatribe and watch a re-run of the match and consider Dyche right then clearly the referee here was incompetent and should not referee again. If we take his broader perspective that it is happening all the time, then all the PGMO officials are incompetent or biased, and the PGMO is similarly incompetent or biased for employing them.
So who is going to hold the PGMO to account? That’s an interesting point because as far as I can see they are answerable to no one.
But, what if Dyche was incorrect. Why would he lie in such an overt and open manner to the world’s media?
One reason could be that the stress of the job has got to him and his employers should seek psychological help for him. Another is that he is trying to divert attention from the action of his own team and their fouling, perhaps secure in the knowledge that the FA will not bring action against him. Certainly this would be the tactic of a man who feared for his job.
But Dyche reported that after the game Emery said to him, “You are questioning the referee?” and Dyche stated that he replied “You’re absolutely right I was.” So there’s no doubt about his point of view.
And indeed even the media (which rarely seems to support Arsenal in such disputes) felt Dyche had completely lost any relationship with reality, the Guardian for example saying of one Burnley player, “As ever, Barnes appeared to run on rage.”
Dyche then attempted to suggest that his anger was because he was trying to protect the good of the game with talk of “Kids everywhere are watching, all copying it. No-one seems to care about it. It’s purely factual. Facts, facts, facts. Nothing to do with a campaign. If it was a campaign I’d be out there everywhere.
“I want to see people banned because if they were, it would evaporate out of the game. Millions of children, millions of children.”
But then he went onto stranger different ground.
“There’s no point speaking to the referees. They haven’t got any power. It’s a bigger picture than that…
“The powers-that-be have to get their heads together. The Premier League, the FA, the PGMOL – they’ve all got to get their heads together because it’s gone too far.”
As for whether Burnley were cheated, beyond examining the game we might also note that Arsenal scored three goals but Burnley had only two shots on target. That does suggest a certain disparity between the teams.
Will any of the authorities take action in relation to Dyche’s comments? Will Dyche get punished, the referee suspended or PGMO investigated (the only three logical responses to what he saud)?
I suspect not. But we can wait and see.