by Tony Attwood
I have hoped it might happen for a long time – that the sheer complexity of manipulating the news surround football would ultimately lead to the voluntary self-censorship of football commentary would fall over itself. And so it has proved.
When PGMO resisted the introduction of VAR we wondered quite what they were up to. Much of the rest of Europe had VAR, and although there were problems, those problems seemed to be fewer than the problems of referee mistakes. So the verdict was, “not perfect, but a bit of an improvement.”
But not for the Premier League, held as it is in the vice-like grip of the PGMO, the ultra-secret society that employs referees, insists of their absolute silence, and seemingly restricts what newspapers, websites and broadcasters in the UK can say about matches in England.
Of course, the restriction of what can be shown on TV for example, has been going on for years, but now either the rules have got much, much worse, or alternatively something is seriously wrong.
Go back to the 1970s and, as I have quoted elsewhere, newspapers would comment negatively on how the TV companies showed matches, deliberately editing the content to suit their own needs. Some commentators – Alan Green in particular but there were others – were very critical of referees. His comments such as “How on earth did the referee not see that” were common until one day, out of the blue, he stopped. He continued commenting but overnight there was no more mention of referees.
We know that PGMO pays vast amounts of money to referees to ensure that once they stop refereeing they do not speak out about any issue that they have been obliged to stay silent about, and so basically we get no serious debate.
And then along came VAR. It was one year late, and we wondered why. Then we saw the implication of the PGMO’s unique implementation of video assistance, as in stadia across the country everything stops, and we wait without any information until some odd sort of decision is made.
And when this happens at a time when Uefa say that match fixing is now out of control and they can’t cope with it, and that report makes the news across Europe except… not in the UK… well then I wonder what is going on.
And I am not saying this is an Arsenal thing. Yes we have seen the utter failure of VAR at Arsenal Stadium in the Wolverhampton game, but the same has been seen at the Tottenham Stadium, where they had a news blackout of nearly four minutes before Son’s goal was disallowed.
Of course the goals that Arsenal have lost have not made the news much because knocking Arsenal is the big thing these days, but with the Tottenham goal the media however have been unleashed, resulting ultimately in the Guardian suggesting that the technology doesn’t work. Not that it did not work properly on one occasion but that it simply doesn’t work at all under PGMO control.
For as Paul Wilson wrote, the PGMO have, of their volition, changed the rules. VAR no longer has to look only at matters intrinsic to the outcome of a situation. So something irrelevant to the scoring of the goal is now examined.
Second VAR is no longer restricted to identifying “clear and obvious” errors by the officials.
And if that were not enough, third, “how can we be sure the VAR technology is capable of operating to such fine margins? Answer: we can’t, and decisions as close as this will continue to be subject to the officials’ interpretation.”
Put another way, now we know why PGMO wanted the delay in introducing VAR. To ensure that VAR was manipulated to make it “subject to the officials’ interpretation,” when it fact it was meant to be reflecting the laws of the game. Which makes it another tool in PGMO’s locker.
The point is that VAR, as introduced uniquely by PGMO, is dealing with issues of judgement not fact. But at the same time PGMO has used it to suggest that it is infallible, and therefore the referee is infallible and therefore its utter fanatical culture of secrecy is justified.
In short, VAR in English football is being used to maintain the legitimacy of PGMO, and has nothing at all to do with football as a whole, nor about getting decisions right.
And so obvious is this that even a national newspaper like the Guardian is now moved to mention the “lurking suspicion that its existence serves somebody else’s interests…”
That is quite a claim. Who that someone else is, we can debate, but that is still one hell of an admission.
For just as the admission by Uefa that it could not cope with the ever-rising tide of match-fixing suddenly opened the gate to the debate, so does the Guardian’s admission that a major footballing decision has been made not for the accuracy of refereeing, but for broadcasters and technology companies.
We go right back to the 1970s when the press claimed that TV football was manipulated to make the game look more exciting than it was.
Day by day it is looking more and more as if something is going terribly wrong.
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