How football is seen so differently beyond the concrete walls of PGMO

By Tony Attwood

I have often argued that although we all get the idea that football is handled differently in Europe from the way it is worked in England, there is a feeling put out by the alliance of the media, the League and PGMO that this is just because the funny foreigners don’t quite understand “our game” and don’t really get football – which of course we English invented, and therefore fully understand.

This approach is adopted so that the media and PGMO is able to keep discussions about other ways of doing things to a minimum.  Hence discontent is reduced, the media is by and large compliant and there is a general agreement as to what is newsworthy and what is not.

Thus possible match fixing is most certainly not a topic of note in England – but we can never be sure what those perfidious foreigners get up to.   Interviewing referees after a game on TV?  All seems a bit crass – and unnecessary.  Not even worth debating the possibility.  Taking ex-players and calling them “expert summarisers” – well of course they are, they played football right?

It is not quite like this in Europe, and this fact was brought home to me big time with an interview with Raphael Nuzzolo, the Swiss player, now in the last year or so of his career who currently plays as a midfielder for Neuchâtel Xamax.

He was asked in an interview in LeMatin, the Swiss newspaper, for his thoughts on VAR.  Not only was his commentary articulate and interesting in its own right, but he also commented on the difference between VAR in England and the rest of Europe.  Can you imagine any current English player doing that?

Nuzzolo made the point that VAR is intended to make football fairer but in fact has made football “more incomprehensible”.  He pointed out that of course it is good that what he calls “large errors” can be corrected by VAR, but the system is breaking down because of inconsistencies.  In particular, he notes the habit of English TV stations looking at marginal decisions, and then projecting video created lines across the pitch so the viewers can see if the player is just a millimetre or two offside.   On Swiss TV – and indeed as I understand it, in quite a few countries, that is not done.

Now the point is not whether this is a good or bad thing, but rather that it has created a difference between each country – and is a topic that in Europe is being debated.  But not in England.  Here we take what we are fed.

Now this is not the case with the goal line technology, which the player rates as the best thing that has happened.  It is incredibly fast, and everyone does it in the same way.  As Nuzzolo says, ” The decision is made quickly and is unequivocal. On the other hand, for the other rules, the use of this technology is more open to criticism. Offside is for example interpreted differently depending on the country from which the referee comes.”

At this point the interviewer challenged the player with what I thought was a particularly interesting question: “So you prefer to go back, even if you are the victim of a bad decision?”

And Nuzzolo’s answer was “Yes, because we cannot apply this video arbitration. I would prefer to stop and start again on better foundations.  We wanted to go quickly to remove the errors. But it is clear that this does not work. Unfortunately, I don’t think we will go back…

“For me, the tools are good, but they are misused. In the end, it is people in an office, located miles from the stadium, who decide whether there is a goal or not. This removes spontaneity and responsibilities from the referee.

“How could we improve this system? Its use should be unified. Remove the use of the TV created lines on the pitch and be able to tell with the naked eye if there is an offside or not. For the rest, the video should help in rare cases. For interpretations of hands or red cards, this must be the responsibility of the referee. It is he who is on the ground and who is the only person empowered to judge, depending on the speed of the intervention.”

Now that is a particularly interesting point, given the recent case at Arsenal where the TV panel argued that the player was far enough away from where the ball was kicked to be able to move his hands out of the way, while a simple analysis of the physics (considering the distance from the ball and the speed of the ball) showed it was quite impossible for the player to react in time.  A completely false opinion was given by the studio “expert” and left unchallenged by the show’s presenter.

What we got was the referee’s judgement, which the studio panel did not like.  Which is of course fine if the referee is not part of an ultra-secret organisation that does not open itself up to any questioning or criticism.

Nuzzolo also added that when he watches a match as a spectator, “I don’t get up after a goal, because I don’t know if it will be validated or not.

“As a spectator, I watch many matches taking place in foreign championships. And unfortunately, I take much less pleasure in doing so.”

Now this kind of debate is something we are not getting in England, for the simple reason that PGMO forbids it.  Of course newspapers, radio and TV stations could open up the debate and question the whole way in which refereeing is run from a central secretive cabal, but then they would be in breach of their contract which allows them anything from the rights of showing the game, to the right to sit in the press box.

Not for the first time I wish the English media could open up the discussions in the way they can do in most of the rest of Europe.


18 Replies to “How football is seen so differently beyond the concrete walls of PGMO”

  1. Great article.

    I must say I hadn’t noticed but you are right only English TV has lines – most of the rest just show the stills.

    I also believe that the lines create an optical illusion effect where things are not quite what they seem. I have also seen lines that are not straight across the pitch!

  2. A few calls in the media to,sack the, at best, inept,Riley, including I think,The Times.
    But not holding my breath, as long,as,he doesn’t upset the likes of Utd, or Liverpool, he will be fine

  3. @Mandy,

    The more I think about it, the more I think this is an old boys network thing more then corruption with actual money….. there was some tipping point in the past where suddendly the guys up north got a handle on such decisions and decided to rig the system, the same way republicans in the US are gerrymandering. Like someone wrote it the other day : if it walks like a duck, swims like a duck, smells like a duck….

    Would that be so outlandish ? I mean think about it : when was the last time a Home Counties club really profited from PIGMOB decisions long enough to win the PL ?

    Tony, let’s make reffymandering the world of 2020 !!!! create a twitter hashtag and get it trending !

  4. Sorry, typing error :

    Tony, let’s make REFFYMANDERING the WORD of 2020 !!!! create a twitter hashtag and get it trending ! let’s start using it, easier then whole sentences….

    Reffymandering : noun, masculine, describes organisational decisions taken by a sports body in charge of refereeing to create an uneven playing field by choice of referrees i charge of each game, be it depending on their origin, club of choice, geographical elements (hometown for example), race, religion, specific sensibility to situations arising in a game, repeat use of same referees for one or several teams, interpretation of rules dependent on the team who breaks them, influencing the timeline and any other such acts

    There you have it…

    And I bet you if you put up a page with this definition, anyone on google looking for it will be shown the UA page !

  5. Wouldn’t be surprised at all Chris, keep the spoils mainly to the north west, with the odd plucky midlander given help to upset the odds, as well as the occasional moneyed, or brilliant southern team.
    I am pretty convinced there is something going on, perhaps there is silence as so many do so well out of it and not just the title winners.
    That said, with billions illegally betted on some prem league games, In the line of the bias we see, nobody is going to convince me some,very dodgy people haven’t got to at least some of the refs.
    Mike Riley, his secrecy, lack of accountability, even his refusal to,follow worldwide VAR protocols looks extremely suspicious to me

  6. I am not holding my breathe on the reporting of Video Assisted Rigging in this country. Did anyone see the BBC table in their article about it. They have only 4 decisions made by VAR in our 20 matches this season. 1 in our favour and 3 against. Being an Arsenal supporter I have watched most games and can not possibly imagine how the totals were created. A table of stats without source is hardly inspiring the idea that we might await expansive and reasoned interviews on the subject. Mediamandering perhaps? No that’s a joke but yes to the reffymandering word of 2020.

  7. Screwy referee assignment

    Mike Dean 2001/2 season. The first two EPL games that Dean did that season were 3 days apart, and they were both home to Fulham. Fulham won the first 2-0 and drew the second 0-0. There were 2 yellows in the first game and 5 in the second.

  8. Arsenal Youth

    Our U23 scored 2 late goals to draw with Derby (2-2), and our U18 scored 2 late goals to draw (2-2) with Chel$ea.

    Congratulations on getting the single point to both teams!

  9. Old Boys Clubs?

    In the records of one Mike (Dancing) Dean, the 1999/2000 season is the last season before he started appearing in the EPL. It is mostly Football League Div 1,2,3, English League Cup, FA Cup.

    Let’s look at some of the names: QPR, Swansea, Sunderland, Sheffield UTd, Fulham, Wolves, Brighton, Stoke, West Brom, Birmingham, Wigan, Leicester, Cardiff, CrystalPalace, Burnley, Bolton, Hull.

    Do you think a few referees from the beginning of the EPL, sat down and made a list of what teams they thought should be playing in the EPL? And decided to tilt the pitch for 20 years to get them there?

  10. Mike Riley, Persistent Gerrymandering Mediamandering & Obfuscation a.k.a.PGMO

  11. Menace…..I take umbrage at you equating a corrupt duck with our beautiful Canadian Geese! It is easy to discern the difference, the orangey duck is in the White house and our Canadian Geese are shitting on the white House lawn!
    In actual fact ducks aren’t even the same genus as Geese but a lot of Yanks think that Geese are just overweight ducks!

  12. @omgarsenal,

    having lived in Wisconsin, I can confirm that Canada Geese are absolutely stunning stunning birds…..

    have a doubt, just check it out :

    The artist painter was a neighbour…


    frankly, me ? I would have absolutely no problem believing something can have started this way. Can’t you remember Fergie Time ?!? I can imagine the scene in a pub at night, and the guy saying : lets show those Cockney buggers down South and all their damn foreigners who owns football… let’s just do it…and off they went.

    Reffymandering is the concept they invented, or refined from calcilpoli/type 3 match fixing.

    This theory is not anymore improbable then any other, in fact it fits better…

  13. Next referee picked, was Mike (Dancing) Dean. He’s been around a little longer than Atkinson.

    Over his entire time (studied), he did 856 games. His average yellow card rate is 3.41 (Var 4.15); median rate is 3. He gave out 175 red cards, with an average rate of 0.20 (Var 0.22).

    Just doing EPL games (500), his yellow card rate is 3.73 (Var 4.22). The median card rate is 4 per game.

    Just doing FA Cup games, his yellow card rate is 2.72 (Var 3.96) with a median of 2. For the league cup (about half the games of FA Cup), he cards at 2.5 per game (Var 4.54) with a median of 1.

    Starting 2003, median card rates: 4, 3, 3, 3, 4, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 3, 4, 3, 4, 4, 4 and 4.

    I’m guessing this shows a slow upwards trend in how many yellows he hands out. Getting old, having trouble keeping up? Getting annoyed at life? Something else?

  14. Okay, taking this case of 856 games for Mike Dean, and running the number of yellow cards issued past the Perl module Statistics::Test::Sequence, I get some output which someone might see something in.

    If the number of yellow cards in game I+1 is greater than the number of cards issued in game I, then bit I is set to 1. Otherwise it is set to 0.

    This will get us an array of 855 bits for Mike Dean (he did 856 games). We then look at the lengths of contiguous 0 or 1 in the data.

    There are 369 occurrences of a length of 1, and we are expecting 356 (and some change). That’s close to expected.

    There are 164 occurrences of a length of 2, and we are expecting about 157. One way to get a length of 2, is to have three games in a row, where the number of yellow cards increases from game to game to game. That generates a length of 2 of the bit being 1. The other possibility is the logical negation of that. Which is not trivial to wrap your head around.

    There are 41 sequences of length 3, we are expecting about 45.

    There are 6 sequences of length 4, we are expecting about 10.

    There is 1 sequence of length 5, and we are expecting about 2.

    There is 1 sequence of length 6, and we are expecting 0.25….

    If I was to change each entry into -1 times the number of yellow cards issued in a game, then a length of 2 where the bits were all 1, would indicate three games in a row where the number of yellow cards issued in those games was monotone decreasing. And a 0 would indicate the logical negation of that; which is again hard to wrap your head around.

    With those 2 sequences, perhaps a person can find other data?

    It is possible that a person could look at sequences of just EPL games, or similar. But those sequences have less data, and we quickly run out data. For instance, to get 6 sequences of length 4 when we are expecting about 10, in more than 20 years of data is not going to impress too many people.

  15. Another idea is to look at autocorrelation. I can try:
    1. the entire sequence (all data, all EPL, other things)
    2. all sequences, but edited to start with the game before an Arsenal game.
    3. Same as 2, but sequences start at Arsenal game.
    4. Same as 2, but sequences start at game after Arsenal game.

    I think this only has a good chance of showing something, for old data (where the number of trailing games is large). If a person finds a large correlation in older data, the “peak” will be larger because of the greater length of data after the start.

    I suppose a person could “pad” all sequences with random data so that all sequences have the same length of data. I still think effects due to length of the “real” data will show up.

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