By Tony Attwood
Taking certain referees off the rota is just one of the things we have campaigned about for years in relation to PGMO – the ultra-secretive agency that handles refereeing in the premier league. We’ve also questioned the regional bias of the referee group, the fact that we have far fewer referees in the Premier League than in other major leagues, and the fact that some of these referees undertake many more matches than others.
Add to that the fact that some referees are involved in matches with the same club over and again and you begin to see what is wrong with refereeing in the Premier League.
Plus all that is before we get to the decision making and the fact that the referees are hidden away, unable to give interviews during their career, and offered massive sums after they retire to go on saying nothing.
So yes we have argued for 12 years that the whole referee system is wrong, and we’ve produced our proof too – not least in the 160 game analysis and numerous other reviews of referee actions on this site.
But the notion that one club can get a referee changed because he’s done them down in the past is not part of our agenda. We have never asked for the clubs to be able to demand referee X should not be involved in their games because he allegedly missed a decision last time. That just gives power to the clubs – we want referees to be properly independent, but the processes surrounding them to be open to scrutiny.
Yet removing a ref because they don’t like him is what Liverpool have achieved, after it was revealed that Liverpool’s game against penalty prone Leicester on Sunday will not have David Coote as the VAR official as was originally planned. And for why? We are told for “operational reasons.”
So, define “operational reasons”. Law Insider gives the definition as
“actions taken by the Company after careful planning and analysis, and not arbitrarily or capriciously.” They then give examples from the airline industry such as “To avoid a potential flight delay, 2. To avoid a potential flight cancellation, and 3. To fulfil FAA/Regulatory requirements.”
Right, “careful planning and analysis” and to avoid the football equivalent of the above – which I suppose would be the game being called off or delayed (not relevant here – he was available). I can’t see how the other types of change would apply here.
In short, it is nigh on impossible to make “operational reasons” apply here. He’s been removed because Liverpool demanded it. Which tells us a huge amount.
But wouldn’t you know it – none of the media – endlessly complicit with the PGMO as they are – have questioned this “operational reasons” issue. They stick by their deal with PGMO never to question.
So here’s the story step by step…
David Coote was appointed VAR official for the Liverpool match this Sunday. Coote was then replaced yesterday by Andre Marriner and he is now going to referee the Saturday game between Manchester United and West Bromwich A. “Operational reasons” my arse.
And why have Liverpool demanded this? Because in an earlier game with Coote involved Virgil van Dijk suffered an injury but VAR didn’t say there should be a red card. Klopp complained, adopting a Liverpool tactic that we have seen used successfully in the past, and the referee has been changed.
As the Daily Mail has noted today, Marriner’s “appointment sparked anger after controversial Merseyside Derby”, and reported that “Coote thought the offside leading up to Pickford’s scissor challenge — which he checked forensically — nullified what happened afterwards.”
Coote however has since returned as a VAR referee, being in charge of the technology for Arsenal’s game against Aston Villa.
So there we are: a Liverpool complaint can lead to what we have always been told would never happen. A club being able to influence which referee is in charge of a match. Not right for Liverpool – let him do Arsenal.
There is however a positive side to the story. We have been suggesting for years that some clubs – particularly Liverpool – and in the days of Sir Alex Ferguson, Manchester United – were able to select their own referees, and now we see this process in action.
It is interesting that the story does not make the news in the Guardian however.
Is Premier League refereeing bent? Obviously yes.
You might also find some of these tales interesting…
- Arsenal v Wolverhampton: their problems with fouls and cards, and the team
- Arsenal v Wolverhampton: the club that gets cards at over twice the rate of Arsenal
- Arsenal v Wolverhampton Wanderers: where will each team finish?
- Arsenal v Lens: what we found, what we felt, what they did
- Arsenal v Lens: the team, the home/away form and the strange coincidences