Behold: the first admission in the national media that there is a referee problem

By Tony Attwood

There is an article in the Guardian “VAR still a work in progress so expect more controversy and occasional fury” by Barry Glendenning which (obviously) takes a look at the issue of VAR this season.

In the midst of this article, the author turns to criticising commentator Richard Keys, and in so doing notes a comments of Keys, and responds, “Keys has been in Qatar too long if he thinks that’s how things work, given the bitching and backstabbing that is apparently so prevalent among England’s body of match officials past and present.”

That’s the first time I’ve seen that sor of commentary about refereeing and the PGMO – although it is interesting that the Guardian feels that even here it can’t mention PGMO by name.

But the Guardian also quotes Mark Clattenburg talking to the Athletic, saying, “We are largely unpopular to the outside world and plagued by in-fighting and bitching on the inside.”

Now this all looked slightly promising – a bit of discussion about refereeing that wasn’t mindbogglingly dull by refusing to criticise referees or even contemplate just how it is decided who gets to referee Arsenal time and time again and who doesn’t the chance, and why.  (Hint – it is closely related to the number of yellow cards given).

The article then takes a little ramble into the fact that video refereeing is here to stay, and then… stops.  Instead of asking why there is unpopularity, in-fighting and bitching there is… nothing more.  Instead quite oddly they take a 90 degree turn saying,

“In a world where the TV discussions before, during and after Premier League games invariably focus more on refereeing decisions than actual football, fan anger at real or perceived injustices by on-field officials and their screen-watching assistants will naturally fester. The inevitable consequence will be even more scrutiny: rinse, recycle, repeat.”

In short they are asking for less commentary on referees – when we already get next to nothing.

And that really is weird, because not once does the article in what is one of the more erudite newspapers in Britain, ask the simplest question of all: “Why is it all like this?”

And that in turn raises a second question, “Why is there no asking of why?”

The fact is, the asking of those two questions, is something that football journalists will not do, and that is why they fail to stumble upon the issue of gaslighting: the habit of ignoring one subject by instead bringing in a totally different subject.

With refereeing, questions of how good or bad VAR is for the game, and how well or poorly it is administered, are valid questions, but they are not the only questions concerning refereeing nor are they the prime questions.

But now they are being placed centre stage by the media, and in so doing the really big issues such as why PGMO has a much smaller number of referees than other major leagues, and why certain referees keep getting to oversee matches involving the same club over and over again, and why it is so fanatically secretive, are never asked, let alone answered.  (See for example Abuse of referees and players is in part PGMO’s own fault).

And let us also notice that earlier line…

“In a world where the TV discussions before, during and after Premier League games invariably focus more on refereeing decisions than actual football…”

If that really is so, then why does the media refuse to focus on the referees that make the decisions, on how they are chosen, how often each referee gets to oversee matches from the same club, why they are so secretive (unlike other countries), why there are so few of them compared to other leagues, etc etc etc.

And there we see the problem.  The questions the media are willing to ask concerning referees are strictly limited.   The debate is effectively stifled, because immediately it is moved to speaking of something else.

And so it goes on.

Gaslighting: how refereeing in the Premier League is manipulated, and why the media never speak about it.

(Footnote: the first ever mention of gaslighting in connection with football other than in this article appeared in the media just six weeks after the launch of the above series on Untold)



2 Replies to “Behold: the first admission in the national media that there is a referee problem”

  1. The media assume that the vast majority of their audience is as dumb as sticks and they may have a point.

  2. It may be a crack in the wall. Let’s hope so. If it gets a positive response the copycats will be out in force!

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