By Tony Attwood
Football, as presented on TV, on the radio, on the internet and in print, feeds on one thing, and one thing only: controversy. But that controversy has to be contained. Only certain controversies are allowable.
Through the game, at half time and after the game pundits ooze pleasantries about how good the winning team were and how much of a “message that will send to the rest of the league” as they regularly say, but gradually the willingness of fans to accept the pundits pontifications are, I think, declining.
What is happening I think is that fans of many clubs are becoming more and more disenfranchised from football, simply because the pundits eulogise about certain teams, and tell us all the problems of the other teams. Likewise some fans remove themselves from any association with what we might call normal behaviour, because of the singular distance between the authorities and the fans. The disconnect is so great, one can almost feel it.
The fact is that from 2005 on to 2021 Manchester City, Chelsea, and Manchester United have each won the league multiple times. Two clubs have wheedled their way in and won the league once each – Leicester and Liverpool.
This is fairly fine if you are a supporter of one of those three clubs that wins, and sort of a bit ok if you support Leicester or Liverpool. But otherwise, it is rather less than exciting.
Of course this is nowhere as bad as Germany where Bayern Munich has won the league nine times running and in fact in Germany only four other teams have won the league since the start of the century.
Naturally those who defend the league say that they can’t help it if some teams are well run and have lots of money – but of course they could. Proper FFP rules and (in England’s case at least) authorities who were willing to take serious action against clubs that break the rules, would help. Spending caps on transfers would help too.
But money (however gained) wins the day and supporter powerlessness grows. Not the powerlessness of the supporter who supports his local non-league side that plays in front of a few hundred spectators. But supporters of teams who feel (reasonably or not) that their team ought to be competing on something like equal terms with others in the league.
It is this sense of disenfranchisement and lack of opportunity that gives rise to scenes as in Germany where Dortmund supporters and the club’s manager showered the Bayern players and management with beer after one recent game. Speaking of the referee the Dortmund manager who had been sent to the stands for protesting against refereeing decisions from the sidelines said that, “Mr. Zwayer is welcome to come back and blow the whistle on the next top match as well. He can put as many obstacles in our way as well. We’ll just keep going.”
But the anger of the crowd was overwhelming as season ticket holders in the stands climbed onto the roof of the Munich bench.
Now if any of that had happened in England, the FA would come marching in and start deducting points (if Arsenal had been involved) or giving the club a severe lecture and a meaningless fine (if any other club’s supporters had been part of the uprising).
But in Germany it is different. First, he went to Mats Hummels – the central figure in the disputed penalty decision that caused the problems – and spent five minutes explaining to him personally how he arrived at the controversial verdict. He then undertook a TV interview (which would be illegal in England) and explained his decision making.
The media reported all this but then dropped into what can only be described as “English mode” by saying that Dortmund lack the necessary mentality to compete with FC Bayern explained the Bayern win (which is the ultimate get-out for a journalist who has no idea what to write). “They don’t have a winning mindset” is as meaningless a generalisation in German as in English.
But there was a really extraordinary end to this affair because of the match, Jude Bellingham who moved from Birmingham to Dortmund in 2020, did an interview in which he recalled referee Zwayer’s involvement in the Robert Hoyzer bribery scandal in 2004. Hoyzer claimed at that time to have received about £45,000 from three Berlin-based Croatian brothers who won large sums by betting on the rigged matches. Police then raided a bar and found the betting receipts.
Ah, the PGMO might say, you see, these foreigners are corrupt but we are not. But how on earth do we know? Refereeing in the Premier League is so wrapped up in protective cotton wool no one can get near it. In Germany at least corruption is revealed and spoken about. In England it is all kept under wraps.
So we don’t normally have scenes as have been seen recently in Germany. But ultimately there is a chance that a bubble will burst, and one day one newspaper might find the nerve to look at English refereeing in the way that they can do it in Germany.
Gaslighting: how refereeing in the Premier League is manipulated, and why the media never speak about it.
- 1: Are the referees and the media really out to get Arsenal, or am I just imagining it?
- 2: How discussions about refereeing are deliberately stifled by the media
- 3: Referees: the odd statistics that are simply never revealed or discussed
- 4: How we have been utterly misled about football: part 4
- 5: Hiding the problem of refereeing is destroying the credibility of the Premier League
- 6: Revealed: PL referees are not 98% accurate but actually just 75% accurate
- Injuries Time to sack Tierney accordinig to one part of the media
- Next season starting lineup and the new Financial Fair Play rules
- The huge bias of referees is proven. PGMO and media fight back.
- 93 players rumoured to be going to Arsenal. Are the journos getting lazy?
- The home and away scandal: ignorance, or cover up?