“I never have any problems with referees – except with you”.

By Tony Attwood

Something is changing in terms of referees and PGMO.  It’s not a seismic shift, but given the long absolute and complete silence among journalists and broadcasters in England on the possibility that referees could be less than the best in the world, it could be that the vice-like grip that PGMO has had on journalistic commentary on refs, is slipping.

And in this regard, we have to recognise the impact of Jürgen Klopp.  By nature not a man to keep his opinions to himself if asked, he also seems to have noted the English ban on criticising officialdom and then decided to ignore it.

This change is happening just as the Premier League is looking more bumbling than normal regarding its way of handling coronavirus, taking a path that is completely different from that taken by other major leagues, but not quite sure why it is doing so, or how long it can continue to do so.

Thus we have no action on unvaccinated players (that level staying about a quarter of all players), and no postponements leading to last-minute postponements, leading to fan annoyance.

Of course, part of this is due to the heavy dependency on income from gambling companies and TV companies, leaving the clubs are looking increasingly like animals caught in headlights, unsure where to move or if to move at all.

Thus we have Klopp telling the referee Paul Tierney what he thought of his performance, including the memorable phrase, “I never have problems with referees – except with you.”  He suggested the referee had a problem with him, or perhaps it was with Liverpool.  He also had a go against the video assistant.

Klopp received a warning for his behaviour on the touchline, but it seems as if the immunity of referees from media criticism is starting to slip.  For yesterday we read that “Liverpool boss Jurgen Klopp will not be punished for his scathing attack on referee Paul Tierney it has been confirmed.”  That in the Express. 

In addition to this we have had the Guardian’s podcast actively discussing the poverty of refereeing in a match and this just after it ran a headline about “rocky refereeing”.  “Total ineptitude from the ref” is the general tenor of the discussion, with open criticism of the referees’ attitude and body language…. and not just a passing comment.  They continue to run the subject for around ten minutes.

Of course after years of silence, it is difficult for the media to talk about the background of refereeing, because the question would then obviously arise, “Why have you never spoken about PGMO before, when evidence has been presented day after day?” so any change in journalistic attitudes will have to come slowly.  But it does seem to be happening in some quarters.

And in one way, Arsenal itself is forcing a change.  When Arsenal can be criticised for having devilish foreign players who don’t understand the English game (Xhaka is a prime example) it is very easy to criticise the club.  Even Xhaka’s very high ranking indeed in the Football Observatory ranking at the end of last season was shunned by the English press.

But now Arsenal is a different object – it has three “princes” of the England squad, Saka, Smith Rowe, and Ramsdale.  So the criticism of Arsenal has to be toned down and something else has to be looked for.

Sky Sports, always behind any awareness of changes in the game with the mateyness of the commentators all re-inforcing the view that they see the world as it is, and everyone else is wrong, has resisted the change of course.   But Ian Wright’s recent demand of an apology from a Sky Sports reporter after his comments about Takehiro Tomiyasu shows again that the attitudes in sports reporting might at last be changing.

This story was highlighted in the Sun which is not to suggest that the Sun is now the arbiter of truth and justice, but rather to note how rare it has been for the Sun to produce anything which suggests a) Arsenal could be right, b) a foreigner might be an ok person and c) the media wrong.

The headline reads

ARSENAL legend Ian Wright has called for Sky Sports journalist Kaveh Solhekol to apologise for appearing to smirk when announcing the Gunners signed Takehiro Tomiyasu.

And the article continues, “The 58-year-old Gunners legend shared a clip of Solhekol discussing the transfer at the time – with him seemingly not impressed…. Solhekol says that Tomiyasu ‘isn’t really a right-back’ – where the player has starred from so far this season.

“I’ve just got a message to say: Tomiyasu was offered to most clubs in the Premier League.   “He’s a good player but the problem is he’s not really a right back, nor is he a central defender.”

So the age-old story.  Here’s a player being hawked around the clubs.  No one wants him because he’s a misfit, and in the end Arsenal take him on deadline day.  Stupid Arsenal.  Disorganised Arsenal.  Incompetent Arsenal.   But the Sun adds, “Tomiyasu has gone on to make the right-back spot his own.”

These are all tiny changes both in the approach to commentary on refereeing, and in commentary on Arsenal and its transfer policies.   Of course, we don’t know if they will last, but it will be interesting to see if they do.

13 Replies to ““I never have any problems with referees – except with you”.”

  1. Tony

    I’m glad you are running with this Tony because as I said the other day (when Redknapp made his comment about the way Kane is ‘treated differently by referees’, and more importantly the bit when he said ‘I have always thought that’), how it was a massive moment in the way the media are talking about our referees and an opportunity we should not let pass, and as I suspected you are not.

    I think Mikey pointed out that Sheerer said something similar.

    And you ask the very same question I did the other day, “Why have you (Redknapp in this case) never spoken about PGMO before, when evidence has been presented day after day?”

    I agree with you that a lot of this is down to Klopp, or more accurately the slack Klopp is given by the media to say just about what he likes, about who he likes, without fear of ridicule.

    Fergie was afforded the same luxury, but as he had the referees in his pocket, well in his address book, they were pretty much left alone. Basically Fergie gave them their instructions through the back pages of the complicit red tops, and they meekly obeyed. Referees were not Fergies problem. Wenger was.

    Now I’m not suggesting for one second that Liverpool are harshly treated, quite the opposite, but heaven forbid a decision should go against them as when Kane was allowed to remain on the pitch, he lets them have it.

    If Wenger had launched as per Klopp he would of got zero support from the red tops, which is absolutely crucial,and been labeled a whinging foreigner and fined by the PGMOL.

    It’s highly likely the same would of happened had Arteta behaved as per Klopp, but I suppose we’ll never know.

    So yes I too believe we do have Klopp to thank in this respect, but it’s not all good news because Liverpool are a formidable enough opponent as it is without the referees running scared of them, and more importantly the media, who it seems he has the complete and utter backing of.

    In conclusion, yes there is a shift, whether it turns out to be seismic and permanent or minor and temporary, only time will tell.

    Unfortunately my feeling is towards the later.

  2. I agree the need for cautious optimism, at best.

    Media attitudes to different clubs remain a key influence. So far as Arsenal’s emerging England stars are concerned, it won’t take much for the media to start encouraging them to move to “bigger” clubs, where they can fulfil their potential and win trophies. Think how they would flourish under a manager like Pep or Klopp etc. etc.

    The only times I can recall any hint of criticism of referees relating to Arsenal games, is that it picks on the few occasions when something has turned out in our favour (like Xhaka not being sent off, or any red-cards to our opponents being criticised as unduly harsh -like the recent West Ham case. Then we have the usual suspects lining up to give their opinions, such as Simon Jordan, Clattenburg, and the rest of the Talksh…te payroll cast.

  3. @Nitram,

    my point has always been that the referee corps run by PGMOL is a totally mis-managed crew. And it is full of incompetent referees who have, for the most, no respect for the neutrality the referee has to project and apply. The rot started, as you say, in the Fergusson years. I mean, why was it called Fergie time after all ?.

    For more then a decade, Untold has shown how differently Arsenal were treated. How referees could do whatever they wanted as long as Arsenal got robbed, players got hurt, with no risk to them.
    Idiot treators of the beautiful game, that is what they were and still are.
    Now, you know how it is with bad habits. Allow you kid to smoke on the balcony, and soon he’ll smoke in his bedroom and in the kitchen. The same with referees. Their ineptitude in doing their job when Arsenal was on the pitch is starting to become a bad habit they cannot shake off. And now other teams in the PL and recently in the CL are experiencing the situation Arsenal has had to live with.

    But this time, it is sacro-sanct Pool! with it’s galactical fan base and TV viewing that had to suffer it. And fans outside of England don’t give a damn about Kane. or the 3 Lions. So it becomes evident that something is amiss and PGMOL cannot just shrug it off and explain that this is ‘english football rules’. Bettors around the world are furious to having lost lots of money. And I am sure betting companies are starting to wonder what is going on and whether to start warning punters that the outcome of games may be influenced by referees not doing their job.

    We are seeing cracks. That is good.
    Idiots dare it all, this is how you recognise them…
    I hope idiot incompetents like Dean keep on screwing up games based on their preferences in the belief they are kings and thus have total immunity.

    At some point this will blow up. wonder if PGMOL will re-affect Tierney to Pool! soon. that will be interesting.

  4. Chris , you say that the betting companies are getting worried about what’s going on and in the case of the William Hills , Paddy Powers and their ilk that may be right . It’s the ones we don’t know about , the far eastern betting syndicates that may well be pulling the strings and that’s where the big money changes hands and where we need to be looking.
    However as with many things , our media ,with who let’s face it are the most likely to expose any wrong doing. If it don’t happen under their noses they are unlikely to go looking for it.

  5. I get annoyed with the amount of stick that Xhaka gets, often related to red cards and the like, but also for his character. It is clear that he is very much on the bad boy list of the referees.
    So, why does he does he still play for us? Or, at least, why does he play so much despite all his bad press? It is my contention that he does because he is very much a needed commodity…a leader. Does he make mistakes? Yes. But with a team as young as ours, he fills a needed niche – a leader that will get stuck in…a leader that will defend our young players.

    I feel that many of our supporters and certainly the press, forget the way Patrick Vieira was treated when he came to England. How many red cards did he get and how did the press react? For years, there was a running count of the red cards in the “Wenger era”. Patrick had to defend himself and the talent around him. That has now become part of Xhaka’s job.

  6. John L

    “So far as Arsenal’s emerging England stars are concerned, it won’t take much for the media to start encouraging them to move to “bigger” clubs, where they can fulfill their potential and win trophies. Think how they would flourish under a manager like Pep or Klopp etc. etc”.


    And I have no doubt it will be the likes of Ian Wright, Paul Merson and Alan Smith shouting the loudest.


    “At some point this will blow up. wonder if PGMOL will re-affect Tierney to Pool! soon. That will be interesting”.

    Cant see that happening,can you?

  7. Chris

    A few points regarding betting, bookmakers, and who cares about what.

    “Betters around the world are furious at having lost lots of money”.

    You are possibly correct. Punters never like losing.

    “And I am sure betting companies are starting to wonder what is going on”

    Possibly, but they wont be bothered.

    “and whether to start warning punters that the outcome of games may be influenced by referees not doing their job”.

    That’s the last thing they would do. Why would a bookmaker warn punters that ‘The outcome of this match might not be what you would expect it to be’? That’s exactly what they want. The more chaos the better. A bookmakers enemy is predictability, not chaos.

    Okay, the notion of the Premier League referees being ‘bent’ or just ‘incompetent’ may put of the odd punter, but not many. In my experience, and I’ve enjoyed a little flutter on the horses for over 45 years, every time a punter looses we always thinks the nag was nobbled or the Jockey was bent. It’s never our crap judgement !!

    In other words I just cant see bookmakers being behind any unrest with, or outing of, poor, unpredictable, refereeing. They love it.

  8. You see Xhaka as a comparison to Vieira perhaps in the job you perceive him to be doing but as a player ? It’s like chalk and cheese.
    One played on the front foot and took the game to the opposing team whereas Xhaka is less ambitious, slows our game down and only puts his foot in at the most ridiculous of times .
    Arteta sees himself in Xhaka , a good midfielder , never likely to reach the level of Xavi and Iniesta or even Fabregas but a solid performer and that is what Xhaka is ,with one difference where Arteta was never a liability you can’t say the same about Xhaka.

  9. Against the Mackems, it was noticable that they had their best spell when Arsenal let them back into the game. Suddenly we looked a bit shaky and the danger of a second goal being conceded seemed quite real.

    It seems that as soon as Xhaka came on, Arsenal looked much more stable and were quickly back in control of the game. It was if everyone had a 15 minute loss of confidence, which was fully restored when he arrived.

  10. John L

    Spot on again.

    The moment he stepped on the pitch order was restored.

    I don’t think it’s a coincidence he’s one of the first names on the team sheet for every manager he plays for.

  11. @Porter the difficulty is that Vieira was world class and Xhaka is not…I get that. But it should not blind us to the very real contributions that Xhaka makes to our club at present. He is the leader the team needs. Do we have a Vieira on our team? No. Do we have a flawed midfielder that helps hold our team together and defends the younger, lighter players? Yes.

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