By Tony Attwood
From the moment of the takeover of Newcastle United by the sovereign wealth fund of Saudi Arabia there’s been a feeling that matters are different. And so it turns out now that Newcastle United are putting in a complaint about VAR. Suddenly there seems to be an admission that referees are not always 100% right even when they are 100% wrong which is a radical change. And that there is a way in which a club can complain about refereeing. That is a novelty.
Although to be clear, the PGMO, the self-regarding, unregulated cartel that runs refereeing in the Premier League is going to investigate itself over VAR decisions concerning Newcastle. And with the battlements crumbling it now seems that they will take a look at themselves in regard to West Ham as well.
There is even a hilarious statement in the Telegraph which says “Senior figures within the league itself have demanded accountability, having been left bemused.” Hilarious because until yesterday there really was no way to “lodge official VAR complaints” nor indeed was there even such a thing as an “official complaint” against a referee. There simply was no mechanism for making a complaint. The doors of PGMO were closed, and always remained closed.
In fact, and rather amazingly, PGMO don’t even have a website. Instead the Premier League and the Football League each have a page on their own websites about PGMO. The pages are suspiciously similar, and are best described as the bland leading the bland.
We know of course that in the past Arsene Wenger was repeatedly sanctioned for commenting about referees, but now that he has gone, there has been silence. Until Steven Gerrard of Villa criticised officials for “disallowing Philippe Coutinho’s potential winner for offside in their home draw against Manchester City.”
But of course no such relaxations ever apply to Arsenal, but now Newcastle and West Ham are not only being allowed to criticise the referees, but “PGMOL was immediately ordered to investigate,” according to the Telegraph.
And that is very interesting because until now no one has ever even known how to “order” PGMO to do anything. The paper goes on to say that PGMO “is understood to have promised to cooperate with the Premier League’s rare request, and will “take lessons” from the furore to help shape training of match officials.” Even that is a novelty.
Above all, it is all very sickening, given the way Arsenal has suffered over the years at the hands of PGMO.- not least when Mr Wenger was banned by PGMO for 12 games for assaulting a referee. That according to the media was his fault. This time however the emphasis seems to be on supporting the managers AGAINST PGMO.
Newcastle’s argument is over the denial of penalties in matches against Manchester City and Wolverhampton Wanderers, and the random adding on of extra time in favour of Liverpool.
Now if you are a regular reader you will know that Untold has tried over the years to put a statistical edge onto the random reports of referee bias that very occasionally occur in the media. This statistical input came in two forms. One over the insane number of penalties that Leicester were awarded. Before that we investigated over a series of articles how Leicester could commit more tackles than any other club but get fewer fouls against them.
That revelation wasn’t just a statistical blip – it was enormous and constant. Leicester fans naturally looked for other explanations, but there were none, and after our revelations both on the crazy number of tackles and Leicester’s amazing number of penalties, so matters changed. Refs started calling fouls and stopped giving them penalties.
The media, as I say wouldn’t touch this, and perhaps it was sheer coincidence, but after we focussed on Leicester’s exalted position of being able to foul with impunity and get penalties at an astonishing level declined – matters suddenly changed.
First we were told that “major decisions in games were now being reviewed as a matter of course by a panel also involving three ex-professional players,” as the Telegraph puts it. Now we see Newcastle and Liverpool are able to put in complaints. (The Liverpool complaint is particularly interesting since over the years their figures, like Leicester’s were really, really odd).
Of course no one is ever going to say that our campaigns have ever made a difference. But we can at least say we were onto the subject a little ahead of the game.
The current recognition of PGMO gross incompetence won’t help Arsenal and will help Newcastle and West Ham, which is frustrating, and no one of course will recognise Untold’s work in bringing these matters to the fore in the last few years, which is also a little frustrating. But at least there is some movement where previously there was none.
For more on this topic from years gone by you might like to glance at the 2020/21 Data Tables page.
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