The corruption of English football
By Tony Attwood
Every sunday, on the German channel Sport 1, there is a very popular talkshow which includes a referee from the Saturday games talking live about a contentious or misunderstood referee decision.
Can you imagine that happening in England? No, it is simply not on the agenda. And that is because in England set there is a clear agreed agenda on what can and what can’t be discussed in terms of football.
That agenda is…
1: There’s nothing much wrong with English football, and we can be sure of that because if there was something wrong it would be in the papers.
2: Historic issues should be forgotten. They are over and done. Stop raking up yesterday. “Mikel Arteta complained that Ivan Toney’s equaliser for Brentford ought to have been disallowed for offside,” but that’s yesterday’s news. Besides its “Same old Arlsenal, always moaning”.
3: While foreign referees may make horrible mistakes that is because they are foreign. PGMO staff are English; they might make the odd error, but it’s a fast-moving game and no one is perfect. There’s absolutely no need to investigate statistics that show some referees favour away teams (see for example Arsenal have the ref who doesn’t like home teams.)
4. The media does a fine job covering football, which is why newspaper columnists are seen on TV for example… always propagating the same line: there’s nothing wrong with football and so no checks and balances are needed at all.
To see a simple example of how this all works, let’s consider one trivial example in which the media suggests that a “supercomputer” has been used to predict the outcome of the season.
In reality there are 18 supercomputers in the UK; and they cost around £79m each to build. They are not toys used to predict football results but rather sophisticated machines that are used in quantum mechanics, weather forecasting, oil and gas exploration, molecular modelling, nuclear fusion research and cryptoanalysis.
But because multiple times a year we are told that a newspaper has used a supercomputer to predict the final league table, people believe it. And each one can do it because they know no other newspaper will criticise them for blatantly lying. In fact, all that happens is that a journalist makes up a final league table. As ever we are conned.
Now consider the new Super League. It is deemed to be foreign (plenty of negative marks for that), likely to change things (ditto), without any English people at its heart (ditto) and just to repeat, foreign (which seems to be noted a lot).
After that we have referees. If you have been here a long while you’ll recall the articles in the series 160 games analysed in which for 16 weeks the work of all the PL referees was analysed in detail complete with video evidence, by qualified referees. The results were pretty frightening.
Or if you want to look at one of our detailed investigations into one club, you might like to glance back at our articles from February 2020 when first we published “How a club can commit the most fouls, but get the fewest yellow cards” with a follow-up article on 26 February “What is the relationship between fouls, tackles and yellow cards?”
Those two articles showed that Leicester were being treated much more leniently by referees than any other club over the issue of tackling. Then as we noted once our analysis came out, suddenly the way referees treated Leicester changed!
It was that success that led us to focus on the statistical evidence showing just how much referees are influenced by the crowd, and how their results show that referees can be very biased. Two articles from our series “The real facts about football that the media will never touch” were particularly relevant here, one on referee home bias and another on referee variations.
So what we have is a situation in which there are very big issues in football that are not being mentioned let alone debated by the media, and there are others (such as the second version of Super League) which the media attack en masse without considering the evidence, because it fits another central theme: you can’t trust foreigners.
Yet really the people you can’t trust in football are the English. The way women’s football was banned, the wage-fixing scandal, the child sex abuse scandal, the Allardyce as England manager scandal, the time Leeds United chairman was captured on video agreeing to sell 20% of the club in order to work around third-party player ownership, or when the assistant manager of Southampton was caught on film advising how to get around the rules. The FA called it “entrapment” as if that excused all such behaviour.
And all that is before we get to the big ones: the child sex abuse case, or indeed the way Bradford City FC was allowed to have fans in a stand which was a tinderbox.
What is going on is simple: the past is being manipulated to ensure we forget how awful the administration of English football has been, and still is. And a lot of people fall for it every day.
- Arsenal has let in one more goal than at this stage last season, and that’s a disaster
- Arsenal continue to make more progress than the rest of the big seven
- Arsenal v Tottenham; the team and some rather jolly recent history
- We are running out of referees, and the reason is the PGMO.
- Arsenal v Tottenham: the key fact the media won’t to tell you – and why they won’t