Category Archives: Corruption

Blatter’s ignorance to a plea of help. The referee’s paradox.

So, we have a week off from the ups and downs of the Premier League, but the joys of being a football fan does not stop there, oh no.

It’s the turn of the Welsh and the Scots this week to bemoan the poor officiating which has cost their side dearly in the international break; Wales, playing at Wembley, trailing 1-0, see Aaron Ramsey play a pass his old captain would have been proud of,  to the sprinting Gareth Bale, the Tottenham winger controls the ball and is ‘1 on 1’, only to be flagged offside, wrongly. What could have been. Mind, Rob Earnshaw had a chance to make amends had he not blazed a complete sitter.

3 days previous, at Hampden Park, Scotland suffer in the ‘tale of two penalties’. At 2-1 to the hosts, Czech striker Jezek dives under the presence of Wilson and is awarded a penalty, converted by Kadlec. 2-2. Then 50 seconds later, Christophe Berra has his ankles taken and nothing is given. A very costly draw for the Tartan Army’s chances of Euro2012 qualification.

So the argument was re-ignited; do referee’s need help?

I think the world of football is crying out for it.

Hawk-Eye, used in Tennis to determine boundary decisions.

Sport as a whole has always been surrounded by an aura of controversy, but with the development of technologies in the social and media universe, other sports have developed with the advancements; ensuring whilst the referee has final say, he is in a position to use the media to review the incident. Rugby uses the video-ref, tennis has hawk-eye, in American Football you “go upstairs”, and any race, be it horses/cars/humans there is photo-finish and in-race conduct being monitored.

Football is being left in the dark ages, held by the stubborn-ness of a Swiss dictator refusing to budge over the pressing issues. These decisions are literally re-writing history; Spain, won their first World Cup in 2010, however, in the Semi-Final vs Germany, Germany should have been awarded one penalty, and could easily have had a second. Costly in a game finishing 1-0. Furthermore, in the final, Dutch winger Robben had broken free of the Spanish defence only to be pulled back by Puyol as he attempted to shoot, could have been a game-changing red card in extra time.

The cynics will argue that it takes power away from the referees; but I feel it empowers them to officiate in a fair and proper manner. Referee’s will still be able to put their personalities onto a match; the leniency of Webb, the pro-penalty-giving nature of Dean. But the integrity of the sport will remain, and the ‘buck’ will ultimately stop with the referee. Under current rules, referee’s are being blamed for incidents in which they really cannot be expected to know for sure.

Frank Lampard’s shot clearly crosses the line, but officials didn’t spot it.

Take Germany vs England, for example. Whilst the Lampard phantom goal was blatantly obvious for us to see at home, one must consider; we had an elevated angle, we also had the benefit of a replay for clarification; it would take the 4th official a matter of seconds to confirm the correction to the ‘1st official’ and the goal would have stood. As it stands now the referee’s are so bound by dated rules that they can’t even use the replays on the stadium monitors to be sure, regardless if the fans can see an injustice: (Argentina v Mexico, WC2010, Arsenal v Everton BPL 2011).

Sepp Blatter: “The International Football Association Board is of the opinion that football will remain, for the time being, a game for human beings with errors on the field of play. We will try to improve referees but you will never erase errors completely.” – A categorical ‘no’ to the thought of video replays.

If it were up to me, I’d have a system which incorporated both the Tennis and Rugby practises. And here’s what and why;

Mr Blatter argues that video replays would make the game inconsistent, and the stop-start nature of the game would deter fans. My first argument is; football is already more stop start than everyone realises, with every corner/throw/goal kick etc taking an extra 15/20 seconds. Last season, the average ‘game-time’ of teams, i.e., the time that the ball was actually on the field and in motion, was around 75mins. With the lowest team being Stoke City FC. Averaging around 68mins per match. I think Rory Delap can have 5/6 of those minutes himself. My 2nd argument, and my solution, is; 3 unsuccessful challenges per side. The same as used in tennis. Assuming all challenges are used, at an average of 30 seconds for the 4th official to confirm/deny, that would only add 3 minutes to a game. Which is hardly an inconvenience for the sake of a fair result.

Sepp Blatter, President of FIFA.

Next, Mr Blatter wants to avoid scenes of players crowding the referees for every tedious decision. My solution to that would be taking a spin on the Rugby system of communication with officials; Only the captain/manager can request use of a challenge. Additionally, the sinned/sinned against player can too, in events of penalties/red cards etc, but captain must be present on field.

Enforcement of these rule changes would take the controversy out of the game, which would apportion the blame inexcusably onto the referees. Which would bring me to my final suggestion on the matter;

This is perhaps the only time in my life I may do so, but I agree with Tony Pulis;

Pulis told BBC Radio 5 live: “Every club should have one vote [annually] and mark referees after every game. Then they have a chance of being relegated to the Championship. It would be a great system.”,

He went on; 

“If the top three [referees] in the Championship got the opportunity to work at the top level, I think it would certainly clear a few referees’ minds.”

What. A. Brilliant. Idea.

….But…..with a few tweaks; whilst rating referee’s will be averaged I think it needs to be weighted; i.e. 25%, home manager, 25% away manager. 50% by the match assessor. That would counter the ever-moaning managers; Wenger, Ferguson, Pardew. And also protect the opinions of certain managers who never seem to complain too much; O’Neill, Bruce, Martinez.

Additionally, I completely disagree with the small pool of referees in the Barclays Premier League. In my opinion, this causes familiarity; which is detrimental to the chances of a fair referee. For example, how many times have you heard the phrase “he’s not that type of player”?

My point being, if Joey Barton makes a late tackle, all of a sudden all his previous misdemeanours are poured onto him and a collaborated decision is given. On the other hand, Theo Walcott, a player with only 2 yellow cards to his name in his Arsenal career, if he makes the same tackle… Are you trying to tell me that you’d give the same decision? I doubt it.

Furthermore, players and referees begin the get friendly, an unhealthy relationship to be had when a game is worth as much as it is. Notably, and perhaps only known by Everton fans, Mark Clattenburg is banned from officiating Toffee’s games after this incident;

Notice how Clattenburg takes a yellow card out of his pocket, then following an exchange of words with the Liverpool skipper, he changes Hibbert’s punishment to a red card. Worrying.

There are 18 referees with Premier League status, or to give it the proper name, 18 are full-time members of the ‘select group’, appointed by Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL). With Jon Moss and Neil Swarbrick sharing a part-time status after both officiating 2 PL games each last term. This means, that there is on average less than 1 full time referee per team, from that, in 2010/2011 it varied from Phil Dowd refereeing 30 games, and Anthony Taylor officiating 13. Moreover, and I hope you’re keeping up!, ‘high profile games’, between top 6 sides, bottom 3 sides, or derby games, go to the referee’s said to be the best; Dean, Webb, Dowd, Atkinson, Foy, Walton. Which can only mean familiarity for the top sides. Which is leading to fans accusations/predictions, and pre-emptive conclusions of ‘the unfairness to come’, all before some games have even started; I.e. Mike Riley had given Man Utd 8 penalties in 8 games at Old Trafford, Webb has given Man Utd 3 penalties in 6 games vs Arsenal, Atkinson is said to bias toward Chelsea, 13 games unbeaten under him. And Webb is said to always lean toward the home side. Meanwhile Dowd has a habit of placing himself at the centre of controversial results, comebacks, game-changing moments, etc.

Phil Dowd dismisses Chelsea skipper John Terry.

The thing is, the more help referees can get, to enforce the laws of the game, the easier the whole process becomes. A referral system gives the referees a chance to make a confident decision, and it takes away the curtain if the decision is wrong. Therefore it makes the individual accountable, which will lead to punishment, which will mean the referees that are the best, are officiating at the highest level. It’s a conclusion that everyone wants.

I am 100% Blatter and Platini; Out. They are corrupt, elitist and racist (in their constant ignoring of the monkey chants at Camp Nou, yet chasing trivial issues).

Whatever happens in the future – and, who knows, football might end up embracing technology as other sports have done – criticism of referees is unlikely to subside completely, but at least football will be rid of the blatant injustice which is currently crippling the sport.

Over and out.

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FC Barcelona. “Mes Que Un Club”? You bet.

Mono. Spanish translation for ‘Monkey’, can be used as a derogatory insult towards someone of black origin. Barcelona Football Club know this, Marcelo at Real Madrid knows this, god, most of Western civilisation is aware of the hatred caused by racism – So why is it when Sergio Busquets is caught on camera during the Champions League Semi-Final 2011 abusing the Madrid full back with this phrase do UEFA not deem punishment necessary?  

I’ll let you make up your own mind if you can spot it;

To me, incidents like that should see a 5 match ban for Busquets, UEFA themselves have pressed hard the “Let’s Kick Racism Out Of Football” initiative in recent years, and backed heavily Nike’s “Stand Up Speak Up” campaign. So why has Busquets been cleared to play in the Wembley showpiece at the end of the month? Surely actions, or lack of, by UEFA undermine the aforementioned efforts to eliminate racism from the game? Admittedly, Spain has it’s problems with racism, English fans need to only look back to 2004 to remind themselves of the abuse Shaun Wright-Phillips & (C)Ashley Cole were subject to in Madrid, and that went essentially un-punished.

Now, if everyone is thinking; “Hang on a minute, hasn’t Busquet’s been in the firing line before for his sporting conduct?”, well…. You’re right. Last season Inter Milan were reduced to 10 men in their match with Barcelona following this incident. Thankfully, it didn’t effect the outcome of the tie, but looking further back down the line there are a list of examples of Barcelona being the beneficiaries of officiating. More later.

So, are FC Barcelona favourably treated by UEFA? Jose Mourinho seems to think so.

And he just might have a point.

Everyone who watches Barcelona play can see they are a footballing wonder. They dominate possession, they can be clinical, their first touch, incisive passing, ability to close the ball down defensively too. On their day, they are capable of beating anyone.

However, when it’s not their day, and particularly noticeable in The Champions League, they tend to get the ‘rub of the green’.

2011 Champions League Semi-Final vs Real Madrid (first leg), whilst Di Maria was arguably guilty of similar offences, the players of FC Barcelona continually play-acted, feigning injury. Most notably Daniel Alves in his quest to see Pepe red carded. Video replays show that Pepe, whilst being high, did not make any contact with the Brazilian, yet Alves rolled around the ground like he had broken his leg. At the same time, 9/10 outfield players, + goalkeeper Victor Valdes sprinted to the referee, demanding to see a red card – An offence FIFA outlined at the World Cup 2006 was punishable by a yellow card for unsportsman-like conduct.

2011 Champions League Round of 16 vs Arsenal at Camp Nou (second leg), with the tie poised at 1-1 (3-2 to Arsenal on aggregate), the Londoners were positioned to go through to the Quarter Finals. Van Persie, already on a booking is sent through on goal and lashes his shot sky high and wide. In the build up, Van Persie had been flagged for offside, the referee then deemed Van Persie shooting as an act of dissent, punishable by a yellow card, his second of the match. Replays showed that Van Persie had enfact shot 0.6 seconds after the whistle was blown, a whistle the Dutchman claimed to have not heard due to the 90,000 crowd’s atmosphere. Reducing Arsenal to 10 men allowed Barcelona to bring the full backs into play more, and ultimately the Catalans ran out winners. Looking further back, there’s evidence to suggest Barcelona’s equilising goal in 2006 Champions League final vs Arsenal was offside, too.

….. There’s a pattern developing.

Back a further few years to 2008, to what Jose Mourinho described as ‘a scandal’ in his post-match Bernabeu interview (2011, above), and Champions League Semi-Final vs Chelsea at Stamford Bridge (2nd leg), Chelsea being eliminated by the away goals rule thanks to a sublime Andres Iniesta strike late in the match. But the controversy came in the refereeing decisions once again; now, I’m by no means a Chelsea fan, enfact, I rather dislike the club as a whole, but I can see 3 penalties for them in the 2nd leg, ask many Chelsea fans and they claim they can see 10+.  Again, please, make up your own mind with ITV’s highlighted 4.

Is it UEFA? Whilst refereeing decisions have the benefit of replaying to analyse, the Sergio Busquets racist comments were put to a panel and dismissed – Can they be serious? Have they bottled making such a big decision which would affect such a big outcome? In 2008 when Darren Fletcher was wrongly red carded late-on vs Arsenal in the Semi-Final, missing the Final – UEFA upheld the decision then, (meaning Fletcher would not feature against FCB) in my opinion, wrongly. Different club, different rules?

Is football elitist? – I think we all know that’s a yes, particularly whilst Blatter and Platini are at the head of their not so respected governing bodies. My personal quarrel was the decision to seed the World Cup European Play-Off draws for the first time in 2010, coincidentally the year in which France did not qualify automatically.  

Is it a question of culture? Does Spanish football simply have no shame in cheating in order to gain the upper hand? It would appear not, but my question needs to be of Pep Guardiola, having played in successful Barcelona sides which had an aura of commanding authority, who played fairly and out-skilled their opponents, why wouldn’t he alter the on-the-field actions of his players? Barcelona clearly know that reducing their opposition to 10 men increases their chances of passing through them, is getting a player sent off a game plan? They are surely conducting themselves outwith the desired nature of the game?

During Mourinho’s post match interview from the Champions League Semi Final, he praises the footballing abilities of Barcelona, but questions the need for such a great team, capable of such great things, to be handed the upper hand in matches when things aren’t going well for them. To that point I agree.  Therefore, despite my Premier League dislike for the club, for similar reasons, I will be supporting Manchester United in the Champions League Final, because what they have achieved, who they have beaten – Fairly – in order to earn the right to play at Wembley, is far more deserved of my support.

Barcelona are a good team, at times they have the ability to showcase not only what I like about watching football, but what I aspire to in playing football. But for every Dr. Jekyll there’s a Mr. Hyde. And until they can win a Champions League trophy not tainted in scandal (and should they beat United I assure you that will not be one), they will not have my backing.

This debate in particular is close to my oh so opinionated self, so any comments/feedback etc will all be published regardless. I welcome your input. 

Over and out.