Oi Ref …. You Don’t Know What You’re Doing

January 16, 2014

It is only fair to say from the outset that if you are not interested in the way we fans are involved in the running of our favourite sport, and the idiosyncrasies of referees — do not read on! :-)

We have from time to time on AA discussed refereeing inconsistencies with heated debate frequently ensuing and the antics of the officials this week end should make them hang their heads in shame.

r1For the most part, reasoned and mature debate is the default setting on this venerable blog site and all manner of opinion is tolerated and aired to prove or disprove points of view.

But why do we depend on expressing our opinions to justify our individual views, or to prove a point, however dubious, and what is the value of an opinion anyway?

Well opinions do have substantial value, in the right context, but let’s be candid, we are only really interested in those opinions that please us, by which we mean agrees with our own views, and sod the ‘value’.

Does that mean we do not value the potential worth of constructive criticism? Not necessarily, because opinions can have a much wider impact and importance.

It is important to note here that not all fans have the same value judgments, and that some fans can treat opposing opinions rather more roughly than is really necessary.:-)

It is a truism that some of us may struggle with what value to attach to an opinion that contradicts our own biased stance. This notion is important to resolve, but in any event it should be a matter of pride that our opinions are essentially the bedrock of civilisation in ways we do not always immediately recognise.

Take statute Law. In the UK this is Law passed by the elected members of Parliament and this, together with Laws passed in other Countries are a fundamental necessity for the smooth running of this and every other civilised society.

This form of Law is normally committed to writing, to avoid misunderstanding , and in and of itself is pure, in so far as language can make it so.

Unfortunately, problems can still arise because of verbal or written ambiguity which is endemic in all languages, not least English, especially where it involves definitions governing the practical application of Law upon society.

Ambiguity inevitably leads to hypocrisy as an inevitable consequence of allowing an opportunity for ‘interpretation’ of meaning by those in a position of power.

As a result, the Law can be seen to bend itself to those in power like the branches of a tree flinch in a high wind, and precisely how the law is interpreted and applied depends on the whims of those in power which, in turn, results in the Law becoming twisted and perverse.

Now that leads us back to an inevitable conclusion that laws are, at base, just a set of formalised opinions, approved by the electorate.

This means that the Law should be formalised as the result of the informed opinions of the electorate for the proper and ‘peaceful’ governance of society, or, for that matter, of any other institution which implements laws or rules to ensure strong and impartial governance of its members.

There are those who will contest the use of the word ‘peaceful’ in this context, as many will view the imposition of the Law as having, at its core, the subjugation of those without power who are unable to introduce or amend the Laws which govern them except through the offices of those in authority.

Others will say this is not so, and that the introduction or maintenance of Laws, or rules, are necessary for the mitigation of damages or the decreeing and enforcement of punishments for anti-social behaviour.

OK, let us stop for a moment and consider what we have discussed, so far.

Opinions do have intrinsic value in arriving at a system of Law that helps govern society, and also the rules for the administration of institutions. These Laws then impose the rules that govern acceptable behaviour in society at large, or the judicial operation of institutions and other authoritative bodies.

As a natural fallout from this, there is an implied need to protect every individual within society, and the members of institutions, from harm, both physical and mental.

My personal concerns over this whole subject is that, in practise, Laws can sometimes be seen to decide which forms of oppression are allowed, and because man made laws are subject to those in power, and oppression then becomes a right for them over those who have little or no power.

That might seem to be an overtly political point of view, :-) but it has a direct correlation to football, and how it is run, and that is the only matter under discussion here.

The governance of football, whether from its highest authority, FIFA, or its application by one of its incumbent bodies, UEFA or the Premier League, and through them the referees body PGMOL, is in effect a form of oppressive authoritarianism, and its intent is to protect their own dominance by manipulating the power of member clubs and to impose rules on the game and on the conduct of the players, all of which, in the final analysis, directly affects us, the fans, and we have no say whatsoever in this process, other than to voice our concerns in forums such as this.

To keep this state of affairs in a sustainably stable and rigidly enforceable grip, one of the first tasks of FIFA and the other authorities has been to belittle the views or opinions of those, like you, who disagree with their manipulation of the beautiful game, (take the award of the World Cup venues for example) and they have succeeded to a great degree in doing so because those of us who seek another way to run the game are usually either unwilling or unable to articulate those views for fear of being mocked for expressing them.

That then is the rub.

For those few who do stand up to be counted often take umbrage at being ridiculed for lacking in perspicacity or acumen only gives an excuse for the massed ranks of the authorities to descend en masse to ritually and publicly humiliate and annihilate the disaffected ‘fools’ as we are seen, and thereby re-establish their control and authority, which, of course, is intended to protect their own vested interests, of which the primary one is the powerful assertion of absolute oppression, by the application of their laws and the elimination of any dissension.

None the less, the expression of our opinions on public forums such as AA is a necessary first step to ensure that the footballing authorities in this country, and elsewhere, are made aware of our concerns and the need for what we see as the beneficial and transparent application of just rules. :-)

Keep blogging, keep your opinions forthright, keep on keeping on! :-)

Written by RA (Red Arse)

Our Destiny Lies In The Hands Of One Man

May 8, 2013

Something very important for Arsenal takes place tonight. Coupled with our remaining two games, this is perhaps what our season comes down to. No trophies again (8 years!!), and fighting for a top 4 finish.

One man will have a huge level of influence in determining the outcome of this fight. Not Cazorla, not Walcott, not Bale. These players will be important, but will be less important than another man who takes the field.


By now, most of you probably know I am talking about Mike Dean, the referee who takes charge of the Chelsea-Spurs clash tonight, and then our game against Wigan next week. Mike Dean, under whom we have a relegation worthy record, who celebrates when we lose Carling cup finals, or go a goal down and effectively 13 points behind Spurs. Mike Dean, who is from Wirral, and under whom Wigan have a win percentage near that of a CL team. Mike Dean, who basically is a clone of Mike Riley, the current chief of the Pgmol, probably as a richly deserved reward for ending our glorious run of unbeaten games.

Click here to read how the Daily Mail assessed Dean’s anti Arsenal bias

Paranoid? Not really. Just cynical about there being a scenario where one man has an inordinate amount of influence towards determining who gets a 30m pound plus payoff next season. What was that thing about money and power?

A few days ago on this site, I ‘outed’ myself as a ‘conspiracy theorist’. I feel the analogy of being outed is fair because of the social pressure put on those that don’t take things at face value and ask questions as to what lies underneath. It is a subject close to my heart mainly because it destroys all that sport is, and not because Arsenal haven’t won a trophy for 8 years (yes..8.. Remember?) But I always feel I have to tread on eggshells when it comes to this. There’s this complete refusal among many, to examine issues that beg for closer inspection. Issues that the media should be bringing out rather than sweeping under the rug. Anyone challenging the might of this PR assault, is accused of being a conspiracy theorist. The term that brings images of people shutting themselves in the basement (or closets), wearing tin foil hats for fear of having their mind read etc etc.. Not reasonable people, with legitimate reasons for having legitimate doubts, about a system which operates so much like an old boys’ network, in such an opaque manner, with so much money swimming around, that actually, the onus should be on them to prove that they are not corrupt.

But how do I feel about this as an Arsenal fan, rather than just a sports fan? I feel we were cheated from winning the title in 2008. I didn’t feel this at the time. It was the ManU-Wigan game at the end of that season, when wanting ManU to win (so that Chelsea wouldn’t) I saw Steve Bennett help Manchester United win the title. Rafa Benitez, in his ‘rant’ also made mention of this game the following year. I am not sure whether Liverpool were cheated out of their title as well, but I don’t believe the narrative that his ‘rant’ was the reason for their capitulation. I feel over the years we’ve had so many inexplicably poor decisions go against us, we’ve been allowed (by referees, and the media)to be systematically assaulted on the field (as evidenced by the number of broken legs in a short space of time), and off the field, through the narrative of Arsenal. And that in the years 2009-10, and 2010-11, this too played a part in us falling short (Note the word ‘too’)

Now, I am told that all football fans feel their team is discriminated against. Both by refs and the media. Perhaps this is true, although a lot of Arsenal fans seem to be quite perverse in that sense. And I am always, even now, open to the possibility of me being wrong about this. In fact, I positively hope I am. I’d rather my team was completely to blame for their loss/failings rather than only partially.

But a system more geared for corruption, I don’t think I can think of. No one that I know ever disputes FIFA being corrupt. Nor Uefa. Nor the Italian League after Calciopoli. Nor the Germans since they uncovered their own refereeing scandal. England though, is special. It doesn’t matter how many stats pop up, such as ManU going 560 days without a red card or a penalty, or Rio Ferdinand only getting one yellow card in a season where he kungfu kicks Sagna. No matter that Rooney (and now even RVP) can elbow an opponent in the head without it getting called a red card (a yellow protects them from being banned) , doesn’t matter that referee appointments are made arbitrarily (but unfortunately, not without design it seems) This current example of Dean is hardly an isolated occurrence. Atkinson didn’t referee ManU again for 11 months after Chelsea beat them in a contentious game. Clattenburg didn’t referee ManU again for a similar period after refereeing excellently in their humiliating 6-1 home loss to City. All these facts are from memory. I don’t have time to do the research, but there are people out there who do this. They do it in the belief of something being wrong with the game they love, not the team they love (most of them aren’t Arsenal fans)

Why Arsenal? Why ManU? Why??? I don’t have the answers. Only theories and more questions, which, if I have time, I’d be happy to share. Giving voice to them might make me a conspiracy theorist in the eyes of some. I don’t care. At this point, all that matters to me is that wherever we end up, it is to do with the players on the field and not the referees. Or should I say referee??!

Written by Shard

Referees are the fall guys

June 15, 2012

Yesterdays excellent post by weedonald prompted many good comments. One of our overseas bloggers – shard – sent this in as a response to that post and he includes his ideas for how the problem could be addressed.

The question to ask is, why do referees not enforce the laws properly, and if they don’t, why don’t their associations sort it out? And also slimgingergooner said, referees need support and to be backed to call a penalty for what is an offense (shirt pulling).. Why so? Why do referees face censure for following rules?

Partly, it’s because the football pundits propagate nonsense like ‘he got the ball’, ‘6 of one, half a dozen of the other’, ‘in the good ol days, it won’t even have been a free kick’ etc. This, increases the pressure on the referees, but for all the wrong reasons. Conversely, where referees do act contrary to at least the spirit of the law, the media looks to make excuses, or over scrutinise the player..’he should know better, he had to be careful having already been booked’.

I also agree with slim that referees’ mistakes are shown up more compared to rugby, and as such they have less respect from players and fans. But that is the authorities fault, They refuse to make all available resources an option for referees to get the call right, they put referees on a pedestal, and they refuse media access to the referees. In Germany, where referees speak to the media after the games, they can explain why they gave a certain decision, or even admit they made a mistake, and largely, the public accepts it and I’m sure players respect them more too. If someone refuses to accept mistakes and carries on as per usual, that’s when respect is eroded.

In summary, referees don’t respect the laws, the players don’t respect referees, the media perpetuate myths about the laws, the public understand neither the laws nor the referees’ actions, leading to confusion and arbitrariness all around with football being the loser.

Changes I’d like to see

Video replays – I know this is controversial, but it is perverse that when I , sitting halfway across the world, can see in 5 seconds that a wrong call was made, the referees themselves can’t rectify it. Fears of the game slowing down might be exaggerated even if they are real, and in any case, we should have trials in the lower leagues/friendlies to see how it works and how it can work better.

Referees being miked up – Like in Rugby. You have the referee explaining his decision in real time to the players, the people at the ground, as well as people watching on tv. This increases understanding among all, and also acts as a major incentive for referees to get their calls right. The only reason so far that I’ve come across, of why this can’t be done is because apparently footballers use colourful language which will outrage anyone watching on tv. Firstly, I don’t think football fans are that sensitive. Secondly, they can always ensure players mind their language. The NBA does it and it took a while, but now players behave themselves as a matter of course. A couple of fines and things will be sorted.

Committee of Ethics – Ok. this was actually Wenger’s term and idea, but it is based on the recognition that even with video replays, let alone without, referees make mistakes, and football authorities reserve the right to set those right. Actually, this is already so. The FA CAN act when it wants to, and its claims of FIFA rules, are a convenient lie. The problem with this is, that it is used arbitrarily. Wayne Rooney’s elbow onto the Wigan player’s head, Balotelli’s leg breaker on Song, cannot be punished. Derry’s red card cannot be overturned. Song’s stamp on Barton gets retrospective punishment. Middlesborough, a few years ago, got an extra game ban for their player, for a frivolous appeal, when in my opinion it was anything but. How to solve that problem, I have no idea and welcome suggestions. But the principle of overturning the bad calls such as for given/not given cards must be established, rather than deeming referees infallible.

Ref Observer Reports - The FA has referee observers at every match. Their reports, or at least the methodology they use to grade referees, as well as their results at the end of the season as regards which referees placed where, should be made public. Any referee consistently finishing below a certain grade must be ‘relegated’. While the claim is that this is done, it should be done in a transparent manner.

For the rest, of course, the existing laws must be applied fairly, judiciously, and at all times. That’s what the referee training and selection process is for after all. Training them to do their job. And although I am a very harsh critic of referees, I think most referees want to do a good job but are either let down/overlooked by their associations, and/or left as convenient targets to absorb all the criticism. The crisis in refereeing, is something I see as a crisis of administration.

Written by Shard

The problem with refereeing – A SIMPLE SOLUTION

June 14, 2012

I have read countless commentaries, posts, even complete blogs dedicated to finding a way to ¨fix¨ what is ¨wrong¨ with modern Football. Apparently many of the proposed solutions all have one thing in common and that is their requirement to either change or adapt the Laws of the Game in order to ¨improve¨ the likelihood of fairness and ¨eliminate¨ the hazards of referee incompetence,bias or poor form and to promote a more ¨level¨playing field.

While this paradigm may have some merit, the focus of my post is to suggest that, before changing anything, we need to enforce one simple solution that would create the groundwork needed to make a big difference in how the game is played. That solution is to apply the Laws as they were meant to be applied and to enforce them within the powers accorded to the officials. Doing this will ensure that players begin to respect the spirit of the Laws and not just the letter, recognize the authority and primacy of the referee in applying those Laws and begin to realize that diving, cheating, harassing and play-acting are NOT acceptable grey areas and loopholes in today’s Game.

Let me provide some basic examples of how the officials fail to enforce the basic Laws and permit a certain laissez-faire attitude to infiltrate the Game:

1) Free kicks – as most Football lovers know, a direct or indirect free kick requires that the offending team must keep a minimum of 10 metres from the ball unless the team awarded the kick chooses to take it quickly and without the referee’s signal (or it is in the goal area) and the ball cannot be moved away from the original spot where the foul occurred, yet this happens ALL the time. When I hear the idiots at EUFA and FIFA whine about video replays taking too much time, yet they tolerate the referees being forced to spend up to 2 minutes or more to setup the 10 metre distance like a parking attendant aligning cars, then I ask where the problem is! Most referees try and enforce the Law and punish encroachment but many just let the kick be taken to get play on. We do need to see officials enforce the 10 metre rule as they do for a penalty.

2) Corner kicks – How many times does the kicker place the ball over the corner circle,despite the linesman being right there? Out of 18 corner kicks I have seen taken during the Euros only 2 were properly placed. It isn’t the 2 inches they gain that makes a difference, it is the flaunting of the Law with the officials turning a blind eye that makes the difference.

3) The kick-off at the start of each half or after a goal often sees the team with the ball having a player half way over the centre-line, yet that is not permitted. The referee is right there and just turns a blind eye.

4) The referee calls a foul and suddenly he is surrounded by half a dozen players, usually from the offending team , harassing him (her) and trying to get their 2 cents worth in. Barcelona are famous for this and have made it a new art form called the Catalan cacophony!

5) Players taking throw-ins are another embarrassment. I watched 8 players in the Euros take illegal throw-ins and the linesmen and referee NEVER signalled an infringement!

6) My all-time favourite infringement, that is rarely called, is the dual foul of shirt-pulling and holding. Players in their penalty area, particularly on free kicks and corners, seem to want to exchange jerseys or get up close and personal with their opponents, whether the referee is watching or not, as the case may be. I have, as yet, to see a foul consistently awarded by any official for this clear infringement yet it is a serious foul at any time and anywhere on the field.

7) The goalkeepers seem not to have heard that they have a time limit to get rid of the ball once it is in their hands! I counted 4 different keepers in the Euros taking more than 15 seconds to release the ball into play! If they want to waste time, they can put the ball down and play it like any other teammate but they know the referee won’t hassle them if they saunter around holding the ball so they take forever to get in back into play.

8) I am getting tired of watching grown adult ¨professional¨ Footballers becoming drama queens when they get a tap on the ankle or the shin. They roll around and thump the ground like they were recently run over by a steamroller yet less than a minute later they are up and running like demons. This play acting should be restricted to the stage and punished for bringing the game into disrepute when it is clearly exaggerated.

I could go on but I think you all get the point? Officials and FIFA have the power to reduce or eliminate these breaches of the Law yet they permit such gamesmanship, all in the name of getting on with play or avoiding nitpicking. I remember when I spoke to Sir Stanley Rous at a dinner in honour of my country’s 100th anniversary in Football and what he said has remained with me to this day: ¨A good referee is firm but fair and applies the Laws of the Game with equal care to the letter AND the spirit of such Laws¨. We need more ¨good¨ referees don’t you think?

Written by weedonald

Thanks to weedonald for today’s post. The internet is populated by self appointed experts, but today’s author is eminently qualified to talk about the art of refereeing. Here is a brief résumé of his history relating to football:

With 50 years of involvement in Football at all levels, international, national and local as a referee, coach and organizer/administrator, I am a total addict. My profession as a school psychologist and later as a consultant in Human Resources, afforded me the time to get involved and stay active until my retirement in 2010. When my wife permits it, I still love to volunteer coaching little kids and to officiate the occasional match as well. I was involved a great deal in women’s soccer and was one of two in my country to create the first adult women’s league in my province. I am certified as a Class C Coach and a national referee as was also an NASL official for 5 years. I adore the Arsenal and consider Wenger, under the circumstances , to be the penultimate manager of any professional team in Europe. I also like the game Barcelona play on the field but less so off it. My nickname comes from my mother who was born in Scotland and always called me weedonald while calling my twin brother an unprintable acronym.

Overconfident Mancs? MU preview

August 28, 2011

“We won the League ….. In Manchester”

We won the League at Old Trafford etc……. “

Seems like a long time ago since Mr Wiltord ensured another title for the men in the white hats. It would be reasonable to say that whilst United have consolidated and strengthened, we have taken a step back. The reasons have been discussed ad nauseum across the AFC blogworld, we all have our theories and pre-match is not the time to further the discussion.

Rarely have I known Gooners go into a PL game with so little expectation, actually that’s not true – there is an expectation – we are goimg to get hammered. Why? …. oh, there are so many reasons for the lack of optimism:  Recent history at OT, injuries, suspensions, exhaustion,  inexperience, players out of their natural positions etc etc etc. BUT …..

It is still a game of 11 versus 11, and whilst we may not have our first choice team available we still have a very good side. MU may be Champions (and deservedly so) but they have their own difficulties: An very youthful and untested CB pairing, a lack of a creative midfielder, a dependence upon the talents of Rooney, a dodgy keeper. etc etc

Where MU undoubtedly have an advantage is with the officials. However MU fans may like to suggest otherwise the facts point to an undoubted bias towards MU at OT. Since the beginning of 2009 – over 2 seasons, only one penalty has been awarded to the opposition at OT, whereas 8 were awarded to MU ( Arsenal stats for Emirates AFC . For 9, against 8). This is before dodgy offsides, non-goals, cards given for an MU dive, 110 minute games etc. This bias is so prevalent that it has become accepted by everyone outside of OT. Harold Webbis today’s victim, let us hope he has a good game.

This is a huge game in our calendar, one of the highlights of the season and whomever AW decides to play, they will give their all. We have match winners despite our problems and despite the shuffles , the defence looks sound. Suggestions have been made that Djourou could play in midfield …. seems a reasonable shout, better than throwing Lansbury into a massive game.

Our record at Old Trafford has been poor in recent years, no win since 2006, Furthermore, United have not lost a home PL game for 17 months! The Manc blogs are united in their optimism – most predict a home win by a least 2-0 and a comfortable victory. It is true that MU have started the season very well, the seond half against a sub-standard Spurs was an exhibition of superb attacking football to which the cave dwellers had no answer (and still have no points).

But …… our win in Italy was founded upon a determination which has rarely been seen in the squad since Sol and PV left. We are expected to lose yet we have real firepower in our front line, hard workers in our midfield and a beginning of a solid defence based around a superb goalkeeper. Should we score first, I rate our chances highly.

My team:

Either JD or Kos could play as DM. They both have shown an eye for a pass and the ability to get forward. Just read there could be a problem with Sagna, in which case, Lansbury has to play MF and Koscielny can go left …. tough times!

There have been many inventors from Manchester, my favourite being Roy Chadwick who designed the Lancaster bomber as well as the Vulcan bomber upon which Concorde was based.  Chadwick died in 1947 testing one of his own designs.

A question was posed midweek …. which game would we rather win, Udinese or MU. Almost everyone said the CL match. I disagree, I want to win both.


Written by Big Raddy

Time to break up the Northern Mafia

May 20, 2011

Written by Gooner in Exile

It has been a troubling few weeks for us all as Arsenal fans, unfortunately it has led to navel gazing and infighting which is unhealthy for the club and its supporters. So today I aim to give us something to unite in anger against.

After another particular raw deal from the man in the middle I decided to have a bit more of a look at our Select Group of Referees. I must admit I was shocked, presently fourteen of the sixteen select group referees hail from the northern counties. For sake of clarity I drew a line across the country from the Wash to the Severn above the line Northern Monkeys below the line Southern Softies.

The Select Group of Referees started in 2001, in that year the split of north and south was even, and stayed this way until 2004 when the split started to move to the North until we end up in this current situation. Over this time it is undoubtable that we have been on the end of some good and bad decisions. Who can forget Graeme Poll giving the thumbs up for Thierry to take the quick free kicks which caused all kind of fuss.

More recently as the Northern drift has occurred we seem to be getting less and less decisions in our favour. This season for example we have had young Anthony Taylor from Manchester turn down appeals for a penalty against Sunderland in a key game for us this season. All I’m asking is for a small amount of balance. The referees raised in the North appear to enjoy the rough and tumble tactics applied by the more robust teams of the Premier League. It would also appear that they favour their own.

As the geographical shift of referees has occurred, we have also witnessed a shift in the location of the competing clubs. In 2001 the split between north and south was eleven to nine, this is now more uneven fourteen to six. The time has come to stop the rot, we need to see some more balance brought to the Select Group of Referees. I have had a look through the football league referee group to see whether there are many from the South. The good news is there are quite a few referees in the National List who come from the South, however there is one that I would like to say now even though he is from the South should never be allowed to referee in the Premier League.

His name is Darren Deadman and he is listed as from Cambridgeshire, there are a couple of reasons I would not like to see him progress. The first is from memory I am sure he supports the clowns in N17. The second is a bit more personal. Not that I am one to hold a grudge. Eighteen years ago I was goalkeeper and captain of my school first eleven. Mr Deadman had left our school a few years earlier and was already doing his referee training (having given up being a goalkeeper). At the end of every year the Teachers would play the First XI, as long as I had been at the school the pupils had never won the match. With the pupils leading 2-1 with a minute to go Mr Deadman awarded a penalty against me for an innocuous push on the opposition Centre Forward, he smiled as he gave the decision and clearly he did not want my team to beat the teachers and achieve where his generation had failed. Thankfully I saved the penalty. To this day I have never forgiven him for the blatant cheating, and therefore never want to see him progress, like I say I’m not one to hold a grudge. So apart from D. Deadman (Cambridgeshire) could we please have a few more referees from the South in the Select Group please.

Who is the bar steward in the black?

March 11, 2011

Written by Red Arse

As a dyed in the wool Gooner, I have become so enraged by appalling refereeing decisions, in game after game, that I realised it was becoming a serious health hazard.

The incandescent fury that descends upon me, at the perceived injustice, causes my face to mottle and go purple, like an over-sized plum, and my eyes to bulge like demented headlights on stalks, while my hand, of its own volition, spasmodically throws at the screen anything not tied down. My girlfriend has narrowly escaped being hurled like a spear at the set when sitting innocently besides me reading her astrological stars. Bet they did not forecast that, eh?

So, who are these satyrs in the black? These sylvan refereeing beasts whose revelry seems to lie solely in infuriating all fans, especially Gooners, at every turn?
Why do they choose, in their goat like obstinacy, to turn a deaf ear to our appeals for justice, or whose dim mole-like eyesight prevents them from seeing the blindingly obvious, while displaying an incredulous incomprehension of the basic laws of the beautiful game?

Well, believe it or not, it seems they are not satyrs nor devils nor simply just bad eggs, but just a cross section of the human flotsam and jetsam that we all belong to, with all the virtues and vices that are inherent in our species.

Why then, when they don the black garb of the referee, do they so frequently behave in an inexplicably arbitrary, confrontational and controversial a manner?

In part, at least, it is a battle between human frailty and technology.

Let us have a quick look at the human aspect. The human brain is itself a wonderful computer, but it has limitations as we shall see, and we are expecting it to work at maximum efficiency in a hostile and physically stressful environment, under the baleful glare of hostile managers!

What is the science behind the brain/technology that causes the problem?

Light travels at 186,000 mps in a vacuum, or about 671 million miles per hour.

Einstein’s theory of relativity shows that we never really see moving things in the “now” because of the space/time laws of physics. Our brains have had to evolve a predictive capability to adjust for the lag in our perception of movement.

When a player kicks a ball, light strikes it and is projected onto the referee’s retina. By the time the brain processes this image, the ball has moved at up to 65 mph away from where the referee “saw” it. In effect, the brain of the referee, and those of the observers (fans), is continually “predicting” where the ball is going to be, rather than where it was when the image was first projected onto his retina.

This parallax applies to all objects, including players, and makes the interpretation of the Offside, Law 11 into an extremely complex calculation, taking into account the distance the ball has or will travel, while also allowing for the movements of a group of jostling players, who may, or may not, be fouling each other, or who may, or may not, have already been in an offside position at the exact moment the ball was kicked.

Ludwick Fleck, the famous doctor and biologist, showed that a person’s subconscious belief can alter his observations. That is to say, the ‘human confirmation bias’ leads a person, with a particular belief, to see things as reinforcing that belief, even if another observer would strongly disagree.

Therefore, a referee will observe what he expects to observe, until shown otherwise, and his beliefs will therefore inevitably affect his observations, and his subsequent reactions, in a self fulfilling way.

Mark Clattenberg, in the Wigan v Manu game, did not give a red card to Rooney, despite almost everyone else’s perception of a deliberate elbow into his opponents face. This was compounded by a smile and an arm around Rooney’s shoulders.

This a perfect example of the human confirmation bias in operation. Clattenberg may have thought of Rooney as a ‘good’ guy; and an England player; and a much maligned sporting hero, not capable of committing such a dreadful foul, and therefore he does not see it. He simply saw what he expected to see, and not what had actually happened!

This human confirmation bias applies to us all, from victims of the con artists ‘three card trick’ to witnesses who give wildly contradictory statements of what happened at a bank robbery or accident.

Television technology has simply heightened our ability to compare what the referee thinks he saw against the reality of what the unbiased camera actually sees, using slow motion playback.

For myself, I will probably just carry on, irrationally, hurling abuse at the men in black, when I think they have transgressed against my beloved Gunners.

But, in the back of my rational mind, I will know they are just normal human beings doing their best, subject to both the laws of physics and human psychological conditioning.

It would seem that referees are not, after all, the cheating, incompetent, sporting pariahs that we sometimes believe them to be!

Who would have thought old Einstein with his theory of general relativity, as well as Dr Fleck and his philosophy of scientific sociology would play such a part in our very own beautiful game of footie!

Arsenal for the Double!!

Why Are Referees Biased Against Arsenal?

February 7, 2011

Yes, you read the title correctly.

I’m not asking IF referees are biased against us. I want to know why they ARE.

On Saturday, at 4-0 up, we saw Phil Dowd do all he could to help Newcastle back into the game. This included:

  • Playing three-and-a-half minutes of stoppage time in the first half because Newcastle were attacking, even though the fourth official signalled for only two minutes.
  • Failing to send off Nolan for a similar (but worse) offence than Diaby’s.
  • Giving a very debatable penalty (the first one) despite there being a host of players between him and the incident.
  • Giving Newcastle the softest penalty in the EPL so far this year (again, from the opposite side of the penalty area).
  • Generally letting Newcastle’s players repeatedly foul Arsenal’s without punishment (Barton and Enrique being the main serial offenders).

In recent games we have also seen:

  • Lee Mason booking Jack Wilshere for his first foul in the game against Everton (after just five minutes), then not punishing Everton players for repeated fouling.
  • Mason, in the same game, mystifyingly ignoring the offside rules to allow Everton’s goal.
  • Mark Clattenburg allowing an Aston Villa goal against us when Carew was standing miles offside and blatantly impeding Fabianski’s view.
  • Clattenburg sending off Squillaci for a ‘last man’ foul 30 yards from goal, but leaving a Huddersfield defender on the pitch for a ‘last man’ foul in the six yard box.

There are many more examples and I’m sure every Gooner can rattle off loads of them.

Too many, in short, to be a coincidence.

At the same time Manchester United get more ‘rub of the green‘ than a self-pleasuring leprechaun: blatant penalties not given against them; physical intimidation of referees unpunished; added minutes always counted in Fergietime if United are chasing the game (like ‘dog years,’ one minute of Fergietime is the equivalent of three ‘real world’ minutes) and clear red card offences ignored.

So the question is why?

I believe one possible answer is a conspiracy among officials. By which I don’t mean that they have been bribed or that they’ve all had a collective bet on Man Utd to win the title: rather that when they get together for their referees’ seminars and the like and talk among themselves, they come to some sort of negative consensus about Arsenal.  And probably about Arsène Wenger too.

If it is a conspiracy it’s a subconscious one, but with obvious roots:

Arsène has a history of claiming that our players are not given sufficient protection. Every time he says this, he is directly criticising not just a particular ref for a specific incident, but every single one of them for the way they officiate week in, week out.

It’s human nature to dislike being criticised and to feel resentful towards the critic.

The referees also read the papers just like everyone else, so they soak up all the anti-Arsenal stories that are trotted out every week (from the utterly contrived Cesc furore this week to the Phil Brown lies and the shameful ‘Eduardo is a diver’ campaign).  You can’t tell me they’re not influenced by this stuff.

Added to that, all EPL refs are British. Arsenal is the most foreign influenced club in the country, both in our predominantly overseas squad and in the way we play football. Culturally, we have less in common with the mindset of the British referee than any other team.

English players like Rooney, Lampard and Terry are known to be chummy with some of the officials once the game is over (I wouldn’t be surprised if there are a lot of Howard Webb relatives with memorabilia signed by the Man Utd players).  I suspect that doesn’t happen with our players (the chumminess I mean, not the dishing out of ManUre tat to distant cousins).

Finally there’s what you might call the underdog factor. We are regularly written up as being the best footballing side in the country. When we play lesser teams I think the refs have a subliminal sense that it’s not fair for all these twinkle-toed little foreign wizards to dance round the lumpen midfielders and defenders in the opposition.

It’s the only explanation I can think of for the fact that we are far more fouled against than fouling, yet we get a higher proportion of yellow cards per foul than any other team. It’s because the officials feel sorry for our opponents.

That’s what I felt happened with Dowd on Saturday. It was evident in stoppage time at the end of the first half when he ignored an appalling off-the-ground lunge through the back of Arshavin from Joey Barton then immediately penalised Diaby for failing to make contact with the Newcastle thug. This was during the well-over three minutes he allowed for added time, even though the fourth official signalled for only two. I’m convinced he played this extra extra time because Newcastle had finally realised that there was a second set of posts up the other end of the pitch and that they were supposed to be attacking them.

It reminded me of when I have refereed kids’ games and one team is getting battered 15-nil. It may be time to blow up, but the losing team finally has an attack so you let them play on in the hope they’ll get a consolation goal.

In a kids’ game it makes you a sentimental old so-and-so.

In a professional match it makes you an embarrassment to your trade.

During the second half, as the Newcastle revival grew following Diaby’s sending off (with which I have no argument), it was like Dowd got all caught up with the excitement of the occasion.

For the second penalty you can see him look at the incident, then turn as if to run away. But then the Newcastle player makes a heated appeal for the pen and Dowd stops and gives it. What excitement! Refereeing a game with a great comeback story! He must have been beside himself.

Even the fourth Newcastle goal shouldn’t have counted, given that it stemmed from a free-kick against us for a non-existent foul. But when Tiote belted in the ‘once-in-a-career’ goal that so many players seem to manage against Arsenal, Dowd knew he would be one of the top games on Match of the Day.

Quite what we do about all this, I don’t know. Arsène Wenger has highlighted the cards-to-fouls stats in the past but it doesn’t make any difference.

I fear that until European referees are allowed into the EPL the subconscious bias against us will continue.

If we do go on to win the league this year (or any time soon), we will only do it by playing better than Man Utd or Chelsea would need to do in similar circumstances (because they do not have the built-in handicap of refereeing prejudice).

We need to go out for every game in the knowledge that we really are, to use the cliché, playing against 12 men.


Can you remember May 11th 1993?

November 20, 2010

Yesterday I had the great pleasure of describing my path to the Light, and my close encounter with The Dark Side. Today is an opportunity to reflect upon past games against The Stratford-Bound Spurs (please Mr Levy take them there – you will be lauded forever in the anals of history – deliberate spelling ;-) )

Let us start back in Black and White. Not that wonderful Spurs double team of ‘61 but the supposedly as good side of ‘71; Gilzean, Chivers, Peters, Mullery, Perryman, Knowles and the best keeper of his generation Pat Jennings  formed the basis of their team with Mike England the cornerstone of their defence. We mullered them at WHL to take the League title with Raddy and Kennedy heroes of the night. The next week Charlie George secured our FIRST double.

Then there is the classic 5-0 at WHL in Dec 1978 with that wonderful Liam Brady goal. Or the 1-0 in the Cup semi-final at Wembley when TA gained our revenge for that awful day two years previous, when Gazza and Lineker’s goals sent me on a truly depressing drive home on the North Circular.

Thinking of great goals. Has anyone scored a better goal than Thierry in 2002. Receiving the ball in his own half, and weaving his way at speed through an increasingly bewildered Spurs defence before finishing with aplomb and running  Adebayor-esque up to the stunned Spurs fans in the Clock End. Sliding up to them on his knees the picture taken from his back towards those saps is one of the images of the decade.

Have we won the League at White Hart Lane just once? 2004. We arrive needing just a point to win the Premiership. Vieira scores in the first half. Pires adds a second. The Spuds jammed one from Redknapp (he used to play football) and get a second to force a draw through a dodgy penalty in the 93rd minute, by which time the only fans in the ground were wearing the Red and White.  The lads parading the champagne and the Cup around White Hart Lane was a delicious moment.

Then there was Fabregas’s classic at the Grove just a couple of years ago. The commentator had this to say “one of the greatest solo goals in Premiership history”. And Fab is better now….

Can you recall a victory for Spurs at our place? Would it surprise you if I told you it was 11th May 1993? I was at the game along with a paltry crowd of 26k. It was the last game of the season and we played our reserves, included in our team were Mark Flatts, Neil Heaney, Scott Marshall, Lyderson, Alan Miller and Gavin MacGowan. Why? Because we were playing Sheffield Wednesday on the 15th at Wembley where we won the Cup Double. Teddy scored for Spurs that day as he was to do so often down the years. He remains my and most other Arsenal fans most disliked player.

But let us think about that. 1993 against a reserve team. More than 17 years ago.

And before that? According to the Spurs website it was in January 1985, with goals from Garth Crooks and Mark Falco !! To say that we have dominated is a misnomer – we have ruled the North London divide for 25 years.

We have heard yesterday how the pendulum is/has swung Tottenham’s way. Where is the evidence for such a ludicrous statement? Is it in the table where they languish 5 places below us. Is it in their goalscoring record? No, we have scored 5 more than them already. The defence? Can’t be –  they have conceded 5 more than us. Is it their attendances – don’t be silly. The only evidence I can come up with where they are ahead of us is that they have spent tens of millions more than Arsenal in assembling their squad – but then they always have, so I can’t see the pendulum swinging.

As was pointed out in the comments, it is Liverpool who have suffered from the upturn in Tottenham’s form, but will they be able to maintain their place in the Champions League? In my opinion Everton, Villa and City are the frontrunners for 4th. Spurs are below Bolton and Sunderland yet their fans remain delusional!!

Spurs will consider leaving with a point a major victory and further proof of their improvement, whereas we will consider it two easy points thrown away.

One further point – a good refereeing performance is essential in a NLD, today we have Phil Dowd, a ref who is a disciplinarian. Let’s hope the game doesn’t rest on one of his more controversial decisions

Could today be the day when Spurs finally break their hoodoo?  What do you think?


High Noon

November 19, 2010

In my very young years Spurs were the best in the country if not the world, with a team that had it all – speed, craft, strength (what a player Dave Mackay was), super full backs, centre halves (as they were then) a fine keeper and the late , great Bobby Smith upfront. I can still name the entire 61 Double team, such was their impact upon my psyche.

It was touch and go whether I supported the forces of good or evil, my father had gone over to the dark side and encouraged me to do the same. I was taken to  the coven at WHL to be surrounded by waling banshees and devil worshippers. Thankfully I saw the light and was led onto the path of good and righteousness by other family members. Had they not exorcised me I could have been subjected to a life of ridicule and envy, for such is the life of a Spurs fan. How those poor saps made the disastrous decision to support the joke that is THFC is for them to analyse, but I think it must be centred upon low self-esteem and a history of bed wetting.

Last season we lost our record of not having been beaten by them in the PL this century – you may recall they brought out a DVD. In a way it took a monkey off our backs, but it still rankles that our team didn’t perform that night and a Spurs lad scored the goal of his life (poor chap has gone back to a life of obscurity). And then there was the 4-4 (another DVD!) a game which in which we threw away 2 points and allowed an ex-AFC reserve to score the goal of his life – we must stop that habit!

Spurs go into the game with fresh legs thanks to them having so few Internationals, whereas our boys have all (16 of them!) been away playing meaningless friendlies.  Players like Arshavin and Nasri who played 90 minutes will struggle for fitness.

To see the vast gulf in class between our clubs one only has to assess the respective managers. Mr. Wenger is approaching sainthood, whereas Harry is an execrable human being whose only redeeming features are his fit daughter-in-law and his bank balance.

There can be no doubt that at last Spurs have a decent squad, they can play good football and have quality throughout the side. In Gareth Bale they have the best player in the World – the new Messi  (yeah, right….typical Spurs, 10 decent games from Bale and he is worth €50m!!), the Bale/Sagna battle will be mouthwatering. Modric despite having a ratface and the body of an undernourished spaniel is a player who would flourish at Man Utd – he is wasted at the Sh**hole. Jenas is likely to play thanks to Fatboy Huddlestone’s ban, a player who loves a goal against us – he will have to closed down fast. Lemon is quick but crosses like Clichy, Crouch is hated by the Spurs acolytes which sums them up – I like him but hope he has a stinker tomorrow. Same goes for Pavlachenko – actively disliked by his own fans (check out their blogs). Then there is  Van de Vaart, the “New Dennis Bergkamp”, an Real reject who has started well in the PL, he is without doubt a fine player and an excellent signing by Redknapp, our defensive midfielders will have to be very aware of his movement, for that reason I would play Denilson ahead of Wilshere.

Our ex-captain WG will start and I expect him to get a rousing welcome (actually the expected response will be apathy unless he scores). Should (when) Spurs lose tomorrow their fans will focus upon their defence and the lack of their 3 best CB’s, but let us be honest, if King plays 12 games a season he has had a good year, Woodgate isn’t even in their 25 man squad; Dawson it has to be admitted is a loss but they have a WC winner as a replacement!

Our team:

We have had 2 back to back away victories and return to the Grove where our record is surprisingly not great this season. The fighting performances on the road must be continued if we are to win tomorrow. I am told Arshavin is running into good form, and Chamakh is on a fine scoring streak. Fabregas has found aggression to add to his sublime skills and Nasri is the Premiership’s form player. We have easily enough quality to win this game – what will be required is commitment and concentration over the whole 95 minutes.

The North London Derby (NLD) has at last got some frisson back thanks to the resurgence of the devilspawn fro N17, the atmosphere at The Grove will be electric, the teams excited and inspired, and I just wish I could be there….

Here’s hoping for a great game, a decent referee, an early goal, one just before half time to calm the nerves and a victory for the men in the white hats.

This is not a purely a question of football superiority – it is the eternal battle for the triumph of good over evil


Written by BigRaddy


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