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.
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