“An official in high ranking place has told a referee to lie so that a player gets banned!!
“I always thought refs might play the ‘didn’t see it card’ to protect themselves but never instruction from above!!”
For a competition based on lies, it could not be more apt that the Premier League logo is a lion.
The weekend revelations on Twitter arising from Gary Neville happening upon former Premier League Referee Mark Halsey’s tweets about the PGMOL (Professional Game Match Officials Limited) instructing referees to ignore certain incidents they have seen has again thrown the integrity of English football into serious question.
If referees are told to ignore incidents not acceptable to the Premier League supremos, what else are they told to ignore? Penalties, red cards, the natural course of justice?
It is the tip of an iceberg for a groundswell of people who believe England’s top flight is not all it seems and one that needs urgent examination – whether the Premier League is a fair competition or not.
As much as I enjoy watching Neville talk about taking Salford-striker turned cheese-shop owner ‘Gaz’ Seddon out for a meal to soften the blow of his goalscoring career ending, its time for the respected 41-year-old to get serious for the good of the game he loves.
Football matters, really matters, to millions of paying supporters up and down the country and the idea that fans are being cheated, that referees and governing bodies are corrupt is one that needs seriously looking into.
Neville said he will not let it lie, vowing “their will be (an investigation)…Too big. Can’t be let go” on Twitter and what is needed is a high profile investigation into The Premier League itself.
The furore arose as Manchester City’s Sergei Aguero was banned retrospectively for three games despite City disputing it saying Referee Andre Mariner had seen Aguero’s elbow against West Ham United yet had not sent the player off at the time so no retrospective action should have been taken.
Halsey then revealed on Twitter that referees are told to lie by PGMOL chiefs in order to engineer bans which amounts to League manipulation.
It means Argentinian Aguero will miss Saturday’s derby between Manchester United and Manchester City.
Its similar to an incident mentioned in in Halsey’s 2013 ‘Added Time’ book when he told he was pressured by then Referees Chief Mike Riley, to say he had not seen Blackburn player Steven Nzonzi’s possible elbows on Stoke’s Ryan Shawcross – he had and had deemed them not worthy of yellow cards – so that the player could be retrospectively banned after Match of the Day had highlighted the incidents.
It turned out to be a very costly decision for Blackburn who were knocked out of The League Cup in their next game and were eventually relegated.
It is a damning indictment that the top flight of English football is not an entirely level playing field and the implications of that are far-reaching for the whole of the English game including the national team.
If referees and reffing chiefs cannot be trusted to ensure a level playing field what game have we got?
The Sun newspaper illustrated this in its article about ‘The Real Premier League’ table published in May suggesting the final Premier League was not a fair outcome. (The League table never lies, neither does Lance Armstrong..)
Conveniently, Jamie Vardy – complete with portable crash-mat protecting his arm – won and scored more penalties than Arsenal and most other teams last season as The Foxes received a Premier League record 13 spot-kicks proving the efficacy of the English grassroots game and selling The American Dream that the little guy/team can win it in the season when major coverage of The Premier League product was launched in the USA ahead of the new £5 BILLION TV rights deal. The striker finally got his comeuppance and a red card once the title had all been won.
My own personal interest in the subject of Premier League corruption stemmed from facing corporate injustice in my own life following quickly by increased bewilderment at the baffling number of decisions going against my club Newcastle United since I began seriously studying and writing about The Magpies several years ago.
In the same way Neville refers to himself as ‘NaiveGary’ in light of becoming aware of last weekend’s revelations, it is only when something opens your eyes to the problem that is society-wide not just sport-wide that you are actually switched on to the issue of unfairness and favouritism in the world.
Until last Saturday against Brighton, Newcastle United had played over 100 games without having a single opponent sent off and received an unbelievably low amount of penalties while giving away a sizeable number of spot-kicks and having umpteen men sent off, the result being the eventual, calculated demotion of Mike Ashley’s club denying the unpopular billionaire a share of the new money but hurting 50,000 loyal Geordie supporters.
Neville himself was a pundit during many of these inexplicably bad decisions over the years, for example in this video he expresses his surprise at how former Liverpool University student turned referee Lee Mason ‘missed’ this penalty for Newcastle at Anfield despite having a perfect view.
In light of last week’s revelations, was Lee Mason told from on high not to give Newcastle the decision?
Yet the problem is by no means limited to Newcastle and must be addressed immediately for the good of English football.
Neville, the 41 year-old former England international and Manchester United right-back turned star SKY Sports Pundit, football coach, aspiring manager, restaurant and football club owner (Hotel Football and Salford FC) is a household name to anyone with a interest in English football.
His ‘Attack the Day’ philosophy to life found on his Twitter bio encapsulates the man and made him a great player. The passion and enthusiasm he has for football combined with very forthright views on the beautiful game has made him a great pundit – essential viewing, listening and reading on every topic he covers.
Neville now has a moral responsibility to face his greatest challenge yet – to expose Premier League corruption and rid the game of it.
The idea of English football and The Premier League – the richest football competition on the planet and one of the biggest sporting competitions – being free from corruption is utterly absurd given the massive amounts of money and corporate power via sponsorship involved.
Think of the scandals that has hit FIFA in recent years and its former patriarch Sepp Blatter or the Calciopoli scandal that rocked Italy to know that the upper echelons of the most popular sport in the world are not immune to the temptations and machinations found in other areas of the game and sporting community.
Corruption in sport and the integrity of sporting competition in en vogue in the 21st century and daily, a fresh scandal or match-fixing allegation is in the news and the biggest League of all is yet to be exposed for the fraudulent competition that is it is.
Technology and Transparency Are The Answers
For Gary Neville, certainly the most high-profile figure to address the problem of corruption in The Premier League, it is a chance if he is brave enough to follow his instinct to achieve the kind of football immortality not just awarded great players but those who change the very sport itself for the better like Jimmy Hill did.
Ushering in a new and necessary era of technology which Neville the pundit and coach is a big advocate of, in the game – the ultimate solution to take game-changing decisions out of the hands of corruptible referees and linesman – would change the face of English football overnight and guarantee the future of English football.
Speaking in 2014 on SKY, Neville said:
“In a few years time we will be looking back upon this type of incident and can’t believe that we’ve not used technology…For me for that goal there, such a big moment, just to throw up to somebody I think in ten years time we were look back at this the way we look at teletext now..goal-line technology has come in and this is the next step…”
I’m sure Sir Bobby Robson would be turning in his grave at Neville’s summary of England recently on Monday Night Football that the 80s were ‘pretty poor’ for the national team after being dealt this Hand at Mexico 86′ – another case of officials looking the other way instead of doing their jobs and awarding right decisions.
Arguably, referees are the ultimate arbiters of a team’s Fate and this is why match-fixing works – one key decision by the man in the middle in a modern football game where the margins of success are so fine can decide the contest. Several key decisions over the course of a season in a Cup run or title means trophies, Champions League places and hundreds of millions of pounds in revenue, prestige and power that come with on-pitch ‘success’.
Video replays have been used in the NFL in America since 1986 and English football should have introduced them at the same time as the average SKY viewer benefiting from instant replays is in a better position to officiate a match than the live referees.
If on-pitch events and decisions are artificially massaged by governing bodies to achieve a result or outcome different to that which football fairness decrees then the wrong outcomes of games means the wrong results, players and teams are advanced to suit sponsors, influential figures and companies.
That means a lack of a meritocracy and ultimately, weaker teams at the top level ie the England national team, populated by players with faces that fit usually playing for teams that fit instead of the actual best
More money means more corruption and the new TV deal has seen a great influx of new managers and players as over one BILLION pound was spent in the last transfer window. Too much to be left to chancce? Over to you, Nev…