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Old 13th November 2009, 16:16   #1
Join Date: Oct 2004
Location: Houston Texas
Posts: 1,537
Default Journalists and Referees

Football Journalists and Referees – The Case Against Them

I suppose that it was inevitable really. But there it was again on Monday, and Tuesday morning. Nearly all of the main football writers in the employment of the major UK daily newspapers, leading with their condemnation of both Sir Alex Ferguson, and his Manchester United players. Of course their reports contained little or anything of any real substance about the Chelsea – United game, but focused almost in their entirety upon remarks directed at the match referee, Martin Atkinson.

These same journalists have fed voraciously off both parties ever since the final whistle blew in the Manchester United versus Sunderland game which took place on October 3. There has been little or no let up in what amounts, in my opinion, to nothing more than a vendetta and they would not have been happy uless Sir Alex’s head had been served up to them on a silver platter after his disciplinary hearing at the FA this morning. Fortunately, that has not happened, so it remains to be seen what bile the majority of them will come out with in tomorrow’s dailys.

I find it so sad these days that there are a large number of so called football writers whose ramblings are not even worthy of even a cursory glance. In the main most of the garbage they write should be immediately consigned to File 13. It is certainly my opinion that there are probably no more than two or three main stream football writers in the present time who are worth reading, and who are able to give objective, and impartial views on happenings both on and off the field, and who are a joy to read, even if you may not always agree with their opinions.

It is amazing really that when you look back over the years, Sir Alex, and Manchester United Football Club have both played more than a huge part in keeping these guys in a job. Without them, what would these so called hacks have actually had to write about? No other club in Europe, and dare I say it, the world, sells newsprint and media time as much as Manchester United does. It would be interesting to see what would happen with these guys if United were to impose a kind of news blackout or embargo upon them. Whatever would they find to write about then?

It irritates me so much that when they write about Manchester United, they seem hell bent on putting as much negative spin on a subject as possible. It doesn’t matter if it is true or not, as long as they get a headline and some semblance of a story out of it. We have seen some great examples of how they work in the ways in which they have filched items from the Red News site and then spun them to look and sound completely differently to what they were. A prime example was the recent interview which Sir Alex gave to Sirius here in the States a few weeks ago. It was completely distorted some three weeks later by the majority of the UK football press. Is it any wonder that Sir Alex does not give many one on one interviews with these guys any more?

The real thing that does annoy and irritate the hell out of me, is that even when their ramblings have been found to be taken out of context, spun, or are even absolute untruths; there is never ever even a glimmer of any retraction nor any kind of apology. It just makes me wonder why, and how, they are allowed to get away with it time after time, after time.

That they fuel the ABU brigade goes without question. They do wield enormous amounts of influence, and anything that they write, particularly if it is anything anti-Manchester United, is seized upon by the public, is dissected and enhanced, and becomes the so called truth! So many fans today are incapable of seeing stories for what they are, and because it appears in the press, has to be the gospel truth. As we all know, that is far from reality.

Very few of today’s writers, in my opinion write a decent match report and concentrate their report on what happens out on the pitch. Years ago I was quite close to a very dear old friend named Don Evans who, during his professional career, was a chief football writer for several of the national newspapers. Don was a wonderful guy, and used to have me in stitches with his anecdotes, particularly about Bill Shankly. But he used to stress to me that you didn’t need to get personal, nor to try to be sensational, to succeed in sports journalism. Too many of today’s writers, in my opinion tend to forget that. I laugh at some of the titles that are applied to them; “The Voice of Football”, “Britain’s Number One Writer”, etc, etc - yeah, right - says who?

Now on to referees, and linesmen. I doubt that there is another occupation which is so high profile, yet which has little or no accountability for the actions of its employees in the job in which they are assigned to do, considering the implications and effects on other clubs and players that their decisions bring. It used to be that these people were low profile, they did their job and that was it. Yes, there were times when there were contentious issues, but by and large they were quickly forgotten about.

Back in those good-old-bad old days, referees and linesmen served a long apprenticeship before they got on the league list, and even then, it was still a good few years before they made the elite first division. Once we had the arrival of the Premiership, then we got the call for “professional full time referees”. Apparently this would make them not only much better paid, but far better referees than ever before. Has this happened? Not in my opinion it hasn’t. As far as I see it, the refereeing situation is worse than it has ever been.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that refereeing is easy – it isn’t. I think that any knowledgeable, match-going football fan appreciates that. Genuine human error is certainly accepted by fans as part and parcel of the game, and always has been. But in today’s modern game I am seeing far more basic refereeing errors than ever before, and that is what worries me. It also worries me that referees seem to be in some instances, ignoring the rules of the game, and bringing in a new one that is nothing more than a get out – “it’s an accepted part of today’s game”. Accepted by who I would beg to question?

Since the Professional Game Match Officials was formed in 2001, the 19 professional referees have become far more high profile than they ever were before, and their salaries 60,000 pounds p.a. plus expenses, gives them a decent wage to live on. Many of them (if not all) have achieved celebrity status, and again, a good proportion of them, in my opinion, revel in that kind of status. Even after they retire, they still remain very high profile, and are quick to impose their views through various media outlets (for which they are very well paid) on all and sundry. Their organization is self policing and is vey much a closed shop. Their senior management consists entirely of ex-referees: The General Manager (Keith Hackett), General Manager Designate (Mike Riley),National Group Manager ((David Allison), andFA Head of Senior Referees ( Neale Barry).

Looking at it, everything in the garden should be rosy, and everything should run like clockwork with no hitches. We all know that it doesn’t, and we all know that players who bear a big responsibility for the way that the game should be played don’t often do that. It does make the referee’s job that much harder. You do have some sympathy with them in that respect. But as I said earlier, what sticks in my craw these days is that I am seeing more and more of the BASIC decisions not getting called correctly, and that is the worrying aspect.

It’s from this point that I get so annoyed that referees and linesmen can retreat into complete annoniminity once the final whistle in a game has blown. Managers and players have microphones thrust underneath their noses, and cameras put in front of their faces, within seconds of a game finishing. They are expected to respond to questions (some of them at times, often the most bizarre and stupid) from newspaper and tv pundits, and no concern is given or shown by these people to things that are said more often than not, in the heat of the moment. Of course that evening and during the days that follow, we all see the amount of journalistic licence and spin that goes on in the media.

I get so incensed watching the game today that referees at times cop out. I listened to Dermot Gallagher the other day going on about all the grabbing and wrestling that goes on in the penalty areas in matches today. My jaw dropped hearing him just pass it off as “it’s an accepted part of today’s game”. Jeff (Bucketmouth/Wobblygob) Winter was even heard to respond to the same question saying “if you penalised incidents like that you’d have 5/6 penalties a game… you can’t do it”. Why ever not? That’s what they’re there for! If they did start awarding penalties and stop continuously penalising the attacker, it’s my guess that the practice of grabbing etc would stop very quickly. It only goes on because referees allow it to go on.

But, the referees and linesman are not subject to any kind of real scrutiny in any way whatsoever. Why are they so protected from fair criticism, and why is it they are never called to explain their decisions or actions? What makes them such a special case? Did they not go down the road of professionalism? Surely they can’t have their cake and eat it all the time? But it seems that they do. Every season there are a large number of decisions made by these fellows that have far reaching consequences.

Titles are won or lost, or teams get relegated, sometimes through contentious refereeing decisions. It has been seen that sometimes players suffer bans and consequently miss important games (Darren Fletcher being a prime example) through bad refereeing decisions.

At the moment they are above any kind of criticism. It’s just as though the inmates are running the asylum…. Don’t expect it to change much!
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