The Infallible Men in Black

As I write this rant/article I’m still reeling after seeing my Villa side robbed of redemption at Stamford Bridge after last season’s horror show. The game ended 2-1 to the home side Chelsea, many will just view the score-line as an obvious outcome – others who did not see the game will look at Jose Mourinho’s post-match interview comments and see he attempted to label Villa a ‘long ball’ team when in-fact the stats of the game show Villa attempted 46 long balls to Chelsea’s 51.

In fairness to Jose he did say he thought “Villa deserved maybe a point” I can tell you categorically Villa deserved at least a point if not three. In sport you do not always get what you deserve, but the public deserve games to be officiated in a way that ensures fairplay prevails. The game has evolved massively in the last twenty to thirty years in all aspects from T.V. coverage to transfer fees.

The players are now more professional than they ever were; medicals take days to complete, gone is the era where the star striker of a team could have a quick cigarette at half time. Such a thought seems comical now in this day and age but why then are officials allowed to constantly bottle big decisions in favour of so called big clubs?

If a manager questions a ref’s performance in a post-match interview he is punished and fined by the FA. Where has freedom of speech gone? It is 2013, goal line technology has arrived, I can watch 20 games live on TV today if I want, I can bet how many corners will be in a game in South America from my phone here in Europe if I want, but a manager cannot air his grievances about a ref’s performance without being fined?  The world has gone mad!!!

Ian Holloway has already been charged for utilising his freedom of speech this season following the first round of EPL games.  An FA statement read: “Following his side’s match against Tottenham Hotspur on Sunday 18 August 2013, Crystal Palace manager Ian Holloway has been charged by The FA in relation to two separate matters.

“Firstly, it is alleged that Holloway’s language and/or behaviour in or around the match officials’ changing room at the end of the game amounted to improper conduct.

“Secondly, it is alleged that Holloway’s post-match media comments questioned the integrity of the referee and/or match officials and/or implied that the referee and/or match officials were motivated by bias; and/or brought the game into disrepute.”

Wow, sounds serious, but how serious may one point be to Crystal Palace at the end of the season? Improper conduct is a word that is thrown about the football world a lot however if a referee awards one team key decisions time and time again is this not improper conduct?

Well if you try to deem it improper and you’re a manager in the Premier League you will get charged by the FA. If you’re an average Joe and try to criticise a referee amongst your social circles you will be labelled a sore loser, and better yet if you’re so infuriated and ring in some football talk show you will hear the famous statement “the bad decisions always balance themselves out over the season” – utter garbage. The men in the middle have become almost untouchable why is this facet of the game being left behind, it is hard enough for the less fashionable clubs in the Premier League to compete without also having to overcome officials who seem almost scared to the bone to award a decision against a big team.

Every decision officials make are subject to more analysis than ever before thanks to technology but what I want is some analysis on why refs seem afraid to officiate the game fairly. Branislav Ivanovic should have been sent off last night, he wasn’t. He later scored the winning goal of the match (that was offside) moments later his teammate John Terry handballed in the Chelsea box while defending a last ditch Villa attack, a blatant penalty. Think again the man in the middle shied away from the decision blew the full time whistle and booked every Villa player that challenged his officiating of the game.

What will happen? Nothing… Why? Because the FA said so… Was the ref afraid to make a decision against Chelsea? “Yes” is the answer to any sensible educated follower of the beautiful game.


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