Pep Guardiola is becoming increasingly perplexed by the ‘puzzling’ decisions of Premier League referees.
His frustration at what might be described as ‘inconsistent’ or ‘incompetent’ officiating, was evident following City’s 2-1 win over Burnley last week.
Consequently, the Spaniard gave short shrift to inane, imbecilic after-match questioning by ‘journalists’ working a thinly disguised anti-City agenda, with interviewers reveling in what appeared to be a New Year ‘Have a go at Guardiola’ resolution.
Consistently referred to as ‘prickly’ and ‘tetchy’, the provocative press and media further goaded Guardiola later in the week, wantonly misrepresenting his quotes, given during an excellent 22-minute interview with US network NBC.
Urbane, philosophical and articulate, the Manchester City manager’s words relating to his future in football and historical comparisons with rivals, Manchester United, Liverpool, Barcelona, Real Madrid and Bayern Munich, were deliberately twisted by Sky Sports, BBC and the red-top, rag-loving tabloids.
The fact virtually every mainstream football media outlet in the UK chose to take Pep’s words out of context, provided further evidence of mischief making towards City, as well as tacky ‘click bait’ for a gullible audience.
It could be argued it’s largely business as usual for a media, massively influenced by a need – a desire – to appease the masses aligned to the likes of United and Liverpool.
An anecdote in recent days, more than hints that City’s owner shares Pep’s concern about the overall standard of refereeing.
A well placed source in Abu Dhabi has intimated Sheikh Mansour was less than pleased when watching City’s 3-1 defeat to Chelsea, as well as the January 2nd victory over Burnley.
There’s no reason to doubt the information, and the fact the Sheikh feels the same as the fans at any perceived injustices, should warm the hearts of all City supporters.
Naturally, referees will make mistakes in the ‘real time’ searing pace of Premier League football.
There’s no doubting it’s a supremely demanding role where, with the benefit of hindsight, umpteen TV camera angles and every decision subject to micro-analysis, the referee and his assistants are on a hiding to nothing.
But – there’s so often a ‘but’ – far too often nowadays, these full time ‘professional’ referees and linesmen are getting blindingly obvious decisions horribly wrong.
It begs the question, why?
To try and gets the necessary answers it’s thought City are seeking a meeting with the ‘referees chief’, Mike Riley, the General Manager of the Professional Game Match Officials Ltd (PGMOL).
There’s a certain sense of déjà vu about Riley’s ‘invitation’ to address City’s curiosity in 2017. Something similar occurred back in 2012.
Of course that was the year the ‘noisy neighbours’ won the title for the first time in 44 years, after Fergie had previously proclaimed City would never finish above United in his lifetime.
Sir Alex failed to deliver on his statement and is still with us to this day.
The catalyst for the 2012 meeting – apparently requested by Riley – was widespread disquiet over a litany of dubious decisions, deemed detrimental to City and advantageous to United.
It’s alleged that a specialist third party – outside of City – conducted a study into matches involving controversial refereeing, seeking any relevance to the betting patterns of unregulated – often illegal – gambling syndicates in the Far East.
If, as strongly implied, the study was undertaken and its findings presented to the FA, it does little to quell any conspiracy theories about potential corruption in Premier League football.
Fast forward to the present day and City once again appear exasperated by some of the decisions which have injured their title hopes.
While there is no suggestion of anything untoward in his handling of the game, it is fair to say ref Anthony Taylor was heavily criticised by fans, pundits and in the media, during and after City’s defeat against Chelsea.
He clearly bottled it when he should have shown David Luiz a red card for a professional foul on Sergio Aguero.
Ultimately, when tempers flared towards the end of the game, he failed to red card Chelsea’s Chalobah for violent conduct towards Aguero, and Fabregas for slapping Fernandinho’s face.
As we know Aguero and ‘Dino’ were sent off in the melee.
The catalyst for Pep’s displeasure after beating Burnley was ref Lee Mason’s poor showing, the usual standard for Mason, whenever he takes charge of a City fixture.
In the aftermath of Mason dismissing Fernandinho during the match, a clearly disgruntled Bacary Sagna took to social media to declare City had played ‘10 against 12’ – a sentiment shared by many City fans.
Needless to say Sagna is now on an FA misconduct charge, but it’s the FA and PGMOL who should be facing charges of misconduct and negligence.
How do they explain two yellow cards given to United’s Marcos Rojo’s for twice executing two-footed ‘assaults’ on opponents against Everton and Crystal Palace?
Is it just inconsistent or an injustice?
Other incidents that rankle with City are Aguero’s three match ban for ‘violent conduct’ against West Ham, and yet the same FA Panel let Zlatan Ibrahimovic off without even a rebuke for doing far worse against City’s Nicolas Otamendi.
If so-called ‘elite’ referees are as incompetent as they appear, then clearly they shouldn’t be doing the job. They’re not fit for purpose.
They’re not publicly accountable and yet PGMOL members are free to carry on regardless.
Sympathy for referees is in short supply, especially when they’re handsomely rewarded with big salaries and the ‘fame’, which so many now seem to crave.
Social media is often awash with stinging criticism of referees but, if any City fan has the temerity to hint at bias towards the ‘established’ global football brands of Trafford and Liverpool, they are labelled paranoid or just another ‘bitter blue’.
By their own admission, both the Premier League and Sky, want to see United and Liverpool succeed, as it boosts worldwide audience figures and revenue streams. No vested interest there then!
Surely it reeks of naivety to dismiss the possibility of corruption in the Premier League. Wherever big money is involved there’s invariably a temptation to protect the ‘cash cow’.
It’s not an exaggeration to say bets running into hundreds of millions of pounds are placed on a myriad of different factors in Premier League fixtures, often from shady quarters in faraway lands.
It doesn’t have to be the specific result or even the outcome of a game.
Bets are placed on more innocuous elements such as the team to get the first yellow or red card, the number of fouls committed, the number of cards shown by the ref, timings of corners, throw-ins…the list goes on and on.
It’s comparable to cricket, when Pakistani bowlers were found guilty in relation to ‘spot fixing’ and bowling ‘no balls’ at specified times during the match against England at Lords in 2010.
It can only be hoped that any such unpalatable elements are not prevalent in the Premier League, but who knows what’s gone before and what could be happening now, right under our proverbial noses?
The world and his dog suspected FIFA was rotten to the core for decades, but President Sepp Blatter and his predecessor Joao Havelange continued unabated for more than 40 years, manipulating and corrupting the beautiful game.
Pressure is mounting from ticket paying fans in England for transparency – they want to know if their team is winning or losing by fair, rather than foul, means.
City will have questions aplenty for Riley and PGMOL, but for the sake of Pep’s sanity and the greater good of English football, referees must be made accountable and brought to book.
By David Walker
The winner of the Read But Never Red Christmas-New Year Competition was true blue Dave Leyland, who prioritised the Aguero Moment of 2012 above Dickov’s Wembley equalizer of 1999.
Thanks to our friends at the Art of Football http://art-of-football.com/collections/man-city (follow on Twitter @Art_of_Football) , Dave is now the proud owner of a T-shirt showing that 93:20 winning goal. Thank you to everyone who entered and a Happy New Year to all our readers.
www.readbutneverred.com @ReadButNeverRed @djwskyblu