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English Premier League: Chelsea v. the Baggies

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The media is full of vain, self-important, lying, and moralising hypocrites, who do a huge amount of damage in many important areas of life – like war, death, and the environment.

Football isn’t one those areas. (Although I suspect one of its functions as social control may be to innure people to injustice, but that’s another story.) And of course, football journos bring a certain aggregate stupidity to the mix. Let’s be honest here, it’s not a usual career track for big brains.

Nonetheless, their behaviour is characteristic of the media in general, so a couple of comments are probably in order in the wake of yesterday’s game, which has certainly generated a fair amount of heat (a proliferation of “hated Chelsea” and “Chelsea cheat” headlines). All of it guided by the prejudices and enthusiasms of the sports journalists.

First, on the dignity of managers – there wasn’t a great deal of edification in watching Robson scream “fucking faggot” over and over again (six times?). Completely ignored in the media, either because of embarrassment or perhaps bias – and after all, the BBC’s Match of the Day didn’t even mention the Kamara dive in the box. I’ve found one reference, and that on a forum. None in the media at all, who prefer to bash the Chelsea manager’s leadership.

Sky’s Goals on Sunday, which I just watched, actually cut the sequence when the teams emerge at half time twice, passing it off as a coherent tape, so that you don’t get a chance read Robson’s lips. Chris Kamara protecting his mate, I guess. At least MOTD showed some of it.

Of course, hardly surprising that English football’s full of blokes, mates and homophobes covering each other’s asses (that’s a very intentional pun). And this at a time when they all feign deep respect and outrage on the subject of racist abuse (well, when it happens in Europe, anyway).

I also just watched the beginning of Live Ford Super Sunday – and watched another group of football types refusing to notice Robson’s abusive and almost certainly illegal behaviour. Yet more blokish, matey ass-covering from Andy Gray and company. Big surprise, after all, these guys learn about alpha males and subservience in the changing room, and it never leaves them. You can see it in Gray’s relations with guys like Live Ford Super Sunday host Richard Keys.

Maybe some gay group can try to get Robson prosecuted for a homophobic hate crime. That’d be fun.

On diving – Droghba has a dodgy knee; when he connected with Greening, it hurt. It was melodramatic, but that that’s no surprise; nothing to get worked up about. And hell, at least he wasn’t diving in the box, trying to get a penalty. Unlike the Baggies’s Kamara, who the referee clearly indicated had dived. Which is completely obvious on the replays. And then Halsey failed to book him anyway.

On Robson’s incredible outspoken diatribe against Droghba for feigning and cheating – which was also cut in helpful fashion by Sky and the BBC today (but shown live and complete by Sky yesterday). And remember, Kamara had just dived in the box. Mourinho of course was dragged before the FA earlier this season for suggesting Wigan Athletic’s Lee McCulloch was feigning injury, and was fined £5,000 last season for alleging that Manchester United players were guilty of “fault and fault and cheat and cheat” in the Carling Cup semi-final clash.

No sign of action or comment on Robson’s abuse though. No sign of the media agitating for it either, certainly not in the way they do when it’s Mourinho in the frame. I’ll return to them in a moment.

On the dignity of referees – which apparently they think derives from not allowing anyone to criticise them (as their representative stated a few weeks ago). I always assume they’re corrupt. Some are just corrupted, and manipulated, by their elevated opinion of themselves, of their ‘dignity.’ And of course by their monopolistic power. And their friendships, ambitions and hopes for the future. But most will be corrupted in far more prosaic and obvious ways.

Nothing else can explain their inordinate resistance to the introduction of technology, their outlawing of criticism, the astonishing decisions, and the constant, slow drumbeat of convictions and investigations (mainly at the UEFA level), including the involvement of dodgy Asian gambling syndicates.

Even a short list of recent scandals shows there is a real problem across many countries, but nothing happens unless the police or civil authorities get involved: Germany, Italy, Finland, Turkey, Poland, Belgium (also here). Portugal recently had 171 arrests, including 16 referees, as part of Operation Golden Whistle:

In that first day of the process, the League President, Valentim Loureiro, was imprisoned. The list of the 171 people is formed by 27 clubs directives, 110 referees, 28 FA (FPF) directives, 2 mayors and 4 businessmen. The accused referees will keep on working until they are proven guilty. Some VIP names involved are Sporting Lisboa former President Sousa Cintra, FPF Referees Council President Carlos Esteves, Oporto President Pinto da Costa and Boavista President João Loureiro.

Note: the accused referees will keep on working until they are proven guilty. Clearly these people can’t police themselves. This corruption is also clearly extending into the UEFA cup competitions, although you have to work through the material to get even a vague picture of the extent of it.

And don’t expect the sports journalists to be any help, they’re very much part of the problem – check this out, how their alliances with players and teams work. And I believe this is why there’s all this talk about Chelsea becoming the most ‘hated’ team in the league – because the stability and operation of these long-standing alliances is disrupted by Chelsea’a success. And that’s why today’s sports pages are full of “hated Chelsea” and “Chelsea cheat” headlines.

There’s also a description of a couple of match-fixing mechanisms. And there’s more here.

And then there’s the Robert Hoyzer and Dominik Marks cases in Germany, host of this year’s World Cup:

Hoyzer told investigators that the gambling ring had the lists of referees and assistants who would work competitive international matches and fixtures in the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Cup about a week in advance of the matches. UEFA does not publicize the officials list until two days before matches. The story also noted that only the UEFA referee manager and the 11 members of its referee commission were supposed to have advance knowledge of these names. (link)

Has their been any investigation or cleanup in the wake of any of these scandals? Of course not. All we get is Collina and few buddies (Johan Cruyff, Michel Platini, Emilio Butragueño, Arsène Wenger et al.) sitting a room occasionally, uttering platitudes.

So we can’t assume anything’s changed. I’d need extensive documentary evidence to believe otherwise about any single one of them. And it’s hard to track: it’s not every game, not even the big decisions, but the occasional game, the little decisions, a few offsides by an assistant perhaps, which really sway games. The sooner we turn it most of it over to technology and computers, the better.

And as for enforcement and investigation. I’m with the Australian writer on this:

The message is that, when it comes to sleaze and cheating, civil authorities should be allowed, or even invited in, to intervene in sport and in football. Let the police come in, swing its batons and do its thing… It is not the catching of individual crooks by police that football bodies take an issue with. They are more nervous about civil authorities or governments threatening to meddle with administrative bodies, even if they happen to be suspected of being crooked. Maybe in those instances, where graft is suspected, the policy is worth a re-think. (link)

Anyway, off my hobby horse, wipe the froth off my lips, back to the Premiership and yesterday’s game.

Face facts Baggies, you’re almost certainly going down, again. Unless you can get your man Robson to stop snapping brains and kicking cats, to stop yelling homophobic abuse like a Tourette’s case, and focus on the job in hand.

And even then, not bloody likely.

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  • Richard

    You were right we went down, but hwo you can defend Drogba for diving is quite simply beyond me. You seem very blinkered in your view of Chelsea, and let me guess, you supported them before Abramovich, before Bates, you used to go when you were a lad blah blah blah even if it is true no-ones going to believe it. Every male who goes up the bridge now has to be sucking some sort of corporate fallace, thats how you get tickets. For the record, Robson was sayin eff off. Numbnuts