PGMOL is now in crisis

Published: Monday, 02 October 2023

Let’s be kind. It pushes the bounds of credibility to suggest that Darren England and his colleagues in VAR believed that Luis Diaz’s goal had been given and that they were simply confirming that it should stand. That somewhere there was a confusion of messages. That the most horrendous of errors can somehow be put down to a ‘momentary lapse in concentration’.

According to my Daily Mail today - and their breakdown of what happened entitled ‘story of a shambles’, England and his assistant Dan Cook applied lines as usual and saw the goal was onside. (No they didn’t). The Mail goes on to claim that England and Cook thought the on-field decision was ‘goal’ when it was actually offside. (No they didn’t). So - claim the Mail - when they told ref Simon Hooper ‘check complete’ they mistakenly confirmed that the offside decision should stand. (Nonsense).

The Mail complete this section of their story by saying that PGMOL insiders have described the incident as a ‘momentary lapse of concentration’. Stop digging guys. Please. This ‘leaked’ version of events is almost as embarrassing as the decision itself. Oh - and the broadcaster that exposed the mess, that the Mail don’t want to name, was beINSPORTS.

I know people in the U.K. were confused by their coverage. Your host broadcaster missed the incident and went into meltdown when they saw our tweet. They knew they had to discuss it which is why they also missed the start of the second-half. It had nothing to do with long ad-breaks.

Anyway, it’s impossible for the above ‘leaked’ version of events to be true. The guys in the bunker are in constant contact with on-field officials. They would’ve known exactly what they were checking for. We all saw the assistants’ flag go up. We all knew the goal had been disallowed. VAR would’ve heard the officials talking about the decision. VAR simply didn’t do it’s job properly. This was human error. A horrendous error and had nothing to do with the equipment.

I’m going to generous here and say that I have some sympathy for England and Cook - in fact, all the guys in VAR. Why? Because current match-day officials shouldn’t be in VAR and how long have I been saying that for?

It’s unfair to ask them to learn a skill that takes years to become good at in - what was it, four extra days of summer training Howard Webb told us? And there’s the occasional match-day appearance of course, but Webb claimed the four extra days would end the VAR errors. Remember?

Watching football on tv for professional reasons takes years to become proficient at. You learn to look for things that aren’t obvious to the casual game watcher. Instinct helps. It’s different. I’m sorry - it just is. Maybe that’s why Andy and I saw immediately that Diaz’s goal was good - and that was without a replay.

Refs should be allowed to concentrate on getting better at what they do on the field and junk VAR responsibilities.

I’ve said this before - VAR should be staffed by people like Chris Foy, Mark Halsey, Peter Walton - X-refs who know the laws and can be trained to understand the skill of watching the game on tv as a pro. We need full-time specialist VAR operators.

Right now people like Foy and Walton are being sent out every Monday to make excuses for a catalogue of errors committed previous weekend. What a waste of time. Surely it would be better to divert funds into constructively trying to make things better - not paying people to trot out well rehearsed excuses for poor match-day performances?

Why are we even drawing lines? What’s wrong with embracing the semi-automated WC technology that’s being used so successfully in the CL? I’ve heard that the PL weren’t interested in it because it’s costly to implement. I hope that’s not true. Costly? We’re talking about the richest league in the world here. How costly will Saturday’s meltdown ultimately prove to be for everybody? Especially Liverpool, who have every right to express their frustration.

And Liverpool weren’t alone - 24 hours after the incident at Spurs, Steve Cooper and Thomas Franck were lamenting another day of errors. Cooper of all people, who’s the most tolerant of all the PL managers - I guess because his dad was a ref. And a very good one.

Howard Webb (showbiz showbiz showbiz) has got to get a grip. Already this season the PGMOL has admitted to mistakes on 14 occasions. That’s mind boggling - 14 times already. And that’s not to mention others that they should’ve admitted.

I welcomed Webb’s return to our game. I genuinely thought he’d make a positive difference. He hasn’t.

Granted - he inherited a lot of this mess from his arrogant predecessor Mike Riley, who surrounded himself with incompetents in order that his own inadequacies weren’t shown up. Do you remember Riley being forced into a climbdown over the use of monitors? And his instructions to refs when he was forced to change that they should always go with decisions made by VAR? Some of these habits continue today.

Webb has got to get tough and fire some of the people he inherited that simply aren’t good enough. If you don’t know who they are I can help there Howard. I probably hear more about the frustrations of the good people than you do. Leaks eh? No. The PGMOL wouldn’t have leakers. Ah. Wait a minute…..

If you want genuine transparency Howard, junk the scripted tv shows with the carefully chosen inserts and let us all hear what happens when a ref goes to the monitor. And don’t hide behind saying FIFA won’t allow it. Push the case. If there is nothing to hide - why not?

And the recent habit of allowing officials to ref overseas has got to stop. Why is this happening? Is it so the boys can earn an extra few quid? It can’t be anything else. That’s not a good reason. Pay them more at home.

That Michael Oliver was in the UAE on Thursday and therefore couldn’t ref Saturday was a disgrace. As we know, England and Cook were with him. If Oliver was too tired to ref (he was 4th at Spurs) why were England and Cook asked to work VAR? Is this job not considered to be as important as taking the whistle? I think we’ve found out now that it is.

I make the trip to and from the Middle East frequently. It’s tiring when the turn around is as tight as the guys were forced into. And I’m not suggesting for a moment a late night might’ve been had, but a few of the PGMOL guys have got form when it comes to that sort of thing. Anyone else remember ‘Indonesia-gate’ - the ‘boozy charity trip to Indonesia’ as The Sun described it? I’m sure Martin Atkinson does. He’s one of Oliver’s bosses now.

Never has there been a time when our refs were so poor. And this is after spending millions on coaching, life-style, salaries, match-fees, dietary requirements…..I could go on.

Never has there been a time when confidence in the PGMOL has been so low. We are in a crisis. And please don’t tell me the scrutiny is unfair. It isn’t. In any other business if people aren’t doing their jobs - they’re out.

Refs wanted a more important match-day role. They wanted higher profiles. Well they’ve got both. Howard Webb has got to cut out his open-necked media appearances and get down to basics - get his hands dirty and get a grip on an organisation that is failing. And failing badly.