Though this article will be focussed on Liverpool, for rather obvious reasons, I imagine there’s a world in which supporters of pretty much every Premier League club, bar the two based in Manchester, could read this and agree with most of it. Refereeing isn’t an easy thing to do, which is evidenced by how often an incident will occur that there will be a range of different opinions about. Most sensible football fans know that decisions aren’t easy and that referees will get most of them right over the course of a season. What makes it difficult to swallow isn’t when an official gets something wrong, but when they get it so wrong that it is difficult to see anything other than nefarious things taking place behind the scenes. It hasn’t been more evident this season than in our match against Tottenham Hotspur yesterday, during which Paul Tierney, the match referee, alongside his Video Assistant Referee, Chris Kavanagh, got not one but two major decisions wrong.
I’ve slept on it, and I’m still absolutely gob smacked by the officiating in the #COYS v #LFC game. The standard, both on the field and VAR, was shockingly short of the level required to serve this league.
— Arlo White 💙 (@arlowhite) December 20, 2021
Long-term readers and followers of my Twitter account will know that I am a fan of the VAR system in principle. Referees have a difficult job in a sport that moves incredibly quickly, so finding a way of giving them some help made sense to me when the Video Assistant Referee was first mooted as an idea. The problem is, the Premier League referees have never used it as a way of helping out the officials, but instead have decided that it should be a system that backs up the appalling decisions made by the people on the pitch. Take the Harry Kane red card incident from yesterday; there is a world in which the match referee thinks he’s won the ball but that the challenge was a little too hard. Ok, I can understand that. What I can’t understand is the VAR watching it and thinking that all was fine with the challenge and that there was no need for Tierney to take another look. Then the PGMOL tie themselves in knots defending the decision because they’re not fit for purpose.
Most Match Referees Aren’t Fit Enough
Let me be absolutely clear, I am not a fit man. I’m six foot tall and seventeen stone, so the idea of running round a football pitch for nine minutes would see me require oxygen, let alone 90 minutes. That being said, I’m not paid as much as £70,000 a year to do my job, at least part of which must include staying fit. Jon Moss has long been a referee that I’ve singled out as not being up to the task of officiating Premier League matches, which was demonstrated perfectly during the week when he awarded Manchester City a penalty despite being nowhere near the run of play. Again, that’s the sort of thing that I’d expect from Moss, which is why I was in favour of the Video Assistant Referee system being brought in, but when the VAR also missed that the ball didn’t touch the arm of the Wolverhampton Wanderers defender, it’s not a surprise that some people might start to ask questions about the honourable nature of those employed by the PGMOL.
#LFC Mad that in 5 full seasons with Klopp as manager Fair Play League Winners have been:
Non Tierney games P17 Yellows 16 Reds 0
But Tierney games P 3 Yellows 11 Reds 1
— James McCarthy* (@JamesInvictus) December 20, 2021
According to the Premier League, the Professional Game Match Officials Limited was created in 2001 in order to ‘improve refereeing standards’. I wonder how many people would say that match referees are better now than they were twenty years ago? The game has changed, with the threshold for different punishments changing accordingly, but I’m not convinced that the level of refereeing is any better than it ever way. That the PGMOL think that people like Jon Moss, who isn’t fit enough to run a bath let alone a football match, are good enough to be running top-flight games tells you everything that you need to know. That referees from Merseyside can take charge of Liverpool or Everton games, irrespective of who they support, is wrong, just as it is wrong for officials from Greater Manchester to officiate United and City games. The problem is, the PGMOL think that every decision their officials make is correct and everyone is above reproach. They’re wrong.
There’s Never Any Penalty For Refereeing Errors
One of the biggest problems that the PGMOL has is that it refuses to admit when its referees have made a mistake. Instead of admitting that the men in the middle are human and liable to human errors, the governing body for match officials ties itself in knots to defend them, to the extent that it sometimes changes the rules themselves. Their explanation about Harry Kane not being sent off was that Andy Robertson jumped out of the way, therefore making it a less dangerous tackle. Sorry, what? Is the suggestion that players should suffer serious injury if they want someone to be shown a red card for a poor challenge? As it happens, that’s exactly what happened to Virgil van Dijk last season, but Jordan Pickford wasn’t shown a red card, so it doesn’t even stand up to the slightest bit of scrutiny. Whether it be Kane’s horror challenge or the blatant penalty on Diogo Jota, these aren’t difficult decisions that Paul Tierney and Chris Kavanagh conspired to get wrong.
🗣️ “I really have no idea what’s his problem with me.”
— Sky Sports (@SkySports) December 19, 2021
Indeed, I think there’s an argument that videos of both could be shown to future referees as typical examples of penalties and red card challenges. Sadly, rather than being punished for his utter ineptitude, the names of both Tierney and Kavanagh will appear on the list to referee matches in the coming days. Jürgen Klopp is likely to face more punishment for his post-match comments than either official will face for making such egregious and obvious errors. That is a huge part of the problem with Premier League refereeing and is akin to players knowing that the manager is likely to be sacked before them if the team is underperforming. Where are the consequences for referees that have as poor a game as Tierney and Kavanagh did? There aren’t any and, unlike with a Super League or awful owners, there is nothing that fans can do about it. We are just the chumps that pay our money to see games decided on the whim of the match referee rather than the laws of the game.