Tomkins Rants; Tomkins’ Head Explodes; Fuck The PGMOL

Tomkins Rants; Tomkins’ Head Explodes; Fuck The PGMOL
November 28, 2020 Paul Tomkins
In By Paul Tomkins, Free, Tomkins Rants


Four big decisions went against Liverpool in this single game (in a season of bizarre big decisions going against Liverpool), three by VAR. Two were correct, and two were examples of VAR ruining the sport.

Sadio Mané was offside when putting the Reds 2-0 up, and it was a stonewall penalty from the young and inexperienced Neco Williams in the first half.

But Mo Salah was offside only by imagined degrees based on seriously flawed technology, and the penalty, awarded in injury time, was not a clear and obvious error by the ref. It might have been a foul, but then again, it might not.

If anything, consistency is getting worse as VAR and the refereeing community continues to be run by a eunuch with the gumption of a dead mouse that’s been put through a mincer, and the video refs are just part of the same pally bunch of blokes who all referee the games, and have their favourites, their biases, their ability to “unsee” the obvious.

Liverpool had a lot of VAR calls go against them last season, but also some go for them.

Many of them, for and against, were shocking, and illogical, and inconsistent. I didn’t necessarily like them either way, but as long as it evened itself out in that unscientific way, it was less of an issue.

And it worked out to be fairly neutral in terms of net result (Liverpool ranked mid-table for VAR damage/benefits), but it made the games all about the officiating. I hated the way a good idea like VAR was being used, even if it benefitted Liverpool – albeit, on the whole, it didn’t really benefit Liverpool.

This season, Liverpool are currently running away with the trophy for “how much damage can VAR do?”.

And this season it’s been worse overall, including the farcical application of the handball law. England stands alone with its use of three subs and its misuse of VAR. Even the Championship have now voted for five subs. The TV companies care one about themselves and not the clubs, and when a manager like Klopp complains, they “disappear” the evidence. (At least, Sky do. BT Sport at least doesn’t resemble Communist State TV.)

Now, a foul outside the box is taken into the box for a penalty, even though the official didn’t look to see that, actually, Fabinho only got the ball (outside the box), if not a clean contact on the ball.

That clear and obvious error was not overturned, as the official apparently only looked at where the offence may have taken place, not if it actually took place at all. Now, with super-slo-mos not even making it clear what happened, Andy Robertson is penalised for something more minor than most things that take place in the box each weekend, to gift Brighton a last-minute equaliser. If it’s a foul, fine – let’s just set the bar really, really low for a foul.

And all the time Liverpool spend in the opposition box – they had three of the four players in the league with the most touches in the opposition area last season – will lead to a deluge of penalties for the Reds (any time that Liverpool get penalties there’s an outcry and referees stop awarding them).

Jürgen Klopp speaks his mind and that terrifies officials and TV companies (and some hypocritical journalists who work for the purveyors of nasty, hateful news that destroys lives), to the point where they set out to stop him. How dare he! A pally Englishman would have no such problems; just as British managers have always wined and dined British journalists to curry favour. (Then, gang up on the foreign manager.)

We all want to enjoy the football more, and focus on the officiating less, but what’s the point if late (or timely in terms of the scoreline being delicately balanced) and terrible decisions keep killing your team’s hopes?

We can’t even enjoy goals anymore, in case someone with inaccurate equipment makes a decision on a mere millimetre when full inches are the tech’s margin for error. The spiffing lines drawn are accurate to within a pixel, but the pictures they are drawn over are full of distortions, and delays, and inaccuracies. It’s bullshit, dressed up as science.

In cricket, with better technology, they have a massive margin for error on whether a ball was going to hit the stumps or not, and even if they think it might have hit the stumps in an LBW shout, they’ll go with umpire’s call, as they know the tracking software is not accurate to within fine margins; in football they draw super-thin lines that turn inaccuracy into imagined perfection, and find someone’s pubic hair offside.

The schedule is making good football harder, injuries more frequent, and VAR is then rubbing salt into the wound of these soulless games by ignoring blatant fouls in the box one week then jumping in, to change the game, with something minor the next week. A bit of balance would be nice, but Liverpool are at seven (against) for net VAR overturns, in just ten games. Maybe three of them were the correct decisions, and the rest were either debatable or terrible. (At least three of them were terrible.)

And that doesn’t include things like the VAR not spotting Jordan Pickford kick Virgil van Dijk into hospital.

As subscriber andklopp noted on here after the game, “How can it take slo-mo to spot a clear and obvious error?”

What the fuck are the rules? Does anyone know? And even with the rules, the implementation, the emphasis on what is and isn’t allowed, are fudged week by week.

The rules change every summer, but the application changes every couple of weeks. Some officials don’t even know the latest rules, as seen by the mistakes they made; such as Brighton scoring against Liverpool last season with a player in the Reds’ wall (outlawed at the start of the season) or David Coote not knowing that you can send someone off for serious foul play/violent conduct even after the offside (that he had just invented) had been given.

Coote’s mistake meant that Everton didn’t have to take off an outfield player (likely Richarlison) to send on a sub keeper, with just 10 minutes gone. It also meant that violent conduct was condoned, and allowed Richarlison to violently and deliberately place his studs into Thiago’s knee. Coote essentially caused the injury to Thiago by not doing his job of protecting the players.

I pay good money to Sky and BT to watch Liverpool, but I want to see Thiago, and players like him. Why can’t I? Because of officiating disasters. Thiago’s career could be on the line, if his knee doesn’t heal, just as Virgil van Dijk has a less than 100% chance of returning to normal, and that won’t be before next season. Both are 29. We are being robbed of their prime, and the chances of Liverpool retraining the league title are lessened. Why? Because of officiating disasters. And that was just one game.

And if that was a penalty in the last minute today, for the slightest of touches by Robertson on Danny Welbeck as both tried to kick the ball (and both missed), then let’s see the VAR jump in when Mo Salah and Sadio Mané are tripped in the box, or grabbed around the neck, week after week. How much contact is allowed? Is it allowed around the neck? Is it allowed around the neck, with both hands, gripping tightly, if you’re England International Harry Maguire? Yes, it is.

If you’re England International Harry Kane, and you jump into an opponent outside the box, can you win a penalty? (The answer is: yes, yes you can.)

Why did we at TTT gather video of two and three players wrestling Virgil van Dijk to the ground at several corners last season, which the VAR ignored? It’s cognitive dissonance to just pretend you haven’t seen what you’ve just seen. I have my biases and I get stuff wrong too, but I’m not earning a fortune to make big decisions. When is WWE wrestling allowed in the box? Why do some officials spot it and others ignore it? Why have refs in all but one incident agreed that the VAR was right? Surely there should be more dissent than that?

Even when Salah was scythed down in the box away at Aston Villa this season, when the score was 1-0, the commentary team that included Jamie Carragher said “VAR has ruled no foul” or words to that effect with seconds as Villa broke out of their own box, only for Sky to show replays of a clear foul on Salah; Carragher, then seeing the replays, able to discern, like everyone else, that it was a clear penalty. Hang on, I thought we were now analysing these incidents?

[Edit: just to add, it occurred to me whilst debating the article with subscribers that in this instance the VAR intervened to give a “soft” penalty. Now, a soft penalty is usually still technically a penalty, but several get waved away every game, for various reasons, often because there’s not enough contact to constitute a foul. Yet, if it’s a soft penalty it can’t really be “a clear and obvious error”, but usually just a judgement call by the referee that, once given, is hard to overturn, as it’s soft, but it exists. However, for VAR to give one is just bizarre. How often do you get soft penalties by VAR? Have I just been missing loads of them? Why would you intervene for soft penalties? As I say elsewhere in this piece, I’m happy for them to be given if they are all given, but they are not; and some serious, clear and dangerous fouls are not given as penalties by the referee or VAR. That means we now have powerful, all-seeing tools and still reach bad decisions, which is harder to accept than a referee simply not seeing something, because he’s human, and may have been unsighted. If VAR can see soft penalties with minimal contact that’s not clear to the human eye, then there’s no excuse to miss the obvious ones – yet they still miss them.]

The decision to analyse or ignore is therefore just as prone to biases, laziness, cognitive dissonance, cronyism or any of the things that make referees so fallible to start with. There is no right to appeal, unlike other sports. You have to hope the VAR was paying attention.

Why was that okayed within a heartbeat, before the video could be properly viewed? It reminded me of those old court trials for murder: the trial, in 1907, lasted 43 minutes, and the jury reached its decision in 10 seconds. Seems just.

There is some kind of implicit bias at work in how referees choose to see the footage. They can ignore assaults one week and see the slightest of touches the next. It often seems to hinge on who is involved; an England international almost always has a free pass.

We also know that David Coote forgot to even view the assault on Virgil van Dijk due to forgetting the rules, in a game that continues to leave Liverpool without two players shortlisted for the best player in the world due to serious foul play damaging their fucked-up knees; but then we get about three different explanations from the Premier League afterwards, as they make stuff up to cover their tracks.

That’s the most galling thing, how they change their explanations like guilty criminals giving a fifth account of what really happened. They give us a load of old flannel, to fit a narrative, not the facts.

It was then said that Coote had indeed seen the incident and deemed it not worthy of a red card, and as ever, an England international or ex-international gets away with something few others would. No ban, as the VAR saw the flying two-footed assault, and … well, who knows? Welbeck got that decision today, but no way Mo Salah would via VAR. Instead, he’d be questioned for going over too easily. (Michael Owen brought that up again, yet he dived far more for Liverpool than Salah ever has.)

I wouldn’t be at all sad if all England’s players end the season too tired or injured to turn up to the Euros, and if the 14 clubs who effectively blackmail the rest of the game (stifling the Big Six and denying fairness to the 72 clubs below them, as they keep the financial gulf too large in order to fill their own pockets) continue to ruin our game with god-awful managers like David Moyes, Steve Bruce and Roy Hodgson, who, in 2020, can only spoil matches anyway, with dogshit football, and who couldn’t win trophies at major clubs even if/when given bigger budgets. Several have tried, and failed.

(At least some younger English coaches are getting their chances, and some of them seem to have more about them than just ruining football, and Graham Potter seems to be one of the better ones.)

If Klopp was English his team would get far more penalties and his players might get more protection; but he’s not English, as most English managers are rubbish, and couldn’t do even a tenth of what he has done in the game. When they get the big jobs they screw up, time and again, only for their drinking mates in the media to cry “foul play!”.

Liverpool also got lumped with the blame for Project Big Picture, but it was an Englishman at the FA and an Englishman in charge of the Football League who conspired to plot it; yet two American owners got blamed, as it’s always easiest that way. Little criticism was made of Greg Clarke, and then he got sacked for some unpleasant things he said, rather than being a deceitful gobshite who tried to shift the blame of the whole revamping idea. Only David Conn of The Guardian seemed to call him out over his duplicity with PBP.

Since then, Liverpool have had an insane number of bad calls go against them, and we continue to have 14 clubs – half of whom offer nothing to the top flight except big, talentless bodies clogging up the pitches – continue to have all the voting power.

Strange decision after strange decision follows, as 14 clubs – essentially “the Premier League” – protect what they have and try to deny the other 78, even though most of these clubs are instantly interchangeable with half the Championship. They made it to the top flight on merit (although some broke Championship FFP rules) but it’s almost like gerrymandering how they get to stay there.

Which isn’t to say Project Big Picture was fair or just; but overall, it was more fair and just than the 14 largely mediocre clubs protecting the crapness of the lower reaches of the Premier League, as they fight to stay up and sod the rest.

(Again, not all of the 14 are like this, but some of them were happy to expunge last season from the records after 29 games were played, despite playing in state-funded stadia as they reclined within their gold-plated suntanning beds, the fucking awful gobshites.)

If it wasn’t my job to write about football, and keep this site afloat, and sell a few books along the way, I’d be done with football for this season.

Maybe Klopp is another reason to stay, as he cares, he’s smart, he’s passionate, he’s considerate, and he wins big, big fucking trophies. The biggest. Time and again. Not League Cups – league titles, Champions Leagues. If Covid was combined with Roy Hodgson then I think I’d take up watching professional knitting.

It’s horrible with no fans, and that’s not really anyone’s fault within the game; shit happens, and Covid-19 is crap for us all. But the TV companies are actually getting to show more games, and were having bigger audiences the last I heard, but also took money back from the clubs.

The TV companies then tried to pull a fast one with the pay-per-view – and then no one wanted to watch Burnley or whoever play whatever alehouse dogshit nonsense for £15 a pop. Who knew!? Some of us would pay that much to watch a proper match, between two good teams, but not to endure that nonsense. Then they tried to blame the clubs. But hang on, aren’t the clubs essentially the block of 14 with all the voting and veto rights?

Several weeks ago Klopp stood up for Ole Gunnar-Solskjær and Manchester United, to say that the timings for the early games were daft and dangerous to players; yet BT Sports continue to pit Champions League clubs playing on Wednesday nights against teams away in the league just over two days later.

We are already paying good money to watch the matches on TV and as Liverpool fans, despite world-class fitness specialists, we’re getting to watch reserves, due to all the unavoidable injuries. Throw in the terrible officiating and the empty stadia, and at least try not to make a mockery of the action that does take place. Liverpool play Ajax on Tuesday, then have two more games within a week, one halfway across Europe. It’s a ceaseless treadmill that’s wearing everyone down.

Whoever Klopp selects he’ll get slaughtered; and the TV companies and media toadies will tear him apart for not winning a game, when he has so many injuries that players who were not even registered with the first team are being drafted in, and when some, like James Milner and Joel Matip, cannot play three games in a week; had Matip started today he’d probably be alongside Milner – asked to do too much – in the ever-expanding new rehab centre. The alternative was to ask a teenager to risk his developing body for yet another start, or someone coming back from an injury sustained with the fucking England team.

Meanwhile, England and the FA take the players whose wages we fund (as the club fans pay their wages, and fund that through TV subscription mainly), to play three games in a week, and hand them back on stretchers. Yay!

I don’t want special treatment for Liverpool, just some of the kind of competence Klopp shows, Michael Edwards shows, those running the club show.

Everything about the club is world-class, and they step onto the pitch to have their actions adjudicated by people who – and get this! – when deemed to have an incompetent game are then briefly demoted and brought back to do the same job involving the same team! You couldn’t make this shit up.

“Sorry, other clubs won’t get to have Coote for a week or two, as he serves his punishment for doing some/several things horribly and ruining the result and causing injuries, but we’ll bring him back to VAR you again”.

And the people who run the game are themselves fucking amateurs and chancers, who must bow the Little 14. (Almost sounds like a Depeche Mode song, that.)

I don’t want to be all elitist and entitled about Liverpool, but it seems that the club has found the smartest, most emotionally intelligent people and players, and the league is being run and officiated by a group of toadies, incompetents and wide-boys. We get to have all the sensible decisions made by WFH and DFM! (West Fucking Ham and David Fucking Moyes)

And all the planning, the hard work, is distilled into whether or not someone who is not very good at their job makes a call that suits you or harms you.

I can accept human error. But the handball law seems to change by the week, and is, along with the offside law, interpreted differently from match to match. Apart from the schedule and the injuries, I have no problem when Liverpool play badly and drop points, as it’s rare, and they are not perfect; they were crap in midweek, but it’s been an insane run of fixtures. The players have to make decisions that aren’t based on 12 camera angles. They have milliseconds to decide. They aren’t in plush VT suites in London.

The types of incidents VAR reviews is utterly arbitrary, based on who rolls around and screams, according to Danny Welbeck. If these decisions were merely cosmetic, that would be one thing; but they keep deciding games. And the games themselves are being ruined by injury after injury; there were as many injuries and incidents in the first half yet just two minutes were added, then suddenly five were added to the end of the second. The refs just make it up. I’ll add two minutes, despite six minutes of stoppages; maybe mindful of the TV companies getting all of their ad-breaks.

Liverpool started the game with their 11th centre-back pairing of the season and ended it with about the 5th or 6th right-back of the campaign.

As Klopp says, this is a Covid season, and special rules should apply – it’s shorter, there are more games crammed in, more often meaningless and uninteresting internationals crammed in, more illness as well as injuries, and there was no proper preseason. The TV companies keep telling Klopp that the clubs signed a contract; but the TV companies were happy to renege on their promised payments last season. If I were so inclined I’d ditch Sky and BT and look for streams instead. It’s what the smart people do.

Having an overbearing schedule when people’s careers are at stake shouldn’t be compared to people who work down a mine or frontline workers in the NHS, in order to say that it doesn’t really matter in the grand scheme of things; by that logic, just cancel the whole fucking shebang. Cancel your entire TV operations, as anything shown by Sky, BT and the BBC is not as important as people who go down the mines or those on the medical frontlines.

This is the same week that Peter Shilton came out as horribly bitter over the death of a remarkable player who far transcended his own limited ability (he was a goalkeeper, for fuck’s sake), and called him a cheat, when Gary Lineker was happy to go down easily twice against Cameroon in the following World Cup, in which Shilton was a waddling old embarrassment in the nets. No one brings up how we cheated the poor Cameroonians. No one went on about how Michael Owen threw himself to the ground in the Argentina box in 1998; yet these Brits continue to call the foreigners cheats. It is up to the officials to spot handballs, and dives, after all.

And we still have to accept the players we fund going off to play in three internationals in a week, including heading overseas for a god-damned friendlies, at a time when there’s a global pandemic killing millions. We pay the big TV subscription money, and money is tight right now. But Gary Lineker can lecture us on how there’s no need for player welfare, when he stopped playing because he had a sore toe, and famously once shat himself during a match? (Needless cheap dig, I admit. In fairness, he did play on, once he’d smelt it, just to make sure. We’ve all been there.)

I don’t really support Liverpool hopping off to a European Super League, but any big club would be nuts to not do do if given the chance to join something much bigger and better arose, as the game moves forward – just as it always has; after all, the Premier League itself was formed as a breakaway, lest we forget. England was too superior to even enter World Cups and European Cups early on. All leagues were breakaways at some point.

I don’t know if the refs are better on the continent, but the tournament organisers seem to think so, and the VAR implementation seems more sensible; there are few fewer daft decisions in Germany, it seems. They might even plan it so that teams can be at their best, to see great football, and not tired and decimated squads trying to just get through 90 minutes without being stretchered off (most can’t). But I’d take it, if it meant exciting German teams and fast-passing Spanish teams.

Anything to not have to watch Brit-dinosaur-managed Burnley, Newcastle, Crystal Palace and Sheffield United play a load of attritional turgid turd-ball to try and finish 17th. (Because, guess what? – few people want to watch that. It fucking sucks.)

I’m clearly ranting (I like to stretch my rant-muscles every now and then, albeit not every three days; not least as I occasionally do a Lineker if I get too excited). It’s partially tongue in cheek, of course, and not to be taken too seriously; but rooted in genuine frustration and disillusionment all the same. I want to learn to stop hating the officials, and start to love referees and their ilk, but as soon as I resolve to do so they make me lose all faith in even their basic abilities. We are stuck with them, and we need them; but can we have some better ones please?

And, fingers crossed, Burnley and Sheffield United go down this season, and football-playing lower-budget clubs like Norwich and Bournemouth, who prioritise “proper” football, can replace them.

And while I don’t think we can be picky about how any team chooses to play and phrases like “proper” football (I am not judging those teams because they play shite football), we can be choosy about what we pay to watch – and if it involves Brit Dinosaurs, and no Liverpool, I can take my hefty Sky and BT tariffs and do without it. If you want me to watch it, and continue to charge fortunes, then I choose to watch “proper” football. Okay?

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