You’ve probably heard the news over the last couple of days about Kevin Friend being replaced as referee for the upcoming Spurs v Stoke game because he’s been to watch Leicester games as a fan in the past.
Does that mean that the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) should bow to fan pressure because of such things? It seems they may have made a rod for their own backs.
A social media campaign by Spurs fans saw Friend replaced for the game against Stoke with the PGMOL caving in and replacing him. It seems that he’s actually a Bristol City fan but because he has been to watch Leicester in the past he’s suddenly likely to not be impartial.
Perhaps if he was 12 years old he might not be impartial but I think this is going a step too far and sets a dangerous precedent by the PGMOL.
Retired referee Mark Halsey thinks so too and made a point on Thursday about Michael Oliver who officiated in the Crystal Palace v Norwich game last weekend. With the score at 0-0, Oliver waved away a stone wall penalty when Damien Delaney brought down Matt Jarvis in the Palace penalty area.
I hadn’t thought anything of it other than a referee has to be sure and you get some and then you don’t, generally it works it’s self out over a season, so goes the saying.
Halsey suggested on TalkSport though that Oliver might not have given that penalty because he is a ‘massive Newcastle fan.’
That made me sit up and take notice. Really?
Speaking on the Alan Brazil Sports Breakfast, Halsey explained: “Every referee has to declare who they support, and I was surprised by the PGMOL anyway for putting themselves in that position knowing that Kevin (Friend) lives in Leicester.
“But then again, we`ve got Anthony Taylor, who lives less than two miles from Old Trafford, and he`s refereeing Manchester United v Aston Villa on Saturday. So what`s the difference?
“He lives two minutes from Man United, yet he still referees them.
“Then you`ve got Michael Oliver, a massive Newcastle United fan, who referees Crystal Palace v Norwich.
“Listen, I`m not questioning Michael`s integrity because he is a great referee, but Norwich had a clear penalty with [Damien] Delaney bringing down [Matt] Jarvis, so what`s the difference?
“Why do they [the PGMOL] set themselves up for this?”
Just to be clear, I’m not questioning Oliver’s integrity either but I bet there are plenty of City fans who might.
The PGMOL have made themselves look a right bunch of Charlies by replacing Friend. They should be aware of these sort of issues on a week by week basis and particularly at this point in the season – he should never have been appointed for that game in the first place because now it looks like he (and referees in general) can’t be trusted to be professional. The fact Michael Oliver is a ‘massive Necastle fan’ just adds fuel to the conspiracy theorists fires.
If they had not appointed Friend then no-one would have noticed and it wouldn’t have been raised by Spurs fans with nothing better to do than blame someone else as to why they are just about clinging to Leicester’s coat tails and not winning the title at a gallop.
The same goes for Oliver officiating last week’s Norwich game – it all leaves an unsavoury taste in one’s mouth.