Premier League: December 2019

Premier League: December 2019

Happy New Year to all you football fans! With the Christmas and New Year period, December is always a busy time in the Premier League as we had 6 rounds of matches (or 7 in the case of teams who played on Sunday in Round 14). Losses to Manchester City and Liverpool over the space of a week all-but ended Leicester’s title chances and it now looks like Liverpool’s first Premier League title is as good as won, barring a monumental slip up.

December saw 3 managers given their P45s, with Manuel Pellegrini, Marco Silva and Quique Sanchez Florez being replaced by David Moyes, Carlo Ancelotti and Nigel Pearson respectively.


Premier League Round-up


The ugly side of the beautiful game

Football may be the beautiful game, but far too often it is being overshadowed by the acts of the so-called fans watching the game.

When we hear of the racism that is rife in the Italian leagues or incidents like the racism from the Bulgarian crowd directed at England players, we decry it… and yet December’s Manchester City v Manchester United and Tottenham v Chelsea matches made it very clear that it is an issue here as well! In the Manchester derby, the abuse of Fred from Manchester City fans was obvious, with footage clearly showing a fan making monkey chants and gestures, while objects were also thrown at him. Then in London just a few weeks later, Antonio Rüdiger reported hearing racist chants towards him in the crowd, which seemed to stem from an incident with Son Heung-min.

In both cases, the home clubs came out with public statements saying the right thing, but this means nothing if we’re being honest. You just need to watch the footage of the City v Liverpool game and a number of the culprits are there clear as day standing right in front of the stewards… who do nothing.

The thing is though, why should we stop at racism. Why should any player be getting abused by rival fans, regardless of his race/religion. The behaviour of so many fans is disgusting. Banter and some fun chants is one thing, but the vitriolic hatred that we see fans spewing towards players every game really puts me off my enjoyment of the game and makes me never want to go to a live match, whereas at a rugby game I feel safe and feel like I could still have a great time even if i was the only Gloucester fan who turned up to the Rec.

Football needs to take a no-nonsense attitude towards abuse of any kind, or we can say goodbye to the beautiful game.

Some fine tuning needed

Shock! We’re moaning about VAR again. It’s understandable, as it’s impossible to go a weekend without some VAR controversy at the moment. This month, we have had a spate of goals disallowed for the most marginal of offsides, often so narrow that I’m still struggling to tell if the attacker is onside or not when I look at the graphics.

A couple of times this month we heard chants along the lines of “It’s not football anymore” and to be honest, I think you’re a moron if you think that football is better without VAR. We want to make sure that the games are not ruined by the wrong refereeing call, we just need to get to the point that VAR is being used right, as it we see in rugby, cricket, tennis… all these other sports that have had it for years that the Premier League could and should have learned from when they decided to implement it.

The way I see it, there are 2 words that would massively improve the use of VAR: clear and obvious. In rugby, a referee has to make the call of try/no try and it is then the job of the TMO to review and see if there is any clear and obvious reason to overturn the on-field decision. Meanwhile, cricket has Umpire’s Call when checking LBW on reviews – an area where regardless of whether the umpire has called Out or Not Out, the decision will stand as it is too close to accurately call whether the original call is correct or not.

Imagine if football brought this in for offsides. The official awards the goal but checks VAR, which has a graphic with 1 line/vertical plane marking the offside point. If we can clearly see a part of the attacker beyond that mark, then the goal is chalked off. If it is clear that the attacker is behind the mark, or if it is unclear without zooming in until the screen is about 10 pixels, then the on-pitch call stands. Likewise, if the offside is called but the review clearly shows that the player was onside, it is overruled, but if not clear then the call stands. Technology is not good enough for us to pause the image at the exact moment the ball is played away, and it is certainly not good enough for us to get close in on an image without the pixel quality making it unclear. Making a margin for error may lead to some calls that were technically wrong, but it will still bring an end to the bad missed that lead to people complaining about the work of the officials.

With VAR being given an easier job there, though, I would also extend its use elsewhere to correcting any clear and obvious mistakes, such as in Everton’s 1-2 win over Newcastle, where Everton’s opener came from a corner that replays clearly showed should have been a goal kick after Moise Kean headed over. With the number of cameras at these games, there should be enough time for VAR to notice a clear and obvious mistake of this kind before play continues.

Hopefully we see some improvement soon.

Where is everyone?

Earlier this month, I saw a story on BBC Sport that I couldn’t help have a quick chuckle at. Newcastle were offering their season ticket holders a free additional half-season ticket in a bid to help fill St James’ Park.

Now I have respect for Newcastle and its fans, so it has been horrible watching the decline of such a great club with Mike Ashley at the helm. The Newcastle fans would come to support their team regardless of results, but they are sick and tired of Ashley’s reign and the way that he has turned such a proud club into a business. The only way they can get their point across is by not turning up to matches and denying the club ticket revenue.

So, Mike Ashley, kindly get out and let this club get back to where it should be.

feat football prem league logo pink

Kick it Out!

I’m sure that I’m not the only person who has spent time this week reading the stories of Pescara midfielder Sulley Muntari’s suspension for walking off the pitch last weekend after receiving racist abuse from a group of Cagliari fans. The Ghanaian international was initially booked for dissent after complaining to the referee about the abuse, but when nothing was done to stop the abuse he walked off the pitch in protest, for which he received a second yellow card and a subsequent one-game ban. Thankfully after a number of calls for players to strike, the Italian Football Federation have overturned the ban, however this is still another ugly blotch on the record of European football.

Racism as a whole is ugly and unnecessary. There is no excuse for it in 2017. For people (and I hesitate to use that word to describe such disgusting pigs) to behave this way at a sports event where children are certain to be present – not to mention possibly watching at home on television – should be unforgivable! And yet the Federation stated that they cannot act against Cagliari as fewer than 1% of their fans at the game were involved. The only thing I have seen from Cagliari is a comment that their fans as a whole are not racist, no suggestion that the incident will be investigated and the guilty parties punished. In my eyes, this reaction is absolutely disgusting!

This is by no means an isolated incident of racism in football:

  • December 2012 – Fans of Zenit Saint Petersburg published a manifesto demanding that the club exclude all non-white and homosexual players from the club’s roster
  • January 2013 – Kevin Prince-Boateng and his Milan teammates walked off the pitch midway through a friendly against Pro Patria after racist abuse from the lower-league team’s fans
  • April 2014 – Possibly the most well-known of the incidents on this list, Barcelona’s Dani Alves had a banana thrown at him mid-game by Villarreal fans. The Brazilian picked it up, peeled it and took a bite from it
  • May 2014 – Bananas were thrown at Milan players Kévin Constant and Nigel de Jong by Atlanta fans
  • September 2014 – Dynamo Moscow’s Christopher Samba was racially abused by fans during a local derby against Torpedo Moscow. Torpedo were punished, however Samba was also banned for two games for swearing at the racist fans.
  • 2015 – Benfica’s Renato Sanches was subjected to monkey chants from Rio Ave fans as he left the pitch
  • February 2015 – Chelsea fans were filmed pushing a black passenger off a Metro carriage in Paris ahead of a Champions League game against PSG. They were heard to be chanting “We’re racist, we’re racist, and that’s the way we like it!”

This is by no means a comprehensive list of the racist incidents in European football over the last 5 years, a quick trawl of the internet will find you plenty of other examples.

Though rugby is by no means perfect, one of the things I am really proud of in my sport is how inclusive and respectful the fans are as a whole, there is plenty of banter between fans and players, but everyone generally knows where the line is and avoids crossing it. Unfortunately that line appears to be crossed far too often in football. I am sure that the people involved are just a small minority of football ‘fans’ but they unfortunately make such a spectacle, many innocent fans are tarnished with the same brush.

I look forward to the day when people are able to play the game they love without having to worry about the way they are treated by other players and fans. If footballers are still getting abused for the colour of their skin, why would any player want to reveal their sexuality?

Hopefully big steps will taken by all the authorities and governing bodies to make sure that any abuse if properly dealt with. We want to be discussing the actions of the players on the field, not the pigs in the stands!

 

What are your thoughts on the Sulley Muntari situation? Have you witnessed other fans doing/saying anything that made you ashamed to be part of the same group? Or have you yourself been abused while playing? Comment on here or feel free to tweet me @PS_tetheridge