Officially, unofficially silly, aka “Let’s all stop watching now”

Another matchday, another refereeing scandal. It’s gotten to the point where even rational people are flipping out about it, either in defense or in accusatory howls. And as usual with situations such as this, I do and don’t know what to think, so let’s start with what I know I think:

There is no refereeing conspiracy. If you believe that there is, you should stop watching La Liga matches, including ours, because you already know how it’s all going to go, and how the league is going to go.

Have there been refereeing decisions that have helped both big clubs? Yes. Would the league table be different if the refereeing in La Liga was perfect? Yes. Note that this is entirely different from the “Ahhhh, HA!” stuff that entities such as Sport offer up. For me, even based on the matches that I have seen that do not involve the big clubs, the table would be different if the reffing was perfect.

But it ain’t. And it ain’t nevah gonna be, not in the Liga or in any other league, for the simple reason that there is no professional refereeing corps (but more on that later). In today’s EE match vs Betis, a “clear” Sergio Ramos handball in the last minute of injury time, with Betis pressing for a goal, was missed by an official. But look at the video, and ask yourself how “clear” it actually is.

Cules will say “handball and penalty.” EE supporters will say “hit the thigh then maybe the hand.” And there you have it. For me, the point is that such blather has reached the point of absurdity. I have watched that video 6 times, and it is impossible for me to ajudge whether it is a clear, penalty-warranting handball. And that is from every angle, with slo-mo. I still can’t tell.

Now ask yourself in real time, with everything going on in the box, off a shot struck with the velocity of that one, whether any human being can be expected to make the “right” call. Further, what is the right call, and does opponent, match and chronology affect the right call? That is, we often hear that “the official is never going to make that call at x or y point in the match.” Recall the Clasic where Pre-Diarra (Mahmadou, rather than Lassana) bowled over Ronaldinho in the box, late in the match. It wasn’t one of those shoulder-to-shoulder things, where Prem devotees say “This is a man’s game!” No. Diarra simply banked on the moment, and said “You will go no farther.” He was right. The ref didn’t make the call, and the match ended in a 3-3 draw.

Here’s something else that I know: There have been calls that have benefited both big clubs in La Liga, and the most aggrieved parties should be the “other” Liga clubs, because they are the real victims. But they say things or not, and nobody hears them either way, because they’re the little guys. Sour grapes. Couldn’t compete, so they blame the officiating. The real story is how the official’s mistake helped one of the Big Two, because those two teams are the only story in La Liga.

This, of course, is wrong on so many levels. Players, no matter the team, have the right to step onto the pitch and expect a fair, well-officiated match. The fact that Liga officials suck shouldn’t be greeted with shoulder shrugs, for the simple reason that the other victims in this refereeing hoopla are fans, and the Liga itself.

How can anyone take a league seriously, when it is run like an intramural competition in which two teams scrimmage with the other clubs for the big prize? Further, how can any league be taken seriously when week after week, referee incompetence, errors and/or alleged bias becomes the big match story, rather than the match itself.

A few things are happening this season, that make the story much more acute. The rest of the Liga is getting tired of being kicked around. So rather than a penalty shout with us being up 4-0, or them being up 4-0, and the players smile and the fans say “Oh, well,” scorelines are 2-1 or 1-1. It’s at that time that mistakes become Serious, and affect things in a way that cause people to say, “Ahhhh, HA!”

But humans are humans, and they will always be humans. Yet there are solutions.

1. Stop watching if you think it’s all a fix. What’s the point?

2. Create a professional officiating crew, where that is all that they do.

At present, Liga officials have other jobs in their real lives. In addition to those jobs, they make 18,000 Euros per month officiating Liga matches. Iturralde Gonzalez, for example, is an orthodontist. But to show that the Liga is serious about its officiating, create a real, full-time crew of officials. Train them, review them, sanction them for errors, apply standards whereby the best refs get the most money and the most work, as you would with any workforce.

3. If everybody else thinks their officials suck, let’s use officials from other leagues.

So Premiership officials do Liga matches, Liga refs take Bundesliga matches, and so on. This frees officials from domestic influences and that fear of seeing themselves in their hometown newspaper on Monday, wearing Photoshopped jackass ears.

4. Change the system.

At present, the Big Two have too much influence over everything in La Liga. If the league wants to have the cup final at whatever stadium, it should be able to say “The league cup finals will be here.” Going to a team as a supplicant, and being rejected, is stupid. So is someone such as Alfons Godall being able to say, in effect, had we continued to make nice with RFEF, we wouldn’t be having the officiating complexities that we are. That should be an impossible statement to make. That it isn’t is a serious problem. Even more serious is the schism that makes people say “See? Villarato is confirmed.” There shouldn’t even be a question of scandal.

Is Villar more worried about what the Big Two think, or what Sporting Gijon or Betis think about his officials? And what about the officials? 18k is a lot of money. If you have a good real-life job, that’s some serious walking-around coin. That might buy a boat, house rehabs or a lovely vacation. At your core, how difficult would that make it, knowing that either of the Big Two can make your life hell?

In another rabble-rousing assertion, I don’t believe that any cule has the right to grouse about the refs. For the past three seasons, people have made the exact same claims about us, that we were being helped by the refs in all competitions. There’s even an absurd blog post that alleges Tom Ovrebo changed the destiny of Chelsea with his officiating in the fateful Champions League match. Wow. That’s heavy.

But when people have said that, and we were on the winning end, we’ve said “The refs are fair, and do the best that they can. Sorry you feel hard done by, but hey, that’s life.” Because it is. Even when the shoe is on the other foot. For the record, refereeing is a hard job. If calls are difficult to make in slo-mo, imagine how they must be in real time, at full speed. And those are human beings making those calls.

If anyone has watched biathlon competitions, you’ll know what I am talking about when I say that another thing affecting ref decisions might be the intensity of the match. A biathlete has to ski as fast as they can to a set of targets, get it together, then shoot those targets out from distance. As a little trick, go outside and find a sign or something with words on it. Stand there and read it. Now run 50 meters as fast as you can, then go back and read the same sign. Maybe your eyes are watering. Maybe the vision is a bit blurry. Maybe.

Maybe a Liga official who has had to run the length of the pitch isn’t quite as together as he should be. Note sometimes how many screwed up offside calls come from officials who are following the play, or getting back into position. Does the fact that it’s a tough job excuse errors? Absolutely not. But we should never forget that these are human beings who are not doing their full-time jobs.

Would making a full-time, professional officiating crew fix that? Possibly. Because you also have the influence of the Big Two and their press entities causing stress in officials’ lives in other ways. And this doesn’t even get into the power to influence elections and who holds a key job such as head of Liga officiating.

La Liga has a problem, and the perception of the officials is just one aspect of it, even as that aspect sprouts tentacles that reach into other parts of La Liga and its overall perception. We often chafe at the notion that La Liga is like the SPL, but it’s easy to see how an outsider can feel that way. The Big Two run everything, win everything, boss everything. It’s easy to see how an official can cavil at making a call that might affect one of those entities. What helps the quality of the officiating in the Prem is that there’s Arsenal, Chelsea, United, Liverpool, Manchester City as 5 big, giant clubs, rather than two. Stalwarts such as Spurs and Everton are also up there.

Contrast that with Sevilla, and Jose Del Nido’s Quixotic tilts about TV revenue, and how nobody really cares because the Big Two are going to do what they want, and that’s that.

Or none of this might be true, and Liga officials might just suck. No influence, no other factors beyond their deep-lying suck. And that’s still a problem, because suck always manifests itself at the wrong times.

I wonder what cules would be saying if we were the ones up 10 points, and had people saying that the only reason we are is because of officiating. That’s what I always think about when I think about officiating, and making accusations that the fix is in. Because the fix isn’t in. Human beings are screwing up, either from fear, incompetence or a cocktail that mixes the two.

What’s clear is that this problem needs a solution. Now. Thoughts?

By Kxevin

In my fantasy life, I’m a Barca-crazed contributor over at Barcelona Football Blog. In my real life, I’m a full-time journalist at the Chicago Tribune, based in Chicago, Illinois.


  1. I really like the professional referee-ing idea. I don’t know too much about the referees.

    It sounds like such a horrible job! You make zero mistakes and people are maybe a little happy, but you screw up and… geez

  2. I gave up on the liga weeks ago when Barca got denied penalties, clear ones at that and when EE got penalties, one of which was outside the box. Sure, there is a conspiracy, that includes Messi’s 5 cards as well. Barca haven’t helped themselves either by playing poorly away from home but, that doesn’t take away the fact that the refs have screwed us more than they have EE. RM have been playing better but, not good enough to be 10 pts ahead considering the penalties against them and the red cards not called.

    All i say is, regroup and try next year as Pep has already started, if anyone heard his press conference today. FRom what i read, it seems he’s gonna start doing whats right for the club and also protest, coz if Mou can do it so can we because staying quiet hasn’t particullarily helped us. As for the liga, i’m gonna watch the rest of Barca liga matches simply for the love of my team and the game. Visca Barca.

  3. I agree with creating an professional officiating body; I also agree that the RFEF should take greater measures to ensure it stays neutral. I wouldn’t say there should be a blanket ban on any and all comments coming from players and coaches towards the referees, but I do think there should be stricter punishment given to ensure that refs are not influenced.

    The RFEF also needs to start handing out post game punishments even if they weren’t in the ref’s reports. As you say, refs are humans and can miss things (Pepe’s stomp on Messi comes to mind). There needs to be a safety net to ensure thugs don’t get away with their thuggery.

    What’s upsetting though is that around the internet, there’s only two extreme camps. One camp believes that there is nothing weird whatsoever going on, and the other is on full conspiracy mode. There is a viable middle ground here, and that is that there is a statistically significant number of decisions favouring Madrid, both on and off the pitch. This doesn’t mean there’s a conspiracy. I think this is the effect of Mourinho’s handling of the refs last year. I wrote a long comment about it that went largely ignored, but the gist of it is that it was obvious Mou was laying the groundwork for this season, and it has paid off in spades. Mou’s tactic last season was basically that refs can only call so many yellow cards in a big game, so he will push the system until it wilts. At which point he will bitch incessantly about the call, regardless of its legitimacy. This way his players can get away with being a thug on the field and ensure that next game, even fewer infringements are punished. It’s disgusting, but that’s part of his tactics. I think this is largely the reason we are where we are today — refs are afraid to give game-changing calls against Madrid in case they are branded biased.

    I don’t expect the RFEF to put its food down regarding this, not until we start kicking up a fuss. I do think Rossel should have said something regarding the obvious non-calls for Barca. I don’t like that Guardiola needs to come out and defend the image of the club; this is what the president is for.

    1. ^this.

      I don’t think there’s a conspiracy. I do think that refs are afraid to give calls against the big two in general against smaller teams due to their influence to start with of course, which other teams do complain about. And I think the hesitancy to give a call is much stronger with Madrid precisely because when there’s an opportunity where they’re not 100% sure they don’t wanna run the risk and it goes Madrid’s way as opposed to the others who either don’t complain as much or just can’t complain as loudly due to lack of powerful media presence and influence.

      Much like United getting ‘lucky’ what seems like a statistically much higher number of times than all the other sides. It’s partly due to their sheer resilience of course but also very much because of how Ferguson plays the refs- I don’t believe there’s a conspiracy around United, but even though (like Madrid this season, and Barca past three seasons) they have been so resilient and this along with quality means they can pull points out of nothing rather often, officials do also seem like more often than not if they’re not sure they lean towards United.

      They have jobs, if in doubt they’re gonna lean towards what might affect them in that refereeing job and their personal life less. Gijon or Mallorca making a fuss that is ignored in Marca, AS, EMD and Sport make it rough on the other twenty. Mourinho having baited all his hooks pushes the incentive even more towards that side. (Maybe they are in positions to be ‘in doubt’ so often cos they suck at refereeing in general as well, which seems the case).

      Conspiracy? Nope.

  4. It does appear that EE will win out the rest of their league games this season. As a huge Roja fan I’m a bit scared what’ll happen when these guys try the same crap at the Euros and actually get penalized though.

    1. They haven’t received a positive result against the last 4 decent teams they played (Italy, England, Portugal, and Argentina) so maybe he’s too calm!

    1. Please do not use such abusive language in a blog which caters to young children. Use * to censor curses like M*drid or use EE..

  5. I DON’T believe in conspiracies. And I would appreciate if people would stop assuming that everyone who’s complaining about ref decisions think there is a conspiracy. Its NOT about thinking there is a conspiracy..its what I have been seing from the start of the season where there have been a bunch (more than usual) of crap calls against us and a shitload of calls in favor of Madrid. Like someone said earlier its a matter of refs being afraid to take the necessary actions against EE in their games because of pressure from Mouninho and a combination of incompetence.

    I’m not gonna fool myself and say we deserve to be leading but I dont think we deserve to be 10 points behind EE either. Incompetence and scared refs are in part the reason for this gap.

    I’m really beginning to question whether the law of averages is real though..cause so far this season it just aint working out for us LOL!..*cries*

  6. Cules will say “handball and penalty.” EE supporters will say “hit the thigh then maybe the hand.” And there you have it. For me, the point is that such blather has reached the point of absurdity. I have watched that video 6 times, and it is impossible for me to ajudge whether it is a clear, penalty-warranting handball. And that is from every angle, with slo-mo. I still can’t tell.

    Look at the video. This is a shot, it hits him on the top of the thigh. It is absolutely impossible for a ball shot with such force to hits someone on the top of the thigh and come back, it will change its trajectory but will continue moving in roughly the same direction. So it 100% clear it hits the hand even if the ref didn’t see it clearly (which is no excuse – the linesman has a clear view from the other side and should have seen it).

    Also, the hip-to-hand excuse is not valid either – you don’t give a penalty for a handball if it was shot from 2 meters distance with force and there was no active movement towards the ball from the defenders. And even in such situations, it is only when the ball is crossed that penalties are not given – if it’s a shot going towards the goal, intentional or not, you block the shot with your hand so it’s a penalty. In this case Ramos both actively lunges forward to block the shot and he block a shot.

    Stone-cold penalty with absolutely no excuses for the refs.

    I said this before – there is no need for an actual conspiracy to exists, as in RFEF officials under Madrid influence directly telling referees to favor EE and hurt us. Much more subtler influences combined with a general feeling that we have won too much and have too dominant for too long is more than sufficient.

    The fact remains, though, there is a clear trend – just too many calls consistently called in favor of one team and against the other, and even you admit that the table would have been much different had things been called correctly. That’s all that matters.

    Also, in general, I don’t accept the argument that “The team should be able to win despite that”. No, it shouldn’t the team should be able to win following the rules of the game, not with two different sets of rules applying to it and to the rest. Rules exist in order to prevent defenders from stopping goal-bound shots with their hands, prevent defenders from stopping Messi by kicking him to the ground in the penalty area, to prevent team from kicking us all over the pitch, hurting our game and injuring us (people forget we dropped 5 points after that second cup game in which Iniesta and Alexis got injured, the latter after a blatant foul by Pepe IN THE BOX). And, finally, as Xavi said, there are rules for all kinds of silly things but no rules about the grass and we lost 5 points because of that too.

    The team has been good enough to win despite all of the above previous seasons, but this seasons a lot of other factors have combined to reduce its consistency. It is still the best team but the margin of error has been reduced and the referee decisions turned out to be crucial this time (and it wasn’t nearly as bad last year).

    1. “Cules will say “handball and penalty.” EE supporters will say “hit the thigh then maybe the hand.” And there you have it. For me, the point is that such blather has reached the point of absurdity. I have watched that video 6 times, and it is impossible for me to ajudge whether it is a clear, penalty-warranting handball. And that is from every angle, with slo-mo. I still can’t tell.”

      This should have been quoted…

  7. This only deepens my hatred of RM.

    I seem to recall a famous speech given by the always exemplary Mourinho about how he’d be embarrassed the way Barcelona have won their CL titles. Talk about hypocrisy, the pot calling the kettle black, etc.

    Real Betis was robbed after outplaying the dirty whites..thats the real scandal. We should all forget about intimidation tactics and men lacking balls to do what is right for a second and acknowledge the fact that a team who fought hard to come out of relegation and back into La Liga was robbed of at least a point by RM via their friend Sagues Oscoz (the ref of the second half). This is all wrong..where is the justice for those who have little to none influence in La Liga?

    1. Lol. Can Atletico Madrid not make the same speech about how they were robbed after working hard to challenge for the Champions League spot? Where is the justice for those who have little to none influence in La Liga?

    2. HA! You dont care about “justice for those who have little to none influence in La Liga” either as long as EE continues winning.

      And yes, Atletico Madrid can make a speech..

      In fact Rayo, Betis, the same Atletico youre concerned of, Mallorca, Valencia..countless others should make a speech after being hard-done by the reffing in their matches with EE.

      *roll eyes*

    3. As a matter of fact every team in La Liga can make that speech and then some. You see, most teams know the battle is lost BEFORE they’ve played against your team. Why fight when you know the ref is all but bought. Maybe that’s why they roll over so easily..who knows?

      It’s all a joke to those who are handed penalties on a silver platter.

    4. Because being awarded a penalty to RM directly means it’s undeserved? Come on now. I understand we’ve been helped by refs more so than Barca this season, but let’s not make every decision a controversial one.

      Plus my comment was based on the moral high you take. The fact that you are holding up arms because you feel so bad for Betis. B to the S! BS!

    5. Because ALMOST any call awarded in favor of RM is a questionable one post 2010/2011 season. You can be purposely oblivious to last seasons shenanigans, laugh it off and say that’s Mou being Mou but absolutely no one can deny that a single man entirely changed the way things work in la liga as far as refs are concerned.

      God forbid a culé has a heart and that they would sympathize with a team that got the short end of a stick. How dare I feel bad, shame on me. After all, as a Barcelona supporter I am automatically classified as a self-righteous, entitled, two faced type of fan…my mistake!

    6. Yes they can and they did..the ref tried his best to do them justice last week in Barca-Gijon.
      But I’m sure that Atletico-Barca game will be usefull to you every time a cule complains about a referee until the end of the season.

    7. I could care less what Barca do. If my team does the job, then by all means, may they reward many undeserved pk’s to Barca. Because at the end, if we win the next 9 games, it won’t matter what happens with Barcelona.

    8. You’re commentaries on twitter say otherwise.
      And I’m sure that after you win the league the refs will make sure that we get some bad calls to make us feel better.

  8. heh your points look like the ones barcastuff(reply) posted today.

    the ramos handball was obvious, as someone else stated, if you claim it isn’t you just seem like you’re trying to be unbiased.

    the fact that you didn’t even mention the more obvious Alonso handball leads me to believe that as well.

    also on those late no calls. they happen. seemingly against barca? that stated example, the Rivaldo disallowed goal, the Bojan disallowed goal, etc.

    1. To be fair, we have had our fair share of ref decisions going our way when they shouldn’t have – that disallowed Shevchenko in 2006, the Chelsea game (two of those were penalties, not all 4 of them, and Abidal was wrongly sent off, but the 2 penalties were penalties, have to admit it), the Van Persie sending off, etc. We if want to be objective, we have to admit that. I am deliberately using CL examples, because there is an equally long list of decisions going against us – the Milito offside, the Bojan goal, etc. Refs make mistakes, it’s human, in the end it mostly evens out.

      But this season there were only two games we were helped – the cup game with Valencia and the one with Atletico. All of that (and the cup game had no relevance for the league) against two dozens of scandalous decisions against us or in favor of EE. It has not been randomly distributed error at all and a number of those were just blatantly obvious…

    2. “heh your points look like the ones barcastuff(reply) posted today.

      the ramos handball was obvious, as someone else stated, if you claim it isn’t you just seem like you’re trying to be unbiased.

      the fact that you didn’t even mention the more obvious Alonso handball leads me to believe that as well.” <<<<<<- THIS all day long! There is no conspiracy but there is very bad refereeing and why we can't talk about it?

      Josep made very good point because you’re trying to be unbiased so much that for you any complaints about refereeing is saying that there is a conspiracy. Sorry, but it's simply not true.

  9. it is true that refs have generally sided with the big two. many times i felt sorry for these injustices, but this season has been different – the majority of major calls were usually against us.

    i agree, we cannot talk of conspiracy here, but maybe some wheels in the mechanism there are working for RM. some tacit influence, some gentlemen’s agreement that red cards, offside calls, penalty calls should, to an obvious degree, favor them.

    it is hard to believe that this is possible in a dyadic system of power. but, from a no. of hypothesis on what is happening in the ‘black box’ of refereeing – seems that this is better at predicting the different treatment. I have been watching our and theirs games week after week, simply put the sample has become too large to be ignored.

    I was thinking of a system where clubs could pick their own referees. i am sure referees get enough training as it is, the problem is not necessarily one of how qualified they are, but of designing a system that incentives them to make the correct decisions. maybe there should be a market based approach to this issue. as long as a club has a power to veto any referee team it will also end with all the conspiracy theory and so on. also, firms that will train and employ referees should be free to develop means to improve their job, like they can carry a stupid iphone and see a reply a decide on the margin calls. the incentive will be to deliver the best service to your clients.

  10. i dont believe in ref conspiracies,but never in my life(when i start watching la liga regularly,from 2003) i have seen so many decisions in so many different games going in favour of one team.there is luck and there is always luck.stating this fact doesn’t mean we are all ignorant and or going down to the level of mou.

    mou and real madrids constant bashing of referees worked tremendously well for seems to me the refs are afraid to give any decisive calls against them.great strategy by them.

    irrespective of the EE call,if the correct calls were made in our games then we would not behind 10 points.thats a fact,its not crying or whining.

    and before some smart madritista mentioning the ref calls on arsenal,chelsea and madrid cl games let me remind them that we r denied a legit goal and a penalty against the gunners,in the 1st leg against chelsea denied a penalty and a red of ballack,in the madrid pepe foul whether he touches or not was dangerous play worthy of a red card.

  11. The funniest part of all this is: Villar was voted president of the RFEF once again just a week or so ago. If the big two had such a big problem with reffing, or if even one of the big two had a problem, then I’m sure we would have seen a different outcome.

  12. YES there is no refereeing conspiracy & YES decisions do even themselves out eventually BUT come on! 9 times out of 10 that Ramos handball is a penalty. I don’t believe it’s a coincidence that EE are getting so many decisions in their favour this season after moanrinho has spent 12 months accusing referees of cheating, threatening them in car parks & generally bullying everyone into giving EE the title. He did the same in England & Italy it’s just his ‘method’…

  13. 1. Stop watching if you think it’s all a fix. What’s the point?

    thats to me is not an intelligent solution.its like cutting the head for headache.totally uncool and its a sort of way of letting people know that they are wrong,u r right.

    I wonder what cules would be saying if we were the ones up 10 points, and had people saying that the only reason we are is because of officiating.

    we were leading by 12 points at 08-09,and no,nobody told that we are leading cause of the refs.actually for the last 3 years all of the ref controversy involving barca happened in the cl,not in the liga.

    i agree with you on the ramos handball,just like i agree with you on the higuain handball,those are too difficult a call to make.

    we suck at playing football away and thats why refs are screwing us,cause we dont talk bout the refs.

  14. another ref post!
    Let me say one thing.. I don’t believe there is a conspiracy. We need to use the right words here.
    The dictionary defines it as an evil, unlawful, treacherous, or surreptitious plan formulated in secret by two or more persons; plot.

    Obviously the stuff happening in liga is so damn open and obvious, it ceases to be a conspiracy. We all know mou’s methods and he has won many a title away from the football pitch. Thats the thing that pisses me off the most. The copa del rey is a classic example.

    I have also said many times that things evening themselves out in the end is bullshit. The ref might think “ok i am gonna give motta a red card”. Then he realizes his mistake and tries to put his stamp on the game bby disallowing a perfectly legit goal by Bojan. Another title gone! Is this the way you want matches to be operated.

    The point you bring up about importing refs from other leagues, making it a full time focussed job is a great one and i sincerely hope the RFEF get their act together if they want to compete with the PL.
    In football, most of the time, the result is decided by very small details. Those details need to be decided by players, not by the refs.

  15. I’m not in the conspiracy camp and I’m trying not to let myself believe that refs are being swayed by RM’s moaning but it is getting harder. However, these latest examples are not in the same stonewall category such as the disallowed QPR goal yesterday. The second, at least, was for me a penalty because of the way Ramos moved both leg and arm together towards the ball. I came to this decision after seeing it three or four times from two different angles so you’ll see the point I’m about to make about a substitute ref, bound to be tired in injury time, having to make it in real time against RM.

    We really have to start making use of technology more. Why are we so different to other sports such as tennis, rugby or American football? I’d be happy for any goal incident or indeed any possible penalty decision to be reviewed. FIFA’s argument about disrupting the flow of the game and time needed to review is rubbish. On Sky last night we had watched it three times in HD inside a minute. Not a long time to get a decision right. Would it have been an easy or clear cut decision about Ramos? No but I’d be happier with someone having the chance to review it. The vast majority of penalty decisions could be resolved that way and it would put a warning show across the bows of divers. The argument about not being able to use it unless it is available at all grounds also doesn’t hold water for me. In tennis you don’t have Halkeye at all tournaments or all matches but you do have it at the big ones.

  16. I’m not thinking there’s a conspiracy, but I’m pretty convinced that there’s intimidation.

    And I’m sorry, but if you make what comes out to be around $24,000 per month, more than many make per year and you are not being held to professional standards, something is wrong. Reaally! They make close to a quarter million dollars over the course of a season. Performance reviews and dismissals if they suck, it’s that simple

    1. Ooops, I just remembered, I’m asking for oversight by those who can’t 1. schedule games more than 10 days in advance (a system that wreaks havoc on the average tourist’s attempt at trip planning) 2. has to beg clubs for final venues and 3. doesn’t have the …um…testicular fortitude to punish obvious thuggery.

  17. Conspiracy or not, it is clear that 50-50 or even 25-75 calls have gone in the favour of EE this season. Anyone who argues otherwise is not watching the games. Is it because of a conspiracy or not is not quite relevant to me, for I can’t answer that question.

    But the La Liga and its management has descended into an outright farce because of this unfairness in refereeing.

    That there is a duopoly in the Liga is incidental – a consequence of Spain’s footballing culture and historical national trajectory. But that cannot be an excuse for the utter incompetence in which its football is administratively run, even as there are so many visionaries in the country who are responsible for how it is being played on the pitch.

    One cannot make an excuse of “duopoly” for the incompetence. The reason for the incompetence is different – lack of professionalism in administration, the underside of politics and the tendency to please those in power. I think there is more to the coincidence of the PP coming to power resulting in the “shift of balance”. It is perhaps subconscious and not because of a conspiracy, but it is there.

    Having said all that, there is no truth to the fact it is only the refereeing and the calls that have kept EE where they are this season. They have genuinely been much better, more concentrated and very better as a team in the Liga this season and they deserve to lead.

    There is much truth to the logic that has been used by EE to supplant Barca this season – reliance on a big squad, and keep the focus on defeating every other opposition if not Barca and thus supplant them. It has worked to a T.

    The question is if all things stood fair and square, would Barca be 10 points behind. The answer is No. They might not be in the lead, but they will have been much much closer and this would have been a genuine race instead of the farce that it has descended into.

    On a unrelated note, just finished read Graham Hunter’s opus. It is brilliant – a terrific look at the reasons for the ascension to the greatest team in the world now and a very good appraisal of Pep and Mourinho. A must read.

  18. Judging from the latest press conferences, I feel the next Clasicos will be very dirty. Maybe worse than last year.
    If we face them in the semis of the CL, it’ll be 3 Clasicos within 6 or 8 days …

    I have already reached boiling point, by reading the latest remarks of Mou.

  19. I personally think there’s not much point in speculating, simply because we know so little, and there is just not much that there is we will ever know.

    That said, firstly, we should consider the role of sore-losing; much, much of this debate has come about because we’re behind in the title race. we barely talked of referees in the past three years – at least, it never dominated conversation to such an extent. look at madrid; they were all about the refs and how teams who played against us (using the example of… themselves – and we know they didn’t play nice) never ended with eleven men on the pitch.

    However, (and here comes the more conspiracy-theory part) mourinho has a part to play as well. the very fact that they are ten points ahead of us – expensively-assembled they might be, but to be ten points ahead of us just tells you how good RM are, now. yes, they are really, really good this season, and the way the clasicos have panned out even our head-to-head superiority (though we’re still better) is lessening.

    mourinho hasn’t just changed madrid’s coaching alone; their style of play has evolved – look at how different they are from the pellegrini days. and along with that he’s made refereeing a big, big part of the mou show – from last season and before when he accused our success as being “tainted’. now that’s clearly nonsense, and utter tripe, but consider his genius; people actually believe it. its almost goebbels-esque in its simplicity – if you lie enough people believe it, and people grasp at straw arguments to support emotional causes they believe.

    the point I’m trying to make is, the entire situation now, is mourinho’s doing. that sounded a lot more rational in my head. but by giving people an argument to hold – to dismiss the incredible success of barcelona in the past three years – any argument would do; the truth of such becomes secondary.

    by elevating refereeing (and rather poor refereeing at that, so he could take a sample of errors and point to them) to centre-stage, he allowed a number of things to happen

    1. in the clasico, pepe gets away with murder, because everyone knows that the ref’s “always biased towards barca/teams end with ten men”
    2. refs are afraid to make the call against madrid because of the torrent of abuse they have to put up with.
    3. tainted barca’s success, made it look false

    and he’s also divided cules; some, like pep, choose not to talk about it. others see problems – real, imagined, i can’t call – and raise them.

  20. Hey guess what kids? We have a game today.

    Things kick off here at 1:00 pm EST and will be shown of GOLTV with glorious Ray Hudson commentary.

    The US(I don’t know if anyone else did) went into daylight savings time in the wee hours of the morning so, if this applies to you, make sure you’ve “sprung ahead” or you’ll miss the first half.

    Given that half of our first team is crocked or in the case of Pique stupid suspended, I’d like to see:

    Alves, Masche, Busi, Adriano
    Kieta, Xaviniesta
    Pedro, Messi, Cesc

    Pedro needs some more chances. Busi can move forward if the game allows it. Let Puyol heal fully and use some Bs if we need them. Love to see some Tello or Cuenca for part of it.

    When all else fails throw midfielders at the problem !

    1. Looking for an explanation of what the hell is going on during Daylight Saving Time? Here you go: Yes, it’s more insane than you ever imagined.

      Your lineup looks pretty good, but I’m half hoping we put in a B-teamer (Bartra?) at central defense next to Masch, move Busi to midfield with Keita and Iniesta, and rest Xavi. He wasn’t going full speed against Leverkusen, and I constantly think he should rest more.

      Or play Xavi, Keita, Iniesta, Busi, Cesc, and Masch all at the same time, because what team plays without 6 midfielders at once? (I guess we could debate if Masch still counts as a midfielder though.)

  21. All I have to say is that if there is no conspiracy, then the state of refereeing in Spain is in serious trouble. It is frankly embarrassing how many errors have been made this season, changing the whole state of the league. And yes, most of those errors have gone in favour of Real Mordor, and yes I do believe it is a result of Mourinho’s constant pressure last season. Not a “conspiracy” as such involving backrooms and sly winks, just a culture of avoiding making calls against RM for fear of being singled out for the Mou treatment.

  22. I believe that in order to stay competitive Pep needs to hire a crack team of communications/PR people for next year.

    Forget a professional team of ref’s because that’s not in Guardiola’s control. He’s tried to stay above the fray and he’s taken the high road and it’s gotten him 10 points behind RM this season.

    He needs to re-group and add another aspect of “playing the game” and that’s communications professional who can manage the media while protecting Barca’s legal interests. You have to fight fire with fire and that means a team of people who will not keep their mouths shut and look the other way any longer, but instead fight for balanced officiating by not allowing thugs to rule the day.

  23. Looks like the needle is moving from “it’s nothing but bad refereeing, plenty to go around for everyone”, to agreeing that there is some level of institutional bias in la Liga. Getting really hard to hold the “Remain calm, all is well, ALL.IS.WELL!!!!” line.

    I would love to see the probabilities from an actuarial study that Pepe, Sergio Ramos, Marcelo, Arbeloa, and crew wouldn’t concede a Penalty for however long it’s been, their history doesn’t suggest this is a statistically likely outcome. They don’t exactly have a history of that kind of quality, fair play, restraint and good sportsmanship for this. Not dealing with this equally lacks objectivity.

    I don’t believe it is wholesale conspiracy in that there is a secret society of all the Liga refs and EE officials undoing the league. They aren’t meeting in abandoned warehouses, taking orders from a disguised voice over a speaker phone, and picking up money taped under the garbage cans in train stations…??? Are they? That is the traditional notion of conspiracy, but there is another more subtle form that only really requires a deliberate plan to achieve this kind of goal, decided behind closed doors by a few, with a perpetrator and cooperators. Words are funny, the wind and tide can conspire to erode the shoreline…they don’t have to exchange money or break the law to do it.

    I do believe any good, less than above board, plan to pull off the kind of manipulation people seem to be coming around to, would use a multi-pronged approach though. If you’re a good operative you want redundancy and contingencies. You buy a few who you know you can get (or more likely keep those you already have), you unsettle a few (maybe wait in a car park or something), you misdirect in the media, you use “political” influence at an institutional level, and exert any power and resources you have. Then, you accuse others of exactly what it is you are up to in order to further confuse and distract, etc. etc. Old as time. I don’t know, seems it couldn’t be more obvious.

    Anyway, trying not to see what I’m seeing is getting really hard. This all smells rotten. Maybe I’m getting old and cynical, but once you see some of how things work, it’s sometimes really hard to un-see them. The last thing I’ll say to stay hopeful and optimistic, is that on the surface, conspiracies and the effects of systemic bias or coincidence “can” be lookalikes. That’s what makes them so intriguing to many; if there’s no conspiracy there is no one to admit it, and if there is a conspiracy they won’t admit it… unless you’re Godal 😉 Sadly it fuels these things, and sometimes sadly, there are things going on that we’d all be better off without.

  24. madrid is a good team, not a great team. they are only a great team (on track to a record points total?) with iffy reffing decisions consistently going in their favor. we are talking about out-on-the-very-tail-ends-of-the-bell-curve probability that a team has *that* many back-asswards calls go in its favor, resulting in so many more accumulated points.

    they will win the league, but i will take some consolation from the whippings we will give them in the league, and — maybe — in the CL

  25. You can’t change the quality of refereeing out of nowhere, or prove conspiracy theories. But you can make them full time employees and hold them accountable for mistakes that they make. And for the love of God, watch videos of the matches and hand out punishments even if the referee hasn’t mentioned it in his post match report. I’ve made this analogy before, but this is just like wrestoing in the wwe where if the ref doesnt see it, the bad guy ca cheat and win and there will be no consequences. It’s bloody ridiculous.

  26. Great comments to all.

    And @josep, actually it’s @footballmood who made the interesting comments on Twitter, and it should be easy to note for one who follows us both, that we’ve been seeing eye to eye on this matter for some time now. Also note the elaborations that we each make on the other’s thoughts. I trust that mine are inspirational to blog posts, just as his are inspirational to my thinking more in depth on the matter. Because that’s how open exchange of ideas in a social networking forum makes the exchange of ideas and information work more effectively, right?

    –I think that, as blitzen notes, the state of refereeing in the Liga is appalling. Witness Ray Hudson’s rant after the Fabregas tackle today. Will it get better? Good question. Is there any incentive for it to get better? I would wager that the Big Two are pretty happy with the way that things are. The rest of teams will have to a) get some power and b) apply that power in a way that stops them getting screwed. At present, neither one is occurring.

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