Wednesday , May 22 2024

All eyes on the men in the middle


Liverpool manager Jurgen Klopp is booked during his team’s match against Tottenham in December by referee Paul Tierney. AFP Photo

Paul Kennedy

I’ve always kind of felt a bit sorry for referees. It’s a thankless task really. They are rarely praised for good decisions but hung out to dry for the slightest mistake.

Sure, I’ve come away from football matches unhappy that certain things didn’t go in my team’s favour, but I understand the man in the middle is after all, only human.  

Since the introduction of VAR, it has, I suppose, made things easier for referees as they now have many other pairs of eyes to check key moments in games.

I don’t for one minute think any of the Premier League’s professional refs show any favouritism to one side or the other, but eyebrows have certainly been raised following the announcement of the officials for Liverpool’s trip to Manchester City on Sunday.

Although there are still eight games to play before the season ends, with just one point between the two teams at the top of the Premiership, many believe this is a title-deciding fixture.

And while there are opportunities for the two teams to still drop points later on, there is no doubt that the game at the Etihad Stadium is, by a country mile, the most important fixture remaining.

That’s why Liverpool supporters are more than a little miffed after it was announced that Anthony Taylor and Paul Tierney will be referee and VAR respectively.

Taylor was born in Wythenshawe in Manchester and Tierney in Salford, in Greater Manchester.

On a personal level, Taylor is said to be a supporter Altrincham FC, from the fifth tier of English football, and Tierney a fan of Wigan FC, who play in League One, the third tier.

But it’s not just the fact that they are both from Manchester that has irked Liverpool supporters.

After some pretty bad decisions when he was in charge of Liverpool’s 2-2 draw with Tottenham in December, Tierney became hugely unpopular with not only Liverpool fans, but also manager Jurgen Klopp who told him: “I have no problems with any referees, only you.”

Tierney also failed to award a pretty blatant penalty for Everton in the last minute of their 1-0 loss to City, effectively gifting Man City two extra points.

I don’t think Taylor and Tierney will be swayed just because they are both from Manchester, but with so many referees to choose from why has the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), the organisation that makes refereeing appointments for Premier League games, put them both into the line of fire?

Keith Hackett, the former head of the PGMOL, has said in the past: “At the beginning of every season the referees’ background information is audited.

“They complete a form that includes who they support, the history of if they’ve played the game and the addresses where they are residing.

“That gives you a picture that comes into use when you’re appointing. It’s about ensuring, for example, you wouldn’t appoint a Sheffield-based ref for a Sheffield team.”

Well, that’s happened here for Sunday’s game. Not once, but twice.

I hope, come the final whistle at the Etihad, it’s the game itself we are talking about and not those put in charge of refereeing it. VnExpress News






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