Sunday, 1 March 2015

The IFAB Four

"In effect, the English Premier League and the Scottish Premier League, via their respective control of the Football Association and the Scottish FA, are able to block all and any changes to the Laws of the Game with the support of just one other IFAB member." 

Yesterday, nicely buried away on a busy sporting Saturday, the International Football Association Board (IFAB) ruled out video technology in football until season 2018/19 at the earliest.
This is despite a very successful trial run by the Dutch FA (KNVB) at 24 Eredivisie matches last season and the support of Germany, the USA and certain elements at the FA in England.

The outcome simply means that we are guaranteed 3 and a half more years of rampant corruption without redress or regulation and we will argue that this decision is the death knell for the integrity (and success) of the game.


IFAB is an anachronism. Composed of 4 members from the FA's of England, Scotland, the North of Ireland and Wales plus a further four individuals selected from the other 205 associations, the body behaves like an old City of London club. To discuss and decide upon proposed alterations to the Laws of the Game requires 75% agreement which, in effect, means that the United Kingdom controls the rules of global football.
Furthermore, since 2003, Angel Maria Villar Llona, the Spanish FIFA vice-President and Chairman of the Referees' Committee, has been involved in IFAB meetings. It is surely of relevance to the whole discussion that Javier Tebas, the Spanish La Liga president, believes that some bodies wish to hide the reality of matchfixing. Speaking last October, Tebas said: "... there are also some important institutions that want to hide the problem. Our integrity department in La Liga, for example, last weekend detected match-fixing activity in the third division. We detected the problem and communicated it to the responsible authority, but they chose to hide it, probably because they don't want to recognise that this problem exists, even in the lower division."

It is surely worthy of note that certain representatives (or a majority thereof) can block any change at any time to any private agenda.

Dutch Experiment and Institutional Response

The Dutch trial involved a video referee addressing match decisions at 24 top flight games in 2013/14. The results were hugely encouraging resulting in gross chameleon Sepp Blatter changing his mind to be in favour of video technology on the eve of the 2014 World Cup Finals.
A colleague in Holland has stated that the referral system could be implemented within 15 seconds and would have removed all controversy from the matches trialled. The match outcome was real.
Other sports also successfully implement video technology without the fabric of the competitive event being blown apart - tennis, rugby league, rugby union, horseracing, athletics, cricket etc.
So why not football?
Which members of IFAB voted against the proposal?
Who stands to lose and gain from the delay?

Well, this last question is a suitable starting point.
The entities that gain from lack of video technology are, in no particular order of merit - UEFA, FIFA, the Premier League, corrupt referees, corrupt bookmakers, insider gamblers, underground criminalised betting markets, global mafiosi groups, corrupt football agents, dodgy committee men...
... while the losers are the fans, the integrity of the game, those within the sport outside the corrupt inner loops and, interestingly, the broadcasters who overpay for tv rights (see below).

UEFA president, Michel Platini, performed a U-turn on video technology due to the European body utilising grey corruption via match officials to offset the criminalities of matchfixing operations targeting UEFA events, the power base of the allegedly disbanded G14 group, the successful marketing of tournament spectacles and the critical nature of television money.
The latter two points also apply to FIFA although the inaction at the global body is more closely linked to the interests of those involved in matchfixing.

The Specifics of the Integrity Issue in English Premier League

The Premier League (EPL) and Professional Game Match Officials Board (PGMOB) do not want video technology in English football. Furthermore, they do not support the elements of the FA that are calling for the implementation.The EPL have been undermining the role of the national association since inception and reached a nadir when buffoon Sir Dave Richards performed as Scudamore's rottweiler destabiliser at the FA.

PGMOB referees earn around two grand a week for officiating on matches that can have global betting turnover of £5bn. The core group of PGMOB comprises just 15 individuals who officiate at nearly 95% of EPL matches (including all the high betting volume tv events) and are frequently present as 4th officials at other games. This structure is primed for corruption.
Additionally, one individual who hides in the shadows selects referees for all EPL games. One man!

Former leading refs Graham Poll and Keith Hackett have lacerated the current standard of PGMOB refs with the latter wanting Mike Riley removed from leadership of body and 5 officials stood down.
Hackett stated: "If [a manager] is at the bottom of the league then his job is at risk. At this moment in time he [Riley] is more than bottom. I am seeing a regression. The performances of the referees are not acceptable. He must carry the responsibility."

And the reaction to criticism of referees is Stalinist. Most managers (with honourable exceptions of Jose Mourinho and Steve Bruce) have learnt that it is preferable not to articulate concerns over refereeing integrity as the body politic merely dumps more negative controversy on managers who step out of the Stalin line.
Chelsea would have won the EPL last season if it had not been for the ludicrous spectacles at Villa Park and at home to Sunderland. The abuses have continued on into 2014/15 with even the most anti-Mourinho clone perceiving the injustices perpetrated against the London team.

The Stalinism continues with media silence, no interviews, hush money paid at end of referee's careers, no public ratings from internal assessments and generally no punishment for miscreants.
Additionally, since the beginning of season 2013/14, all match officials have been miked up to a secretive network which we will term the EPL Match Centre. All kick offs are coincident and referees are aided (or abetted) by other officials with access to tv replays. This results in numerous match decisions being delayed while a decision is made.

Three points.
Firstly, this is illegal under the Laws of the Game.
Secondly, to what template are the decisions being made if made under such secrecy?
Thirdly, the outcome is disastrous for the brand. The EPL is descending into fraudulent farce.

In a desperate attempt to keep fans on message, the mainstream media entirely ignores matchfixing in England despite journalists getting some of their leaks/stories from individuals who are orchestrating the matchfixing.
The tv pundits are worse!
Lee Dixon, Mark Lawrensen and Robbie Savage work for bookmakers, Danny Murphy is close to a matchfixing agent, Michael Owen used to be bookie for the England team (linked to Goldchip private bookmakers), Steve McManaman was a business associate of money laundering fraudster Carson Yeung and David James is, well, David James.

Impact of IFAB Decision on EPL Broadcasting Deals

The EPL tv deal for 2016/19 realised £5.1bn for British rights but as lawyer Daniel Geey points out the global broadcasting rights could be worth another £8bn.

These figures represent a financial market bubble - Sky is paying £11m per match in this window.
The price is being ratcheted up via the antisocial auction strategies of Sky Sports and BT Sports as they outbid one another to mutual oblivion. The inevitable increase in subscription prices will undermine the business model - in a 4 week window in January, BT Sport offered just one EPL game (Hull v Newcastle). This is absolutely not value for money particularly in a time of austerity.

Bubbles are dangerous when they form in an instant - so Manchester United received less (£60.8m) for winning EPL in 2012/13 than Cardiff City got for being relegated the following season (£62.1m).
Bubbles are even more dangerous when future rights' issues are being bid on the back of an already inflated bubble - a double bubble means double trouble.

As the performance of EPL teams in Champions League and Europa League shows, the bloated brand is bigger than the fundamental value by some marked distance.

Furthermore, the matchfixing in the EPL is the elephant in the room. When we speak to managers, chief execs, agents, administrators, the discussion always centres around matchfixing. The reality is bound to break at some point and then the value of the brand plummets as the IPL cricket monstrosity discovered.
And this is before one even considers the impact of the eventual European Super League for the G14+.


Who voted against video technology at IFAB meeting?

An interesting impact of the Dutch experiment last season was that the volatility of outcome would have diminished markedly if the video ref had been able to overrule the match referee. Think about that. The price set by the global marketplace on a game is more accurate once integrity is reintroduced via taking power away from the referee. We are preparing a research paper on this point as it is significant.

Meanwhile Jérôme Valcke, FIFA's secretary general, blurts "Is there a risk the referee will not be as strong as he is today?"

You know what, mate, nobody cares about a referee's sense of personal power.
What we demand is integrity in the sport we love.

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