STEVE PARISH’S LETTER RECENTLY PRINTED IN WHEN SATURDAY COMES
Most fans think referees are biased against their team. Some think they don’t get a fair deal from TV coverage, but it’s rare for that bias to be openly admitted.
When BT Sport covered Manchester City’s Champions League quarter-final victory over Paris Saint-Germain, Jake Humphrey told his summarisers that, having often been critical of City, “We should quite rightly praise City – hard as it is”. His after-the-event excuse was that he was inviting comment from Rio Ferdinand and Paul Scholes.
That just points up how stupid it was to have “co-commentators” or “pundits” on the game who were naturally hostile to the only English team left in the competition. It’s not as if they are either articulate speakers or otherwise talented pundits able to put their own prejudice apart (Gary Neville managed it).
As Paul Scholes seemed keen to do as much damage to City as he tried to do to City players during Manchester derbies, it’s hard to argue that there is no anti-City bias.
Steve McManaman was on the BT team too. He played briefly for City, remembered mostly for being very good at pointing where the ball should go, but being useless when he got it. He spent a lot of the match looking for empty seats in a sell-out stadium (and found some in the corporate section). Missing from the line-up was Danny Mills, who for some reason is bitter about being paid by City for not playing during long injury breaks, and being useless when he did play. It seems to be a theme that the only ex-City players they can find have some sort of grudge against the club.
All this may reflect the media generally where some of the coverage is barely disguised racism about the owners but most stems from the allegiances of reporters, noses put out by City’s “oil-fuelled” disruption of a cosy cartel. Even the FA tweeted congratulations to Liverpool on reaching the Europa League semis, but nothing the night before for City.
But more worrying is the ubiquitous presence of David Gill at the FA and UEFA and FIFA. How can someone so connected with Manchester United, and still a director, not have a conflict of interest? Why does financial fair play deal with wealth but not debt, or football clubs incorporated in offshore tax havens, e.g. Manchester United in the Cayman Islands?
The European Assembly report a few years ago that supported FFP was gleefully picked up by the English press – but not the bit that said members of football’s ruling authorities should not also hold senior posts in a club.Of course, this sort of paranoia about an “agenda” against one club, extending to refereeing decisions (hello, Mark Clattenburg) and hostility from the game’s governing bodies, may be a common experience – but that revelatory moment on BT Sport confirmed that indeed they are out to get us.