Issue Do City really get victimised by the officials?

As told by The Writers of BfB, Alan Carling, Derm Tanner and Jason Mckeown

Perhaps we had hoped that with the exit of Stuart McCall City might get a change in fortunes from Referees but the Gareth Evans shirt tug penalty decision – or lack of one – at Hereford and some strangely one sided bookings in the game with Notts County put pay to those thoughts and we were left talking about the quality of officials once more and returned to the old chestnut of the game: Did the ref make a mistake or is something more sinister going on?

Meanwhile at the top level of club football John Terry stopped only an inch short of saying that European Referees conspired against the Chelsea team he captains after another European exit.

And so The Barry Articles continue with the question:

“Do City – or does any club – really get victimised, picked on or given the rough end of the stick by the officials?”

Alan Carling Chair of the Bradford City Supporters Trust

I do not know whether City or any other club has suffered more than its fair share of appalling decisions by match officials, but I can imagine how to find out. Most of the worst errors can now be spotted by TV replays, so we should be able to work out whether these mistakes average out over the season or not. This will identify biased officials, if there are any. And this also means that we should be able to work out what the league table should look like without the mistakes.

FIFA says that it does not want football matches at different levels to be subject to different types of refereeing, so football has lagged behind other sports in the use of instant replays, even though the stakes are much higher. I cannot see the argument for this. It is no use saying that refereeing mistakes are just part of the game that we have to accept. They are not part of the game, but they are part of the bad refereeing of the game. We should use all the technology we can to rule out these bad decisions. Then we can talk about the game, not the referees.

Jason Mckeown City Gent & BfB Writer

When Morecambe visit Valley Parade later this season, I for one will be booing Shrimpers goalkeeper Barry Roche.

It was last September, when City played out a goalless draw at Christie Park, where Roche feigned injury after a fair challenge for the ball from Gareth Evans – resulting in referee Stuart Attwell ridiculously issuing a red card for the Bantams’ number nine. Then-manager Stuart McCall complained angrily after the game, but City decided not to appeal the decision.

It seemed a mistake not to at the time and, in the subsequent weeks where a high number of poor refereeing decisions went against City, it suggested a pre-judgement was formed by officials which has victimised the club. It’s unlikely any ref would enjoy hearing of another receiving criticism from a manager; and, though City didn’t appeal against Attwell’s decision because of having no faith in the review system, to others it might looked as though McCall was slamming an official to cover his own team’s failures, as he hadn’t backed up his words with actions.

Certainly the manner in which referees then officiated Bantams’ games gave credence to pre-conceptions been formed well before kick off. The wrongly-awarded free kick that allowed Northampton to snatch a point three days after, the Crewe handball in the area where a free kick outside the box was awarded, Lee Bullock’s sending off against Hereford, a disallowed late goal against Accrington, Lee Probert’s entire performance against Rotherham. And that was all before three controversial sendings off in three games over Christmas and Bury’s Stephen Dawson diving for a penalty in the New Year. City have only been awarded two spot kicks all season.

And with each bad decision, further complaining from McCall may have only increased the next referee’s resolve. Perhaps McCall contributed to this by complaining so often; but as his job became increasing under pressure and poor refereeing decisions added to it, he surely had the right to defend his team.

Whatever, it’s surely more than a coincidence that loudly complaining about a referee was followed by even more poor decisions in the next game. But for Roche getting away with that play-acting, the officiating all season could have been very different. Please join me in welcoming him warmly on Tuesday 13 April.

Derm Tanner BBC Radio Leeds Commentator/Presenter

I would hate to think that officials had it in for Bradford City and to be honest I don’t believe that to be the case. Even if a certain referee took it upon himself to be harsher against City than another club, he could not hope to escape the ‘all seeing’ assessor in the stand.

Referees are closely watched and every decision is graded. Following the match there is a conversation between assessor and referee and afterwards a report is filed. You would like to think that any trends would be spotted.

That said, Terry Yorath told me a story some time ago about refereeing when City were in the Premiership. Yorath and complained to this individual official (he didn’t tell me his name) about his performance the last time he had visited VP. During the game Bradford did seem to get the majority of the decisions, some a little questionable, so Terry told me. After the match the referee went up to Terry and said to him….”Was that better?”

I was horrified at that story and hoped that it had been tweaked over the months of telling, but if true then what are we to make of it all?

There’s no doubt some referees like to be the centre of attention and arrogance is perhaps necessary when dealing with 22 pumped up footballers and 2 managers week in week out. But systematic bias against certain clubs? I really hope not.