Image Credit:David Warboys

For many years referees have followed the script. When Manchester United are losing or in danger of not winning, either they are awarded a penalty or an opposing player is sent off. If both these options are applied at the same time, the partiality will become too obvious. This happened yesterday against Fulham. Otherwise refs can allow a dodgy goal for the Reds, prolong “Fergie time” until they win or disallow a legitimate goal for the opposition. It happens regularly.

These tactics naturally incense the opposing side and tempts them to react when their protests are ignored. But, after decades, the supporters, players and management of other clubs simply wring their hands in frustration in the knowledge that they are powerless. This is all about money – the scourge of the modern game.

And so, nothing changes. It´s a vicious circle as the wealthiest, most high-profile clubs will always be assisted towards victory and titles, thus further increasing their privileged positions.

In the recent FA Cup tie, the players and manager of Fulham, decided enough was enough. They were leading 1-0 and in command of the match. With 15 minutes to go, Man U were in danger of losing. But this time the ref went over the top, by awarding them a penalty and sending off a Fulham player. The Fulham players refused to accept this blatant discrimination and they over-reacted, giving the perfect excuse for two further red cards. Job done! The Reds went on to beat the nine men 3-1.

With suspensions, it will prove very costly for Fulham´s aspirations for the Champions League – normally reserved for the already wealthy clubs. But will their reaction finally bring to light the corruption involved in favouring Man U and other very wealthy ones?

This is in the financial interests of so many involved in the “beautiful game”. The owners and sponsors of these “establishment” clubs have enormous influence and their money buys the most successful managers and players. They don´t have to be seen to perform but they do have to get the results.

With such investment in them, these clubs need to maintain their high profile for marketing reasons. The resulting sale of shirts and other club merchandise generates billions. These billions are dependent on winning trophies or at least being serious contenders for them. Managers are sacked at the first indication of a lapse in results. Leicester City´s Claudio Ranieri was sacfificed less than one year after winning the title, against all the odds, for a smaller, “non-establishment” club.

Man U, more than any other side has seemed untouchable for generations. It can only be hoped that Fulham´s brave but excessive reactions will shed further light on a situation that makes a mockery of level playing fields and fair competition. But I fear it will simply result in vociferous denial and the  charade will continue.

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Written by

David Worboys

Offering a unique insight into everything from politics to food to sport, David is one of the Euro Weekly News´ most popular columnists.