by Rob Clothier | 18th June 2020

Premier League football is back, on our TV screens at least.  Much has been said about the artificial crowd noise added into the TV coverage.  Seems like a bit of a marmite issue, you either love it or hate it.  I’d already watched a few Bundesliga games with and without the added atmosphere and I prefer it with the noise personally.  Ok, its not quite the same when there’s a close chance or a dodgy refereeing decision, but it just feels more like football.

Upon listening to Martin Tyler and Gary ‘ooohhhhhhhhhhhhh’ Neville on Sky Sports last night for the Manchester City vs Arsenal game, I noticed they made specific reference to the new format and schedule of Premier League games being played for TV.  This is great for during lockdown so that all the games can be watched live by fans, but they were suggesting it may carry on this way when fans are allowed back into stadia.  This has been a worry for match going supporters for quite a while, as it would have a big impact on the ability to get to certain games, particularly away games.  Its worrying also that demands for TV coverage may be becoming more important than the experience of those attending matches in person.

I’ve heard and read a lot of criticism for referee Michael Oliver for the non-goal incident involving goal line technology in the Aston Villa vs Sheffield United game.  This seems extremely harsh in my opinion.  The referee wears a watch which vibrates to alert them to the fact of whether the ball has crossed the goal line.  If there is an incident where it’s a close goal line decision, the referee will play on until the watch vibrates, usually within five seconds of the incident.  On this occasion it has been confirmed that Oliver’s watch didn’t vibrate, so why would he stop play?  The referees and players have to have absolute trust in the technology.

Hawk-Eye said it “unreservedly apologises”, and acknowledged that the ball had gone over the line.

It was clear on TV that the whole of the ball had crossed the whole of the line, so it should have been a goal.  Hawk eye have since issued an apology stating that the decision for a goal was not given due to so many players also being present on the goal line.  Apparently this is the first occurence of this type in over 9,000 matches – poor Sheffield Utd eh?  Though of course it would have benefited Newcastle Utd for Villa to lose.

This incident happened just minutes before half time, at which point the video assistant referee would have seen the footage of the ball being across the line.  With the score being 0-0 at the break, why not award the goal then play the final three minutes of the first half again?  I don’t think this would have been criticised by many outside of the Villa camp.

The potential dropped two points for Sheffield United could mean missing out on lucrative Champions League Football next season, or financially hard hitting relegation for another team in the dogfight at the bottom of the Premier League.

For those who may have missed it, I wrote about the World Trade Organization’s findings into BeIN Sports TV piracy in Saudi Arabia and how it could impact on the proposed Saudi-backed takeover of Newcastle United.  Read it here if you missed it.  Essentially what I took away from it was that the WTO find that the Saudi government actively promoted and failed to take down the pirate BeIN TV channel BeOutQ.  It does not say (as far as I can tell) that they find Saudi Arabia officials as being actively involved in the running or operating of the pirate channel itself.

So now the Premier League need to look at the findings and decide whether this means they deem the Saudi Public Investment Fund (which is funding the takeover) as being involved in the piracy issue.  I don’t think they will.  So they shouldn’t fail the Premier League’s Owners’ and Directors’ suitability test.  There are moral issues there of course, but by the letter of their own law, I don’t see how the Premier League can block the Saudi backed takeover on the findings of the WTO’s report.

Then of course came this new, terribly timed £350 million bid for Newcastle United from American businessman Henry Mauriss.  So many things about this bid ring alarm bells to a publicity stunt by Mike Ashley to push the sale to the Saudis through.  The club has been for sale a long time, why would you wait until another bidder has already entered the purchasing phase to put your own bid in?  Plus, why would you offer a massive £50m more than the other bidder?  That seems like a massive and unnecessary jump up in the bidding.  Why not £310m or £320m??  I just don’t buy it, pardon the pun.

Finally, season ticket (and FA Cup) refunds from NUFC – what the hell are they playing at?  For a while now we have been the only remaining PL club to refund fans.  Apparently we are also owed free TV passes to watch our remaining fixtures of the season.  As a season ticket holder myself I can say that I have not heard a peep from the club with regards to a refund or a TV voucher.  Once again fans are treated like second class citizens with no respect or decorum.  I was pleased to see that Newcastle MP Chi Onwurah is doing her best to progress this issue with the Minister for Consumer Affairs, but whether this results in anything happening we will have to wait and see.

The Premier League, UEFA and FIFA are said to be outraged at the TV piracy issue in Saudi Arabia, but when it comes to football fans being out of pocket, once again we are left to fend for ourselves and put up with despicable treatment from our once revered football club.  The Premier League have spent eleven weeks now dealing with the proposed takeover, but when they are approached by the Newcastle United Supporters Trust and the Football Supporters’ Association, the Premier League’s official line is nothing more than “We’ll talk to them [NUFC].”

Will NUFC issue TV passes before the game on Sunday?  They are cutting it extremely fine if so.  To say I’m less than hopeful is an understatement.

But who knows, maybe I’m doing them a dis-service.  I’m just basing my opinion on the appalling way our club has been run during Mike Ashley’s 13 year stranglehold.

by Rob Clothier