Arsenal’s club statement backing manager Mikel Arteta has been branded “embarrassing” by a charity representing referees, who warned that “the unacceptable” touchline behaviour of Premier League managers directly influences a toxic culture in grassroots football.
Describing Arteta as “a Mercedes version of Neil Warnock”, Martin Cassidy, who is the chief executive of Ref Support UK, said that Arsenal would have more credibility if they made a statement about the behaviour of their manager or players.
Arsenal were furious after losing against Newcastle on Saturday when Anthony Gordon’s winning goal was allowed to stand following a long check by the VAR into three potential issues.
Bruno Guimaraes had earlier controversially also escaped a red card after barging into Jorginho with his forearm.
Arsenal did not specify which incident they were most unhappy about but took the highly unusual step of issuing a statement in which they “wholeheartedly” backed Mikel Arteta’s post match comments “after yet more unacceptable refereeing and VAR errors”. They said that Premier League players, coaches and supporters “deserve better” and urged the refereeing body, the PGMOL, to immediately “address the standard of officiating”. Arteta had called Newcastle’s goal an “absolute disgrace” in his post match interview, saying that it was “embarrassing” and that he felt “ashamed” by the level of officiating.
It follows Liverpool’s official club statement last month after a clear VAR mistake contributed to their defeat against Tottenham. Liverpool warned that they would “explore the range of options available” and outlined a “clear need for escalation and resolution”. Manager Jurgen Klopp even called for the match to be replayed.
‘Arteta’s behaviour is the worst in the Premier League’
The touchline attitude of Klopp and Arteta towards match officials has long been a concern to grassroots referees.
“I was pleased they recognised the difficult task Howard Webb [the head of the PGMOL] has in front of him in their statement but this trend of clubs making statements is very embarrassing in my opinion,” said Cassidy.
“They would have more credibility if they addressed and made a public statement about the unacceptable behaviour of their players or manager.
“Mikel Arteta’s touchline behaviour is the worst in the Premier League and his behaviour is a large part of the problem in football. He has become a Mercedes version of Neil Warnock. His behaviour and comments, that now appear to be supported by Arsenal as a club, is very worrying for me and the game in general. This statement [by Arsenal], in my opinion, is nothing other than an infantile moan.”
Cassidy’s charity receives weekly reports of abusive touchline behaviour at grassroots, often towards officials who are under the age of 18 and then turn their back on becoming referees. “This behaviour is replicated at grassroots youth football and yet again this weekend we have had parents of young referees telling us that they have been threatened and verbally abused by coaches in the youth game who are using the same verbal terms, behaviours and comments they are shown on TV,” said Cassidy.
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