Nottingham Forest call on Premier League to change referee rules

Nottingham Forest have called for a change in the rules surrounding the appointment of referees — and their potential allegiances to other teams.

The move comes following the controversy at Everton, which saw Forest publish a strongly worded statement, via social media, after being denied what they felt were three strong claims for penalties at Goodison Park.

Forest had concerns about the appointment of Stuart Attwell as VAR for the game, with the Nuneaton official being a fan of relegation rivals Luton Town. The club say they raised those concerns with the PGMOL (Professional Game Match Officials Limited) on Friday, without going as far as to call for him to be removed from the fixture.

But now they have appealed for a review of the guidelines by which match officials are appointed for games — specifically asking for them to take into account any perceived conflicts, because of their affiliations to other sides.

“Following yesterday’s match at Everton, NFFC issued a statement highlighting our concern at the perception of the PGMOL appointment of VAR for the game. This was an issue we raised with PGMOL prior to the fixture because of the fear of the side show that would ensue if anything went wrong with officiating in the game. That fear has materialised, as the correctness of three important decisions against the club have been called into doubt,” said a fresh club statement.

“This is not about individuals but rather how the integrity of the game is seen. We know match officials do not allow outside factors to influence their decision-making and that all referees are required to declare their ‘allegiances’ to PGMOL to avoid any perceived conflict or harm to the game’s reputation for integrity.

“However, it is clear PGMOL must amend its rule on allegiances to account for contextual rivalries in the league table, not just local rivalries. This is currently not within the criteria but should be. Mere reliance on match officials to recuse themselves if contextual rivalries exist invites conjecture, as some have recused themselves where others have not.”


Forest were left furious at decisions not to award them penalties (Peter Byrne/PA Images via Getty Images)

The statement, which is a more measured response to an issue that has concerned the club all season, following previous decisions that have gone against them, continued: “NFFC stands by its request for greater transparency around PGMOL appointments to further protect the game’s reputation, as intended in PGMOL’s existing approach to allegiances.

“Given the widespread and ongoing concerns, not merely of the fans, players and managers of this club but of many others and the pundits too, over VAR decisions throughout this season any move which boosts confidence in the system should be properly considered.”

Forest’s initial tweet, shortly after the final whistle yesterday, has led to the FA launching an investigation, asking for head coach Nuno Espirito Santo, defender Neco Williams and Mark Clattenburg, the club’s referee analyst for their observations, following comments made after the game.

The Premier League also issued a statement on Monday, voicing their ‘disappointment’ in the comments made by Forest in the aftermath of the game, which saw referee Anthony Taylor fail to award any of three penalty claims.

All involved Everton defender Ashley Young, who initially clipped the foot of Gio Reyna, before handling a cross from Callum Hudson-Odoi and then bringing down the Forest winger from behind, in three separate incidents.

“We note The FA has confirmed it will be investigating the club’s statement,” said the Premier League. “It is never appropriate to improperly question the integrity of match officials, and the nature of these comments means the Premier League will also be investigating the matter in relation to the league’s rules.”

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Nottingham Forest’s furious tweet: What happened and why did they post it?

(Alex Livesey/Getty Images)

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