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The Premier League is not corrupt and conspiracy theories only distract from dealing with poor refereeing - Stuart Rayner

FLASHPOINT: Referee Peter Bankes' reported comments to Paul Heckingbottom about Sheffield United goalkeeper Wes Foderingham's goalkicks were clumsy, but not a sign of corruption (Photo: Stephen Pond)
FLASHPOINT: Referee Peter Bankes' reported comments to Paul Heckingbottom about Sheffield United goalkeeper Wes Foderingham's goalkicks were clumsy, but not a sign of corruption (Photo: Stephen Pond)

Burnley fans were singing it when things went against them at the City Ground a couple of days later. There is also an EFL version.

Not everything chanted from a football terrace is 100 per cent sincere but in an era when it feels like conspiracy theories are taking hold more than ever, this one needs stamping out.

"It's about corruption in the game that (a)ffects every team except the favoured ones", posted a reader in response to The Yorkshire's Post's analysis of that Sheffield United loss at Tottenham Hotspur.

HEAD MAN: Rotherham United fan Howard Webb is in charge of refereeing in this country (Photo: Dave Thompson)
HEAD MAN: Rotherham United fan Howard Webb is in charge of refereeing in this country (Photo: Dave Thompson)

Presumably Spurs are favoured by the officials – on-field and in Stockley Park – who ignored a couple of givable penalty appeals that day?

Given they missed European qualification by a point last season, the Premier League, run by its clubs, must not be inept at corruption.

Are Rotherham United, who had a litany of early-season apologies from the Professional Game Match Officials Board – in charge of referees – a club its boss Howard Webb, a Rotherham fan, has it in for?

The Collins dictionary says "Someone who is corrupt behaves in a way that is morally wrong, especially by doing dishonest or illegal things in return for money or power."

Crying corruption only stops us focusing on the real issue – our referees are not good enough.

The Premier League is set up to be very hard for outsiders to break into, but not to the extent games are fixed.

Some English referees are unduly swayed by home fans, big clubs or personalities, but I do not believe any are on the take. Do you think no credible reporter in a media which has made a sport of exposing FIFA corruption – some still alleged, much of it proven – would have said something?

In all the post-match managerial rants I have heard over the years why has it never been mentioned, even once the microphones are off?

Would a corrupt organisation introduce a monthly TV show to explain its decisions, like the PGMOL?

Video assistant referees, constant law changes and league-specific "interpretations" make refereeing harder, as in fairness does criticising them in a newspaper column. The confusion over what constitutes handball is making an extremely tricky task virtually impossible.

At a time when persuading people to become referees is harder, each Premier League game now swallows up six – one in the middle, two on the lines, a fourth official, VAR and assistant VAR.

Referees do not help themselves with comments like Peter Bankes' alleged "just kick it long" to Paul Heckingbottom when he was unhappy with the time Wes Foderingham was taking over goalkicks. It fuels the "You can only understand the game if you've played to a level I deem high enough" brigade.

But watching games beyond England hammers home how the standard of refereeing in this country has dropped. It is not deliberate, it is not paid for, but it is not good enough.

Fantasising about conspiracies will not help. Can we please just focus on the actual problems?