THEY are coming for Liverpool. They will not stop. The machines are relentless. They have only one objective. Destroy the Reds. Take them down, whatever it takes. No offside lines. One disallowed goal. Two red cards. Three points denied. For the good of the conspiracy, the bad can never be bad enough.
Just keep going, until they never walk again.
Well, that was a fun weekend for the tinfoil hat wearers, wasn’t it?
We can now add Luis Díaz’s disallowed goal and the grassy lines at the Tottenham Hotspur Stadium to the JFK assassination and the grassy knoll at Dealey Plaza. It’s all part of the masterplan. Clearly, the Illuminati are not busy enough controlling the world through a shadowy cabal of capitalists. Their operatives have found the time to infiltrate the Professional Game Match Officials Ltd (or PGMOL, which is hardly SPECTRE, is it?)
This is no joke. The one thing you cannot do right now, under any circumstances, is make light of such a dark matter with Liverpool supporters, who are currently screaming “conspiracy” on a social media platform somewhere near you.
And clearly, incontestably, they are correct. Just take a cursory glance at the evidence. According to one apoplectic contributor called Laurie on the platform formerly known as Twitter, in 2013/14, Raheem Sterling was clearly onside and flagged off. The decision cost Liverpool the title, apparently. (Other details, like the what, where and when, were omitted.)
But there was more. In 2018/19, Sadio Mane was clearly onside and flagged off. The title was lost by a point. In 2021/22, there was an obvious handball not given against Rodri. The title was decided by a point. (Presumably, no other club had decisions go against them in any of their 38 games in any of these seasons. It was only Liverpool.)
But the worst of the lot came on Saturday, when Diaz was onside against Tottenham, but flagged offside and the decision wasn’t even checked properly by VAR. There were no lines or anything. Normally, we hate those lines. We self-combust over those lines. But now we crave those lines. Who removed the lines?
You don’t need Alan Turing to detect a pattern here. You just need Alan Shearer on Match of the Day. He was angry. VAR is a joke. A disgrace. A farce. What else have you got?
Well, how about a conspiracy? Go search “VAR conspiracy” on Twitter/X. You’ll be gone for a while. And Liverpool FC may not be helping matters either. The club released an angry statement, promising to “explore the range of options available” and claiming that the game’s “sporting integrity” had been undermined.
After all, the VAR officials had been involved at a UAE Pro League on Thursday, just 48 hours before the Tottenham-Liverpool game. That’s the United Arab Emirates Pro League, the same United Arab Emirates who own … Manchester City.
That’s the final line of a Dan Brown novel right there. That’s your conspiracy. And that’s slowly destroying the game from the inside out.
Conspiracy theorists latch on VAR's inconsistency, incompetency
Before Saturday, the everyday VAR blunders were daft examples of the geeks inheriting the earth once controlled by sports jocks. The deliberate and accidental handball, the natural and unnatural positions were terms thrown together by administrators who spent more time around set squares than penalty boxes. It was merely the death of common sense, which was already reason enough for VAR to be stripped back to the bare essentials (goal-line adjudication and missed red cards).
But the Diaz blunder taps into something deeper and darker, pandering to the game’s ugliest prejudices. It enables the lunatic fringe to focus on “us” and “them”.
Every fan base does this. Every referee is against their club. Every decision goes against their club. Every pundit and football hack is against their club. Naturally, this is all true. Officials and journalists gather in dimly-lit rooms to plot the downfall of all 20 clubs, which is a fool-proof plan with only one minor drawback. The 20 clubs have to play each other every week.
Obviously, none of this is true. According to the Guardian, the PGMOL has admitted mistakes 14 times since the start of last season. The blunders have been reasonably distributed across the EPL. The PGMOL did apologise to Arsenal twice last season, which didn’t help their title challenge, but didn’t cause their demise either. Still, as expected, the errors were spread around. There were no dark forces at work, just flawed humans.
But when the inconsistency and incompetence combine with the tech so disastrously, as they all did against Liverpool, then conspiracy theorists begin to occupy a dangerous place: centre stage. Once the game’s integrity is compromised, trust is eroded. Perhaps for good.
Ordinarily, those waving pitchforks in the air and claiming systemic bias against their respective clubs are generally benign and easy to disarm with a few, straightforward questions, such as who is this elusive group out to kill your club? What is their motive? And most of all, if they are such Machiavellian geniuses of deceit, control and mass manipulation, couldn’t they use anyone other than the bumbling folks at PGMOL?
But when the indefensible mistakes are of this magnitude, then it’s actually easier to play the conspiracy card, rather than contemplate the more sobering reality.
Diaz was not offside. The slow-motion replays turned Curtis Jones’ high tackle from a yellow card offence to a red one, putting tremendous pressure on the referee to change his initial, correct decision. His instincts had initially served him well. But he then allowed the tech to cloud his judgment, the real human error that continues to be repeated.
VAR is trying to remove the human element from a game built on subjective opinion. The tech must be right... right? Well, no, it’s playing tricks on the eye, convincing experienced officials to question the informed and rational decision-making processes that earned them the job in the first place. Common sense is giving way to sheepish, collective group-think.
And what is the simple definition of a group of unknown individuals making decisions in secret? A conspiracy.
Of course, there is no grand conspiracy. They are not out to get your club. They are not working to ruin your season. But then, they don’t need to. VAR is doing the job for them.
There is no grand conspiracy. They are not out to get your club. They are not working to ruin your season. But then, they don’t need to. VAR is doing the job for them.
Neil Humphreys is an award-winning football writer and a best-selling author, who has covered the English Premier League since 2000 and has written 28 books.
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