The fuss and furore over the odd decision by referee Rob Styles to award a penalty in the Liverpool versus Chelsea game on Sunday will only serve to fuel most supporters feelings that there is a bias in the Premier League against smaller teams.
When referees give decisions that are equally or more appalling in games featuring smaller teams they are not suspended, like Rob Styles was, indeed, they seem to get a pat on the back and are told to carry on. Witness referee Lee Probert who last week failed to give Fulham a penalty and send off the Bolton keeper for fouling David Healy when he robbed the keeper fairly of the ball. Instead this referee awarded Bolton a free kick. All the replays shows this decision to be ludicrous, yet it hardly got any coverage at all in the written press and the Premier League and the referee's association made no comment.
I myself remember three year ago when Norwich played Portsmouth away from home. Norwich had a player sent off for no clear reason then had a penalty awarded against them late on in the game, thus denying Norwich a valuable win. It would not have been so bad had the Norwich player actually hand balled it, but replays showed clearly it was the Portsmouth player who handballed it, yet Portsmouth were given the penalty. Again, no fuss in the pressm no suspension for the referee, in fact, not a word of it ever mentioned again.
Returning back to last week's game between Chelsea and Liverpool. Liverpool are quite right angry about the goal that denied them the win. However, just a week before Liverpool snatched a last minute victory against Aston Villa from a free kick that all the replays showed was not a free kick but because Steven Gerrard reacted in front of the referee, and Steven Gerrard is an England player, he got the free kick that resulted in Liverpool's winning goal.
This could all just be anecdotal, but there is the situation of Andrew Johnson, the Everton player, who failed to win 10 penalties last year that replays showed were clearly penalties. And funnily enough, most of those were in away games. Evidence of referee's bottling it ?
A friend of mine who works in London has a friend, who I too have met, who is on the Premiership linesmen list. He was told after making a howler of an error in a high profile game by the referee's association to "keep his head down for 12 months and not make any controversial decisions against big teams". He was also advised by other referees and linesmen to "be careful" when giving decisions against England players.
If that isn't evidence of an institutional bias in the Permier League and amongst referees, I don;t know what is.