Aston Villa Game – Match Report

The Foxes Board has decided we will not be running a match report for tomorrow’s game as we do not want to encourage any of the match reporting team to pay the £15 Pay Per View charge or watch an illegal stream to provide the report

We would encourage any City fan who has a twitter account to post the following tweet

@premierleague is still defending the indefensible. @skysports and @btsport should stop ripping-off fans with a £15 charge to view matches in a pandemic. This is no way to treat fans and subscribers who already pay them large sums of money.

Foxes Trust Oppose the Project Big Picture Power Grab

The proposal put forward by Liverpool FC and Manchester United FC, which would change the control of football to be in the hands of the owners of the “Big 6” clubs has received total opposition from Premier League Fans Groups

It is encouraging that all 6 Fans Groups of the “Big 6” have issued a joint statement condemning the proposal which can be read here

The Football Supporters Association have also issued a detailed response to the proposal recognising the positive elements but not being deceived by the power grab that is being attempted at a time when EFL clubs desperately need funds to survive, read here:

As both statements make clear, the Premier League as an entire 20 club organisation have to act swiftly to provide the financial aid the EFL clubs need, but not by handing control to the Big 6 owners which would change the future of football forever.

We are confident that a combination of the FA, the Government and fans lobbying will stop this proposal in its tracks, while any changes to the game going forward must involve fan consultation, the Big 6 clubs may have just scored a big own goal, giving the Government the push to deliver its manifesto promise of fan led reform.

Pay-per-view offer is no deal for fans

Fans of Premier League clubs are rightly angered by the latest announcement to charge £14.95 to view matches.

Leicester City apparently the sole vote of reason

By Steve Moulds

Back in August at a supporters’ engagement meeting, the Premier League (PL) executive were surprised at the anger expressed by fans’ groups (amongst them a Foxes Trust (FT) delegate) that they had no plan to televise all matches being played behind-closed-doors. PL’s reasoning was that doing so would cost them more than the £700m they had lost at the end of the previous season. The PL also appeared genuinely unaware of the bad feeling and publicity this would create with football fans, many of whom were stumping up hundreds of pounds in season ticket fees for the privilege of not watching their team play.

This led to campaigning by the FSA, Trusts (such as FT) and other fans groups, resulting in the PL agreeing to broadcast all matches at the start of the 20/21 season.  Just when we thought this was a reason to celebrate a victory for fan power, the PL turns around and makes yet another decision without consulting fans. Unsurprisingly (except to the majority of the PL Board), Friday’s announcement has provoked a huge backlash and not just from fans. The widely respected journalist, Henry Winter of the Times, posted on twitter: “£14.95 to watch a game on pay per view is disgraceful. £5, ok, but £14.95? It’s disgusting. At a time when PL clubs spent £1.2bn on players. When they’ll give agents £200m. When so many families are struggling. The creed of greed is in @premierleague DNA but this truly stinks”.

However, let us for a moment take a step back from the hype. Yes, it is positive that the PL and clubs recognised that fans need to be able to watch their teams play, but the proposal is flawed in so many ways.

Firstly, it is not clear how the £14.95 price point was arrived at.  Press briefings suggest that the PL thought £14.95 was a reasonable price to pay for their ‘superior’ product compared with EFL coverage at £10 per game. What they fail to recognise is that watching on TV is an inferior experience for regular match-going fans.

Fans groups have never argued that this service should be free – clearly there is a cost involved – but the price of £14.95 per game is too high. And because it is too high, it could have damaging effects, which fans’ groups have raised with the PL.  There is an impact on individual’s finances at a time when many are stretched, encouraging use of illegal streams and encouraging people to gather to watch games together, risking the spread of Covid-19.

The pay-per-view plan also penalises fans of those clubs less likely to be selected for the regular broadcast schedule. They will have to pay more to watch their team than fans of the so-called glamour clubs.

A cheaper price point would not only have been fairer, it would have had more chance of expanding the audience and generating more income. And it would have shown that the Premier League is aware of the situation outside its own wealthy bubble.

Other considerations that should surely have been taken on board by the PL would be having cheaper access for Season Ticket holders or ring-fencing some or all of the funds raised to support lower tiers of football.  Either would have been more reasonable and would have provided some sense that the PL ‘get it’ concerning how they are viewed as a business by fans, by the media and by Government.  But none of these factors were thought of.  The PL simply, so it seems, does not ‘get it’.

It has been widely reported in the press that the only PL club voting against the plans was Leicester City, with The Athletic stating “with Susan Whelan, the Leicester City chief executive said to have spoken “passionately” against the proposals” If this was the case, it can give us some hope that somewhere in the higher echelons of football there are still those who have consideration for the humble football fan, and who don’t just see them as cash cows. After all, what does £700m – or £35m per club – get you these days, the price of promising young defender? 

Leicester City have been open to dialogue with FT about various aspects relating to pricing and other matters since the pandemic began – albeit not on the specific question of this pay per view plan.  FT has conveyed our view as to how fans might react to different proposals.  If there is one small positive to come out of this poor PL proposal, it is that dialogue about what fans think can sometimes make a difference to a clubs decisions, although in this case it seems only our club was truly listening.

We ask the Premier League and the media companies involved to quickly re-consider the pricing before the PPV games commence.

City second best throughout

Leicester City 0 – 3 West Ham United

Report by Chris Griffin

The gloom of a wet East Midlands afternoon was matched by the gloom of City’s performance. This was back to earth with a bump following the excellent performance at Manchester City last week. West Ham played to a disciplined game plan, pressing all over the field while defending in numbers. Smartly taken goals by Antonio, Fornals and Bowen saw the visitors take the points despite City having 69% of possession. Leicester lacked the inventiveness to break down a well-organised defence while at the other end Leicester’s own defending left much to be desired.

Perez replaced Praet who had not recovered from injury. City stayed with the three at the back system they used at the Etihad. New signings Fofana and Under were on the bench. Maddison was not involved due to an injury.

A pattern for the game was soon established. Leicester took charge of possession but were unable to play the telling final ball that would open up the opposition defence. Vardy made a good run into the box but his attempted cross under pressure was claimed by Fabianski. The goalkeeper was alert again when a Tielemans through ball for Justin threatened danger. Mendy had a shot deflected for a corner after good work by Tielemans.

Barnes and Vardy worked tirelessly to make runs but the ball seldom came their way due to the tight organisation of the West Ham defence. Then in the 14th minute West Ham took the lead against the run of play. Ogbonna cleared a City free kick and Antonio collected the ball in the City half near the right touchline where he was unnecessarily fouled by Soyuncu. Reacting quickly Antonio took the free kick himself, sweeping the ball across field to the unmarked Cresswell. The left back sent a cross into the City area to the far post where Antonio had made his ground to head in past Schmeichel. It was a smart cross and a good header but Antonio had been allowed to run more than 30 metres with no City playing taking any notice of him and he was left totally unmarked.

City continued to have most of the ball but moves kept breaking down in the West Ham defensive third of the field where Ogbonna, Coufal, Cresswell and Balbuena were keeping a tight grip on any situation. Vardy made a superb run into the box but was crowded out. A move between Vardy and Perez saw Barnes set free but again he was overwhelmed by the circling defenders.

West Ham’s pressing was putting City’s midfield under a lot of pressure and attempts to move the ball quickly resulted in imprecise and inaccurate passing which the defence easily dealt with.

Meanwhile the threat of a West Ham counter persisted and Amartey had to be very alert to cut out a pass into the City box following a Justin misplaced pass. Then Schmeichel had to be off his line quickly to gather another through ball into the City area.

In the 35th minute Leicester were caught by the counter again. The back three were up to the halfway line when Cresswell launched a clearance into the space behind them. Fornals was on the ball in a flash and despite a valiant effort by Soyuncu to recover the forward took aim and drilled a fierce shot into the net: 2-0.

The game’s pattern reverted to Leicester having most possession and pressing forward but the West Ham defence stood firm.

Neither side made any changes at half time. City tried to get on the front foot. Justin played a good ball to Vardy. The ball fell to Barnes but his snatched effort sailed high and wide. Then Tielemans very nearly played Castagne through into the box but Cresswell and Ogbonna closed the door between them. This was becoming the story of the game.

A great run by Barnes earned City a corner but the ensuing set piece was a disappointment, not even clearing the near post.

West Ham remained a danger on the break. An Antonio header was taken by Schmeichel and then Balbuena headed wide from a Rice free kick.

In the 53rd minute, while Evans was being given a yellow card for clearing out Fornals, Leicester were forced to make a substitution and debutant Cengiz Under came on for the injured Amartey. Leicester switched to a back four. Under certainly added energy and determination to the attack but West Ham held firm while still threatening the home goal. Evans did very well to block a goal bound Fornals attempt. At the other end smart interpassing saw City threaten the goal but Ogbonna was on hand yet again to clear up.

On 64 minutes Iheanacho came on for Perez but West Ham kept up their momentum with Balbuena heading over after another Rice free kick.

Smart work by Iheanacho saw him dribble into the West Ham area but before he could shoot Ogbonna recovered and conceded a corner which came to nothing. At the other end a terrific Rice dribble outpaced Mendy. Rice’s shot beat Schmeichel only to rebound off the cross bar.

As much as Leicester were trying to find a way through a West Ham third looked on the cards. Sure enough in the 83rd minute Rice, deep in his own half, played a good ball forward to Fornals who turned and then placed a fine ball through the City defence for Bowen to run onto and drive the ball into the net.

Leicester kept going. A lack of physical effort was not the problem today. Choudhury came on for Mendy. Barnes slipped Vardy through for a one-on-one with Fabianski but as the keeper rushed out Vardy flicked the ball past the far post: chance gone. A superb series of one-twos between Barnes, Iheanacho and Vardy saw Barnes shoot home but VAR decided that Vardy was offside by the width of a cigarette paper and the goal was ruled out. It sort of summed up City’s day.

Brendan Rodgers was forthright in his assessment.  “Everything was missing – it was poor. We started the season well and scored goals but we lacked aggression in our defending and West Ham have shown they are a good side…Dennis [Praet] and James Maddison [both injured] give us extra quality and we lacked precision in our passing. We couldn’t get our front players involved and didn’t give the back line a chance to get up the pitch.”

Leicester City: Schmeichel, Castagne, Evans, Amartey, Soyuncu, Justin, Tielemans, Mendy, Perez, Barnes, Vardy.

West Ham United: Fabianski, Ogbonna, Balbuena, Cresswell, Coufal, Rice, Soucek, Masuaku, Bowen, Antonio, Fornals.

Referee Andy Madley

The views expressed in this report are the opinions of the Trust member nominated to file the report only and do not represent the views of the Foxes Trust organisation

FT VAR Survey results: A thin red line was not required to differentiate your views

By Steve Moulds

With the new season underway, and fans being unable to watch from the stands, it is some relief to get back to moaning about how useless (or “helpful” – in the interest of balance) VAR continues to be – after all, who would deny us the inexplicable joy of losing our sense of perspective as Vardy is denied a goal by a pixel-width line on a monitor in Stockley Park!

The Foxes Trust had a great response to the VAR survey circulated at the end of last season. Most of the results were unsurprising and it remains to be seen if any of your concerns are addressed by changes implemented by PGMOL* for 20/21. What follows is a brief analysis of the results. A download link to a summary document, showing the percentage responses to each question, is at the end of this article.

Clearly, with more VAR decisions during matches at the KP (up to lockdown) than at any other ground, City fans were well placed to comment on how VAR had operated. This was evidenced by answers to Question 1, with over 70% of respondents rating themselves at 7 or above (on a scale of 10) for their understanding of the rules pertaining to the use of VAR. However, for those who regularly attend matches, 84% had not seen referees use the pitch-side monitors, as we had been advised that they would by the Premier League. This may have contributed to the majority (57%) being unclear that the on field referees decision is final – which it should be under the rules of football governed by IFAB* – intimating supporters think the VAR is having more influence than it should.

Question 4 dealt with the communication of VAR decisions on the screens in the stadium. For regular attendees, it seems these messages need to be displayed on-screen for longer but for most, what is shown is clear and easy to understand.

The next section dealt with how VAR is affecting the way fans view the game. It is clear for the majority that decisions are taking too long to resolve and that this is not helping referees get the decisions correct anyway. What is more, VAR is used on too numerous occasions and is changing the way fans react to incidents in the game with 86% or regular attendees agreeing that goal celebrations were becoming muted, leading to reduced enjoyment of the game. So, helpfully, we can understand what is blatantly annoying us and disrupting the flow of the game?!

The above being said, over 80% of respondents agreed that continued use of VAR would not effect their attendance of matches.

Turning to questions on possible solutions, over 50% of respondents think that some alteration to the laws of football may be required in order for VAR to work more effectively. Around 70% would like to see VAR used only for objective decisions – but that obviously depends on how the laws dictate what is deemed “clear and obvious”.

The final section tried to draw out some views on how VAR is affecting the way the game is being played. Over 50% think that defenders and attackers are reacting differently because VAR is in operation. 63% think players are asking referees for VAR reviews – which supposedly they should not do on penalty of a yellow card. Most of you agree that VAR has done little to alter the number of incidences of diving nor has it helped referees correctly judge red cards for poor tackles. It is noted that a red card was rescinded on the first weekend of the new season, when the referee reviewed his decision on the pitch-side monitor – perhaps things are already changing for the better?

Many thanks to those respondents who took the time to leave comments at the end of the survey. Stuart Dawkins provides a summary.

VAR Survey Comments

The VAR survey included the question: “If you have any other comments on the use of VAR that haven’t been covered above, please leave them below.” This produced a total of 121 responses.  these covered a variety of topics, but a few dominated the responses:

  • Simply scrap VAR.
  • VAR takes too long and spoils the flow and enjoyment of the game.
  • If a VAR check takes several minutes, it is surely not ‘clear and obvious’.
  • The match referee should retain full control of decisions, using pitch-side monitors when required.
  • The lack of effective communication with fans within grounds, often referring to rugby union or cricket where spectators are kept fully informed of the decision process.
  • A variety of comments re changes to the VAR protocols and/or Laws of the game to make VAR work better.
  • Simply ‘VAR is here to stay’.

A few sample comments on each topic follow…

Simply scrap VAR.
“Should be scrapped immediately”.

VAR takes too long and spoils the flow and enjoyment of the game.

“A significant amount of spontaneity and joy is being lost to the game because of VAR.”

If a VAR check takes several minutes, it is surely not ‘clear and obvious’.

“Ruining the joy of football. If it takes 4 minutes and 30 replays across 6 different camera angles, it’s not clear and obvious. A decision should be made within 5-10 seconds – if it’s clear and obvious that’ll be enough time”.

The match referee should retain full control of decisions, using pitch-side monitors when required.

“VAR should be used to aid the referee, not overrule him. As in the World Cup, the infringement should be brought to the ref’s attention and then he reviews the incident on the pitch side monitor before changing his mind or not.”

The lack of effective communication with fans within grounds, often referring to rugby union or cricket where spectators are kept fully informed of the decision process.

“Crowd at game should be respected and fully shown decision making process.”

A variety of comments re changes to the VAR protocols and/or Laws of the game to make VAR work better … specific suggestions included:

  • Giving each team captain a specific number of VAR ‘appeals’ – akin to the process used in cricket.
  • A tighter restriction on what VAR is used for: for example, for matters of clear fact not subjective opinion.
  • Tweaks to the offside law to try to overcome the issue of very marginal decisions.
  • Removing the recent addition to the rules re the ball hitting an attacker’s arm during the build-up to a goal.

Overall, the majority of respondents (53%) think VAR is for TV audiences and not fans in stadia. A significant percentage (35%) think VAR works neither for TV nor live football. The Premier League has promised to release statistics revealing how VAR has operated in 19/20. It started off this process by stating it thought the system was outcome neutral – so let us hope VAR proves to be more helpful than that for referees and less contentious as we move forward this season. With fans only able to watch via TV (for now) and any chances of supporters attending live games hanging by a thread, the fear is there may be more serious consequences for the game than the usefulness of VAR.

*  PGMOL – Professional Game Match Officials Ltd – employs PL referees and runs the VAR at Stockley Park; IFAB – International Football Association Board – guardians of the Laws of the game.

(Thanks to Sarah Hubbard for her assistance in analysing the data.)