Mark Halsey, who refereed in the Premier League for 14 years, has stated he was told to say he hadn't seen incidents that had occurred during games.
The former official revealed the information on social media on Saturday in a conversation about a flashpoint that saw Manchester City's Sergio Aguero banned for three games:
When asked to clarify his statement, Halsey suggested the direction came from the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL), not the Football Association:
Aguero picked up the sanction after he was found guilty of violent conduct and means he will miss the club's next three games, including next weekend's clash with Manchester United. The ban was in relation to Aguero appearing to swing an elbow at West Ham United defender Winston Reid.
According to Ed Malyon of the Daily Mirror, City were considering appealing the suspension as television footage appeared to show the referee on the day, Andre Marriner, looking at the skirmish.
“Premier League rules state no retrospective action can be taken if the incident was seen by the official at the time,” added Malyon.
The claims will be a concern to all those involved in the game. Former Manchester United defender Gary Neville suggested that if Halsey’s words had veracity, it constituted corruption:
According to a report from the Daily Telegraph’s Jim White in 2013, Halsey opted not to take a severance payment of £50,000 from the PGMOL upon retiring from officiating, instead taking on a position with BT Sport. Per the piece, the sum is only issued if the referees agree to a “gagging order” to prevent them discussing their officiating days when they retire.