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    Monday, April 22, 2024

    Nottingham Forest Cries Foul Play in Inflammatory Social-Media Post as VAR Frustrations Grow

    It’s 39 million views and counting for an inflammatory social-media post that might be unlike anything ever seen in English soccer.

    The final whistle had just been blown on Nottingham Forest’s 2-0 defeat at Everton in the Premier League on Sunday when a post on X, formerly Twitter, was published by the frustrated losing club.

    It went beyond criticizing match officials for perceived incompetence for the failure to award three penalties for what Forest said were a trio of clear fouls in the area during the game.

    It pointed to potential foul play by questioning the integrity of the VAR — Stuart Attwell — who, the club said, is a fan of a team, Luton, that is battling with Forest to avoid relegation.

    Signing off, the post said Forest will “consider its options” about how to proceed.

    This matter, it seems, is far from over, not least because the Premier League is likely to come down hard on Forest in the coming days for its insinuations.

    Indeed, Forest — a two-time European champion — has rarely been out of the news since returning to the Premier League last season, after an absence of 24 years, under the stewardship of larger-than-life owner Evangelos Marinakis.

    Signing a record 21 players at a cost of around $160 million in the first transfer window after promotion showed this was a club which would be doing things differently.

    Forest has been made to pay for that wild spree, with the club recently having been docked four points for breaching the league’s financial rules. It is appealing against that sanction.

    This season, with the team again under the threat of relegation and currently in fourth-to-last place, Forest has adopted an us-against-the-world mentality for what it perceives to be a series of poor refereeing decisions hurting the team. It has even hired a former Premier League referee, Mark Clattenburg, as a consultant this season.

    Clattenburg has been scrutinizing the decisions of match officials and is answerable to Marinakis, a combustible Greek shipping magnate and media baron who — as owner of Olympiakos, Greece’s largest club — has been known for frequent public outbursts against refereeing calls and run-ins with the Greek Football Federation.

    In his column for British newspaper The Daily Mail, Clattenburg wrote on Monday that Forest has had to “endure some egregious refereeing” this season and that the decisions at Everton made it “as grim a game as they have encountered since returning to the Premier League.”

    “It was a hat trick of howlers from the refereeing team and, unfortunately for Forest, a continuation of an unjust trend that has hampered their survival fight,” Clattenburg wrote.

    A previous incident that angered Forest — and led to Marinakis going down to the touchline to express his unhappiness and later approach referee Paul Tierney — came in the team’s 1-0 home loss to Liverpool in March.

    The winning goal arrived in the ninth minute of stoppage time — just eight minutes had been allotted — and only after a controversial call by the referee, with Forest not getting the ball back when play was stopped after Liverpool defender Ibrahima Konate sustained a knock to the head at a Forest corner before the goal.

    Tierney blew his whistle with Forest in possession on the edge of Liverpool’s area. After Konate quickly recovered, the referee dropped the ball to Liverpool goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher, who then started the attack that eventually led to the goal.

    Clattenburg pointed out that the ball should have gone back to the team that had possession when the game was stopped.

    That appears to be a clear refereeing error, like the one made in Liverpool’s loss at Tottenham in October when there was a mix-up in communication between the on-field referee and the VAR.

    After that mistake, Liverpool said it would “explore the range of options available, given the clear need for escalation and resolution.”

    Tensions are running high and the finances at stake in the lucrative Premier League are leading to clubs — and its fans on social media — getting bolder and more vocal with their complaints, especially about the use of a video review system that is not proving to be the solution that was promised.

    Forest went too far, though, according to Jamie Carragher, a former Liverpool and England defender who is now a leading pundit on British broadcaster Sky Sports.

    “What I’ve just read there on social media, that’s like a fan in a pub. That is embarrassing from Nottingham Forest,” Carragher said.

    “I get the frustration, but that rubbish, that the VAR is a Luton fan — they can’t get involved in that. You’ve got to show a little bit of class as a football club.”

    An attempt to lighten the mood came from Crystal Palace in a post the club sent on X, after its 5-2 win over West Ham, that mimicked the language used by Forest in its incendiary tweet.

    “Five extremely good goals — two goals conceded — which we simply have to accept,” Palace wrote.

    “Palace will now enjoy their Sunday.” AP

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