Refereeing chiefs reject Klopp and Solskjaer's complaints

‘Watching wrestling’? ‘Like rugby’? No! Premier League refereeing chiefs reject Jurgen Klopp and Ole Gunnar Solskjaer’s complaints about allowing physical play – and will stick by their new plan to let play flow

  • Premier League referees will ignore the criticism from Solskjaer and Klopp
  • Solskjaer said the call to let the game flow was turning the sport into ‘rugby’
  • Klopp warned it would only appeal to those who enjoyed ‘watching wrestling’ 
  • The Professional Games Match Officials Ltd are ‘very happy’ with the results
  • There has been 19.7 fouls per game this season vs 21.8 per game last season

Premier League referees will ignore the criticism from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Jurgen Klopp over the more lenient approach to physicality in the 2021-2022 campaign.   

Solskjaer said that the current call to let the game flow was turning the sport into ‘rugby’ after Manchester United were held to a 1-1 draw at St Mary’s on Sunday afternoon. 

Klopp also warned that the new form of refereeing would only appeal to those who enjoyed ‘watching wrestling’ after several of his players were muscled off the ball during Liverpool’s clash with Burnley.

Premier League referees will ignore the criticism from Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and Jurgen Klopp

However, the overarching body that runs elite referees – The Professional Games Match Officials Ltd –  has dismissed claims that the new approach was ruining the game. 

Instead, they are said to be ‘very pleased’ with how the opening two weekends of the Premier League were officiated.  

A source close to the PGMOL told The Times: ‘We are very pleased overall with how things have gone over the opening two rounds and that has been reflected by many comments from pundits saying the game is better for it.

‘The players have also bought into what we are trying to do to let the game flow so overall there is a feeling we are in the right place.

‘Some managers may take time adjusting to it, depending on their teams’ style of play or decisions which have gone against them.’ 

Solskjaer hit out at the Premier League’s decision to encourage officials to be more lenient after Jack Stephens’ tackle of Bruno Fernandes saw Southampton score on Sunday 

 Klopp (above) warned that the new form of refereeing would only appeal to those who enjoyed ‘watching wrestling’ after Liverpool’s clash with Burnley on Saturday

The opening two weekends of the Premier League season have seen two fewer fouls per match awarded compared to last season. 

There were a total 19.7 fouls per game compared to 21.8 per game – highlighting the decision to let the game flow. 

However, Solskjaer hit out at the Premier League’s decision to encourage officials to be more lenient after Southampton’s opening goal on Sunday. 

He felt that the decision to play on after Jack Stephens tackled Bruno Fernandes was wrong – claiming the 27-year-old went ‘straight through Bruno’ to get the ball.   

‘It’s a foul, [Stephens] goes straight through Bruno, with his arm and his hip across him,’ Solskjaer said. 

‘We can’t go from one extreme, of basketball last season, to rugby now. I like the more lenient way, where it’s more men’s football, but that’s a clear foul.’ 

He believes players like Harvey Elliott (left) need to be protected more by referees this term

 Klopp went on to claim that the Burnley players used their arms too much in aerial challenges

Klopp was also frustrated with how the referee managed Liverpool’s game against Burnley – with the Reds manager saying teams like Burnley will turn the Premier League into ‘wrestling’. 

Klopp admitted after Liverpool’s 2-0 win against Sean Dyche’s side that he was worried the new guidance from officials will backfire if teams go unpunished when they cross the line. 

He referred to Brentford’s second goal against Arsenal in the first set of games – when a foul on Gunners goalkeeper Bernd Leno went unpunished – as evidence the balance has swung too far against attackers.  

‘You always have to be ready for a proper fight but today was really tough. You saw these challenges with (Ashley) Barnes, (Chris) Wood, (Josh) Brownhill.’ said Klopp.

‘I’m not 100 per cent sure if we’re going in the right direction with these decisions. It’s not like the football we want to see. We want to avoid these situations. 

The overarching body that runs elite referees – The Professional Games Match Officials Ltd – has dismissed claims that the new approach was ruining the game 

The opening two weekends of the Premier League season have seen two fewer fouls per match awarded compared to last season. There were 19.7 fouls per game compared to 21.8 per game

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‘It started when we changed the rules 10 years ago to protect the players on the pitch. We want to let the let the game flow, but we have situations where it must be a foul. 

‘There’s no fouls any more? I’m not sure. I like all decisions in favour of the offensive team like offside but we have to stick to protect the players. We can’t deny that. Watch wrestling if you like those things.’

Klopp went on to claim that the Burnley players used their arms too much in aerial challenges and that the referee should have been protecting his team.

‘No soft penalties is fine but we can not forget we have to protect players in challenges in the air. It is not just me saying that, it is common sense, sports science.’  

‘How can you train for the challenges of (Ben) Mee, (James) Tarkowski, Barnes and Wood. I would never allow it,’ he said.

‘The strikers were in your body when we jumped, it was a proper test. We want to let the game flow but there is a grey area for sure.’ 

Peter Crouch defended Burnley’s style of play at Anfield and disagreed with the Liverpool boss

Joe Cole (left) also said that Klopp’s outburst was a tactic to gain more favourable decisions

Nevertheless, BT Sport pundits Peter Crouch and Joe Cole defended Burnley’s style of play at Anfield on Saturday and disagreed with the Liverpool manager.  

‘I disagree with Jurgen Klopp. I didn’t see anything,’ said Crouch. ‘If Burnley come here and play Liverpool at their own team they get beat four or five. 

‘Ashley Barnes and Wood have to play on the edge and try and unsettle Van Dijk and make mistakes or they won’t make mistakes. 

‘When you’re at a lesser club with less technical players you have to do different things to unsettle players. It’s why we love the Premier League.’ 

Meanwhile, Cole believes Klopp’s outburst on Saturday was a tactic to gain more favourable decisions in future matches.

Speaking about the German manager, Cole said: ‘He’s very intelligent, it’s a smart move. It’s unusual for him to come out like this. It’s an easy interview today but he’s put a seed next week looking for more protection of his players. 

‘I didn’t see anything untoward, I’ve played in teams when you’re not better on the pitch but you have to ruffle some feathers. I don’t think they were aggressive or going over the line at any point.’  




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