Nottingham Forest are really playing with fire over VAR war

Nottingham Forest are really playing with fire over VAR war

Nottingham Forest’s incendiary post about refereeing decisions in the aftermath of their defeat to Everton on Sunday has been viewed over 43 million times, making it one of football's most successful examples of rage-tweeting.

To recap, minutes after full-time in their 2-0 defeat to fellow strugglers Everton, Forest's official X account claimed they had warned referees' body, the PGMOL, that VAR Stuart Attwell "is a Luton fan" before the game, and added that the club would "consider its options" after "three extremely poor decisions".

Attwell - who, incidentally, is considered competent enough by Uefa to be a VAR at this summer's European Championship - decided against overruling referee Anthony Taylor following three incidents involving Everton's Ashley Young in the penalty box.

Any sympathy Forest deserved was immediately diminished by the club's embarrassing post-match tweet and subsequent statements. Forest essentially insinuated that Attwell is a cheat whose judgement was influenced by his association with relegation rivals Luton.

It was wildly irresponsible, further undermining and making targets of officials who are increasingly seen as fair game by entitled clubs and frenzied fans alike.

Forest have since insisted "this is not about individuals", despite making it about an individual, and claimed they raised Attwell's allegiance with the PGMOL before the match "because of the fear of the side show that would ensue if anything went wrong".

The resulting sideshow, however, is solely of the club's creation. Did anyone know or care that Attwell was a Luton fan before Sunday?

He has been outed now, his reputation and professional prospects potentially damaged by one club's petulance.

Adding to the furore, the club's "referee analyst", former top-flight referee Mark Clattenburg, used his newspaper column on Monday to highlight "a hat-trick of howlers" from his ex-colleagues and describe the situation as "a joke".

Clattenburg's own role in Forest's outrage is particularly shameful given he has been in Attwell's shoes and is now being paid to undermine and accuse his former colleagues.

Forest's behaviour is, at best, disingenuous and, at worst, dangerous.

Evangelos Marinakis has made his anger towards officials clear (Getty Images)
Evangelos Marinakis has made his anger towards officials clear (Getty Images)

Evangelos Marinakis, who is widely believed to be the driver of Forest's indignation, is also the owner of Greek club Olympiacos and hails from a footballing culture where referees have routinely been the target of violent attacks by supporters.

Marinakis has played his part in creating this toxic environment for officials and was once banned from the field of play in Greece for five months for entering the pitch and allegedly verbally abusing a referee.

The 56-year-old is now attempting to use the same playbook in the Premier League by stoking mistrust of officials and questioning the competition's integrity.

In employing Clattenburg, piling public pressure on officials and whipping up some supporters into a conspiratorial hysteria, Forest are hoping to influence future decisions.

Perhaps if they make enough noise, an official might be influenced into a marginal call in their favour against Manchester City on Sunday, for example.

A hefty punishment, such as a points deduction, would only add to Forest's sense that they are being targeted but if clubs are allowed, without evidence, to make accusations of corruption and stain the reputation of the League and an individual, the damage to the game will be enormous.