Officiating decisions once more hit Everton as chaotic season ends in more controversy

Yesterday the Toffees lost two-one at Arsenal on the final day of the Premier League campaign as refereeing controversy once again intervened.
Arsenal FC v Everton FC - Premier League
Arsenal FC v Everton FC - Premier League / Marc Atkins/GettyImages

Referee Michael Oliver decided not to review the build-up to Arsenal's late winner - in which Gabriel Jesus appeared to handball - although VAR officials suggested he do just that, so costing Everton a point.

In one sense of course it did not matter that much as the Blues were not dependent on the result and so it could be seen as just another instance of erratic and questionable officiating in a season that has been littered with them.

But in another way it seemed to symbolise - in a fittingly unsatisfactory and very frustrating way - the whole campaign, particularly for the Toffees.

The 2023-24 Premier League season has been easily the most chaotic and controversial in the history of the competition, indeed I would say in the entire history of English professional football.

All this has also surely impacted on the reputation of the Premier League itself too with the prospect of a government regulator looming on the horizon.

The League has seen it's previously shiny image tarnished by the way it has handled the PSR issue and the punishments that were meted out to both the Blues and eventually Nottingham Forest too.

At the same time officiating has come under even more scrutiny after a litany of decisions which have at times provoked huge debate and argument in the game.

While the Toffees were once more on the wrong end of yet another highly contentious refereeing decision that cost them, their hosts were, despite ultimately winning, going to lose out on the title to a club with 115 PSR-related charges still hanging over them.

The fact that champions Manchester City - who yesterday won a record fourth straight English title - have not had any of those charges formally brought to a conclusion, is surely not doing the reputation of the Premier League much good.

As I have said before, these are allegations and I do not know if all or indeed any of them are valid and will turn out to be true after investigation.

But it is difficult not to see as highly debatable the way in which Everton's and Forest's cases have been fast-tracked to a conclusion - and in the Blues case twice - in one season, while the charges against the newly crowned champions remain unresolved, despite their case dating back to an earlier period of time.

There has been talk that the nature and number of City's charges mean it will take that much longer to resolve and so the wait goes on.

Meanwhile, there are now apparently plans afoot to replace the current PSR system and punishments - possibly during the coming summer - which would potentially enable other clubs to avoid points deductions.

So where will that leave City and what then happens to the Toffees and Forest - will they get their points deducted restored to them retrospectively?

Chief executive Richard Masters was before a Parliamentary Committee looking into the PSR controversy earlier this year and let slip, inadvertently it seemed, that the League was not treating 'small clubs' (i.e. Everton and Forest) differently.

However, the PSR issue and other apparent snubs - such as the failure to include the Toffees in their end-of-season review or to mention the club's new Bramley-Moore Dock stadium while alluding to other such projects - give an impression that the Blues in particular are being singled out for uniquely different and detrimental treatment.

Well, pesky old Everton are still there and will embark on another Premier League campaign when August rolls round again, assuming the club hasn't gone under in the meantime!