Article from Sunday Mirror of 28 June 2020
By SIMON MULLOCK and MARK METCALF
IT is 129 years since the champions of England resided at Anfield for the first time.
And as Liverpool prepare to lift the Premier League trophy at the end of a season that has brought the introduction of VAR, it's ironic that the 1890-91 campaign was also shrouded in refereeing controversy.
That first Merseyside triumph, during the reign of Queen Victoria, belonged to Everton.
The Blues were the pioneers of the game in a city now synonymous around the world with football.
And they played at Anfield for seven years, until an attempt by chairman John Houlding to increase the rent on the ground he owned ended with Everton moving a mile across Stanley Park to Goodison.
Houlding took his revenge by setting up a rival club, Liverpool – and the rest is history.
This is Liverpool's 19th title, while Everton have nine. No City in England has more.
But the Toffees are the originals – and when they clinched the championship in March 1891 it was thanks to a remarkable chain of events linked to how football was refereed.
When the Blues lost their final game of the season 3-2 at Burnley, it seemed they had handed the crown to reigning champions Preston North End.
Preston had finished top in each of the first two years of the fledgling Football League and needed only to win at Sunderland to clinch a hat-trick of titles.
These were the days when clubs appointed their own umpires, each applying the laws of the game in opposite halves of the pitch.
A referee, positioned on the halfway line with a whistle, would be the final arbiter of all decisions.
But the sight of all three officials arguing with each other was commonplace.
And when Preston chairman and umpire Major William Sudell took exception to a decision made by referee Mr Cooper in the decisive game at the Wearsiders' Newcastle Road ground, he stormed off the pitch and refused to continue.
North End were already two goals behind and eventually lost 3-0 to a Sunderland team that finished seventh in their first season in the 12-team league.
The Newcastle-based newspaper The Journal reported: “One has not heard the last of Mr Sudell walking off the field and leaving his side without an umpire, for the referee Mr Cooper felt it keenly.
“A man of his experience should have thought twice before taking such a drastic action, especially as the referee's decision seemed correct.”
It was to be a watershed moment in how the laws of the game were applied.
In October 1890, in an experiment to see how officiating standards could be improved, the FA Cup tie between Gainsborough Trinity and Lincoln City saw referee Arthur Kingscott given complete control of the game.
It didn't go well, with Kingscott criticised for his inconsistent decisions and failure to send off a couple of Lincoln players for violent tackles.
But following the fall out from the events witnessed at Sunderland, the FA decided that appointing neutral referees and linesmen was the only way forward.
Even so, international games were refereed in the old style, with each country nominating their own linesman.
It wasn't until 1947 that the annual Home International clash between England and Scotland was refereed by a neutral official, with Frenchman Charles Delasalle helped by a linesman from each country.
More than 70 years later, each Premier League game requires no fewer than 10 officials following the advent of VAR.
The referee is aided at the stadium by two assistant referees, a fourth official, two additional assistant referees and a reserve additional referee.
In the VAR booth at Stockley Park, there is a VAR official and two assistant VAR officials.
And once again, it can be argued that the final decision no longer belongs to the man in the middle.