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Poor refereeing in the EPL, reasons and solutions part 4

By Walter Broeckx

In this part of the series on what could cause poor refereeing in the EPL, I want to talk about a very personal subject of the ref. His inner thoughts and how it  could affect them.

As well as some hard-to-discover issues happen in all countries and why should the EPL be free of them.

7. Personal dislikes

In my first season the last game of the season was a big one. Two teams divided by 2 points. The winner was the champion in their league.

A few days before this game I talked with another ref who had refereed one of the teams in the weeks before. And he warned about a player of one of the teams. The left back. A young bald player who looked mean. When I first saw him I was thinking of the words of the other ref and I thought: “I will be watching you”.

But I never had any problem with him during the whole game. I then learned that day never to trust another person’s opinion on a player without giving him a chance myself.

But is a fact that refs talk about the players they have . So I can imagine on a training of the refs they will talk about player A or player B. And they will give their personal views. This could have an influence on other refs.  I learned not to listen to remarks of this kind. But it can have an effect.

Here’s another personal dislike which can be more controversial. I have read somewhere that some players with a different skin seem to get more yellow and red cards from some refs. Is it a coincidence that Dowd seem to book a lot of coloured players from Arsenal and has dismissed two of them this season?

Is it a coincidence that Dowd gave the coloured Diaby a red card for giving a push against the head of Barton and is it a coincidence that Dowd only gave a yellow for the white coloured Barton for grabbing Szczesny by his head?

It is important to recognise that we are not making any allegations of racial bias against this ref – rather this is just an example of what can happen to some refs in some leagues.   It could of course be that he based his card on personal liking or disliking one of the two.  It could be he just made a mistake.   It could well be that Dowd dislikes players who are smaller than he, or who are taller or something else.  It could be that he is not a very good referee.

This disliking is something that cannot be seen unless you bring in a statistical analysis to see if there is anything wrong.  We need to look at how many red haired players are in the EPL and if they are sent off as much as the brown haired players.  Too much work for one person I’m afraid but the Premier League has the facilities to undertake such an analysis.  It may seem trivial but it could reveal something quite alarming.

8. Gambling

Now let us move on to the gambling. In almost any country in the world there have been on occasions gambling incidents. Belgium, Holland, Germany, a lot of Eastern European countries, the list is long the list goes on.

And also in England there has been some cases in which players have been accused of doing such things (although not as far as I know referees).   Indeed a significant part of Arsenal’s promotion in 1919 came because of the match fixing scandal involving Manchester United and Liverpool.

There have however been many match fixing cases in England which have been proved, most notably the Sheffield Wednesday scandal of 1964 which resulted in imprisonments, and the Bruce Grobbelaar case in which the Sun accused the keeper of match fixing, he was cleared in court, sued the Sun and then on appeal was said by the judge to have “acted in a way in which no decent or honest footballer would act and in a way which could, if not exposed and stamped on, undermine the integrity of a game which earns the loyalty and support of millions.”

And we all know that ref Dean has been involved in 2005 with Arbitros, a company that tells gamblers how to increase their chances of winning.   I know of a Fifa ref in Holland that has been named but no evidence once again could be find. We all should now about Germany where a ref admitted being guilty of working in favour of a gambling syndicate.

Around the world of football  there is a strong link to gambling syndicates. We have betting companies who sponsor teams. The world of  betting and football is very strongly linked with each other.   Indeed Bruce Grobbelar has recently done adverts for Paddy Power.  It is something I don’t really like.

But in some countries refs have pleaded guilty for having fixed games. So it is possible. But it is hard to prove. It takes all kind of big and undercover police work to discover such things. Or you need a betting company that feels that they have been cheated by some illegal organisation to inform the police to investigate something.

But even then it needs people to break the silence. And it can be dangerous to do this. A few former players in Belgium who have been involved with those gambling syndicates can confirm this.

Does it exist in the EPL? I can’t prove it. But I will not be surprised if someday someone comes out in the open and tells us that he has done it or has been the victim of someone else doing it.

The solution? What can you do other than give people who have done it a lifelong ban and keep them away from football?

9. Bribing

Bribing exists. Players get bribed and refs get bribed. I know. It has happened since the beginning of time. Some easy earned money is very attractive for some people. The brown bag thing.

It happens at all levels and in all countries. It doesn’t happen much that it gets found out. Because not many people will talk about it. But you would be amazed what a drunken club president could tell you. How he not just bribed the keeper of the other team but also got the ref in his pocket.

I don’t drink so I don’t forget the stories I have heard. Even when they are  told late in the evening. You would be amazed how some people feel bad about it so they have to share it with someone. Or the former ref who admitted to have been bribed to give a team promotion in the last game of the season. He gave them a penalty in the last minutes and then stopped the game saying time was up.

A problem is that once you have done it you know it is wrong but you will do it again as you didn’t get caught the first time so you might think: why not risk it again.

So I know it exists and that also refs are not immune to those things. But just like with the gambling thing: without people admitting it, nothing can be found.

So a lifelong ban for persons who have done is the one solution. But also if the refs would be paid a lot of money for doing their job as a ref this would mean that they could lose a lot of money if they do this.

If you haven’t found your reason yet as to why refereeing in the Premier League is so bad, don’t worry. Maybe it will come in the next article. So still more things to come on this in the next days.

31 comments to Poor refereeing in the EPL, reasons and solutions part 4

  • Ole Gunner

    One of the most racist refereeing decisions I’ve seen was in the Ars v Che Carling Cup final where 21 men had brawl but Howard Webb sent off 4 African players. It was bizzarre.

    Howard Webb tends to book some players. Adebayor, Van Persie, Dirk Kuyt. He thinks they have a nasty streak so he tends to give decisions against them.

    But he’s a poor ref. Not just because he’s a racist skinhead.

  • Johnny Deigh

    I remember H. Webb officiated a match in the CL a couple of years ago in Portugal, I think. He made an awful call, which fortunately for him went against the team that ended up qualifying that night for the next round. If they had not qualified, he would have come under a lot of pressure.

  • dotun

    I think the FA need to put a law in place that will revisit some matches with questionable officiating.This will avoid some kind of bias in professional refereeing in the EPL.To make a referee’s decision final in a match can be very costly at times.What if the kind of officiating we witnessed in ARS v NEWC happen to be the final match of a tournament?

  • A Casual Observer

    @Ole Gunner – what else would you expect from an ex-policeman?

  • Dark Prince

    Hmmmm…..is there any coloured ref in epl?? If no then it would be shocking.

  • If Ole Gunner is correct, then Dowd not only hates black players, but Dutch ones. God help any Surinamese, even if as talented as Gullit or Kluivert or Seedorf, if they ever play in a match officiated by Dowd.

    And Dark Prince asks a very big question. We’ve seen black managers get less than a fair shake in England. Notice that the West Brom just went to the available and white Roy Hodgson rather than the available and black Chris Hughton. Not to give an ex-Spurs player the benefit of the doubt, but is getting Fulham to the UEFA Cup Final, as Hodgson did, a bigger achievement that getting a club owned by cheap bastard and damn fool Mike Ashley promoted to the Premiership, as Hughton did? I’m not sure.

  • That should have read “the West Brom job just went.” I noticed also that, as soon as the rumor that the job was going to Hughton started to float, Baggies managment said they were not close to hiring a new manager. The body of Hughton’s application wasn’t even cold before the job then went to Hodgson. As Arsenio Hall, himself black, would say, this is one of those things that make you go, “Hmmmm… “

  • nicky

    These in-depth surveys into refereeing are opening up so many cans of worms, I can see the day coming when the supervision of games would be undertaken from a box in the stand by a team of controllers with the aid of high tech equipment. In consequence, games would last hours due to replays and reviews and could only be watched by retired folk at home on TV sets.
    Big Brother is watching!

  • Nii

    Dowd referee he dont no his work

  • Shard

    I’m sorry. I have to disagree with the comments above. Nothing in the refs or WBA’s actions shows racism. If you want to see it as that then fair enough. But I see an inept(and at most corrupt) referee, and a stupid scared board who in all fairness shouldn’t have sacked Di Matteo, but once they had done so they probably wanted more experience. I didn’t even think of Hughton as ‘black’. And I’d rather not either. Why should we think in terms of race?
    Dark Prince…There used to be Uriah Rennie as ref in the prem league and he was at times worse than the others if my memory serves me correct. Well him being inept wasn’t cos he was black. So why should Hughton not being hired or Howard Webb being s**t be because of that.. Weird.

  • Shard

    I censored part of the word s**t cos now we have to be a bit more proper and cultured, what with the BBC frequenting here 🙂

  • Chrissie

    Thank you Walter for a very interesting series. Very informative. Have thought for a very long time now, that something is very wrong with the refereeing. Maybe what you suggest, more referees would improve things, I never realized that there were as few as 16. Also some kind of system as you have in Belgium where they are marked on their performance would be good, but I can’t see the powers that be would agree to that.
    There is xenophobia amongst the media and wouldn’t be surprised if it exist amongst the refs as well. Vieira got his fair share of red cards, didn’t he.
    By the way, Walter, is there any standard to the kind of language that a ref can use when speaking to a player, thinking of Dowd’s outburst to Sagna? Don’t know what was said, but if Sagna was shocked, I can only assume that he wasn’t inquiring about his health.
    Referee decisions cost us the league in the 07/08 season. Some 7-8 points were lost due to poor decisions.

  • ugandan goon

    @ A Casual Observer,
    I would like to go out on record in defence of policeman refs, their racism is institutional so they are victims as well! fellow sufferers, shall we say?

  • Rob

    I’m not sure that race is that much of an issue but there is definitely bias in favour of English players (including the black ones) and against foreign players. I would say that refs give english players the benefit of the doubt because the English are “hard working committed fighters” and very “passionate” etc according to the predjudiced English media (the skysports thing and simply looking at any of the murdoch press will prove this). On the other hand foriegners are “dirty cheating diving scum who are unfortunately a necessary evil in the wonderfully pure English game”.

    Thats why Cesc gets villified for having a go at the ref in the tunnel (and we don’t even know if that even happened) and Chelsea players such as Acole, Terry, Lampard get away with screaming and swearing in the face of the ref with millions watching live on tv.

  • Dark Prince

    Shard- i think Racism is a very important issue. Not just in terms of colour but also in terms of Nationality. And Racism is widespread. Everyone denounces it but in the same time almost everyone becomes a part of it. Wenger being french is targeted by media. Ever seen Alex Ferguson being targeted in the same volume?? How many times was our captain targeted?? The fact is that most of the refs are born and brought up at the time when Racism was rampant in the society. They will think- ‘how dare a french guy brings his foreign players at our alley and takes our trophy?’

    In case of coloured players, even i have seen that Refs do tend to be harsh on them, though its mostly bcoz they’re from other countries. The coloured people of england though r treated in the same esteem as much as i’ve seen. It all comes down to which nationality u belong to. ManU had Rafael sent off probably bcoz he was not english. Would a player like giggs or ferdinand or fletcher be sent off?? Everyone knows how angry Rooney bcoms, but he’s let off most of the times. If Cesc was so angry all the time, would the refs be so kind?? I dont think so…

    I think the refs try to help out the english players. They’ll favour a team who have more english players, especially those who represent england at an international level. Manu and Chelsea have been favoured a lot bcoz of the english internationals they have. Though Manu is favoured more bcoz of a manager who has been knighted and players like Scholes, Giggs, Ferdinand, who have been in the league for a long time and have build up a reputation that precedes them b4 every match. Thats where Arsenal lags behind. If we had someone like Tony Adams or Ray Parlour in our team today, then we would be favoured sometimes. Though, the emergence of Wilshere, Walcott and Gibbs has given Arsenal the english touch which they needed to have a say in the epl.

  • Shard

    Dark Prince

    Oh if you’re talking about English players being favoured then I totally agree with that. No question about it. Most people will not dispute that either. Racism though implies something totally different even if on an abstract level it is pretty much the same thing.

    However, I’m not so sure we’re disliked only because of Wenger and Cesc and all the foreigners. Someone had mentioned on this site a few days ago, and I’ve always sort of had the impression that Arsenal have pretty much always been disliked. Much before Wenger came here. I have no idea why this should be though.

  • Shard

    @ Tony Attwood

    Completely off topic Tony, but is ‘Making the Arsenal’ available in India?

  • Charlie

    Lots of problems, not many solutions so far. I do agree that they need to pay big money to these guys making them harder to bribe and attracting more applicants so they can be more selective. The FA is rolling in dough so I can only think they’re happy with the way things are. If they paid more they could justify tighter scrutiny too. Suitable people who don’t shop at Specsavers are out there, they just have better paid jobs.

  • Terence McGovern

    Charlie the FA is in worse debt than Man Utd but the media are helping keep it under wraps.

    Classic stuff from Ugandan Goon btw

    Howard webb may or may not be a racist skinhead but he most definitely favours Man Utd and is appointed for way too big a share of their key games. That last fact in itself tells you that an institutional problem exists.
    It is very easy to win most of the PL titles if you have a pet referee taking the pressure off. Last year dodgy penalty given to them when Liverpool had them on the backfoot. This year surprise surprise dodgy penalty decision given for Utd against Liverpool.
    Howard Webb the referee that delivers for utd.
    I am no fan of Ryan Babel but his twitter post was hilarious and even if it only draws attention to the possibility of the idea that Webb is biased, it is well worth his fine or what ever the Sweet FA gave him.

  • cesc

    webb managed to mess up the biggest match of the decade. the 2010 world cup was a gigantic mess because webb thought he was bigger than the occassion.
    plonker webb.
    the top ref’s list must be scraping the barrel if refs like webb and dowd are viewed as the best. ha ha ha.

  • Laundryender

    I have a mate who is a die-hard Spurs fan, after i told him to look out for it, he agreed that Vieria was the victim of institutionalised racism. That it was impossible for a ref from up north not to notice a 6 foot 4 inch Blackman on the pitch running the game, with a French accent and a World Cup Winners medal in his back pocket taking no s**t from anyone. After Paddy was sent off against Liverpool at home for making a great tackle then being jumped on by Haman, He said to me, “the more I look the more obvious it is.” Paddy was a target for any tough Northern bast**** because they knew they could. Christ remember the one at OT when Van Nistleroy faked injury, no wonder there were fisticuffs in the tunnel. Anyone looking at the decisions between Arsenal and Man Utd in recent years can reach only one conclusion, particularly at OT. this was as bad as it gets from any Ref, is that a Diego whose career they just ruined.
    Crazy thing is, this guy is now in charge!!!
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EUgP96XjEpY&feature=related

    Adebayor sent off twice in his career, both mistakes, by the same Ref!!!

    Campbell, never sent off for Spurs, but for us, remember the game V Man Utd, and Fergie running on the pitch celebrating a draw, a poor poor decision!! Listen to this, clearly the linesman has a northern accent http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=To_MGJvRkcI conclude what you want from that fact. From this angle it looked bad, other angles showed no contact, we remember Ole getting up with a smile on his face.

    Gilberto, At Newcastle, Shearer Reffed the match, and he kicked Arsenal to pieces; Shearer received a token booking just before the final whistle. Which is more than Barton got. He described it as “a good shift”. I remember reading some press articles saying it was the worst Ref performance of the season, Gallagher!! Up north again, where men are real men, and make up for lack of technique with grit and determination, otherwise known as kicking the s**t of the them.

    I am sure many of you can think of other examples.

    What about Diaby at Sunderland! Eduardo at Birmingham! And Ramsey at Stoke! Guess what all challenges made by good old hard working British lads, from up north. Call me paranoid if you want, but facts are facts and that represents a clear pattern.

    I want to see the press reaction when Rooney suffers a challenge like that, but we all know, it just wont happen!!!

    As for the comments on racism, I want to qualify my comments by saying I come from a mixed race family, but I am white, so speak with some experience. We are not talking about fascism here, nor overt or covert selective racism. We are talking about a failure to identify with someone. A failure to look past the difference, it is something we all are guilty of, I feel comfortable with other Gooners, and uncomfortable with Mancs, a fact of life and human evolution. I can identify with some people and not with others. Skin colour and accent are one of the ways we do this. It is a great man or a liar who says that he does not first recognise the difference in someone, what we have in common we take for granted.
    That is the racism that foreign, or black, footballers suffer, nothing intentional, something subconscious but definitely there.

    Of course in other parts of Europe, the problem is sadly closer to covert racism. Spain for example, and in New Europe touching on Fascism.

  • Charlie

    Blimey, some severe mismanagement goin on if the FA are in debt, how much do they get for TV rights. Oh yeah, they pay the national coaches millions, especially if they screw up. If bribery is a given as is suggested you’ll only stop it by paying them more. Bribery mainly exists where someone in a position of power feels undervalued by his/her employer. The top refs can get £ 80,000 a yr before tax which seems a lot but they’re surrounded by players earning that much in a week so they probably feel bitter.

  • Laundryender

    The FA is in debt due to mismanagement, otherwise called Wembley Stadium!!!

  • RedGooner

    Walter great article again.
    I wouldnt be surprised if there was racism we have seen it with fans and monkey chants way back in the 60’sand 70s in the stands.
    We have seen it with Ron Atkinson ex manager and pundit.
    Theres no reason to suggest its not possible with Ref’s also.

    They only way to combat the bad decisions whatever the reason is to keep doing the Ref reports and reviews and highlight them in the sensible manner you have already been doing.

    There is a reason the BBC visit web sites like this and not some of the other crap websites out there.
    Keep up the good work.

  • Charlie

    RedGooner I like your sentiments but right or wrong the blogs don’t influence the FA and they have never done anything to improve refereeing no matter what anyone has said. A ref might have a shocker but he’ll still get a game the next week and every week of the season no matter how he performs. There’s not enough people ready to take his/her (gotta be careful to be unisex) place. It’s the job nobody wants

  • Armin

    Walter, how much media can influence referee? Did you maybe covered it too? I mean well Phil Dowd is human being (unfortunately) he read and watch, so he is exposed to “propaganda” and his decisions may be sometime based on “common beliefs”, and we all know what is the image of Arsenal in “always objective” media

  • ugandan goon

    Racism is such a big horrible word, and it would help to perhaps ‘dilute to taste’ none the less i think the PGMOL face an institutional hurdle of their own making. The shocking fact that they all seem to hail from a certain part of the country is not helped by the glass ceiling that they have instituted, it all looks a bit jobs for the boys but that could also just be coincidence(?)
    It is widely accepted that racism (or other phobia/ism for that matter) is precipitated by a lack of enough concious familiarity with the phobia so that unconcious feelings override pure judgement i.e in a sense it is just a very big misunderstanding.
    most of us would not dive straight into a strange looking meal even if everybody else was partaking, i think it is fair to say you’d first find out what the ingredients were, mentally form a ‘taste’ picture of what you can expect drawing heavily from memory or apocryphal knowledge, have a little taste and with everybody watching decide on the level of politeness the situation warrants- of course it goes without saying that the more you understand the culture and background of your hosts, the more likely you are to enjoy your experience. I am no neurologist and i am sure i have missed out a few more steps to the decision making process, but the main point is your decision will be a composite of whether overall your experiences are negative or positive.
    Transposing all this back to the highly pressurised decision amking situations most refs will find themselves in during a match, the brain will have to go through the same steps to reach a decision in a very short time, which leaves a lot of room for ‘values based’ judgement. it takes good discipline and an impeachable integrity to be able to deliver consistently in this minefield of a highly strung environment.
    That being the case, i wonder if the FA / PGMOL might consider the disparity of the backgrounds of the EPL players, mostly foreign and often with socially and economically deprived backgrounds, with the mores and social attitudes of the north of england where their refs seem to be almost exclusively plucked from as a reason to retire one or two persistent offenders, perhaps look to support refs closer in background to the players ?

  • I have been thinking about this refereeing thing:
    1.Are they ever evaluated by the referee body?
    2.Do they ever get punished for poor officiating?
    As far as I have seen the officiating in the EPL, Arsenal winning the PL or any other team will be determined by the referees.

  • dude

    we shood orgonize protests like egypt against epl refs

  • dodomidos

    Somebody wrote that racism is not intentional but it’s there anyhow. Correct but does that make it right. Just because a person does not look or speak with your accent doesn’t mean that you should prejudge them. I work as a doctor (in Ireland) and I did not get promoted for 5 years despite fulfiling all requirements while another (Irish) doctor who was in school when I started working got promoted above me and I had to teach this person some surgical skills while working as my superior. This person did not have any other qualification except her color and nationality. There is a notion that coloured (especially Black) people have to do 2ce as well as a white person to get similar recognition and on the other hand black people are seen as “naturally” violent and uncultured. This stereotyping usually stop if and when they get to know you better.
    I believe this is the problem Arsenal has had for a long time. A lot of prominent black/foreign players speaking with “funny” accents or very little English are easy targets for referees who would rather have a (quiet) word with an irate Rooney ,Nolan or Gerard to calm them down but would book a Diaby or Viera for dissent.
    Solution? be better than them and they will eventually grudgingly recognise/respect your talent and behaviour and always try to keep within the laws. Oh and be patient.

  • Laundryender

    dodomidos

    If you are reffering to my comment, i did not say racism was right, but it is a human condition that we notice the difference in people first.

    And yes some people are threatened by the difference, I prefer to celebrate it!!