By Walter Broeckx
And then enters another person the playing field. One could say he is our 4th ref. A person who is known under the name of Dogface. He is the computer genius in this whole story. Almost all the graphics and numbers from the data you will see in the coming weeks are from his hands and head. I asked a few things but he came up with some other things that are really exciting to see. But you will find out later about that. So we send our file to Dogface and he starts his mumbo jumbo or hocus pocus as we say in my country.
Dogface is the master magician when it comes to making nice things from the database. When I send the file to him I usually open a new article and write the words in the article and then is the wait for Dogface. Because he is the one that enters the data in the ref review in the form as we know it now.
And when he has done this he gives me a sign and then I can notify Tony that another review can be published on the site.
And then the reactions come in. And then the ref reviewer sometimes has to defend himself for his review. Questions like: Why didn’t you call that a penalty? Are followed by: Because there was an offside first so it should have been offside on that decision and not a penalty. Or other questions or remarks.
But it is important for us that it is always in the open. Any person can come in and ask to explain something. We have nothing to hide at all. We work in an open way. You can disagree on some things. And people have pointed out some mistakes in fact. And then we change them. Because like I said even our ref reviewers are human. And thus can make mistakes. And while the review is published and people comment on it, our ref reviewer sits in front of his TV. Preparing the next review. And going through it all again.
An important thing is that during the season we have been taking care that we switched the teams we reviewed as much as possible. This to prevent any possible bias entering the reviews. If only one person does the same team all the time it can undermine the reviews. So we did take care that not always the same person just did that particular team.
As you have seen the reviews have changed in format during this season. We had some troubles with how it came on line until Dogface changed it completely and we have the current format and presentation. I like it a lot as it gives all the information in nice tables and you can find what you want in those tables. This is the work from Dogface and I cannot thank him enough for the amazing job he has done. He was working behind the scenes and without his input, work and dedication all this would not have been possible.
So apart from our ref reviewers we have to say a big thank you to Dogface. The computer genius when it comes to refs. Our regular readers know him from his amazing ref previews where he on occasions has amazed the world with his predictions on the ref before a ball was kicked. And the most amazing thing is that he has been right on many occasions with his predictions.
The build up to an Arsenal games is incomplete without his referee preview. It even gathered the attention of the BBC last year. Not a little thing to achieve. Yes I’m talking about the ref preview before the Arsenal – Everton game in the season before the last. But Dogface since then repeated the same trick a few times again.
Giving a score to a ref is one thing. But how must we look at the score?
In most school systems they us the 50% score as a minimum to go to the next year. Or in some cases they use the 60% score as a minimum to get to a higher level. But this isn’t school. This is real life.
In a way one could compare a ref with a pilot. Just imagine that you step in to a plane and trust your live in the hands of the pilot. What are the chances that you will be able to tell about it if the pilot only gets 50% of his decisions correct? I think there is a big chance the plane falling down at one moment during the flight. Would you step in to a plane when you know the pilot will only get 70% of his decisions right during that flight? Well I much rather would have the knowledge that my pilot gets 100% of his decisions right.
Both are people (pilot and ref) whom you trust. You depend on them to make the right calls. In one case because your life depends on it. In the other case not really your life but the good feeling of thousand if not million people all over the world. And a little bit of money for the teams that can make the difference between keeping a club alive or going down.
So where do we draw the line for a ref? Where is the tipping point between great, good, acceptable and no longer acceptable? Is it at 50% ? No this is something we cannot accept. Because if we would accept that as enough we might as well put no ref on the field but put a toss thrower on the field. He also will have 50% of the decisions right one could say. Or we could put a blind man on the field. He also could get 50% of the calls correct. So 50% for a ref is not acceptable at all. We can’t look at the ref his final score and use the school system.
But asking a ref to have 100% of his calls correct is also not really possible in the way football is played and refereed for the moment. The human factor plays its part and some things are not visible for the ref. So demanding 100% is also something we shouldn’t do. The final objective is to reach that 100% mark in the future. But for the moment it isn’t possible.
In my country they have drawn the line at a score of 70%. If a ref gets a score of 70% over the whole season he can stay a ref in the top division. If he doesn’t get that score he will be put back to the lower division. I can live with that in a way. But I really think it is a real minimum score. One could say that the 70% score for a ref is equal to the 50% score or a student.
We have to keep in mind that the refs in the PL are professionals. And so should do a professional job. Would your boss allow you to work only 70% correct all the time? Wouldn’t you get the sack if you would constantly make a mess of 30% of the work you have to do? So it really is a minimum score. Below that we go to the level of the blind man or the toss throwing and that is not acceptable in sports.
So if we look at the scores a ref gets we can say that anything below 70% is just not good enough. It means that the ref is not really up to it. Of a football player we would say not fit enough to wear the shirt. If speaking of a ref we could say : not fit enough to wear the badge.
So whenever you see a score in our review that is below 70% this is just not good enough. A score between 70% and 80% is acceptable. A score between 80% and 90% is good. And anything above 90% is superb, great, excellent, bring out the superlatives.
Now I know all too well that a ref can have a bad day. Any ref who is self critical will admit that he has messed up in a game. And the ref who doesn’t admit this is lying or is not self -critical enough. But as any ref can have a bad day we should not judge a ref on a one game. That is why we have been working on doing as many games as possible so we can judge the refs not just on a one bad game performance but also not on a one great game performance.
So you will see average scores of refs over a whole season in our reviews. Doing it this way we will be able to say that it evens out…for the ref. Or should even out. Doing one great game and be rubbish for the rest shows that there is something wrong with the ref. Doing one really bad game but good to great games for the rest of the season means that the ref just had a bad day at the office. It can happen and we will not ask to remove a ref who had a bad day. But when a ref constantly goes below the 70% mark we will judge him as not being good enough.
And then we also have the difference between a ref who get the big decisions correct and one who can do the fouls in the middle of the field but then freezes once the penalty area comes near. Just like it can happen to certain players, it can happen to a ref also.
Next article coming soon in this series: So what can we show you?