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REF REVIEW 2012: Looking for an independent second source to confirm our findings

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Who invented away support?

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This article is part of the series : REFEREE REVIEW 2012

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By DogFace and Walter Broeckx

Untold Arsenal has a team of qualified referees who have reviewed more than 40% of the EPL games from last season. The reviews themselves were based on full match video footage with the advantage of video technology features such as slow motion and pause.

By reviewing those 155 games we have made a database of more than 7000 decisions that have been judged by our panel of dedicated and qualified referees.

The numbers you will see (from Untold) are based on those decisions and those reviewed games.

 

After giving all the numbers of the different teams and how they did under the refs and in the games we reviewed it could be that you will say: well this is an Arsenal website so no wonder your numbers show an anti-Arsenal bias. Some people might say:  you are biased and I don’t believe you and I will stick my head further in the sand.  And of course you are entitled to do think this and to stick you head in the sand.

But before you ingest too much silicon dioxide it might be interesting to see at how other people stand in this matter.  So let us then look at what people have found who are not Arsenal supporters.

And to do this we should turn our attention to the website debatabledecisions. You can find them if you click on this link  http://www.debatabledecisions.com/

Now they are not Arsenal supporters, in fact in their panel is no Arsenal supporter at all.  You can find the names of the people who sit in their panel and check out their twitter account and you can see there that they don’t support Arsenal.  So hopefully that good enough basis for an unbiased source.

Let us try to check out what we found and what they found.

First of all, if you don’t want to look for it yourself, I want to explain how they work and then you will see the different approach compared to our way of working. They base their decisions on what is shown on Match of the Day. So if an incident is not shown on Match of the Day it is not counted in their decision table. And that is a big handicap for the debatable decisions website. Because I have seen it on a few occasions that when I did a whole game as a reviewer and then saw the highlights on MOTD that important and key decisions were left out.

I will give you an example of this. In the game Everton-Arsenal with the score at 0-1 for Arsenal Everton scored a goal that was ruled out for offside. That was a wrong decision. The goal should have been given and it should have been 1-1. Now on the debatable decisions table they count it like that. And that is because on MOTD they didn’t show an incident in the second half when Rosicky was very clearly pushed and tripped in the Everton penalty area. It was a blatant foul and a crystal clear penalty. But because it wasn’t shown on MOTD (wonder why it wasn’t shown?) the people from the debatable decisions website didn’t take this in their tables.

But apart from that they do their job in the way they do it. And maybe the most important thing is to see if we can discover trends in what we have found and what they have found. So I will now compare the debatable decisions table and put the league position number next to it from our reviewing system. And this is then what you get:

Pos Pos Home Away Total
Deb.Dec Untold Team P F A F A F A TOT
1 1 Stoke 38 13 6 15 3 28 9 19
2 6 Bolton 38 7 3 9 5 16 8 8
3 8 Newcastle 38 8 4 7 6 15 10 5
4 2 QPR 38 5 4 6 2 11 6 5
5 3 Fulham 38 7 1 1 2 8 3 5
6 18 A. Villa 38 5 6 8 3 13 9 4
7 15 Wolves 38 5 6 8 3 13 9 4
8 11 Sunderland 38 7 4 5 5 12 9 3
9 7 Tottenham 38 9 4 6 11 15 15 0
10 16 Swansea 38 3 6 4 2 7 8 -1
11 14 Wigan 38 5 9 5 3 10 12 -2
12 12 Blackburn 38 5 6 3 4 8 10 -2
13 4 Man Utd 38 7 8 5 7 12 15 -3
14 19 WBA 38 6 9 7 8 13 17 -4
15 17 Man City 38 3 3 5 9 8 12 -4
16 9 Norwich 38 5 7 7 10 12 17 -5
17 13 Chelsea 38 5 6 5 9 10 15 -5
18 10 Everton 38 1 5 4 6 5 11 -6
19 5 Liverpool 38 6 10 5 11 11 21 -10
20 20 Arsenal 38 4 8 3 10 7 18 -11

And now it is getting interesting. Because the team we found that benefited most from the refs their mistakes was Stoke and the same was found by the debatable decisions website. And we found that Arsenal was the team that suffered most from the wrong decisions and guess what…the debatable decisions website had the same findings.

And another thing is that we showed that in our numbers Stoke got more decisions in their favour away from home and guess what… the people from the debatable decisions found the same.  Coincidence you say? I call it great research and hard work from our referee reviewing team.

So you can call us biased about Arsenal but isn’t it a big coincidence that we and they agree on the fact that Arsenal has been hit the hardest from wrong decisions? And that Stoke was favoured?

It does show an important trend and that is what makes this comparison so important. I also notice that for a lot of teams the place in both tables are close to each other. And most teams are standing in the same half of the table on both occasions. This is the case for 14 teams out of 20.  There are only 2 teams where the difference in both tables is more than 10 places.  Those teams are Aston Villa and Liverpool. And some of those differences could be down to the fact that the choice of games can have its influence and the fact we only did 6 Aston Villa games.

Another big difference team is Manchester United. But for those who take a closer look at our review results they will notice that we agree on the fact that United had some major decisions going against them. We even showed that lot of the advantage they get is from the small decisions in the field. And then we also have the little fact that well …MOTD doesn’t show all the decisions. I do think however if you put those two tables together you will get a rather accurate picture of how things were in the PL last season.

This is how it would look then and the team in position 1 was the most favoured based on our two different tables and the team in position 20 was the least favoured.

Pos Team
1 Stoke
2 QPR
3 Bolton
3 Fulham
5 Newcastle
6 Man Utd
6 Tottenham
8 Sunderland
9 Wolves
10 A. Villa
11 Wigan
12 Blackburn
13 Norwich
14 Liverpool
15 Swansea
16 Everton
17 Chelsea
18 WBA
19 Man City
20 Arsenal

 

After putting to bed the false words ‘it all evens out at the end of the season” for a lot of teams we can now announce officially that there is something very spooky when it comes to referees.

Because I don’t think there are two teams more separate in the PL than Arsenal and Stoke. Arsenal is known for their put the ball on the floor and play a technical style of football.  And Stoke for what some call a rugby style of football. I will put it gently and say that they are famous for being able to kick the ball high and far up field and run after it.

Stoke players; well at times they do tend to get a bit physical. I think Ramsey will call this an understatement. So would Adebayor feel it. Their players are big, strong and tall and the Arsenal players are relative small and weak (in a way of speaking).

One could say that Arsenal wants to play the game within the rules (yes they will make fouls that is inevitable and is part of the game) but they want to have a game where the ref applies the rules so they can play their technical game. And Stoke wants to rough up their opponents, push and shove, walk the border lines when it comes to the rules. They have brought time-wasting to a new level with the towels being brought out for every throw. Pushing and shoving keepers from right to left when they want to take a throw.

You can’t find two more opposite styles. And then it is so strange to see that the team that is bending the ruled all the time is getting most of the wrong calls  from the refs and most the wrong decisions in their favour.

This brings up a few questions.

Might it be that the refs are silently in favour of the “kick them off the field” tactics ? Now that would be an outrageous thing. The refs should be there to make sure that the laws of the games are applied and they should be the one that should make sure that the players are protected on the field.  If this is the case then the refs should be removed immediately as they do not do what Fifa and Uefa want them to do.

Another possibility could be that the refs are afraid of Stoke. I know this doesn’t sound a possibility but could it be that the fact that those big defenders who kick and push and shove are bringing fear to the refs? I know it sounds not possible but there has to be some explanation. If it would be the case then the refs also have to be removed as they are not fit to wear the referee shirt.

I must say that when we started this reviewing I didn’t know what we would find. But this is one of the most unexpected results of our search. Not just the fact that we at Untold found this big difference between Arsenal and Stoke. But that it is confirmed by an unbiased source.

And this is something that the PGMOL needs to examine and needs to find an answer and most of all: PUT IT RIGHT FOR NEXT SEASON!

And about our numbers being biased? Well they could be biased to a certain degree. Our referee reviewers have tried to do their utmost best to not being biased in the games we reviewed. But still there could have been some bias. But we are open about it. We are clear about it. And so you could take the Arsenal numbers with a pinch of salt even.

But that ladies and gentleman does not explain then why the findings of Untold Arsenal and those from the Debatable Decisions website are the same for a large part. And that does not explain why Arsenal has been hit that hard by the referees!

You can shove us at Untold Arsenal aside by saying we are biased. But if that is the only reason to push our findings out of the way, you cannot do the same with the debatable decisions website. As they do not have one Arsenal supporter in their panel.

So it is back  to you now: do you want to stick your head in the sand and ignore all this? That is an option you can go for. But be warned:  silicon dioxide can be dangerous.  Don’t say we didn’t warn you when you cannot breath any more.

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Ref Review 2012 – the index

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19 comments to REF REVIEW 2012: Looking for an independent second source to confirm our findings

  • ClockEndRider

    Yet another excellent piece of work from the team at Untold. Keep up the good work.
    And this work is important not only in terms of removing the institutional bias against Arsenal but also of helping change the mode of football played in England so that we have a better chance of being competitive at international level. Letting the Stokes of this world perpetuate the style of football little changed since the 1950’s is reducing the opportunities for the development of players with the technical skills to compete with the Germans and Spanish. Allowing throwbacks like Pulis and Allardyce to manage at the highest level, likewise.

  • Mark

    Could you please pass this info on to those morons at the pgmol?
    I think we would all love to hear their response.

  • @Walter Very good comeback on the bias argument. Shame there was so little response from other teams’ refs, but it’s a real statement that the independent stats marry up.

    The biggest problem with them being taken seriously is the can of worms it opens following the Juve situation. If the FA/PGMOL investigate bias, the motives will be prejudged by the public.

    Match-fixing and bribery will be the perceived subject, discounting other psychological influences (conscious or sub-conscious). A simple admission that the stats raise questions may serve as a huge smear on the integrity of the game in England, which has huge financial ripples, locally and globally.

    It’s a big can…

    ArseCheek
    @ArseCheekBlog

  • Dino Abby

    Great analytical piece of work, Untold. I really hope the good work of your Panel of Referees gets more visible next season and getting endorsement from fans all over the world.
    If it can receive endorsement from fans of most clubs, it can be a reliable reference for check & balance on the performance of Referees.

    PGMOL and their Referees will certainly be more cautious in officiating games and thus will reduce bias officiating. After a while, I believe it will produce a positive impact in the fight against bias refereeing and corrupt practice.

    Keep it going, Untold and I’m sure fair minded Referees would definitely be tempted to join and help out this noble course of yours.

  • Gary

    I hope that “average bias” you calculated for PL does not include those two teams, as those numbers would distort “the average”. In over words, the average bias for Pl should be calculated on the bases of 18 teams, Stoke and Arsenal excluded.

  • Gary

    All other parameters (penalties, goals and so on) should also be excluded from calculations.

  • Web

    Ive said for a while that match officials are practically condoning violence and your review suggest the same thing!
    Stoke play the intimidation game and one of the rules that match official should enforce is “intent”.
    You will notice that against teams like man u stoke attempt to play football rather than intimidate.Maybe that’s because Pulis is pally pally with Fergie.
    They have a very different approach against Citeh,Liverpool and Arsenal.
    Great series of article from Untold highlighting the problems in the PL.
    With the money awash in the game saying nothing is not an option.
    Uefa and Fifa can see what’s going on and some of our media suggest that the two organisations are corrupt!

  • Sav from Australia

    Nice article again guys! Cannot thank you guys enough for all your hard work, and the hits keep on rolling.

    I am eagerly anticipating the response from the PGMOL and referees during the upcoming season.

  • Gooner S

    This is a good summary. What it shows looking at any of the 3 tables is that there isn’t a bias as such twoards ‘big clubs’ with the biggest two clubs (Man Utd and Spurs) featuring high up (6th in the combined), with Liverpool (surprisingly), Chelsea, City and Ourselves in the bottom half of the table. This bucks a lot of the debate on 606 and Talksport last season that the (so called) big clubs get the rub of the green. There’s a message in there to be distributed clearly.

    Now I will bet you (5p tops…I’m not a betting man – lol)that the referees association and similar bodies, if indeed they bother at all, will interpret these results differently to state that there isn’t a bias for the big clubs and the ‘fact’ that there is a number of southern clubs high up (especially in the untold table) shows there isn’t a bias towards the North. In fact I wouldn’t be surprised if they used these results (and others carefully selected) to show that ‘actually’ referees are impartial (for good or bad). Why? The way the table falls does look somewhat random and does buck some well known perceptions or mis-held beliefs.

    Notice, I am not in anyway denigrating this work. It is excellent but you can interpret findings in different ways. Just look at politics!

    Also don’t expect the majority to be intersted in the detail, because people (in the main) simply don’t have the patience to read/listen to reasoned argument backed with facts. This is geeky stuff 🙂 It is all about the management summary, kpi’s and the key take aways so to speak.

    You need a spin doctor on this material. It is a real skill. Personally I wouldn’t concentrate upon the ‘bias against Arsenal’ message. I would let others ‘discover’ that for themselves. I would instead concentrate on the ‘aren’t our referees poor ‘ message and I would also accentuate positive messages in the findings. There must be some! As an example, is there one or two referees that can be called out as good examples? Are there any urban-myths about referees that this data contradicts?

    This will be a dirty war don’t expect peole to listen or to take notice especially if you are calling them out for poor performance or indeed for the more emotional aspect of demonstrating a bias against one club in particular.

    I love geeky stuff and these series of articles are excellent.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Interesting. I know the author of thefootballisfixed.com blog regularly referred to Arsenal having what he referred to I think as a “refereeing bias index” amongst the worst of any major team in Europe, making it in effect impossible for us to win major trophies. I do not know much about this guy, but I can tell you some of his info seems to confirm what you have found on here. He also talks about some refs being in the hands of managers, agents, in one case, a Russian bookmaker and pretty much summizes the whole thing is corrupt. I do not agree with everything he used to write but http://footballisfixed.blogspot.co.uk/ archives are an interesting read. Strange how the same refs come up time and time again, as does the helping hand in the direction of Utd.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Gooner S,

    I think you make some good points. And some of your points could be answered if we would have (had) the resources to review all the games.
    I think that is the big job that is now in front of us… if only we would be able to get access to all the games and have enough people to review it.

    Dream dream dream….

  • Domhuaille MacMathghamhna

    Walter & the team, your work is phenomenal but there are 2 big issues that remain unadressed here:

    1)Is it possible to have your work reviewed by professional or university level statisticians who could pass this information through a computer statistics review, thus solidifying your conclusions?

    2)How do you get this research and other sources’ conclusions into the hands of those who can start to confront the PGMOL, the EPL and the FA? Who has the power to make changes and apply sanctions other than FIFA and EUFA, both of whom are so corrupt that they’ll never transgress on British territory?

    The Italian government had the courage to face down the big 4 teams in Italy but the UK government are not likely to ever support such a move. Maybe with the Olympics going on, it isn’t the ideal time to take this to the Sports Minister but perhaps after they are over but before the season starts?

  • bob

    Dom,
    I’m in accord. Indeed, it further beg a set of questions that’s closer to home:
    Why doesn’t someone at AFC take this on and
    bring it up – whether quietly or loudly, in several venues – Gazidis at FA? Someone to the Sports Minister? in a legal brief?
    Will there be a scintilla of evidence that it’s been noticed at AFC? Perhaps Arsene will use a sly turn of phrase that cues us in that he’s taken note? Hmmmm……?

  • bob

    Walter, Dogface,
    To Dom’s first point:
    Perhaps a call for a university partner – a known impartial entity with excellent credentials – who wants to see fairness on the pitch and is willing to endure the shite storm for having helped. This needs to be carefully handled because anyone could come forth and claim anything. Anyway, such participation could add the political ooommmph and cover that Gooner S has advised.

  • Irishgray

    Excellent article. Not too surprised that the results from 2 seperate studies would correlate so closely. As to the difference between Stoke and The Arsenal, could it be that the former is considered to be a real ‘English’ team, whilst the latter is too ‘Foreign’? I mean, I think we all agree there must be a reason? Maybe it is one that is subconscious when it comes to refs making decisions? The refs are all English, brought up on the English game, so would/could it not follow that they then have a natural bias for those who play the traditional ‘English’ game as opposed to those who play a more ‘Continental’ style?

    I wonder is there any way of translating these findings in a way that would reflect league points and maybe position? I do not simply mean add the lost 11 points (Arsenal) and therefore increase league points correspondingly but also remove the same points that were mistakenly given to our opponents?

    In as much as this would then reinforce our finishing 3rd, what would it do to Utd/City? City won on goal difference but going by these results they had -4 netpoints stolen from what should have been their total, which at first glance gives them the titls by 1 point as Utd had -3 net points. But what if it was City who profited from Utd’s losing of 3 points? Would that not then mean they finish 2 points above City? Confusing I know but bloody interesting all the same.

    Excellent article well done!!

  • Stuart

    Bob,
    I recently wrote to the Department for Culture, Media and Sport in the UK to ask if they will be looking deeply into corruption & bias in the premier league as found by a recent study.

    A reply is due within 3 weeks now 🙂

  • bob

    Stuart,
    Did you make a detailed case for your request? What points did you make?

  • Stuart

    Bob,
    I made a general enquiry to ask if following the recent publication of data regarding referees performance, would there be an investigation into the possiblity of bias and / or corruption in the Premier league and addressing ways to ensure it does not happen.

    Nothing too elaborate, I’m waiting to see if I get a response, hopefully asking for further clarification on what I mean.

    We’ll see

  • Stuart

    I also mentioned that the data displayed some strange trends depending on who was playing and reffing