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Suddenly our video ref story gets into the press, along with the usual fantasy statistics

By Tony Attwood

How much influence Untold actually has on football is not the thought that occupies many of my waking moments, but I do occasionally ponder.

If you read these pages regularly you’ll know we have suggested a few things that we have subsequently had an impact: the idea of statues around the Emirates stadium was definitely one of ours, our regular column on injuries some years back brought awareness of just how high Arsenal’s injury level was compared with others, the notion of phantom and vapour transfers has started to creep into the mainstream (although not much because making up transfers is such a fundamental part of their daily existence) and of course most of all Walter’s remorseless pursuit of biased referees has highlighted an issue that was nowhere near any agenda before we came along.

And this season, it is already possible to argue, we’ve been at it again.  My rant over BT Sprout was more me venting my annoyance rather than a campaign, but the station did radically change its position immediately after.  That doesn’t prove cause and effect, but maybe we helped things along.

However of much more significance is today’s article in the Daily Telegraph by Henry Winter  which comes very quickly after the series of articles which set the scene concerning the issue of video referees.

This was followed by an article in which we showed what the football authorities from Holland are doing to improve the refereeing standards.  The third article showed what the PGMOL are doing in England to improve refereeing and then the final piece referred to how PGMOL works to silence its critics.

That final article was published on 7 August 2014 and today on 12 August 2014 we see “Rise of ‘robo-referee’ awaits Premier League” in the conservative Daily Telegraph.   Coincidence?  Read on to decide.

The Telegraph mentions the “successful trial in Holland,”  a determination not “to rush into action”,  and an “inevitability that at some point there will be a video referee in the stands in the wealthiest leagues”.

And then there is the difference, because Walter’s report in Untold made fun of the fact that PGMOL were doing nothing – which was absolutely true a week ago.  Now, the Telegraph suddenly tells us, “The two most influential figures in English refereeing, Mike Riley and Howard Webb, are preparing for a future with ‘robo-refs’ with caveats about the need for a proper debate and lengthy experimentation. Riley certainly feels the dawn of the video age is not that far away.”

So, certainly another occasion on which Untold has been ahead of the game.  And if the sudden appearance of the Telegraph’s article is not a coincidence, then it might just be another occasion on which we have influenced events.

H Webb, technical director of PGMOL (now apparently to be called PGMO – either way the highly secretive body that controls refereeing in the Premier League) speaks however with the ultra caution  of the inward looking organisation for whom he works when he says, “We really need to be careful not to change the high intensity and fast flowing that makes football such a good spectacle that people enjoy to watch…. Practically it is going to be really difficult to implement.”  Which of course contradicts the Dutch experiment.  (“Who needs experimentation when we already have our theory” as the flat earthers say).

Much of the rest of the Telegraph article follows Walter’s piece with talk of the “man who has to make the key judgments that shape a game’s destiny often has least evidence, certainly compared to fans also following on streamed smart-phones…”

But there is one bit of new news in the long article from the newspaper.  For it tells us that PGMO(L) “has been instructing managers and players that referees will be clamping down on holding and blocking this season, focusing specifically on those ‘under the flight of the ball, the player who doesn’t look at the ball, but is just looking at the opponent’’.”

And then some funny figures follow…

“There were 25 fouls per game in 2010-11 and 23-ish now and that reflects the nature of the game the players want to play. They don’t want continual stoppages. Contrast that to Champions League football where you’re looking at 30-35 free-kicks a game. In Italian and Spanish football it’s more than that. Even at the World Cup it was over 30 a game.’’

Now you will notice that if the word “given” is inserted in that sentence so that it reads “There were 25 fouls given per game in 2010-11” you will see a totally different meaning.  As Untold’s ref reviews over three seasons have shown, the number of fouls given and the number of fouls are two very different numbers – and that difference between the numbers is not consistent between clubs.

The Telegraph touches on this and gives us a statement which is just so silly it made me fall off my chair, bang my head on the table and slump on the floor for a while.  Fortunately I recovered.  Here is the statement, but before you read it, make sure you are sitting comfortably.

M Riley said, “We analyse every decision the referees make and their accuracy rate was 94.8 per cent two years ago and last season was 95.1 per cent but that’s not the story that comes across, because you can always point to one decision in a game that generates the week’s interest in newspapers and TV.  There is not another group of referees in the world that has that strength in depth.’’

Oh dear, oh dear.

And more oh dears because the dear old Telegraph accepts that without looking at the evidence.   (We’ve got plenty and it has all been published, if only they would like to have a look – and it was all compiled by referees).  As ever, the PGMO(L) don’t reveal how they gather their evidence and don’t give us a single match as an example.  Tragically the Telegraph doesn’t raise this point but just accepts PGMO(L)’s word for it, making the newspaper the mouthpiece of the referees society, rather than a paper with investigative credentials.

Now one more point.  A major issue with PGMO(L) has been the paucity of number of referees who can handle Premier League games.  We’ve been banging on about it for years, and it is a scandal because if you do have a biased ref, the chances are your club will get him multiple times through the season.

There has never been an excuse for the tiny number of PGMO(L) refs, and we’ve been saying so for years.  Now according to the Telegraph, “To deepen the reservoir of talent further the Premier League and FA has earmarked 70 young referees who they are fast-tracking to the top, providing them with mentors, coaches and sports psychologists. The hope is that the best will accelerate up the league pyramid to challenge for Select Group jobs within five to 10 years.”

So five to ten more years of unmitigated bias then, all due to a lack of foresight five years ago.  Again, no question in the Telegraph as to why this ludicrous situation has been allowed to carry on.

But as we approach the end of the article, the Telegraph has a laugh for us…

“Contrary to conspiracy theorists’ belief, the Premier League insisted that referees who briefly upset clubs, like Clattenburg with Everton, Chelsea and Southampton, and Atkinson with Manchester United, are not kept away from future fixtures involving those clubs.”

Oh, how much do you wish to misunderstand what is going on?  Untold, along with Referee Decisions, doesn’t want these refs kept away after a row.  What we have been asking for (and apparently will get in five to ten years) is a much bigger group of refs so that the bias level is reduced to reasonable proportions.

So there we are.  Untold ahead of the game maybe, writing the agenda perhaps, forcing PGMO(L) to come out of its shell and talk to a favoured journalist, or just happening to spot a story first.   Like the BT Sport story it doesn’t really matter which is true – if we’ve helped move football forward a fraction out of the dark ages, then that’s good, however it has happened.

But there is one thing that does come across here.  At the very least we ask the questions.  The Telegraph, along with much of the rest of the media, just accepts the press releases and prints them as if this were investigative journalism.  You might have thought that the case of the financial collapse of Rangers FC in Scotland (in which the press insanely reprinted the news that everything was fine, and that stories of their demise were just scaremongering by wretched bloggers) might have taught them a lesson.  But it seems not.

 Today’s anniversaries are on the Untold Homepage.

The books

The complete Arsenal Anniversary series is to be found on the Arsenal History Society site.

 

41 comments to Suddenly our video ref story gets into the press, along with the usual fantasy statistics

  • oldgroover

    The video referee is definitely coming as reported in the Mirror a couple of days ago, FIFA are backing it.
    Also interesting is todays report in the Guardian that Howard Webb will be on MOTD to explain controversial decisions.
    http://www.theguardian.com/football/2014/aug/11/howard-webb-retires-bbc-referee

  • oldgroover

    Sorry, I forgot to comment on your article, which is a pretty good indicator that the powers are taking notice of the campaigners like UA.
    Here’s a link to the mirror article I mentioned before.
    http://www.mirror.co.uk/sport/football/news/video-referees-football-move-closer-4029264#.U-m5k1ZfAZy

  • Shakabula Gooner

    Bravo, Untold, Tony and Walter!
    That is how it should be. There are untold number of untold things in Arsenal, EPL and FIFA. Untold because those who should tell are too lazy to ask; those who hear are too unquestionably believing and those who don’t want them told are too powerful, too secretive and too controlling…

    Meanwhile, I still ask: Why are the league club owners not kickass demanding of PGMOL officers – to raise the quality of refereeing and the number of referees and to be more open?

    If PGMOL wouldn’t be independently pro-active, should the league club owners go along with them on their manpower development and deployment plans as well as on the pace with which they consider and embrace new technological aids?

  • AL

    Oldgroover
    Your comments, and link, seems to suggest The Mirror led the way here. But UA had these articles way earlier than that. Sorry if I misunderstood you. Webb will be to motd what Gallagher is to sky; just there to put a positive spin to some diabolical reffing injustices.

    Tony
    I’ll believe the increase in number of officials when we see it. Wonder where Riley plucks his figures from, hilarious 🙂

  • AL

    I like the addition of the fraction to his figures for dramatic effect. I mean 95.1 sounds thoroughly researched doesn’t it, unlike a figure like just 95. He’s not fooling anyone though, certainly not UA readers. Quoting such figures shows what a moron he is, and wouldn’t be surprised if he couldn’t tell us the required balance to bring it up to 100%. Sure his figures would add up to something like 102%.

  • colario

    One thing is certain and that is there will be no whistle blowing by Mr Webb from his place in the ‘Holy of holies.’ He really has retired the whistle!

  • ClockEndRider

    Honestly the Telegraph is an utter joke. The clown journalist more than happy to act as a speaking rectal orifice for PGMOL with absolutely no penetrative thought or questioning.
    And as for Webb appearing on MoTD, as pointed out above, my money is on him whitewashing every incorrect decision made just like Gallagher in Sky – taking similar incidents weeks apart and finding Jesuitical ways to explain how different decisions are made or just not even comparing them at all.
    Plus ca change, plus c’est la meme chose….

  • wengerson

    @ AL (8:12 am)

    My thoughts exactly, concerning the selection of these “new” referees! Riley can increase the number of refs to a 1000 for all I care, they could all be clones of dean!

    Also, we dont want webb or some retired ref to bullshit his way on motd. How about the appointed ref himself explain his decisions?

    @ oldgroover

    Kindly tell us who these “campaigners like UA” are. We are very interested.

  • Jon

    I am suprise that the mainstream media in UK accepts verbatim press releases just like what we have over here in Nigerian. Since I discovered Untold following Arsenal have become more fulfilling. Keep it up.

  • jambug

    AL

    I posted this originally on the previous thread but it seems relevant to your comment at 8:12am

    jambug

    August 12, 2014 at 8:49 am

    Seems to me Webbs just going to be there to justify every decision made, no matter how ridiculously incorrect or biased.

    So when Taylor screws us over again, not only will we have the media telling us how he got ‘every decision correct’ but it will also get the ‘official’ seal of approval from Webb.

    Great.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Riley may well be right, refs might may well be correct 95.1 percent of the time, correct in the decisions Riley wants them to make.
    As for the telegraph saying refs are not deliberately kept away from clubs they have upset…….have they never heard of sir Alex ferguson?

  • oldgroover

    Al
    Sorry to cause a misunderstanding, but I was not suggesting the Mirror “led the way”, but just putting up a link of a story that I first saw in the Mirror a few days ago.
    That’s all, nothing more nothing less.

  • Gfromgirton

    Great artical. defiantly won’t be watching motd but will be very intrigued to see what he’s like on there.
    Untold leads the way.

  • oldgroover

    Wengerson

    Didn’t miss your patronisingly snide opening or that you are now the self appointed representative of all on untold with your “We are very interested”, or is that the Royal “We”?

    Here’s some campaigning sites. Not all are about refereeing standards, but the first one definitely is and the second one has run a recent excellent article quoted on UA.
    Football is
    Positively Arsenal
    Financial Fair Play.

  • oldgroover

    Wengerson
    The second one is football is fixed.http://footballisfixed.blogspot.co.uk/

  • bjtgooner

    An excellent article Tony.

    I see the changes being made by the PGMO(L) as a response to the growing concern amongst the fan base about widespread ref incompetence/bias. UA has been instrumental in initiating fan awareness regarding the poor refereeing, and has done so using fact and analysis, neither of which the PGMO(L) and media (or AAAA twits) have been able to challenge.

    The response by the PGMO(L) will probably have more than one motive. Initially, as indicated above, Webb will be working hard to put a spin on all the poor decisions that will still take place, I suspect Gallagher’s efforts will be dovetailed so that effectively Gallagher will follow Webb’s lead. Obviously it is felt by the PGMO(L) and their employers, that the present efforts of Gallagher alone, even backed by the media, are insufficient to counter what fans can plainly see.

    Secondly, re the group of the more intelligent persons who flirt with the law; they usually know when the net is closing and start to plan an escape or exit strategy. To cover their reputation, or what they think is left of their reputation, they often start to clean up/further cover up in the hope of riding off into the sunset, (with the pension etc), hoping that the posse will not pursue.

    Any change towards technology has to be the correct one. It should be encompassed by the PGMO(L) as a valuable aid to getting decisions right with all the benefits that that will bring – that the PGMO(L) are and will drag their feet is significant – and interesting!

    Well done UA, the war to achieve fairness is not over, but this is a step towards fair play.

  • bjtgooner

    @Brickfields

    An excellent link. 🙂

  • As always, your blogs are worth reading and to the point. Stating the obvious you are fighting the establishment, i.e those who will lose money if there is a change.
    Keep it up lads, magic!

  • wengerson

    @ oldgroover

    How you interpret the “we” is your prerogative. The point is, as per the article, UA has championed the call for video referee since day 1. A site like FootballIsFixed is mainly focused on match fixing/corruption, which, according to me, are symptoms of lack of transparency, of which video ref is one of the solutions.

    Again, UA has been on the forefront on this, and there’s a lot of resistance, hence my request for other “campaigners like UA”.

    We.

  • Tony and the entire team at UA, well done. Ever a breath of fresh clean air. The blindest eye is one who refuses to see. You can fool some of the people some of the time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time. Howard ‘the coward’, his employers in PGMOL and their ass-kissers in the media will soon bite the dust. Untold will see to that at this rate.

  • Ollie Hackney

    I think a lot of peoples uninformed info is from all various media outlets which is taken as proof. Highly edited motd etc included. So with a ‘pro ref’ on motd I presume they will analyse a tackle etc, with video. Perhaps it will bring more attention to useless decisions. Won’t stop penalty decisions I’ve seen at the ems not get a talking point on the program tho’

  • Pat

    Very interesting article, Tony.

    Yes, you can only laugh at the ridiculous accuracy figures given out by the PGMO(L). I remember some of the Untold analysis of refereeing decisions where referees were less than 70% accurate. In fact, that wasn’t uncommon.

    Henry Winter appears to see his role as backing up and protecting the PGMO(L). This comes out in other things he writes on the subject. But, like his latest article, some of the other things he has written have suggested he reads Untold, and notes the criticisms.

    I agree with people’s opinions on Howard Webb, that he will be there to justify decisions of referees. But his very appointment suggests that some people realize the level of criticism based on actual analysis of facts can’t simply be ignored.

    Congratulations to Untold!

  • para

    Our whole world history is untold and false, no wonder this reaches into football too.

    Change will only come through people/sites like Untold, who hi-light and fight for real life and fair competition.

    Alas, betting does not work in their favour if things are fair, they prefer the sure bet.

  • oldgroover

    papa

    I don’t think Untold is campaigning to change world history (which I find reasonably accurate).
    Perhaps Marvel or DC comics would be a better place for your studies.

  • omgarsenal

    While there is a glimmer of light at the end of this very long and convoluted tunnel, the PGMOL will likely, based on my extensive experience with Referee authorities, only be brought into the 21st century kicking and screaming, desperately holding on to their ¨traditions¨ and ¨privileges¨ accumulated over 125 years of selective isolation from reality.
    Referees are extremely hesitant to criticise other officials. therefore be prepared for a rather lame equivocation and circumspect ¨analysis¨ of errors and missed opportunities by Webb on MOTD. He cannot risk calling out officials (his colleagues) too often and will likely explain away (or try) their lacunae by such tried and true methods as blaming lack of time to decide, their line-of-sight being blocked by players, their ¨right¨ to interpret what they see regardless of the Laws intent and spirit, etc.
    It is clear in Riley/Webb’s statement about video referees that the PGMOL will ensure such technology never sees the light of day in the EPL or other leagues if they can help it. FIFA will collaborate enthusiastically with the PGMOL in this interment because they have as much to lose ($$$$) as the EPL does should the officiating be too closely perused.

  • oldgroover

    omgarsenal

    The PGMOL already is a 21st century organisation, formed in 2002 .
    I’ll give the new MOTD format a fair chance.

  • finsbury

    It seems that internet trolls are not the smartest self-contradiciting type. Ah well.

  • finsbury


    With the retirment of the Webbalty is there one less official for this season’s PL? 17 now I think? No comment in the telegraph on the current numbers, and where they are from?

    Based upon previous practice, and the standards witnessed, it seems reasonable to conclude that the last people anyone who is in their right mind would want to to be in charge of the video referees are the PGMOL!

  • oldgroover

    I know I’m going to regret asking, but what actually is a “smart self contradicting type?” Is such a being possible? And could you point out any examples on today’s post as you’re only making a vague reference, which some people might see as trolling. Not me of course, I know you’d never stoop so low.
    Disingenuous? Certainly!

  • finsbury

    http://www.fsf.org.uk/latest-news/view/fans-to-march-for-affordable-football-for-all-on-14th-august

    I support this march, and not the burning of bin bags inside the Arsenal stadium. On behalf of all football fans.

    Although those 24/7 football hacks for some unknown reason have been lying for years with their allegations that Arsenal’s prices have been the highest (please refer to last week’s Manchester Grunt, which in spite of corrections from the Arsenal press officer continued to publish obvious and lame disinformation on ticket prices), we can see that they are not the worst, and that the real problems affect all fans of all clubs. So they have attacked the Arsenal year after year with their gullible aids. No surprises to have seen the genius troll try to defend such partisan reportage upon these pages.

  • Gord

    I put the referee assignments for this coming weekend here:

    http://untold-arsenal.com/archives/37201#comment-803235

    There are 4 new names to the SELECT ASSISTANTS, new being with respect to what the wikipedia page for the SELECT group from PGMO. I indicated where an official was from, if I could (or tagged as UNKNOWN).

    Are some of those assistants going to become full referees at some point? Are more referees going to be added this year?

  • oldgroover

    Gord
    No changes so far to refs list, but you would expect a Webb replacement, who I would think will come from the Championship. I don’t know if assistants actually become full refs, but if it did it would offer the interesting prospect of Sian Massey being in charge.

  • ClockEndRider

    Old groover,
    Describing the PGMOL as a 21st century organisation because of its foundation date? Who’s the disingenuous one?
    People have had enough of being told their eyes have lied to them. By al means be an apologist for PGMOL and the media. Just realise this place isn’t populated by people who will follow that line in the same bovine fashion the majority out there do.

  • oldgroover

    ClockEndRider

    I’m not an apologist for anyone, I’m just correcting the guy for his honest error.
    However you view it the PGMOL was legally formed in the 21st century.
    I know it’s no improvement on what we had before, and you could say it’s even worse, but no amount of your sarcasm with alter its formation date.
    Also I’m very well aware of the line people in “this place” take. Troll the individual!

  • ClockEndRider

    I’m struggling with the reason why you seem to be wilfully misunderstanding what was being said. The point is clearly the approach and attitude of the organisation. Not its foundation date, I think that is more than clear.
    Can you clarify because from where I’m standing you seem to be the one trolling.

  • oldgroover

    ClockEndRider
    You took it upon yourself to criticise me for correcting another guys error. No misunderstanding, but you seem to think I should also be saying something like “of course they were crap then and always will be” but I’m not concerned with the rest of his post which I generally agree with and didn’t have a motive other than to let him know the correct date. Can you really struggle to understand that? What the PGMOL are or are not wasn’t an issue at this time and I like to think that if he has any problems with my comment he’d rather take it up with me himself (he’s no shrinking violet) and then tell you to butt out, like I’m doing now.

  • ClockEndRider

    No you are wilfully misrepresenting the argument. Quite cleverly but wilfully.
    I’ve had enough of yor trolling and won’t engage anymore.

  • oldgroover

    Thank the sweet Lord for that!

  • bob mac

    Tony,

    I find your comments on the use of video for officials both stimulating and enlightening.

    As important, I feel, are the problems caused by poor and totally inefficient time-keeping.

    Could you possibly research the timing of basketball, and see if it could fit the football model.

    My opinion is that football is in with the dinosaurs when it comes to this most controversial and very easily solved issue.