How Northern bias affects match results, injury tables and the National team.
By Proud Kev
Okay, it’s a sensational headline. The sort of thing you see on a daily basis by those employed to make up stories. Except this isn’t a made up story. This is based on something Untold often refer to as ‘evidence based’ reporting; not something dreamed up by a media click baiter trolling Gooners.
I will support this article with numbers but also with comments made by the former head of PGMOL, former referee Keith Hackett. Hopefully, this may answer some of the questions we have often been concerned about.
So where do we start?
The one event that started me wondering about what was going on with our game was the match at Old Trafford which ended our 49 game unbeaten run. A match refereed by the head of PGMOL, Mike Riley. That match was when I realised something was not right about the game I love.
Having watched reruns of that game, there is not a person alive today that can tell me that match was refereed correctly. Everyone has an off day but the rules of the game are there to be followed. The rules on that day in Manchester seemed to be interpreted in a way that ignored the basic laws of the game and my conclusions are later. However, I am not claiming referees cheat I am merely suggesting that there are some strange things at large, that can now be explained.
The Premier League select group of referees.
Referees can be promoted to the Premier League based on a list provided to PGMOL by the Football Association. The FA has a team of assessors awarding points at matches, which produces a league table. Those referees at the top of the league become available for selection to PGMOL. Seems sensible and the perfect way to reward referees who perform well. However, when you look at the geographical make up, you realise something rather odd is happening.
Of the 16 select group referees, 14 come from the Midlands or the North. None are from London, the Home Counties or the South. What is startling is that 1 in 3 of the PGMOL select group are from the North West, the area around Manchester and Liverpool. An area dominated by the two Manchester giants and the team of the 1980’s, Liverpool.
This heavily North West weighted situation poses problems for PGMOL, in particular Mike Riley. He has the responsibility of appointing referees to matches but must do so in balanced way. However, that is not so easy to do with so many North West and Northern referees. It is of course still manageable, all that is needed is an application of common sense. Unfortunately, we are talking Mike Riley here a man with a backbone made of straw.
The recent Arsenal game with Manchester United at the Emirates would make most neutral observers believe a referee from the Midlands would be appointed. Not in the weird world of Mike Riley. He decided it was a good idea to award the game to one of his North West referees, Anthony Taylor. The problem was that of all the referees he could choose, Anthony Taylor lived the closest to Old Trafford. A strange decision indeed.
Now, this made me uncomfortable. Here we have a referee that lives in Manchester and whose kids go to school in Manchester. He will be subjected to local media and this questions his ability to be impartial. My concern is the subliminal bias, a programmed bias that affects the referee’s ability to judge decisions in the same way. It also puts the referee in a difficult situation. Would he risk the wrath of his neighbours or the kids in the school playground by awarding Arsenal a last minute penalty? Would that be in his mind? We don’t know but it’s possible, isn’t it? I think so.
So incensed was I, that I contacted Keith Hackett and asked him for an impartial opinion on whether or not he thought this was a good idea. Now Keith Hackett is not only a former referee but he is also the former head of PGMOL before Riley replaced him. He has done the job so he is the right man to ask. I have found Keith to be an open, honest man and honourable and this is what he told me:
“Maintaining high levels of integrity in officiating is a vital ingredient to the success of our game. Interestingly there have been a number of cases around the world where referees have been found guilty of corruption.
In my time in office I introduced a new section into the Contract criteria for our match officials that officiate in the professional game. It states; NO GAMBLING ON FOOTBALL WORLDWIDE. It is essential that our reputation for honesty and integrity is maintained. Your observation on the graphical hotspots for the group of our professional referees is well made.
So I shuddered when I first saw the appointment of Anthony Taylor to a game involving a Manchester Club in a Premier League game. If the game had gone wrong then he is put at risk to verbal derision which can also have an effect on his family. I would not take such a high risk and frankly this type of exposure can be avoided.
I believe that the situation that you have highlighted is a reflection on the current failure of The Football Association and Football League to address this issue.
- Recruitment and retention
- Career Pathway etc.
Sadly I think that things might just get worse”
So according to Keith, Mike Riley made a decision that not only put the referee into a difficult situation but it was one that could affect the integrity of the game. This is serious stuff. More from Keith later.
Now I wanted to look further at the geographical make up and how that is reflected in the Championship and Football League. As recent promotions were to Northern referees, I wanted to understand this anomaly:
The National Group referees.
The region with the most referees is yet again the North West. Of the 62 referees, one in five is from the North West. In fact, the North accounts for 76% of all referees, which compares with the 87% in the Premier League select group in PGMOL.
It appears that this is a known problem that was identified years ago. Keith Hackett claims we have a serious problem that could get worse because the FA and PGMOL have decided to do nothing about it. Keith is adamant this is a training issue and that Southern referees need more training to catch up.
Hold on a minute. Southern referees are not as good as Northern ones? I don’t buy it but here is what Keith had to say when I asked him:
“You make an excellent observation and one that certainly was a worry for me when I held the office of General Manager at the PGMOL. At one stage there was neither a referee or assistant referee in Cornwall and I ran a series of Training meetings to aid this problem. One official did come through to the Football League.
I note the list that you produced and can add to your concern. Lee Probert and Phil Dowd have not officiated this season due to injury. New boy 47 year old G Scott officiated at Burnley his first game of the season. They are therefore operating with 15 referees using new boys Tierney, Attwell and Stroud on an experimental basis. Michael Oliver is not available due to his appointment overseas to the FIFA U17 World Cup”.
He went on:
“I do not attach any blame onto Mike Riley at the PGMOL; he can only promote referees that are at the top of the merit tables. Geography cannot play a part in the selection process. Therefore who takes the rap, sadly the Head of Senior Referees at The Football Association, who has failed to focus on this problem, in my time there were many officials from London and the South of England. The Football Association needs to act”.
Damning words. It’s a problem the FA has been concerned about for years. I guess you could say the FA has done FA. I guess none of us will be too surprised to hear that.
Research tells me that Neale Barry (Head of referees at the FA) is from the North and we all know Mike Riley is another from the North.
So there you have it. It seems Southern referees need training.
But hold on a minute. Surely a referee officiates a game based on the laws of the game? What training does he need; how to iron his kit or blow his whistle?
What he is really saying is that Southern referees need training to know how they should ‘interpret’ the rules to meet the style of the assessors. Therefore, we clearly have a different interpretation of the rules of the game dictated to us from the North of the Country.
So what is this ‘different style’ or ‘different interpretation’ of the rules? Well, now it gets interesting because we are into the subject a lot of us Arsenal fans have discussed endlessly:
They don’t like it up ‘em
Let’s go full circle and look at that game at Old Trafford, which Mike Riley refereed so poorly. A match where there is no question: physical assaults were allowed and the targeting of Reyes ignored. A game Gary Neville admits they had pre-planned to ‘kick’ Arsenal because that was the only way they could win. Indeed Neville himself and his brother were clearly allowed to get away with a couple of shockers on Reyes, without any penalty. The Nistelrooy over the top, shin rake that left Ashley Cole in a heap was right in front of Riley yet was ignored. So too Rio Ferdinand’s last man shove on Freddie Ljungberg, a clear red card.
It was as if a different set of rules to the norm were being applied in that game. So a tactic used by the Northern team was endorsed by the Northern referee. If you don’t believe me, have a look on YouTube.
Ask yourself how many times Northern pundits and click baiting journos tell us that Arsenal doesn’t like it physical and the way to beat us is to get ‘stuck in’? It is a repeated narrative that leads to dangerous challenges, of which we are all familiar. Referees are football fans, they watch Match of the Day and they listen to what the pundits say.
Do Northern referees interpret the rules differently according to who is playing? Or are Northern referees more lenient towards the physical game?
Arsenal and injuries
It is no coincidence that Arsenal football club has seen several of their players lying on the pitch after tackles that have broken their legs. It is no coincidence that all of those tackles were committed by British players and not foreign ones.
Abou Diaby, Eduardo, Aaaron Ramsey; three high profile assaults that virtually ended the career of two of our players. In fact, we all remember the gut wrenching, outpouring of sympathy the North West player, Ryan Shawcross, received from former players and the media. Meanwhile, Aaron Ramsey was facing operations and lying in a hospital bed.
But for the grace of god Alexis Sanchez dodged the Gary Cahill over the top leg breaker at Stamford Bridge last season. Jack wasn’t so lucky with the Paddy McNair tackle that shattered his ankle and which Northern referee, Mike Dean (him again), decided was not even a foul…!
Can the injuries to our players be directly related to the way teams approach our games and referees interpret the rules? I certainly believe so. Would Arsenal have so many injuries if we had foreign referees? Southern referees? If we played in La Liga? I don’t think so.
I believe there is a direct correlation between the way our games are refereed and the interpretation of the rules by Northern based referees.
The English National team is average
How many times does our National team have to embarrass us? Substandard players who run around a lot and make robust tackles, winning more than 50 National Caps. Skilful players shunned because they don’t work hard enough. The English national team has been an embarrassment for far too many years and we never seem to move on. Our attitude to making tackles, getting into the faces of the opposition and ‘run around a lot’ football has held us back, along with the sneering attitude towards technical football. It’s just not English to be 5’ 6” and pass and move; you need to fly into tackles.
All this is reflected in our referees and the training they receive.
And here it is. Having taken into consideration all the evidence available and having spoken to Keith Hackett, I am convinced that English football is run by Northern dinosaurs who manipulate the rules of football.
The rules of our game have been interpreted to allow a more physical and robust method of play and that seems to be in our heritage. Certainly, there has been no attempt to adapt to meet the interpretation on the continent. The fact that Southern referees are seen as requiring more training is completely bizarre but proves to me that I am right. How can referees interpret rules according to their geographic location?
There is a sneering attitude towards Arsenal and I believe that is reflected in the way our games are refereed, our injuries and in results. The horrible injuries we have witnessed to Diaby, Eduardo and Ramsey by British thugs is no coincidence but a direct result of the way our referees are being told to interpret the rules and our media encourage this attitude.
The North dictates how the rules of football should be interpreted and that relies on a mind-set and attitude that favours the so called English trait of physical effort over skill. There are social and demographic issues involved but that’s for someone else to look into. Southern referees are ignored for promotion and the FA cannot be asked to train them. Poor.
In a nutshell, it is clear what is currently wrong:
- The rules of the game are there to be applied, but they have been adapted according to a regional interpretation.
- The rules of the game are there to be applied, but they are being adapted according to which type of team is playing.
- Referees from the South do not have the same opportunities as the Northern referees.
- PGMOL is appointing referees to their home town club.
- English football is still in the dark ages, obsessed with physical contact over skill.
- Football is dominated and run from the North with a regional bias.
- The FA have ignored the warnings and their complacency has led to a regional in-balance in our referees that does not reflect the regional nature of the Premier League.
Neale Barry of the FA has to answer a lot of questions because he has not done his job. He is responsible for the regional issue and has chosen to ignore it.
My views on Mike Riley are not complimentary, based on that infamous shambles of a performance and his belief that appointing the most Manchester of referees to an Arsenal v Manchester United game was a good idea. If he was a turkey, I have no doubt he would vote for Christmas.
It’s a scandal that needs addressing. It proves to me that Arsenal Football Club have been the victims of regional bias for years and that referees have been encouraged to adapt the rules of the game when we are playing.
- 7 December 2002: Man U 2 Arsenal 0. After scoring in 47 consecutive games Arsenal failed to score.
- 7 December 2004: Arsenal 5 Rosenburg 0. Arsenal had already qualified for next phase of the competition, but saw no need to take it easy. The goals came from Reyes, Henry, Fabregas, Pires and Van Persie.
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