By the Untold Team
Imagine a game of football between two fairly balanced, evenly matched teams. Each team commits some fouls, but neither team is much worse than the other. We’ll call the teams the Reds and the Blues
And let’s imagine (since this is all quite imaginary) that this game between these two teams is actually played out twice, each time with a different referee.
The first referee Mr Random, decides (for reasons only known to him) to give his decisions in a pre-arranged order. So the first time there is an event (a possible foul, a throw in, or anything else he has to rule on) he gives it to the Reds. The next time, he gives it to the Blues. And so on.
So the first issue might be a throw in, which should go to the Reds. But Mr Random has decided that he will give the first event to the Blues. Next up comes a goal kick to the Reds, and as per his agreement with himself Mr Random gives that to the Reds. So it goes on.
The fact is that Mr Random will end up with an accuracy level of about 50%, not because he is a good referee (obviously he isn’t) but because by pure chance half his decisions will be correct and half not.
Now consider the second game between Reds and Blues and again the two teams are balanced and equally fair minded. They commit some fouls, but in equal numbers, the get roughly the same number of throw ins, goal kicks etc.
But this time Mr Bent in the referee, and he wants Reds to win. So every throw in, goal kick etc that should go to the Reds, does go to the Reds. But every time the Blues get a decision, Mr Bent reverses it and gives it to Reds.
Since the teams are balanced on the pitch 50% of the decisions are again right (the decisions Reds should have had) but half are wrong (the decisions Blues should have had but were given to Reds).
Now my point is that both Mr Random and Mr Bent score 50% for accuracy, even though both of them are useless as refs and should never ever be allowed near a whistle let alone on a football pitch.
50% is the absolute bottom line, the level which a chimpanzee giving out decisions randomly would get.
We also know, that in an infinite universe, everything that can happen will happen, so one day Mr Random will indeed score 100% because by chance he will get every decision right even though he is not trying to achieve that. Also one day he will get every decision wrong, again by chance.
Moving into the real world, we know a perfect ref will get 100% of decisions right, but here again no one is perfect. But certainly we ought to be looking for 90% plus, and if that means we need to use video technology so be it. In essence, let’s use anything that makes the game more accurate, without actually changing the nature of the game itself.
Now take a look at the percentage marks that the referees are being given by our assessors. Our marking system is slightly more sophisticated because the most important decisions are weighted, but the basic point is the same: someone getting near 50% is no better than Mr Random or Mr Bent, or come to that a chimpanzee handing out decisions on a whim while trying to write the works of Shakespeare on a typewriter.
In fact anything below 75% starts looking exceedingly suspicious, once again because even handing out decisions on a random basis gets you 50% accuracy. You can only get below 50% if (for example) Reds and so much better than Blues and so most decisions (corners, penalties, goals etc) should be given to the Reds, but the ref is so biased that he is giving more and more decisions to the Blues.
Now as it happens, in Belgium there is a system of marking referees
- A score of +90% is an excellent performance.
- Between 80-90% is what should be expected at least of a good ref
- Between 70-80 means there are quite a few points for the referee to work on and he/she should be undertaking training with these points in mind
- Below 70% for a referee in the top division means possible demotion at the end of the season.
The referee committee in Belgium accepts that refs can have a bad day. And one score below 70% will not see a referee demoted.
But if you have two such games alarm bells are ringing of course. That could be an indication that something is wrong. Not good enough, biased, physically not fit enough…
We think this system is fair, and so since PGMO won’t act we will, and we are now going to start noting referees according to this system.
As an introduction to where we are going with this you might like to look at the list below. You will notice that one referee in one match was so awful he was actually below the level that would be achieved by a random referee.
|Referee||Match||1st Half||2nd Half||Full Match|
|Jon Moss||Arsenal vs. Stoke City||93.7%||70.5%||81.1%|
|Norwich City vs. Arsenal||69.5%||60.0%||65.1%|
|Southampton vs. Arsenal||63.6%||55.8||58.9%|
|Martin Atkinson||Arsenal vs. West Ham United||65.2%||52.6%||59.5%|
|Arsenal vs. Tottenham||40.9%||59.5%||53.1%|
|Lee Mason||Crystal Palace vs. Arsenal||77.2%||64.0%||70.2%|
|Arsenal vs. Everton||63.1%||63.3%||63.2%|
|Kevin Friend||Swansea City vs. Arsenal||66.6%||90.0%||77.2%|
|Aston Villa vs. Arsenal||68.4%||100%||79.3%|
|Andre Marriner||Newcastle vs. Arsenal||82.6%||82.6%||82.6%|
|Arsenal vs. Manchester City||68.9%||66.6%||68.1%|
|Anthony Taylor||Arsenal vs. Manchester United||67.7%||71.4%||69.4%|
|Arsenal vs. Newcastle United||78.5%||44.4%||54.0%|
|Mike Jones||Watford vs. Arsenal||50.0%||88.8%||71.4%|
|Liverpool vs. Arsenal||56.2%||60.0%||57.8%|
|Roger East||Arsenal vs. Bournemouth||64.7%||81.8%||71.4%|
|Mike Dean||Chelsea vs. Arsenal||38.6%||66.6%||50.0%|
|Michael Oliver||Arsenal vs. Liverpool||72.2%||75.0%||71.1%|
|Craig Pawson||Leicester City vs. Arsenal||75.0%||90.0%||81.8%|
|Mark Clattenburg||West Bromwich vs. Arsenal||50.0%||41.1||33.9%|
|Robert Madley||Arsenal vs. Sunderland||88.2%||100%||93.1%|
Now just in case you are worried about those final ratings, here’s a word of explanation.
If in one half of a match a ref makes 10 decisions and 5 are wrong and 5 correct he will get 50% for that half. But if in the second half he makes 20 decisions and 5 are wrong and 15 correct he will get 75% correct for that half.
When we get to the total over the 90 minutes he then will get 20 correct and 10 incorrect decisions and a final score of 66% in total. And not the 62.5% one might expect if you just add the half time percentage scores.
So, to move on, who are we worried about?
Obviously Mark Clattenburg is in our red zone. He can thank his stars he is English and not Belgian, as he would almost certainly be removed from active service in Belgium with a score like 33.9%.
Mike Dean could readily be replaced by a robot handing out decisions on a random basis. The result would be pretty much the same, and we suspect in Belgium he would also be removed pretty quickly.
As for the rest, maybe very, very strong warnings. Indeed all those who have a red mark just in the percentage column really should be looked at very closely indeed.
Unfortunately, if all seven refs with a red mark were removed (and certainly some of us think there is a good case for that) PGMO would collapse because of its policy of strictly limiting the number of referees that there are available. We have always been very critical of that policy, because it means that a referee is liable to take control of matches involving a specific club far too often. Now we can see a second reason for not having so few referees. When you hit a crisis like this, there simply is no one else available.
- Six days to go and the Arsenal transfer machine is about to explode into life.
- When TV, radio and the newspapers invent a football story with no basis in fact, what’s happening?
- 26 January 1891: Royal Arsenal 0 Everton 5. After three games in which Arsenal scored a total of 16 goals the club (which was playing its final season as amateurs) was brought down to earth by first division Everton.
- 26 January 1895: Crowd incidents in the Woolwich Arsenal v Burton game led to the ground being closed by the FA for two games. The original sentence proposedwas that the ground would be closed for the rest of the 1894/95 season. However, on appeal a “compromise” of 6 weeks suspension was agreed upon by the FA. See also here.