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October 2016
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The evidence that games in the Premier League might have been fixed in 2015/16

By Tony Attwood

Once upon a time Italian football was the focus of world attention.  Live matches were shown on mainstream British TV and attracted huge amounts of attention.  The match preview show from Italy on Channel 4 itself became an issue of major interest in Britain.

And then it all went wrong.

Italian football went downhill for many reasons – reasons which English Premier League clubs have long been aware of, and have long been working to avoid.  The grounds were allowed to crumble and the curse of the Ultras lingered in the background.  Money came in from the men who owned the club, rather than outside sources, which is always a danger if any of them suddenly lose interest, or their fortunes.

And then along came the match fixing scandal known as Calciopoli in 2006 and that was the final nail.

Club after club was found guilty of arranging the results of matches, Juventus had their titles for 2005 and 2006 removed and were relegated.  Clubs went into denial, top players left, and the Premier League, waiting in the wings took up the slack.

Of course the decline wasn’t instant… Italy still had a fair amount to say about the Champions League for a while, but declines are rarely instant and rarely smooth.  The old corpse can often have a kick or two left in it.

But does this have anything to do with English football?   Surely not because the Premier League marches on relentlessly, and grounds are mostly full, and this coming season sees more money than ever coming in from TV rights.  Owners, managers and players might be non-English, but the clubs still feel English.   And more and more of them are making money.

But that is where we start to see concerns in a most curious way.  14 out of the 20 Premier League clubs in 2014/15 made a profit, led by Liverpool? who came sixth.  The showed a profit of £60m largely because the accounting for the sale of Suarez to Barcelona for £75m came in part into that season.

And that is where the oddities start, because profitability, doesn’t seem to have much to do with position in the league table.  Liverpool made the most profit, then Newcastle (15th), then Burnley (relegated), then Leicester (14th).  Arsenal with the fifth biggest profit (£25m) were the only one of those five to end up in the top five.  Chelsea who won the league made a £34m loss, and were only exceeded by the basket case of QPR. 

Numerous clubs had insane levels of wages as compared to their turnover – but with talk of a bumper payday from TV starting in 2016 no one seemed to mind.  Swansea spent 80% of their salary on players, Sunderland 76%, WBA 73%, Villa 72%, Southampton 70%, Chelsea 68%, Palace 67%, Hull 67%, Stoke 67%…  And there’s a worry, because with that level of cost on salaries, if something goes wrong, it’s going to be a disaster.

But we’ve heard these sorts of warnings before, and surely none apply now, with all the TV money rolling in.

Yes, that is true, and besides money is pouring into stadium building, so we’ve missed out on the Italian model of collapse haven’t we?

If any of the newspapers bothered to cover the story that is pretty much what they would say.  However when you lift up the covers, there is something very, very worrying lurking underneath.  A whole stream of issues which begin to make those who think more deeply about football, just a little nervous.

For example Leicester have won the Premier League with neither the best attack nor the best defence in the league, something that is lost in the euphoria of the little team doing so well.  Not a major point, but still a bit unusual.  And there are serious questions about Leicester’s financial situation, which were raised by the Guardian and others.  But still, football finances are always odd….

However not only was Leicester’s title not built on goal-scoring nor a strong defence, Leicester won seven matches by a goal to nil, and 14 games by a single goal which all looks a bit Italian, a little more odd…

Of course that is not enough to start your actual alarm bells ringing, but this did come in the season in which Chelsea and Tottenham played a match on 2 May, which was unlike anything we had seen in a long while, far, far worse than the supposed Man U / Arsenal brawl of 1990/1 in which Arsenal were docked two points.    In 2015/16 the only punishment handed out was the charge to the clubs of failing to control their players.  Hardly a big deterrent in the era of mega money.

Beyond that there has been the on-going suggestion by Untold that referee decisions are getting very wayward indeed.  We are used to being sneered at over this, but year after year of evidence from referees and ex-referees suggests something is wrong, and it did our case no harm when recently the Sun did its own analysis and came to the same conclusions.   It seems that maybe there is something wrong with refereeing in the Premier League.

Which itself is worrying when the champions win so many games by a single goal margin – the easiest result for a referee to manipulate.

Behind this is also the change in the way the game is being played.  A recent article on Untold headlined  “In the past it was the clubs lower down the league that fouled most. Now it is the clubs near the top”  suggested another change – that clubs are using dubious tackles to fight their way up the league.

That is not just a question of aesthetics, but is also a refereeing issue.   As that article pointed out, it uses figures based on the number of fouls given, which may not be all the picture, if, as our referee reviews suggest, referees are only picking up a percentage of fouls, and those they miss are not evenly divided between the teams on the pitch.

But there is still one issue to be explained.

If (and I am only using the conditional tense here, I am not saying it has happened), referees are known to be open to influence, then the key issue is to find a way to influence them without it being apparent on the pitch.   Creating a game with a large number of fouls in it, with only a percentage of them being picked up by the ref, is the obvious way forward.  If that were the case, what we would see would be teams that are near the top of the league, being the teams that foul the most – as opposed to what we used to see in the early days of the century where the successful teams played better football and so fouled less.

Of course all this is only a possible outcome if referees can be bought, and this can only happen in certain circumstances.   You need a particular type of structure of refereeing to allow this to happen.  The sort of structure that existed in Italy in 2006.   Set up a structure like that, and guess what Calciopoli could happen all over again.  

You would also need the compliance of the broadcast media and the silence of the written media to make this happen.  The compliance of the broadcast media can be obtained if they pay huge amounts of money to the League for the rights for the game.   The silence of the written media is harder to get, although is encouraged by the fact that none of them really want to step out of line unless they have maybe just lost of lot of on-line readership and are now trying to get it back.  Like the Sun.

When Untold first started covering match fixing we classified what might happen in various ways, looking at the straight fixing of a game to get a particular result (as happened when Liverpool and Man U fixed a match to ensure Man U wouldn’t be relegated), and at the general influencing of matches “where possible”.  In that second case there was no demand for x to win match y, but rather for x to win where arranging this would not make it too obvious that the game was fixed.

And then there was Type III match fixing in which a referee might influence the result of a different team, so as to reduce their chances of that team mounting a serious challenge to the team arranging the fixing.  This is the hardest type of match fixing to spot and the hardest to stop.

But Leagues are not stupid – they know about Type III Match Fixing, and they know that to stop it you need a very strong, resolute and open referee organisation acting in particular ways.  If you were to have a secretive referee body that acted in the way that the referee organisation in Italy in 2006 was set up, then you could probably get away with match fixing on an industrial scale.   The result would probably be a lot of victories by a single goal, and clubs near the top of the league also being picked up for the largest numbers of fouls.  And a compliant media.

So, Untold has been looking at the structure of refereeing bodies across the major leagues in Europe, and compared the result with the structure of the refereeing organisation in charge of the Premier League.  The PGMO.

What we have found will be revealed in forthcoming articles.  

When we publish them, it might be best to sit down.

Recent Posts

Untold Arsenal has published five books on Arsenal – all are available as paperback and three are now available on Kindle.  The books are

  • The Arsenal Yankee by Danny Karbassiyoon with a foreword by Arsene Wenger.
  • Arsenal: the long sleep 1953 – 1970; a view from the terrace.  By John Sowman with an introduction by Bob Wilson.
  • Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football.  By Tony Attwood, Andy Kelly and Mark Andrews.
  • Making the Arsenal: a novel by Tony Attwood.
  • The Crowd at Woolwich Arsenal by Mark Andrews.

You can find details of all five on our new Arsenal Books page


31 comments to The evidence that games in the Premier League might have been fixed in 2015/16

  • Brickfields Gunners

    You have got my undivided attention , and am sitting down ! Let the show begin !

  • norman14

    Great article Tony – I’m looking forward to the next part.

    There is no doubt that PGMO is about as open as the Freemason society, their leader doesn’t communicate with his salary funders, the football supporters up and down the country.

    The advent of Rotational Fouling could be easily offset by a right and proper authority, by introducing a “team penalty” for this most insidious activity. This “team penalty” is most successful in the Rugby Super League, where the referee advises the captain of the offending team, that the next foul his team commits will result in a penalty against the team. Not a free kick, not a player getting booked, but the removal of the most recent offender for a period of ten minutes.

    The problem with PGMO is that they NEED to recognise those individual “Rotational Fouls” in the first place. Or, more importantly, if they do see them, they need to act.

  • esxste

    I did a little list of the referees involved in the games the Sun highlighted. Just to see for a pattern:

    Arsenal – Liverpool – m oliver – +2
    west brom – Arsenal – Mark Clattenburg – +1
    west hame – arsenal – craig pawson – -1

    west ham – leicester – Anthony Taylor – -2
    southampton – leicster – Paul Tierney – +2
    crystal palace – Leicester – Mike Dean – -3
    West Brom – Leicester – Anthony Taylor- -3
    Man City – Leicster – Craig Pawson -1
    southampton – Leicster – Michael Oliver -3
    chelsea – leicster – Craig Pawson – -1

    If the match is marked “+2” thats how many points should have been won by Arsenal or Leicester, if its “-2” then that’s how many points should be taken away.

    Our good friends, Mr Taylor and Mr Dean are responsible for 8 of the points Leicester picked up, and perhaps shouldn’t have.

  • finsbury

    Anyone confused by this article can simply go and watch the Chelsea Arsenal FIXture from the 15/16 season. it’s all there. Bells and whistles included.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Am sitting down, but maybe best later in the day BST, might need something stronger than i would normally drink at this time.
    As for matchfixing, corruption, etc…unless the powers that be act, we have seen nothing yet. Next season, we will have the unholy quartet of Mourinho, Mendes, Man Utd and Mike Riley to contend with. Anyone who thinks that lot will offer a level playing field…well, I just wish i could live in their nice warm fluffy world. I hope Mr Wenger, in his purist existance is not naive to this, buying Granit suggests he is not
    The problem isnt just the compliant media, the British people throughout the ages have….as a group, not as individuals been more accepting of the establishment…than at least some neighbours I could mention, they dont like indulging in what they see as conspiracies…others see as criminality. It took the families, and some determined politicians to uncover what most knew really went on at Hillsborough, not the media, police or judiciary….and now it seems the same police were using un-necessary violence against striking miners….and i think we all know where the buck stops with both cases. When the truth is revealed…..usually after decades, there is anger, revulsion…..but until it is revealed, many are too uncomfortable to even think about the reality
    This trait makes this country ripe for a Calcipolli…and perhaps more at risk of a longer term cover up than some..there are inconsistencies staring us all in the face, but few want to look too deep for fear of what may be found.

  • Menace

    Rock on Tony – I’m excited & all set to be amazed.

  • Leon

    You’re a bit of a tease aren’t you Tony. After that headline I expected the big reveal was going to be in this article.
    Hope nothing happens to you over this next period.
    I will remain seated.

  • Usama Zaka

    Next season might be the biggest match fixing fiesta in the league we have ever seen.

    First we have Antonio Conte of Chelsea who was involved in match fixing in Italy when he was the manager of Sienna in 2011/12. He is still under trial in Italy.

    Second we have Pep Guardiola of City, who was single handedly awarded two Champions League titles on a silver platter in 2009 and 2011, thanks to some of the most dubious and suspectedly corrupt refereeing we have ever seen. He also had immensely favourabla refereeing in La Liga and even Bundesliga. With raining penalties and red cards in favour.

    Third we have “the fraud one” Mourinho of Man U, top class in influencing refs and getting the results needed. Just look at the Chelsea 2014/15 league title, refs, refs and refs. And now that he is at Utd, he will get all the help from the master of influencing refs Sir F.

    Fourth we have Poch of Spuds, masters of fouling and leg breaking, with the help of media and refs they get away with nearly every foul and were the only team alongside City not to get a red card this season.

    Fifth we have Klopp of Liverpool?!?!, the club that the media loves to the core and will get every sort of help at times possible from refs and league.

    Sixth we have Ranieri of Leicester, nothing with Ranieri he seems like a good man on and off the pitch, its whats wrong with Leicester. Leicester’s serious financial situation, secret stake holding, undocumented investment from within England, full support of PGMO, media, TV, (and dummy fans), and record making cash-outs in sports betting history!!

    Last we have Arsène Wenger of ARsenal, probably the only man in professional football who stands up against match fixing, blood doping, suspicious refereeing, no use of video tech, continuous fixture changing, money doping from City and Chelsea, etc… Just look at France match fixing scandal 1993 and how Wenger and Monaco stood up against the corruption by Marseille.

  • Va Cong

    popcorn and hotdog ready with a comfy seat tonight

  • Leon

    More rubbish from you
    You do realise that Tony considers Dylan to be a god, and I have just about every legit and some illegal recordings he ever made.

  • Lekan gunner

    Hi Tony , I so much love ur article,
    I’m a Nigerian and from my ur analysis,
    I saw this strange to about the Liechester City game especially the 1-0 wins.
    I can’t remember the team..i think southampon (might av ended 2-1) cos some player were aloud to hold ( I mean hug) other player in the 18 box so they can neither jump.
    same as some teams against arsenal.(KOSEINLY, GIROUD, OZIL to mention a few)
    Anyway, the FA should look into the structure of refereeing …else on the long run people might lose interest once issues come together at the same time.

    in human nature u cann not stop these things but u can arrange them in a manner that the likelyhood of it taking its effects is greatly reduced.

  • Lekan gunner

    *allowed to hold( correction

  • Goonermikey

    Splendid prologue Tony. Can’t wait.

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    The main authority who can take the necessary action to nip the hidden match fixing episodes in the bud is the FA.

    On this alleged criminal scandal, the mass media should be the ones if they like and choose to, take the leading role in exposing the match fixing that is looking to be happening of has happened in the match officiating of the Premier League matches by referees.

    And should the FA failed to take the necessary appropriate action over the mass media exposure of the scandal with hard evidence, the England sports ministry should step in to unmasked the devil that is behind the mask who has been bringing the Premier League officiating into disrepute. And consequently, the Scotland Yard should be invited to eventually come-in into the matter to do their job.

  • Tony, may the angels keep you from all harm. I will make sure I am not only seated, but also firmly strapped in by customised belts. More grease to your elbows!

  • colario

    Thank you Leon.

    Now I know that a link to info about Bob Dylan is considered by you as ‘rubbish’. And I don’t know that some people think he is a god.

    Tony is an atheist yet you say that Tony thinks of Bob Dylan as ‘a god’.

    I put link here because I know that Tony is a fan of Bob Dylan and thought he might like to take a look.

    I don’t know how good the info is because all I know about Bob Dylan is that he is an American male singer. So whether or not the info in the link is of any value I can not say.

    If you disagree with me and therefore believe I write ‘rubbish’ so be it.

  • finsbury

    “….we have Arsène Wenger of ARsenal, probably the only man in professional football who stands up against match fixing, blood doping, suspicious refereeing, no use of video tech, continuous fixture changing, money doping from City and Chelsea, etc…”

    Ever wondered why the Arsenal manager and Arsenal Football Club get such a bad press amongst the rest of the hurdles? Well, you need wonder no more!

    *have any other club sacked a manager for taking a bung? there was that stand up gentleman Mr.Mackay but I think he was sacked for taking the wrong bung or an undeclared (to his boss) bung. Though we all note that Presstitutes came out in full force for that manager so much so that they had some gullible supporters singing in praise of that idiot. Which was very funny.

    If the press have the observable ability to brainwash some fans into singing support for one of their pals/business partners who deserved his sacking, what else can they make many football fans believe?

    To repeat:

    Have you ever wondered why AFC get such a bad press from the funny papers? It’s no mystery.

  • Jerry

    Excellent article Tony! Looking forward to the future articles!

  • finsbury

    How did UEFA to the Arsenal when their manager made a comment about doping.

    If acts like a cartel, looks like a cartel, then perhaps we are indeed observing a RICO Enterprise in action.

  • bjtgooner

    Excellent article Tony, looking forward to the follow up articles.

    I don’t think I need to sit down, I have come up against some fascinating skullduggery during my career and have reached the stage where it is hard (but not totally impossible) to be shocked.

    The one strange aspect of some of the things that are wrong in the EPL is the blatancy of some of the apparent guilty parties – it is as if they are in an unreal world or they feel (for whatever reason) totally safe and/or protected.

  • Josif

    Nice prologue Tony except I have to make a few notes:

    Arsenal won the league in 1997-98 with fewer points than Leicester (78-81), had neither best attack nor best defence (United had), won eleven games with a one-goal margin and eight of them with a 1:0 scoreline. Having both/either best attack and/or best defence doesn’t mean anything per se as a serious analysis is needed.

    For instance, I am more confused with such a quick transition of Leicester from a free-scoring side that couldn’t keep a clean sheet in a laundry room to the immovable object in the second half of the season.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Leicester. A fairy tale to some. A stick to beat Wenger with, or even something to make the EPL look more of a level playing field than it actually is to others.
    The Foxes play the simplest brand of football, a defence that sits, fouls, lets others have the ball. MF runners. They play counter attack, the simplest way to score…and admittedly in vardy and Mahrez, they have prime exponents of that game. they are protected by the refs to the extent where I have seen their players laugh in disbelief at what they have got away with. Their brand has many advantages, not least of which, if you foul first…and let others have possession, you get less injuries.
    But, how did a team like this win the league? Yes, the so called better teams had a bad year. We imploded as a result of injuries, and maybe other things. All those penalties, many from Vardy dives will surely have helped.
    But, it seems to me, Leicester are an experiment to see what you can get away with in this league, with its laissez faire regulating bodies, puppet PGMOL, compliant media…the answer, for some, clearly quite a lot. They looked as if they tried to give the league to Liverpool a couple of years ago, but Stevie G and Rogers scuppered that, but Leicester, that is something else… either arrogance, ambition, or stupidity…time will tell
    Many more will take the cheating, thugball approach, that, but for Arsenal and Newcastle, would have yielded the top two places to its two prime exponents. The question is, how much will our league, and the elite clubs put up with it? I would imagine this version of the game will soon only be successful for the elite thugballists, like Jose, or those who happen to be playing Arsenal on any given day.
    On another note….can we make it two years without a penalty at home…next season? Know where my money is

  • Chrissie

    Excellent Tony, can’t wait for the next instalment. Best make myself comfy.

    It certainly will be an interesting season to come. Let’s hope that Wenger has some new ideas on how to beat the cheats.

    Ref the penalties, they can’t do that again to Arsenal, can they?

  • Mandy Dodd

    oh yes they can Chrissie

  • Andy Mack

    Sorry, I think this one is a bit too far down the rabbit hole. I don’t believe clear match fixing happens however I do think their is a level of bias by the refs in certain games that improves the likelihood of certain teams winning.
    The number of unpunished fouls is caused by a mix of the PL telling the Pgmo that they want exciting, flowing football where the outcome isn’t a forgone conclusion, and the game moves too quickly for one ref (and his subservient linesmen) to police correctly.
    The refs are ‘ringmasters’ who can effect the concentration of the high wire-walker with the aim of a wobble which keeps the crowd on their feet. However it can sometimes end with catastrophic consequences, but he rarely makes the guy fall.
    It’s about marketing a product.
    As I’ve said before, I really don’t think there was any plan pre-season for Leicester success but after 5 or 6 games the PL marketing dept realised a new ‘small’ team was generating lots of interest. The PL ‘preferred team’ was playing abysmally under LvG and wouldn’t ever look like challenging, so the Pgmo were told to try to keep the little team competing. The PL marketing guys and the Pgmo hadn’t appreciated what a serious dose of ‘Confidence’ would do for the little team. So it took on the role of a snowball gathering momentum. But I still think they expected it to fall apart for Leicester and that would have been OK as any CL place would be considered a great win for David over Goliath.
    So in conclusion, IMO Leicester were helped but it wasn’t fixed. They played beyond their level and with a little PL/Pgmo help they carried off the big prize.
    It’ll be interesting to see if they remain a Pgmo favoured team next season…

  • Matt Clarke

    I applaud the Untold team for their devotion to uncovering and unravelling the corruption in the game that is obvious to some but, seemingly, invisible to many.

    I find myself, somewhat perversely, awaiting the day when you are made unnecessary by the adoption of the cause by the mainstream media.

    I. Won’t. Hold. My. Breath

  • I can’t get on the site for some reason.

  • At last, was getting a bit worried. I think we all could see what was going on especially the latter part of the season. We all knew something was very wrong and I agree with Mandy as I also witnessed the looks that’s went on between the Leicester players and thank you Mandy for bringing this up as I thought I was the only one to have seen the sniggering going on.
    History will tell how lucky this club was to have had Arsene Wenger at the forefront on this club and how he got us into the CL for 19yrs is a miracle in its self. This man must know what is going on because if not just the people on here can see what was happening in front of our eyes but gradually the media is stating to make a little noise and about time to. AW hands really have been tied behind his back and he has been fighting on all fronts to get us to where we are. We have so much to be thankful for because we have a manager who loves this club heart and soul and that is the reason he has stayed so long. People come on here and moan about the man being paid 8million well let me say this, in my book he is worth a hell,of a lot more. The reason Arsenal and her manager is so disliked is really easy to understand, honesty and wanting to play the game as it should be played and not bowing down to the PMGO and long may it continue. This team and management have been up against it right from the git go and their own turned on them giving the very people who dislike them so much ammunition and that is the saddest part of this season for me.

  • Menace

    Mandy – 2 years for no pens at home is an excellent bet (considering several were not ‘seen’ in the FA cup final broadcast to the world).

  • Sammy The Snake

    Been sitting down for a long time now. Thanks for shedding light on this.