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October 2016
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Is the PGMO trying to clean up its act or is it just slipping press releases to the Guardian?

By Tony Attwood

There’s an increased focus on referees this season – which is rather interesting after the years and years of work that Walter and his team has put into looking at refereeing from every possible angle which has been utterly disregarded by all and sundry.

We saw the first hint of this new move last year as various newspapers started to do their own little investigations, and now the website Squawka has weighed in with “Why Lucas’ Liverpool howler shouldn’t have stood – and six other big refereeing decisions rated.”

The problem with the report is obvious of course – they, like the Sun last season, are just taking individual incidents and rating them, and as a result saying that club x was lucky or hard done by, by the referee.

What they really need to do of course is to see the whole set-up of every part of the game to see how accurate the referee was throughout, and whether there was bias one way or another.  For an example see the link at the end of this piece.

None of this however is music to the ears of the Guardian which recently commented that

“They may have hung up their whistles, but it seems there are no shortage of former rent-a-quotes ready to top up their pensions with often informative but occasionally unhelpful scrutiny of their former peers. Halsey, Graham Poll and Howard Webb are among the better known rent-a-rulebooks who are regularly canvassed for their opinions on controversial decisions and it is heartwarming to see that, even with the benefit of time to think and endless replays from every conceivable angle, they are still capable of getting things wrong.”

That quote comes from the second piece in a matter of weeks on why we should not talk about referees.   The other piece said, “there remains an excessive focus on referees – their mistakes, foibles and perceived biases – that perhaps most obviously manifested itself in the removal of Kevin Friend from the Stoke v Tottenham match in April, even though Friend supports neither side. However, the fact that Friend (a lifelong Bristol City fan) lives in Leicester and often goes to matches at the King Power Stadium was enough to see him removed from duty at the Britannia Stadium – following, predictably, a clamour on social media.”

They speak of the fact that referees have become a “central figure in every match’s drama”.

And herein is the point.  If there was never any suggestion that there was anything amiss with refereeing in the Premier League then there would be no talk about them.   By and large not many people think that the length of the grass has much impact on games, so we don’t debate that.  But all the evidence to hand shows that there is something troubling with English Premier League refereeing, with referees regularly getting below acceptable levels of accuracy, and some getting accuracy levels so low that a robot handing out decisions at random would do better.

The Guardian made a big point about the “opprobrium heaped on Jon Moss after his erratic performance in Leicester’s tempestuous draw with West Ham last month, including from former members of his own profession, hardly helped either.”

What that comment misses out is the fact that the referee is controlled by an organisation which is highly secretive, and which has been shown (alone in Europe) to have modelled itself on the Italian approach to refereeing prevalent during their match fixing era.  The Guardian writers can only afford to be not worried by such a situation because they refuse to acknowledge either fact.

But the PGMO, like so many secret societies, is adept at deflecting criticism and any suggestion that something is wrong.   Mark Halsey’s  claim he was told to lie while he was a Premier League referee has now vanished from the news.  No one is banging on the PGMO’s door demanding more information, largely because no one really knows where the door of the ultra secret society actually is.

So with the media only interested in the most recent events, everything marches on, and no one is pursuing the matter (except Untold).  And a few sites doing their quick summary of half a dozen events, which by and large tells us nothing.

The Daily Telegraph told us that no-one contacted by the paper was willing to speak out about the latest incident, but failed to mention the £50,000 gift given to referees by PGMO if they maintain a silence.  Indeed no one is asking why the PGMO feel it is necessary to do this.  Surely if there were nothing to hide the PGMO could hang on to its money and let people speak.

Gary Neville criticised the PGMO for making an announcement following Halsey’s claim without an investigation, as he was quoted as saying that we were faced with a world of  “Deny / Deny / Deny!!” Rather than- “we better get to the bottom of this.”

But despite all the criticism of PGMO by Halsey and Neville, not only does PGMO march on without any attempt at investigation by the media, the Guardian in particular seems to be heading in the other direction, criticising anyone who criticises referees.

They can be critical sometimes – as when they said, “Despite his largely undisputed status as the Premier League’s best referee, Clattenburg was actually responsible for several high-profile blunders this season. In one match, between Manchester City and Tottenham Hotspur, he and his assistants combined to award three goals that should have been disallowed for offside, while Clattenburg was the subject of justifiable criticism for awarding Spurs a penalty for accidental handball in the reverse fixture. He also sent off West Ham’s Cheikhou Kouyaté against Crystal Palace, a harsh red card that was subsequently rescinded.”

But then, just as we think that the Guardian is getting the hang of what refereeing should be about they print this:

“The Battle of Stamford Bridge, a marvellous evening of cartoon violence which could have been ruined by a more fussy official.”

But this is not right guys.  The referee allowed that game to get totally out of control.  Calling it “cartoon violence” doesn’t escape what was going on, and what the referee allowed, when he should not, according to the rules.  You can’t ignore the rulebook just because you think the result is amusing.

Following their new approach, one of their most common excuses goes like this:

“Jon Moss was subjected to a tsunami of spiteful and monotonously predictable abuse from quite a few largely ill-informed ‘experts’ in the stands and on social media during a pell-mell match between Leicester City and West Ham, in which a furious Jamie Vardy jabbed a finger in his face and called him a “fucking cunt”.”

This is where basic logic comes in.  Just because a lot of people criticise referees wrongly, that does not mean that everything is ok.   What is needed is proper analysis of referees to see how accurate they are, and if they are biased, and then to look at whether video referees can help.  Just because a bunch of morons on Twitter criticise a referee wrongly, does not mean everything is fine.

When they say that “it’s worth remembering that if the Leicester striker subjected a National Railway employee, civil servant or NHS nurse to the same sort of abuse he’d probably be arrested,” they are not being completely accurate.   I can’t speak for the first two groups, but I know for sure that NHS district nurses do face unacceptable situations, but have a duty of care to everyone, and so carry on up to the point where they are in danger.

But even with that caveat the Guardian’s argument does not hold up.   The issue is, did the ref get things right or not, and when not, is there a consistent bias?   That is the issue, not the whole thing about whether if one called a man working on the railways a “fucking cunt” one would be or should be arrested.

Maybe it is true as the Guardian says that “Nobody should have to put up with such abuse as they attempt to go about their work,” but to divert us into that debate looks very much like a deliberate ploy to me.   We used to think that the Telegraph was the house paper of PGMO, because of the way it reprinted PGMO press releases wholesale.   Now it seems that onerous task has moved on to another newspaper that really ought to know better.

If anyone wants to see what a review of refereeing activity really looks like, take a look at the latest effort from Untold’s team – complete with video examples.   It would be awfully nice if a national newspaper or major TV channel took up the reporting and started asking a few questions.

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11 comments to Is the PGMO trying to clean up its act or is it just slipping press releases to the Guardian?

  • nicky

    Could it be that the corruption that is FIFA, coupled with its spread throughout UEFA, has finally brought home to the PGMOL that, by association, its days are also numbered….unless there are changes made. 😉

  • Mandy Dodd

    Some strange stuff going on with The Manchester Guardian, they are almost as protective of referees as The Wob…..that is until the malcontents perceive ref decisions in Arsenals favour, then, some of their numbers get very upset, as has happened in some forums in the aftermath of last Saturdays game.
    Would like to think the PGMOL are looking at a few things, but cannot see much happening under their current structure.
    On another note, all this media reporting on the ref giving us a helping hand in the Southampton game…then, more penalties for AFC in the opening 3 games than the whole of last season, can see this all come crashing down as we are handed Atkinson in our upcoming game against Chelsea.

  • Rich

    I used to experience a lot of dissonance with the Guardian’s football stuff.

    In my first few years of reading the paper properly I put it on a bit of a pedestal, as it seemed so much better than most of the trash, and I figured the football lot must be as decent and fair-minded as the paper as a whole.

    Took me longer than it should have to conclude they are more like the rest of the football industry than they are the better Guardian journalists, and a few of them are total tossers.

    One in particular seemed to have instructed the moderators not to let anything pass which amounted to a good argument against his opinions. I hated that as it is the type of thing the Mail excels at- giving the appearance debate is allowed but heavily censoring and distorting that debate- and I thought the Guardian was so much better than them.

  • Rich


    Can’t help thinking the pens will dry up completely once we get to the parts of the season that matter most. Quite sensible really to address our suspiciously bad record of last year early on, ensuring that if in later parts of the season we get nothing then it won’t look ridiculous on top of our low number for last year.

    We haven’t had any of the terrible trio yet have we? Gotta fear what they can do with the new tools of shirt pulling and dissent.

  • Jambug


    Relating to penalties I’ve put up a post you may find interesting at the bottom of the:

    Southampton at home; Wilshere as manager

    article. I have made reference to one of your posts from an article back in 2014. The stats on penalties that you, tony, and others dug up are truly worrying.

  • Rich

    I’ll have a look at that ,Jambug

    i’m hoping it’s not the stats I got wrong once on an early post here!

    Corrected it quickly that time and, fingers crossed, always used correct ones since.

  • Stevo433

    Mandy, why on earth would it make a scrap of difference
    who the referee is against Chelsea ?

  • Ando

    You’re new to this website, eh?

  • Menace

    Stevo433 – you must not know that the PGMO are a select bunch of northern, selectively blind, cheating, secret, white only male organisation with the odd token to cover themselves from prosecution.

    I love them dearly as they excite me more than Costa at his best.

  • Jammy J

    @Stevo – Quite simply because certain referees favour certain teams and those certain referees are chosen to officiate games involving those certain teams, far more often than other referees. Coincidence? Is it fuck.

  • Norman14

    There are other predictable trends apparent from last weekends games.

    (1)Rooney and his gang are “immune” from punishment for abusing officials,
    (2)Shirt pulling is only an offence if committed by some teams, but not others,
    (3) The white line surrounding the pitch is increasingly invisible to some Assistants,
    (4) Bobby Madeley was absolutely hung out to dry for giving us a penalty for the pull back on Giroud but the same “experts” absolutely creamed over Dean making the same decision during his first game of the season.

    BTW, where is Dowd?

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