6 years late, media finally starts to admit there is a refereeing problem in the PL.

By Tony Attwood

For years and years we have been claiming that there is a problem with refereeing in the Premier League, arguing that because of this no Premier League referee should oversee matches involving an individual club more than twice in the season.

Of course, it would be better if there were not a refereeing problem at all, but given that no one wanted even to admit what the statistics show (which is a propensity for some referees to oversee home wins, while others seem to officiate primarily at away wins) all we could do was to draw the attention of those willing to look, to the problem.

The situation was made worse by the fact that there was a general agreement by clubs, presumably imposed on clubs by the refereeing body the PGMO, that this was a situation that could not be mentioned by them beyond the confines of their own internal meetings.

But the evidence of dubious goings-on was there in terms of the ratio of tackles, fouls and yellow cards  which varied so dramatically between clubs, and then the penalty scandal (still never mentioned).   Only once we published the data did the issues start to decline.

Now however barricades if not coming down, have been breached, and we have statements in the media such as Wolves relegation battle in danger of being determined by poor refereeing which appeared in the Telegraph.

Interestingly this sudden change of tack comes just at the time when the media is realising that endlessly backing Fifa and Uefa in all it says and does, is not a good idea either, so we have headlines such as Infantino’s actions remain more dangerous than words also appearing (that one in the Guardian).

But back with referees, Sean Ingle’s piece argues that “If points were awarded retrospectively for poor refereeing decisions, Wolves would be well clear of the relegation zone. Lopetegui was only appointed in November but says he could write a book on the controversies he has endured so far.”

That is an interesting point although it is somewhat undermined by the comment thereafter which says that, “The wider issue is that the PGMO are being continually let down by their officials. While there remain concerns over the efficacy of Var, refereeing standards in the Premier League and below are regularly causing problems.”

And I say “undermined” for the simple reason that PGMO is its officials.  It is the organisation which employs and is run by professional referees and imposes rules on them – such as the rule of no engagement with the media.

That unfortunate twisting of reality by the paper, either at the behest of PGMO or through slipshod reporting, led to the extraordinary comment that, “Supporters across the country are spending too much time analysing referees and officials after matches. They are often becoming the story more than the players. Bile poured from the stands at Molineux after the final whistle as Salisbury and his staff walked off the field.”

“Too much time”???  By whose reckoning?  Ah – the newspapers that bent the knee to PGMO and refused to comment on consistent oddities in refereeing behaviour.

Supporters analyse referees and their decisions because the media refuses to do so.   Our master work 160 games analysed was published in 2017 – and there has never been another piece of work like it.  But the media has refused to recognise it, and equally refused to undertake their own study in the same depth.

But now suddenly criticism of referees is allowed, although mostly the argument is against VAR And not the referees themselves.   ESPN did a significant piece for example on the failings of VAR which included the note that “rules were broken elsewhere with VAR not intervening to chalk off Bournemouth’s opening goal [against Arsenal], despite replays showing several players standing in Arsenal’s half when the visitors kicked-off.”

As for why, Football365 noted in a story from September last year that, “At some point football decided it was too important to be flawed and that’s unlikely to change any time soon”.     Which is almost right – although actually what happened was that journalists finally realised that their credibility was being destroyed by never mentioning referees.

But talk of referees getting things very very wrong goes back a long way and once we started to bring in video evidence (long before VAR did the job for us) it was quite clear just how far away from what supporters actually experience football journalism had got.

Thus football didn’t decide that it was too important to be flawed.  Instead, football journalism woke up to the fact that the world that they portray is not the world that the fans experience.  Now the inadequacies of football journalism caused primarily by an unwillingness to question what was going on are slowly being unpicked although the inadequacies of past reporting will always remain a black stain on journalism in England, and the football journalists’ reputation is almost certainly tarnished forever.


9 Replies to “6 years late, media finally starts to admit there is a refereeing problem in the PL.”

  1. Tony, It’s much more than 6 years late.

    Remember the Riley fix in match 50 and the Dean disgrace in the Birmingham match when Eduardo was destroyed.

    Re this week’s general outrage about Mitrovic actually “touching” the match official and the demands for a massive suspension. Whilst he was out of order in what he did, no actual harm was done to the referee, who seemed very eager to “level-up” matters to bring MU back into the game. There was never any such outcry when our players had their legs shattered – the offenders just got the standard 3 match ban (with a lot of misplaced sympathy for “not being that kind of player and being “devastated” by the events – plus the indication at Arsene Wenger for not sympathising with them.)

  2. @John L.,

    yeah, those were the times when Fergie time was seen as a nice english particularity, and english thugs were seen as just ‘manly’ footballers, not like those continental crybabies.

    Thing is, today, with football/PL globalisation, IMHO, this is not just possible like it anymore. The whole world is watching. Even PGMOL is starting to feel the heat, their incompentence being a subject after every week-end. And this is starting to make people worry, because as was written/stated I can’t remember by whom: you don’t want people talking of the idiotic refereeing after a game, but about the goals, the players, the drama.

    And I believe the whole world of PGMOL, or at least the incompetents staffing it, is starting to crumble, game after game, poor decision after poor decision.

  3. It can’t happen too soon. perhaps the idiot journalists can help although i wouldn’t hang my hat. at least some of the pundits are complaining about referees for a change. The most immediate and effective change would be Tony’s suggestion that limits refs to seeing a team only twice in one season. What reason, other than crooked intentions, would the Pigmob have for turning that down?

  4. This problem dates from at least 20 years ago.

    2003 anybody? Bolton v. Arsenal at the Reebok stadium. Andy D’Urso was the referee. Bolton were permitted to kick the Arsenal players off the park. Quite literally.

    2001 FA Cup final – Steve Dunn was the official that day, and Henchoz led a charmed life.

  5. Effectively they can’t find enough referees that live on the M62 ,Fergie’s old stomping ground . They could make up the numbers by casting their net south of Birmingham but they only venture that far down to pick up their match fees.
    For the 2022/23 season, the Premier League had a pool of 19 referees to call on, as well as 30 assistant referees, so to get them twice only they are spread to thin.
    Webb now needs to promote more referees but they need to be trained properly , like everything else in this country they have been cut back to the bone . One day Riley will be exposed for the person responsible for the sparsity of officials of a good standard . It’s going to take a few years to turn things around and having the old incompetents running VAR to oversee them is not the way to go.
    Root and branch comes to mind and a clean sweep.

  6. I’d like to think that as ownership , players and coaching staff are from all parts of the world , could we be seeing the introduction of competent referees from overseas ?

    It would reflect the make up of staff in other fields .
    Not holding my breath as yet !

  7. The best way to understand and visualize clearly the disparity among officials and officiating in general in the UK versus elsewhere, is to look at the quality of officiating during the World Cups(men and women), the Europa and European cup, and other international tournaments. When I watch the EPL referees often having to face irate and incensed players after a particularly dubious call, as well as the criteria of alertness, rapidity and accuracy of decisions and the knowledge of on field player management, the FIFA officials in these big tournaments stand head and shoulders above their peers in the EPL. I sometimes feel that the EPL officials are in slow motion and are half awake, while the international tournament referees seem sharper, more focused, more confident and also fitter. I know that most EPL officials are also FIFA referees but are UK pitches heavier than International ones, are UK fans more violent, are EPL standards higher….no! IMHO the PGMOL needs to be replaced by a far more transparent and dynamic organization that promotes more EPL officials (including more female officials), better fitness, better professional use of VAR, and creates a clear development path for the best non-EPL officials to attain the summit.

  8. The referees who ran the show when Eduardo da Silva or
    Abou Visiricky Diaby or Aaron Ramsey did not punish the players who committed the heinous crime on the pitch. They largely went unpunished and each time, Arsenal lost the league from that point. Shawcross and others went free. It’s a sad thing. Are you aware that most of the careers of those players ended from there. Arsène Wenger suggested that any player who causes such injuries to others should also wait until the player recovers before he can also play again. That will make them cautious when tackling others.

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