Newspaper attacks refs and PGMO, but still refuse to see the main problems


By Sir Hardly Anyone

“The time has come for Howard Webb to put blundering referees out to pasture”

“The game needs a clear out of blundering referees and those who remain need better management.”

Those are the headlines in an article in the Daily Telegraph today, and given the way that we have been looking at referees and their wild and whacky, not to say biased decision making for years and years, you might think there would be dancing in the offices of Untold Arsenal this morning.  At last, a mainstream paper has taken up our eternal theme!

Well, no.  One because we don’t have offices and two because the article totally misses the main point completely.   Indeed reform of the type the Telegraph demands would actually make matters worse.

Now I would agree completely that the “so-called 100-minute matches” are “fixing the wrong problem”,   And most certainly with the notion that Webb “needs to improve refereeing standards, improve Var and get to the heart of the problem: it’s not good enough as it stands.”

And yes again to the notion that “Jon Moss as select group manager and Martin Atkinson as referees’ coach are not good enough and should be moved on.”  

But then it all falls apart, for at this point the Telegraph picks out the two referees who “could be considered a part of the elite: Michael Oliver and Anthony Taylor. They are the benchmark.”   Yet they don’t give us a single piece of evidence or a single statistic to examine if Oliver and Taylor are that good, how they are that good and why they are that good.  And they don’t because the evidence shows the opposite.

Each of these two nominated referees oversaw 30 games last season and they each got a fair share matches involving the very top clubs and the strugglers.

Yet Taylor handed out 31% more yellow cards than Oliver last season.  And surely it is worth asking how can that be.   Especially as the difference in the number of fouls seen was just 7%.

But there’s more to come as we look at the results these two referees gave us – and remember they each oversaw the same number of games in the Premier League last season.

60% of the 30 games Michael Oliver ran were home wins.   But only 33% of the 30 games Taylor oversaw were home wins. 

23.3% of the games Oliver was in charge of were away wins, while 43.3% of the games Taylor ran were away wins.

In other words, a home team seeing that they had Oliver as the referee would be jumping for joy, for immediately they know they were immediately almost twice as likely to win.  And the same in reverse: put Taylor in charge and the away club will know it is almost twice as likely to win as if it had Oliver in charge.

These figures are ludicrous, so when the Telegraph says, “We need at least 10 referees who operate at that level,” they are in fact saying “we need far more referees who are biased by where the game takes place.

Now you may recall we have covered a lot of research into this issue of home and away wins, and the definitive research findings are clear: it is the crowd that can influence the referee.  Indeed although most of us can hardly be pleased to have lived through the covid crisis, at least it gave researchers one thing: the chance to watch the outcomes of PL games without thousands of people shouting in an attempt to influence the referee.

For as the research shows, it is the crowd that has the impact, and of course, the home crowd that has the biggest impact.  (The article that explored this in-depth is here).

Obviously, no one can get inside a referee’s mind, and as we all know, none of us is very good at being totally clear as to why we behave in certain ways.   Which is why we have the statistics.

But why does the Telegraph want to use the most hopelessly biased referees as role models?  Now that’s a tougher one to answer and needs some pondering.  Is it because Keith Hackett who wrote the article just blurted it out without any recourse to the figures (which are all obviously available online.  We take them from Who Scored.)  Or is there some darker motive?

Personally, I just think it is appalling journalism – quick let’s get out the story and never mind about the accuracy, no one will notice…  That sort of thing.

Except of course those quirky buggers at Untold Arsenal who have a penchant for statistics, do notice.  We have no idea how to stop referees from being home or away-biased except through more psychological training, and that will take a while.  But in the meanwhile, the situation could be helped by ensuring that no club has the same referee more than twice, once at home and once away.  And not by modeling the future on the most biased refs we have.

Today in Arsenal’s history: The Extraordinary but forgotten start to the unbeaten season

9 Replies to “Newspaper attacks refs and PGMO, but still refuse to see the main problems”

  1. Arsenal lost the league by 5 points. Those mistakes by referees and VAR, probably cost Arsenal the Title last year. Fact.!

  2. So only Arsenal were penalised by refereeing errors ? Interesting definition of a fact.

  3. Jod, not only Arsenal were penalised, but other wrong decisions also worked against Arsenal – eg the failure to give a blatant penalty to Newcastle in its home game against Manchester City, which was in effect a gift of a point to them. (as well as the recurring referee practice of ignoring yellow-card fouls committed by Rodri.)

    Of ocurse, you may have evidence to the contrary to support your inference.

  4. May be it’s good that the matter of bad refereeing has come up. It may be a matter of time before further comment comes up.
    It can’t be bad.

  5. Jod has fallen into the usual silence of people who are asked to present facts. The Telegraph knows the vast majority of readers have no use for facts or those pesky statistics. So they bust out two names who happen to ref a lot of matches and assume they are good at their job. I can scarcely think of any other profession that made such obvious public blunders with no long-term consequences.

    It’s time to start pondering whether these refs and VAR people are bent. After all, who would expect Wolves to draw or win at Old Trafford?

  6. While Untold have done a huge amount of research and produced evidenced statistics, it is not sufficient to expect corrupt groups to understand impact of bias and incorrect decisions.
    My opinion is that the PGMOL be dissolved and a new structure of selection, coaching, training and appointment be set up by a panel of retired team captains and players that have been injured and no longer play.
    Untold has already set some parameters that need to be applied to the ‘hygiene’ required with number of games officiated by each official. VAR should be populated by additional trained officials that are physically challenged, to ensure good employment practice. The PGMOL and FA modus operandi is open to corruption and has no transparency, including the ‘no broadcast’ of radio communication and no media closure at the end of each match.

    The Laws of the Game with interpretation should be published by the FA at commencement of season, so that fans, media and players can all understand what the officials are looking for on the field of play.

    Until the PGMOL is dissolved the Game is subject to open corruption with no responsibility and financial penalty.

  7. Tim

    I looked at them but they are stats relating to overturning on field decisions. I don’t necessarily think it means VAR favours Brentford, Per Se, it just means that they had the most ‘incorrect’ decisions against them or ‘for’ their opponent corrected. I think we all believe that is exactly the right thing to of happened.

    Where I believe VAR has a problem, and in my opinion a bias, is again within the subjective aspect of it, and the subjective aspect of VAR primarily lies where it always has. The official. The inherent problem is that many times it is simply down to the VAR persons subjective opinion as to whether something is even looked at again.

    We had a perfect example of this at OT the other night regarding a late Wolves penalty shout. I haven’t spoken to a single person who doesn’t believe that was a penalty. It was, in my opinion and that of many others, a clear and obvious error, but Webb chose to not even get the referee to have a look. If that was us there is no way that the referee wouldn’t of been asked to have a look. There are dozens of these type of ‘calls’ made by VAR over a weekend, all subjective. All open to bias, or worse cheating.

    Now the point is, because VAR basically ignored it, does that count as a VAR decision going in United favour. Does it count as a VAR decision going against Wolves? I doubt it. Had the referee been called to the monitor then it may of counted either way depending on his decision, but when the incident is just ignored? It cant can it because he’s basically said the ref was correct, nothing to see here.

    And that’s my point. That’s basically a ref making an awful decision, compounded by VAR making an awful decision, but there will benothing ‘officially’ to say United were favoured by the ref, or more importantly had a massive VAR call go in their favour. It’s anon incident as far as VAR is concerned.

    How many times at OT will the VAR say, nothing to see here when it suits United?

    Will any of those ‘nothing to see here’ calls be logged as VAR going in United’s favour?

    The way that match was refereed and VAR failed, is extremely worrying.

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