By Tony Attwood
According to the Telegraph, “Nottingham Forest are considering an official complaint to the PGMO after expressing their “anger” at the performance of referee Stuart Attwell and his officials in the defeat at Manchester United.”
But the problem is that the PGMO is the body that runs refereeing. So this is a bit like a situation in which a restaurant gives you a dodgy meal and you complain to the restaurant which then holds an enquiry into the restaurant. They might offer you a refund to encourage you to shut up, but it is not really ever going to be a proper independent enquiry, and nothing will be done.
And curiously it comes just at the moment when I have new evidence to hand in the situation concerning Sir Henry Norris who was forced out of Arsenal (having rescued them, financed them, and paid for the building of Highbury) in 1927.
I’ll be writing a full report on the new evidence relating to Arsenal v Sir Henry Norris in a short while and publishing that on the Arsenal History Society site, but it is worth mentioning because in both cases the organisation that is accused of not doing its job properly holds the enquiry into itself. In the Sir Henry Norris case it was him against the FA in a case heard by the FA. In this case it is the Premier League against the PGMO in a case (if it ever got that far) which the PGMO would hear.
The PGMO’s situation is one that is completely ludicrous. It selects the referees. It decides which referee oversees each game. If the referee does not do his job properly he is taken to task by PGMO.
And yet in the midst of all this we have massive evidence to show that referees are biased – and just in case you have not seen this before, let me quickly go through it.
Prior to lockdown the number of home wins in the league was always greater than the number of away wins. No one ever bothered to investigate why this was, but the issue came to the fore during lockdown when it was noted that in games played without crowds, the number of away wins increased dramatically so that there were more away wins than home wins.
To find out why a group of academics, football directors and referees tried an experiment in which each referee was given a video of a match. Half the referees had the video with crowd noise, half without. At each incident, the video stopped and the ref had to note his decision.
The referees with sound available favoured the home teams, even to the extent of the amount of time added on that was to be played. The referees without sound did not favour the home teams.
Since then we have been looking at the figures for individual referees as provided by WhoScored. The full chart for last season is shown here Below is the summary for referees with over 20 games last season in the Premier League.
Home win percentages across the whole of last season range from 33% up to 72% depending on the referee. Away wins percentages across the whole of last season range from 4.8% to 47.6%. And some teams can get the same referee five times a season!
So if you were a manager of a Premier League team you would know that if you had Attwell you would start the home game with a much greater chance of a win than if you had Pawson. That would therefore influence the choice of players and tactics – which is completely wrong.
Likewise, the away team getting for example Bankes who only oversaw one away win in the season out of 21 games, would undoubtedly select its most effective defence and just play for a draw and not even think of going for a win.
This is how it is, and it should not be. Who the referee is should make no difference, but it does.
And yet, the media utterly refuse even to enter this debate, with some having stated post-pandemic that the the change from crowds to no crowds proved that the referees are not influenced by the crowds!!
Why the media will not report on the proven influence of referees is a matter only they can answer. Maybe they don’t want any of their readers, listeners and viewers to feel anything is wrong. Maybe the clubs or the League have said press passes will be removed if they ever suggest something is fundamentally wrong with refereeing. Maybe they feel (as I have heard said) that, “fans don’t understand the maths”.
But without that debate even starting, how can we even enter into a discussion about the performance of Attwell, when the media won’t even start to look at the figures?
The PGMO stranglehold not only on referees, but also on all talk of refereeing, is just about the most awful thing that there is in football, and it is seriously damaging the credibility of the Premier League, and stopping change. The clubs need to do something about PGMO and do it now. It’s already too late, but at least they could start the rebuilding of credibility.
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