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By Tony Attwood
You will have read and probably seen the reports about the nonsense that occurred in the Tottenham / Liverpool game in which VAR made a catastrophic error, which was then not undone. You will probably also have heard that the VAR referee contingent had been away refereeing in Saudi Arabia before “jetting back” as the papers like to say, in order to cover this Liverpool game with Tottenham. The journey including entrances and exits to airports took around 10 hours each way.
Now the question arises, what are the footballing authorities going to do about this? For there is a great worry that whatever they do, will be a gigantic fudge, set up more to protect the tattered image of PGMO who run refereeing in the Premier League, and to sustain the status quo, than to correct a broken system.
The measure of whether the Premier League is doing anything of note will be dependent on whether they do a patch and mend job, based on the notion that “all this fuss will pass, and let’s just keep our heads down” or whether they finally wake up to the fact that there are fundamental problems with refereeing in the Premier League.
I’m not a betting guy, but if I were, I’d put a lot of money on there being a fudge, and absolutely no reform of the autonomous PGMO and its staff – and that’s the huge danger.
The first point here is that PGMO knew well in advance that on this occasion as on other occasions PGMO staff jet around the continent doing work on the side. They’ve done nothing to stop that and it should not take a catastrophe like this for them to realise that this moonlighting should not be part of football. That they have allowed it is a mistake large enough for serious questions about the whole of PGMO management to be asked. Wholesale resignations should follow if not a winding up order, for the fact that this was allowed.
The second point is that although we’ve been calling for years for there to be more referees in the PGMO pool, PGMO have consistently refused to act upon this. Our idea first mentioned something like ten years ago, was that each referee should only see each Premier League team twice in a season, once at home and once away.
Thus if there is a referee who is home or away biased, each club will only get the benefit of his largesse once a season.
And that takes in the third point: home and away bias by referees is a proven fact as we have shown many times before. The numbers below come from the five most used referees in the Premier League last season, and shows the number of yellow cards each gave out per game, comparing the level of cards to the home teams and to the away teams.
Given that all these referees oversaw 26 or more games each, and were the most used referees in the Premier League last season, we can fairly state that these are, in the eyes of PGMO, the cream of the refereeing system in England. Stats from WhoScored.
|Referee||Games||Yel pg home||Yel PG away||Difference|
Of the five referees here, two gave more cards to the home team and two gave more cards to the away team. One was perfectly balanced.
And those differences between home or away team was huge. Oliver gave 48% more cards to the home team than the away, while Hooper gave 67% more cards to the away team than the home team.
Now I don’t expect these numbers to be perfectly equal., Referee Tierney did in fact achieve this, but much of the time there will be some difference, yet not the 67% difference Referee Hooper achieved – unless one claims that away teams foul a lot more. But then if they do, how come Oliver gave 48% more cards to the home teams than the away teams?
We know from the oft-quoted research undertaken by a range of professional research agencies that referees are influenced by the crowd, and it would seem that some refs now deliberately fight back against this crowd influence. And if it were argued that away teams are dirtier than home teams then we can’t explain Hooper and Jones’ results.
But really, if PGMO were doing their job, they would be training referees out of this crowd influence so that they give out cards according to the fouls they see, with no difference between home and away figures.
And there is one other thing. I may have missed the commentaries, but so far I haven’t really seen any investigation into what Tottenham are doing to get all their yellow cards. 26 so far, as opposed to 10 for Arsenal.
Last season Tottenham knocked up 75 yellows and Arsenal 52. If things continue at the same pace this season, Tottenham will end up with 141 cards (double last year) and Arsenal 54 (much the same as last year). Will Tottenham, I wonder, have many players left as the suspensions kick in?
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