The proof of a bias among Premier League referees against southern teams



By Tony Attwood (with the help of a map)

61% of all active PL referees come from the north: none come from London and the home counties.

23 referees have been used this season in the Premier League, and one might assume that the PGMO would take care to ensure that there is a reasonable geographic spread of the location of these referees.

This would be beneficial in two ways.  One would be to ensure that there is no accusation of referees having (for example) a “northern bias” and the other would be to ensure that while referees don’t actually oversee matches involving teams from their immediate vicinity, they are able to ensure that referees don’t have to keep driving from one end of the country to another to oversee games.  (This point is important, since PGMO insist on keeping the number of referees low. 23 referees have been used this season but seven of these have had eight games or fewer leaving just 16 referees covering most games.)

So we thought we would have a look.  Of course this is not because we would say that all northern referees are biased in favour of northern teams, or that all London referees are biased in favour of London teams, but a rough geographic balance would be helpful – not least to ensure that the referees do not get tired out from the travelling, given that they obviously should not be overseeing matches from teams close to where they live, or of games involving teams they support or their immediate rivals.

And the results we found were rather alarming.  There are 23 referees registered as suitable for games in the Premier League this season and 61% of them comes from the north!  22% of them come from the midlands,   9% come from the south.  9% are from outside the UK.  

And a grand total of zero percent are from London and the south east.   Indeed the only other region excluded in this way, is Wales – which has no teams in the PL this season.

So 32% of the population of England lives in London and the south east and NOT A SINGLE PREMIER LEAGUE REFEREE can be found from among that population of nine million people.

Not one!

Now of course we are not saying that referees will all be supportive of teams from their home region, but it is surely utterly ludicrous not to have ANY referees at all in the Premier League list who are from London and the home counties.

That is not to say I am looking for London referees to be overseeing matches involving Arsenal, Tottenham Hotspur, Chelsea, West Ham United, Fulham, Brentford, or Crystal Palace, but London is the centre of Premier League football, and so surely should have some representatives doing the rounds for PGMO. 

London has 35% of all Premier League football clubs in its boundaries.  And if we were to look at the whole of the south east we would also include Brighton and Hove Albion and Luton Town which would then mean that the south east has 45% of all the Premier League clubs within its area.

So let’s pull this together: London and the south east has 45% of all the current Premier League teams within its boundaries.   What’s more 32% of the population of England lives within London and the south east.

And yet London has no referees wihtin PGMO and the south east has just one referee on the PGMO Premier League books: Tim Robinson from Sussex.

I really cannot see how this is right.  Even if it is argued that referees have no bias for or against their own locality, how can it possibly be right that 61% of the PL referees all come from the north of the country?

Of course it could be argued that it happened “just by chance”, but really, do you think so?

Here is the list of referees by region with the county of origin of each referee noted…

Northern Referees (14)

  • Cheshire: Anthony Taylor
  • Cleveland: Tony Harrington
  • Doncaster: Darren England
  • Lancashire: Darren Bond
  • Lancashire: Paul Tierney
  • Lancashire: Chris Cavanagh
  • Lancashire: Michael Salisbury
  • Merseyside: Robert Jones
  • Merseyside: Peter Bankes
  • Northumberland: Michael Oliver
  • Sheffield: Samuel Barrott
  • South Yorkshire: Craig Pawson
  • West Yorkshire: Andrew Madley
  • West Yorkshire: Samuel Barrott

Midlands referees (5)

  • Cambridgeshire: Josh Smith
  • Leicestershire: John Brooks
  • Nottinghamshire: David Coote
  • Oxfordshire: Graham Scott
  • Warwickshire: Stuart Attwell

Southern referees (2)

  • West Sussex: Tim Robinson
  • Wiltshire: Simon Hooper

Non-UK referees (2)

  • Jarred Gillett (Australia)
  • Bobby Madley: (Norway)

This century the only London teams to win the Premier League are Arsenal (twice), and Chelsea, (five times) – and now we have just found that a number of those Chelsea championships are as questionable as the titles gained by Manchester City.

So let’s pull this together.   Each season at least 30% of the Premier League clubs are from London, which is not surprising since just over 30% of the English population lives in London and the south east.   And yet none of the Premier League referees are from London or the south east.

22% of the population of England living the north, and yet 61% of the referees come from the north.

And now the poor PGMO is going to make an example of Arteta for speaking out about the failure of northern referees.

Well, of course they are.  I mean, it is not as if anyone is trying even to suggest that refereeing is balanced and fair in the Premier League.

13 Replies to “The proof of a bias among Premier League referees against southern teams”

  1. Just as well Himmler wasn’t around to judge all those commandants at the various death camps in Nuremberg.

  2. I like this website as you guys regularly post some interesting stuff, usually just the right side of paranoia and conspiracy theory mumbo-jumbo, but close enough to make it funny. However, I’m disappointed that this time you have clearly used a click-bait title and not produced a shred of evidence of any bias. How is stating that 61% of referees are from the north ‘THE PROOF OF A BIAS AMONG PREMIER LEAGUE REFEREES AGAINST SOUTHERN TEAMS’? Correlation does not imply causation, I thought you guys were intelligent enough to realise that.

  3. I have no affection for Chelsea, but I believe that they were cheated by PGMOL in the game against Man City. Haaland foul on the defender, before clutching him so that they both fell to the ground was blatant and obvious, but the Manchester-based referee, Mr. Taylor, gave a penalty instantly. The VAR review then glossed over a suspected foul on a defender earlier in the sequence and completely avoided Haaland’s initiation of the wrestling which led to the penalty.

    There was also suspicion that Haaland handled the ball whilst sliding in to score the third goal just after half-time, but I don’t recall it being checked, It was mentioned by the Sky commentator who said it didn’t matter, since the ball was already on course to go in the goal before the handball incident. – another
    example of making up new rules to suit the desired outcome. like the numerous contortions of logic used to justify the series of offences against Arsenal in the Newcastle fiasco.

    An extra point achieved for Man City by clear injustice. I don’t know whether Mr. Taylor is on the list of referees in the oil-states, but I wonder.

    That leads to a further query: If such swift and decisive action can be taken against Everton for FFP breaches, why not Man. City?

  4. Well G, here’s the answer. The location of referees is a matter of interest in that location, for many people, determines which team they support, and their general approach to people from other regions. It would be a matter of utter simplicity to ensure that there is a rough geographic balance in refereeing appointments – not an exact one – but something roughly reflecting the distribution of clubs in the league. For the League to be somewhat askew of such a balance would be neither here nor there, but it must be obvious that there being virtually no referees appointed from the London region is going to be a matter of debate.
    Now if that were the only issue, then the case would be worth reporting but not too much more than that, but given the utter dominance of the south east in terms of the clubs in the league, and the utter dominance of referees from the north, it must be obvious that the issue would be picked up.
    Given that PGMO has gone its own way in terms of limiting the number of referees so that some refs see the same clubs four or five times a season, while at the same time refusing to allow referees ever to talk to the media after a match following the German model adds to the feeling that there is something to hide. Add to this that there is a total imbalance among referees in terms of the way some have regular results favouring the home team, while others have regular results favouring the away team, and any organisation wishing to ensure that it is not only fair but seen to be fair, would take action.
    The fact that PGMO pushes ahead with all these policies suggests to me that something is most certainly amiss. And regarding it all, why would they not try to ensure a better geographic balance – as well as fixing the other problems?

  5. Bobby Madley is from West Yorkshire, hes not Norwegian. He did officiate matches in Norway after the PGMOL fired him for allegedly mocking disabled person.

  6. G

    To suggest there isn’t a culture difference between the North and South of England is naïve to say the least.

    To suggest there isn’t a Northern resentment at the perceived political favouring of the South is naïve at best.

    To suggest that Northerners don’t, as a general rule, subscribe to the Southern softie stereotype, is naïve at best.

    I’m not suggesting Northerners and Southerners can’t or don’t get along, but I have encountered these stereo typical views on many occasions. it’s not just North to South, but South to North as well.

    In my opinion, the fact that these cultural stereotypes exists is undeniable. I have encountered it.

    And if it exists in life it exists in football. And if exists in football it will exist in the minds of referees. And if it exists in the minds of referees it will affect how they referee. It’s as simple as that.

    How it manifests itself in their performance is another matter, but personally, I have absolutely no doubt at all that it affects the way they referee.

    One final point, and I would like an answer to this please.

    How would you feel if all the referees were from London?

    And would you think, on a most basic level, that that would be fair?

  7. You have listed all but two refs by county but specify the city in two cases. Both Sheffield and Doncaster are in South Yorkshire. I think it would help to see them listed as such given you already cite one ref as being from that county.

  8. Following on from my previous comment.

    Taking into account Madley is from West Yorkshire not Norway, it is interesting to note that we then have 12 of the 23 referees from within the old boundaries of Lancashire and Yorkshire. That’s over half from just two counties. Yet, given the possibility that both Burnley and Everton may go down this season only 3 of the 20 clubs would be left from those counties if none are promoted. Whilst seven clubs are from London and no referees from anywhere near the capital. It really doesn’t suggest that refereeing is in anyway representative of spread of either population or club.

    As Nitram said, how would the people of Manchester and Liverpool feel if over half the referees were from London…….despite the fact that this would be far more representative than the current set up!

  9. Mikey

    “As Nitram said, how would the people of Manchester and Liverpool feel if over half the referees were from London…….despite the fact that this would be far more representative than the current set up!”


    And isn’t odd how ‘G’ has failed to answer my 2 simple questions:

    1: How would the Northern teams and their fans feel if over 70% of the referees were from the South East, and 50% were from London alone?

    2: And would they think it fair?

    Let alone respond to my broader points regarding cultural differences between regions of the Country, which in my opinion are irrefutable.

    This isn’t to say they are biased, but it’s just wrong, and frankly it stinks.

    When I managed, one thing I always tried to be was fair. But more than that, I always tried to to ensure I was ‘seen to be fair’. And more than anything, that’s what is wrong here. The PGMOL are not even trying to appear fair.

  10. Nitram,

    Apologies for not replying sooner, I don’t always have time to review messages. Don’t mistake my silence for agreement, approval or fear.

    I think Northern fans would be thinking exactly the same as you do, Nitram, and, yes, I think they would feel aggrieved, however, that would not be ‘proof’ of a southern bias That’s ‘Proof’ as stated in the title of the article. Whether individuals feel that their teams are disadvantaged or otherwise by the abundance of northern referees is up to them, my point is simply that the article did not prove that there is a bias in the refereeing against southern teams. It merely stated the geographical facts, implied obvious cause and effect, thank you and good night. Sorry, but that’s not enough for me, I agree with you in as much as it might be part of the puzzle but it’s not ‘proof’. I’m waiting for the smoking gun of a taped telephone conversation of someone at the PGMOL telling a referee to be anti Arsenal and Pro ManUre (like the media are).

    By the way, I did find your stereotypical take on the stereotypical relations between the north and the south interesting, though. Again, there’s no proof there but it is an interesting point.

  11. ‘G’

    “I think Northern fans would be thinking exactly the same as you do, Nitram, and, yes, I think they would feel aggrieved”

    yes, I accept it may not be ‘proof’ of bias in how referees are applying the rules, but it is proof of bias in the selection of referees. There is a Northern bias.

    “my point is simply that the article did not prove that there is a bias in the refereeing against southern teams.”

    But that wasn’t all you said though was it. On the basis of that one statement, that okay you have a point with, you inferred we (Untold) are veering toward being ‘paranoid and conspiracy theorists’, which is a little unfair on a blog that as a rule supports all it’s notions with an abundance of data.

    ” I’m waiting for the smoking gun of a taped telephone conversation of someone at the PGMOL telling a referee to be anti Arsenal and Pro Man Ure (like the media are).”

    But that’s not what I, or for that matter most on Untold are implying. I have gone to great lengths to say I do not believe there are any ‘brown envelopes’ or ‘corrupt’ referees. But that is not to say I don’t believe they are biased, because I do.

    From what you say it sounds like you agree there IS an anti Arsenal bias in the media, and that is very interesting. Interesting because my theory as to why I think referees are indeed biased is because I feel they are enormously influenced BY the media. If you have read my ramblings you will of seen that I believe the referees are simply refereeing in a manner that they feel will be well received by the media. In simple terms, make poor decisions against us and you will not be criticised. Make poor decisions that favour us and you will be slaughtered. Literally, their job could be on the line if they don’t tow the line. No brown envelopes, no secret meetings, but referees simply following the path of least resistance. Under such circumstances in which direction would you err when it comes to those tricky 50/50 calls?

    The two factors together, a Northern leaning media, and a Northern bias of referees, feed in to a bias against Arsenal, and yes, towards Northern clubs. You may not believe that, and that’s up to you, but I do.

    But whatever you think is going on, the thing that is irrefutable is the Geographic bias of referees, and that is simply unacceptable. Here’s the thing though, It cannot of happened by accident could it? Therefore the selection process must DELIBERATELY favour Northern referees?

    Why would they do that? Answer me that.

    Why would the PGMOL process of referee selection be so biased in favour of Northern referees if not to create a Northern bias in approach, even if it is entirely subliminal?

    It cant be they love whippets, cloth caps and Pigeon racing could it? (Oops, there goes that Northern stereo type rearing it’s ugly head)

    Joking apart, you tell me G, WHY would they do that?

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