Refereeing in the League is out of control, and things are getting worse



By Tony Attwood

PGMO is at the moment very much on the attack against clubs and players – most recently with a new directive “to penalise dissent in the Premier League, beginning with a new crackdown on players waving imaginary cards.”

Now of course we don’t have any background on this: PGMO has no website and engages in no discussions; it just issues diktats.  But referees do have occasional “summits” (what normal people would call “meetings”) and it is at these that the new approaches are announced.

It is, I think many would agree, a ludicrous approach to football, with one small group of people re-writing the way games are to be handled as they go along.   Other changes to football are properly debated, and if agreed, are written into the laws.   But not with PGMO: they just have one man announcing the change, and that’s it.

Then it gets worse as all the media fall into line as well, with no criticism or even questioning or examination of each new development.

Consider the reporting of yellow cards so far this season.  Chelsea are on 40 yellow cards after 12 league games which, if they carry on like this, will give them a grand total of 127 yellows this season.   Last season the top carded team was Leeds with 84.

So the yellow cards are currently running at 50% higher than last season in terms of the most carded club, and yet nothing seems to be happening as a result.   There’s no debate, no discussion, no international agreement.  Just the boss of PGMO having an idea and saying “do it”.

One problem is that none of us can find out where all these cards are coming from.   As I’ve pointed out, PGMO has no website, so there is nothing we can look up.  Furthermore, the media does not debate the decisions and actions of PGMO, either from choice or because of another PGMO diktat.

So the only figures we have, come from WhoScored and although these are informative they hardly reveal all we need to know.

Consider this table which comes from the WhoScored site, relating to the cause of yellow cards this season in the Premier League.  To make this simpler I have just given the top and bottom five clubs in the table labeled “Premier League Situational Statistics” – “Card situations”.

It is, as far as I know the most detailed report of referee behaviour in relation to cards that we have.  This is the current table of yellow cards.


R Team Fouls Unprofessional Dive Other
1 Chelsea 26 5 0 10
2 Sheffield United 25 0 0 10
3 Nottingham Forest 23 5 0 7
4 West Ham 22 1 0 9
5 Brentford 22 0 0 8
16 Arsenal 12 0 0 7
17 Crystal Palace 12 1 0 9
18 Liverpool 11 3 0 11
19 Bournemouth 10 1 0 10
20 Manchester City 10 7 0 8


What comes across immediately is the pathetic nature of the table.  It includes a column of zeros (and it is zero throughout the whole league in this column) which is utterly useless, along with an unexplained column of “other”.  There is no definition of what goes in “other” and what goes in “unprofessional”.

Nor is there any clear explanation anywhere of why the numbers are rising. Yet a quick look at last season’s figures for the WHOLE of the campaign and this season’s for 12 games shows something dramatic is happening.


Team Yellow 2022/3 Yellow 2023/4* Est end 2023/24 Rise
Chelsea 77 40 127 +65%
Wolverhampton 84 39 124 +48%
Tottenham 75 34 108 +44%
Newcastle 62 33 105 +63%
Arsenal 52
16 51 -2%

*After 12 games.

Now you might think that the fact that while some clubs are increasing their yellow card total this year by 50% or more, Arsenal will, at present rates, cut their yellow card total slightly.   Maybe that is not noted in the media because it doesn’t fit with the narrative.   After all the wonder-kids of Manchester City will themselves increase their yellow card rate by 57% this season if current trends continue.

Although all these figures are available, they are not fully compared and worked out – one has to spend quite a bit of time with a calculator to get the comparisons from one season to the next, although they all come from the same WhoScored web page.

And so what are PGMO doing about this?  Are they publicising the matter?  No clearly not.  Are they debating the situation with their members or the clubs?  Well we don’t know because PGMO has no web site, and the media will never ever do any critical analysis of what referees are up to.

What we are asked to do, uniquely in football, is take on trust, without any other examination beyond the data Untold can get hold of, the notion that PGMO is made up of jolly good chaps who are doing a jolly good job.

What we are also told is that “Webb reaffirmed his commitment to referees taking a no-nonsense approach towards abuse aimed at officials.”

But of course that is totally the PGMO’s fault.  If you set up a secret society that has a lot of power, then the people involved are going to suffer abuse, because casting aspersions is just about the only weapon we have when we see something that looks very wrong.

And PGMO is keen to assert itself even more for it seems that from now on referees are being instructed to “show at least one yellow card where two or more players confront them.”

We are in a chaotic and terrible situation wherein the PGMO is totally out of control and operating without any possibility of checks and balances, and where the media is either too frightened to comment, or won’t, simply because no one else does.

10 Replies to “Refereeing in the League is out of control, and things are getting worse”

  1. Referees are getting worst because of VAR !
    Referees are now scrutinised every minute of every game and instead of helping the ref’s its doing exactly the opposite ref’s are losing confidence in thier own decision making or relying on VAR to do thier job for them.
    Before VAR most people accepted HUMAN ERRORS as a referees excuse but that has now changed i don’t think many referees would secretly like VAR one bit and i would say nether do many many fans !

  2. 2 players!
    This is a joke
    Every club every game!!!!!!
    Ludicous and the game will be ruined.
    Meanwhile grabbing round the waist and neck at corners is ok

  3. Tony

    “Now you might think that the fact that while some clubs are increasing their yellow card total this year by 50% or more, Arsenal will, at present rates, cut their yellow card total slightly. Maybe that is not noted in the media because it doesn’t fit with the narrative”.

    Of course it doesn’t fit their narrative, as such they turn the narrative on to Arteta. Even before his statement rightly highlighting the incompetence of the officials they was on his back every week because of his perceived ‘antics’ in the technical area.

    From the Mirror: ‘Gary Neville blasts Mikel Arteta as he points blame over problem holding Arsenal back’. Jammie Carragher, Richard Keys are 2 others off the top of my head, that have turned the narrative on to Arteta.

    They cant have a go at the players so hey, lets have a goat the manager.

    Stan Adams

    “Referees are now scrutinised every minute of every game and instead of helping the ref’s its doing exactly the opposite ref’s are losing confidence in their own decision making or relying on VAR to do their job for them.”

    “Referees are now scrutinised every minute of every game”

    And so they should be. I am in my job. Everything I do or say is recorded and randomly checked, in secret, to make sure I am performing to the standards required. If I am not, depending on the seriousness of my transgression, I am spoken to. Warned. Taken off duty, or in the worse case scenario sacked. I am expected to perform to a certain level and if I fail to achieve that, all day, every day, I could be in big trouble. It’s what comes with responsibility. It’s called being held to account.

    “ref’s are losing confidence in their own decision making”

    Why are they losing confidence? Are they that delicate? I have made mistakes doing my job, we all do, and I have suffered the appropriate consequences, but I have to take it on the chin, learn from it and move on.

    And anyway, cricket Umpires have their decisions overturned on a regular basis, even elite Umpires. They just take it on the chin and move on.

    Tennis line judges make wrong calls and have their decisions overturned. They take it on the chin and move on.

    What does scare the referees and VAR operators is whether the media are going to agree with them or not. It has nothing to do with being held to account by Clubs, managers, fans, or even the Laws of the Game.

    You only have to look at recent history. Referees and VAR have, I think we can all agree, made some diabolical calls against us recently and they haven’t suffered any consequences AT ALL. Why? Because the media backed them to the hilt.

    It looks like the only person who is going to be punished on the back of this myriad of poor referee and VAR calls is Arteta for having the Gaul to call them out. Apparently The Mail are running a campaign to protect them even more. Unbelievable.


    The referees and VAR operators are sailing serenely on, totally unfazed.

    Tell me, what on earth do they have to worry about?

  4. If referees implemented the laws the game, which they patently don’t do as can be seen by their decisions during lockdown against home teams, there wouldn’t be continued controversy. On the other hand if footballers stopped trying to con & cheat the officials all the time at throw ins, corner kicks & the constant use of their arms & hands while playing FOOTball it would make life easier for the officials. But it’s never going to happen as cheating is so ingrained and a tactic used in modern professional football.
    I wonder what Stanley Mathews & Tom Finney would make of the modern game.

  5. @ Nitram and Adrian – well said.

    Why do players surround the ref? Yes it’s unsavoury but when players see the same thing penalised one week and ignored the next, no wonder they become infuriated. Players and fans have a right to expect the laws of the game to be applied consistently. And if the refs aren’t any good at their job, do something about it, don’t just cover it up or blame everybody but the people who are responsible for poor refereeing standards.

    The PGMO is not fit for purpose but the media won’t call them out for it. Instead, when somebody does call them out for it, like Mikel did at Newcastle, everybody turns the spotlight on the bloke that has the bottle to say something and he will suffer as a result. Something needs to happen. I would just love to see the PGMO try and defend themselves in court.

  6. Adrian

    “But it’s never going to happen as cheating is so ingrained and a tactic used in modern professional football.”

    I understand what you are saying, but personally I’m not so harsh in my condemnation of the players. Again I reserve my condemnation for the referees. It is THIER job to see the difference between a foul and a dive. It may not be easy, but that’s the job. WE see the dives. The serial divers. Why cant they? If they did and punished them accordingly they would stop.

    Back to cricket. Umpires have to put up with bowlers and fielders appealing wildly for a wicket they know damn well isn’t out. But they are putting pressure on the Umpire. Is that cheating too? I don’t think so. It is just part of the game. Batsmen don’t walk anymore when they know they have ‘edged’ it. Is that cheating or just getting the Umpire to make a decision? To do his job?

    Would WG Grace be turning in his grave? Maybe, but things change.

    But here’s the rub. When an Umpire makes a genuine error, they use their VAR correctly. It actually does help the Umpire. They don’t get offended, they accept they made an error and move on.

    But the thing is, the CORRECT decision is reached in the end, and THAT is all we want from our referees and VAR and we are a million miles from that.

  7. Stan Adams : “referees are getting worse because of VAR”

    My view is that VAR is getting worse because of referees.

  8. They are both getting worse because they are dumb as sticks or bent. If the VAR staff is being drawn from the same group of miscreants as the refs, why expect anything different?

  9. Genoa CFC owners, 777 Partners are currently attempting to re-structure the club’s 106 million Euro debt to the Italian tax authorities. This debt is additional to 160 million Euros owed to its other creditors. Everton, beware.

  10. According to the Samuel Meade in The Mirror today – “VAR’s primary purpose is to overturn ‘clear and obvious’ errors – not dubious calls”.

    Glad we’ve sorted that one out.

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