PGMO’s selection of referees appears to be racist. It would be good if they could explain why this is.




By Tony Attwood

Five years ago there were no Black or Asian referees in the Football League or Premier League.   Not one.    Worse, none of the national media was mentioning the fact.   (Of course, maybe there was an article or two critical of the lack of lack of diversity, but if so I must have missed them.  But I can say for sure, there weren’t many, and this is a rather important topic.)

The explanation given then and still given now was “numerous and complex: an ancient governance structure riddled with nepotism; a progression pathway vulnerable to racism and confirmation bias; and a talent development process responsible for developing elite officials that predominantly excluded Black, Asian and mixed heritage referees.”

Indeed as the same article also says, “No Black, Asian or mixed heritage official has taken charge of a major English cup final.”

So why is that?  When the UK has a Prime Minister who had African-born Hindu parents of Indian Punjabi descent, why has football still not been able to integrate people of different ethnic origins into PGMO?

Now if this were any other organisation, the lack of non-white referees would be a matter of significant debate, but it isn’t.   Which raises the question: Why not?

We have had a black referee working in the top division: Uriah Rennie who retired in 2008, and since then there may have been one or two – although I must admit I can’t remember any.

So two questions arise: why are there no PL referees of non-white heritage now and why is no one making a fuss about it?

In fact, one organisation does track this problem: the Szymanski Report which examines the representation of Black people in English Football – and the 2022 Szymanski Report, compared the representation of Black players in the top four English professional leagues with the representation of Black employees in management positions in football clubs.

To quote from their summary “The February 2022 and now the March 2023 statistical reports show that while black players represent a very large proportion of all players and footballers with coaching badges, black representation in management remains negligible and shows little signs of improving.”

Now this of course is important because the report has revealed that 43% of players in English Premier League and 34% in the English Football League were Black in 2021.

Further, “Only 8.9% of players who were active in professional English football between 2004 and 2020 and progressed into club managerial or administrative roles usually taken by former players were Black. Former Black players are particularly under-represented in the roles of scouting or junior coaching levels.”

“Black players accounted for 14% of known UEFA Pro Licence holders who graduated under the FA, and 23% of all those Licence holders who were professional players
between 2004 and 2020.  This suggests that the under-representation of black players in managerial positions is not attributable to a lack of qualifications.”

So let’s consider in 2022 report showing black employees making up 43% of Premier League and 34% of Championship players – 43 and 34 in every 100 jobs respectively.    But there have in recent years, to the best of my knowledge been no black PGMO officials.   Now I could be wrong- although I am bolstered in the belief that ths is right by a headline that says

Sam Allison wfill also become the first Black official to referee a Premier League game since Uriah Rennie in 2008 when he takes charge of Sheffield United vs Luton on Boxing Day.

Since Uriah Renee retired in 2008 and since then we have had 15 and a bit seasons of Premier League football which makes up getting on for 2000 games, and not one has been refereed by a person who was not white.

At the simplest level that suggests that PGMO has not been carrying out the part of every employer in England’s responsibility of ensuring that the organisation that person runs is not racist.  Put another way the total lack of non-white referees since Uriah Renee suggests that at the very least the PGMO has a case of in-built racism to answer. 

But then the Premier League has not been seen to raise the issue, which suggests once again that the Premier League will do nothing other than bend the knee to the PGMO.

Now we also know that PGMO is the ultimate secret society in England.  It has no website, and makes no explanations as to why some referees get to see the same club repeatedly, while others don’t.  It will not explain why it cannot employ enough referees to ensure that each referee only oversees matches of each PL club twice in a season – something we have been calling for, for years, and which would help reduce accusations of bias. 

Nor does PGMO explain why it will not put referees up for interviews on TV, as in some countries.  Instead, it appears that referees are whisked away from the ground in a designated car with a designated driver.

Nor does it explain why it allows referees to travel to Saudi Arabia, fly back and then oversee a match involving a club that is effectively owned by Saudi Arabia.

I am not in any way suggesting that PGMO is a corrupt organisation.  Of course, I can’t do that, because I don’t have enough information because PGMO is an ultra-secret organisation. But one thing is clear – when one has an ultra-secret organisation, there will always be suspicions that where there is secrecy for no explained reason, the secrecy is there to hide something else, such as corruption or racism.

One black referee back on the circuit is better than none – but still not enough to overcome the reasonable suspicions that something is wrong within both PGMO for allowing this. Just as having a proportion of non-white referees reflective of the percentage of non-white footballers is utterly obvious and a helpful thing to do.

It would be good to know why PGMO has failed to follow this path.   Perhaps they would like to tell us.  If they will offer a statement or article I will publish it in full, without any comment or alternation from myself or any of my fellow writers on Untold.

15 Replies to “PGMO’s selection of referees appears to be racist. It would be good if they could explain why this is.”

  1. Black population in GB 4.2%
    Assume half are male 2 1%
    Top flight referees 40.
    Simple maths. Less than 1 Black referee per100.
    This is nothing to do with race , it’s simply based on %

  2. What does number of players have to do with number of qualified refs? It’s completely unrelated. About 4% of all refs (Amateur to prof) are of black, Asian or mixed heritage. This % is relevant, not number of players.
    If you are going on number of players then why not argue there should be a high % of Spanish, French, Portuguese etc refs.
    It is perhaps underrepresented but you still have to be hood enough. Is there is 1 in 25 refs then it’s correct based on
    How many are qualified.

  3. A combined 22 million people live in SE England and the amazing thing is; not one is competent enough to referee a football match.
    Whereas , a trip to Lancashire , Yorkshire , Durham and Northumbria reveals that every second person could quite easily referee an FA Cup final . The number would have been greater but females and black folks don’t qualify either . So if you happen to be a black female living in London don’t even bother trying to be that PGMO match official . Theres more chance of being hit by lightning on two separate occasions.

  4. Okay, I accept that there possibly should be more referees of ‘colour’ in the PL, but it isn’t as simple as claiming it is about colour.

    The English population consists of 18% that identify as ‘non white’ which means out of the pool of 20 referees 4 should be of colour. So not good.


    The English population consists of 16% that are from London, which means out of the pool of 20 referees 4 should be from London. So not good.

    London is the most culturally diverse part of the Country.

    So, the question is, is football prejudice against London, the South, or people of colour?

    I’m white and from London and feel, when it comes to representation amongst Premier league referees, I have as much right to claim discrimination as do people of colour.

    And just as an aside, 43% of players in the premier league are ‘of Colour’.

    In other words they are OVER represented by over 100%.

    Just saying.

  5. On a lighter note.

    Watching the Man Utd Villa match.

    Why, when Villa were on the counter attack, did the referee stop play for a United player that had gone down with cramp? Yes, it’s painful, we’ve all had it, but I thought the referee was only supposed to stop the play for a head injury? Not only that, but not a word from the commentators, and oddly, not a murmur from the Villa players.

    It seems these things only matter when it suits.

    Oh well. A decent come back by United ending up 3 – 2 victors, which apparently means ‘they’re back’!! I’m so pleased for them.

  6. It is often argued that the number of black referees need only to reflect the population as a whole – and yet this is a curious use of statistics, since the number of black footballers does not reflect the population as a whole. The percentage of players who are black is much higher than the percetage of people in the population as a whole who are black.
    So why consider the figure of the population as a whole – which has nothing to do with football, rather than look at the percentage of players who are black which has a lot to do with football since they are, well, basically, footballers.
    Suppose we found that the percentage of doctors in the UK who are black was 20% would that be an argument for 20% of referees to be black? No of course not. The only relevant statistics here are the ones to do with football. Arguing from a basis of any other statistic is ludicrous unless it has some relevance to the topic being debated which it does not

  7. Well, here is another perspective on statistics, just for the fun of it :

    a) how many player in the PL are foreigners ?

    so what are there not as more foreigners refereeing in the PL ?

    b) how many women are playing in the PL ?

    so why do we need women players ?

    c) how many players in the PL have shaven their head or lost their hair ?

    so why are there so many referees with no hair on the head ?

    d) how many incompetent professionnals are there in the UK ?

    so why are most referees incompetent ?

  8. “Arguing from a basis of any other statistic is ludicrous unless it has some relevance to the topic being debated which it does not”

    A bit harsh and just your opinion that it doesn’t have any relevance, but hey, if that’s your opinion Tony.

    My argument is making a comparison between the lack of black referees with the lack of referees from London and the South, and asking the question, is it simply a problem of ‘racism’ or is there more to it. I believe there is more to it.

    If you want to keep this in ‘footballing terms’, okay I’ll do that.

    Surely, percentage wise, there are as many people playing football and officiating matches in London and the Southeast as the rest of the Country, yet that percentage is not represented within then PGMOL demographic. Is that not so? If it is, and I’m sure you’ll correct me if I’m wrong, then my final point, which asked:

    “……… is football prejudice against London, the South, or people of colour?”

    is a fair question.

    As is my statement that:

    “I’m white and from London and feel, when it comes to representation amongst Premier league referees, I have as much right to claim discrimination as do people of colour”.

    Yes, there are no black referees from London, but there are no white referees either.

    Not selecting referees from London, especially with a population of which over 50% identify as non white, is surely a key factor in why there are so few, if any black referees? If the referee selection process was such that officials from London were employed then that would increase the chance of a black referee would it not?

    As such, I am simply making the point that rather than just ‘racist’ Per Se, the people in charge of football in this Country are a bunch of Northern based old duffers, still living in the 1970’s with their ‘It’s tough up North’, ‘It’s a mans game’ ‘we don’t need those Nancy boy foreigners over here’ ‘Misogynistic’, ‘anti Southern’ and yes almost certainly ‘racist’, overtones.

    I was just making the point, and this is just my opinion which I’m sorry I don’t think is ludicrous, is that they are no more anti black than they are anti women, anti gay, and last but not least (well actually maybe least), anti Southern.

    I’m sorry if I offended anyone, I had no intention of doing so, but I think the problems are much deeper than they are simply ‘racist’, because that is to over simplify much deeper and broader problems.

  9. Nitram

    I believe that it is a bit of both – most other areas of football have doubled down on ‘EDI’ normalization, but the PGMO have not.

    Also, for all the fanfare about the ‘first ever female referee in the Premier League’ said referee is from…the North East! Same old northern bias!

    The Premier League’s 2 most recent black referees are/were from Wiltshire and South Yorkshire respectively; if the PGMO were serious about being ‘progressive’, why didn’t they appoint a female and BME referee from London and/or the South East?

    Tim Robinson is the only Premier League referee from those regions – Sussex in fact – and he was in charge of…Brighton’s 2-0 loss at the Emirates!

    I am sure we will get a referee from the London Borough of Islington at the AMEX…

  10. I find it strange that people trot out the “not good enough” argument. Surely there would be at least a few good enough from London or the South in general?
    And, if that were the case, wouldn’t the FA be concerned about this and try to train them up. After all, these supposedly incompetent referees would be top of the heap in London/The South and would be messing up all football played in that area.

    As regards people of colour being underrepresented in refereeing circles, wouldn’t you consider including people of colour in refereeing circles as a proactive way to grow the game? Strange behaviours

  11. Mitram,
    I agree with you. I think the problems at PGMO are more deeply rooted than race. The organisation needs an independent review and probably a re-build. The fact that everything is conducted in secret screams that there are things that are being hidden and that intervention is required.

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