Poor refereeing in the EPL: how do we find the right refs?

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Victory Through Harmony

By Walter Broeckx

In part one of this series Walter presented the first two points in his argument that there is something very wrong with refereeing in the Premier League -noting that there are not nearly enough referees and that those that we do have are overloaded with work – which reduces their effectiveness and efficiency.  In this article he continues the debate with two further points.

In my search for possible reasons of why the refereeing is so poor in the EPL I continue to look further and try to add solutions. The former articles on this can be found here, here and everywhere

If you don’t find your favourite reason yet don’t worry. There is more to come in the next few days.

3. Familiarity

Following on from point 1 (not enough referees)  we have the problem that too few refs means too much familiarity.

As a ref, the thing I hate most about having the same team over and over again is that when you arrive on a ground the people meet you with your first name and greet you like that good old friend that has just returned. The better you know some people the more difficult it becomes to keep a distance.

And there should be distance between the players, managers and the refs. The moment you use first names the distance has gone and you can be in trouble. How can you blow for a foul against a team who on arrival at the ground has given you a hug? (I’m speaking metaphorically of course – not literally).  This can have an influence on your game.   As can your arrival at a ground being greeted by the : ‘Oh no, not him again!” whisper coming your way.

How unbiased can you stay after these set of welcomes? We are human beings and we want to be loved or (as in some cases) love to be hated. It affects you and the way you feel. And you have to be a strong character to not let this have any influence on your game.

So I hate it when I have to do the same team twice. Even though I usually get the first type of reception but still I don’t like it. I want to keep a distance between me and the players, the managers. Because everything that can have a negative impact on my refereeing should be banned.

So you see that when a ref, because of the shortage of refs in the league, has to do the team some 5 or 6 times in a season, he will carry bits of the previous games in to the next game. And this should be avoided.

In an ideal world you should have one game from a team at home and another game of that team away from home and that should be it for one season. But as the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) and their General Manager,  Mike Riley have not managed to recruit enough refs there will be refs who will do a lot of games of the same team.

Another perverse side effect is that refs, by knowing the teams and the players too well, can use their skill to influence the mindset of the players and force them in to errors and outbursts. Believe me, the better you know the players the better you can wind them up and make them lose their head.

So what should be done?  The answer is in Mike Riley’s hands: do what you are paid for and get us more refs. And if you cant just step down and bring in people who can do this.

4. Influence as a result of not enough refs

A very perverse side effect of the first three items in my list is the fact that the more games you get as a ref the more influence (both positive and negative) you can have in the league.

A ref who is a hidden supporter of a team (for whatever reason) and who does 5 or 6 games of this team could add 15 or 18 points to that team by helping them in the course of a season. If he only got them once or twice he could have a maximum influence of 6 points in a season. And this can also work the other way round. When a ref has something against a team he can cost them as much as 15 or 18 points. In fact one top ref can on his own influence the table for one team (by favouring one and being against another) by a massive 24 points.

Let me explain that further: he can give let us say 15 points in favour of team A which he supports (either because he likes them, or because of favours offered) by doing the games of that team. But he can also make sure that he can take away some 9 or 12 points in the games that he is doing with the biggest rival from his favoured team.

So imagine a ref doing all the top games of a team which he secretly supports for whatever reason. Doing his best to help them and also in the other games against lower teams. Let us take 5 games of this team so he could help them to 15 points or make sure they get those 15 points. But as he also will have the rival teams  for some 5 times in a season he can take points away from them in those games.

This is an incredibly unhealthy situation. A situation that should be avoided. At all time. At all cost.

Titles can be won, titles can be lost like that.

And there I have a solution that would benefit the EPL a lot. As the Professional Game Match Officials Limited (PGMOL) and their General Manager,  Mike Riley do not seem able to cure this problem they should call for the help of foreign officials to do the top games.

I would dare to go further and start a European pool of refs who do games all across Europe on a professional basic.  What could be wrong by having a top ref from Italy do the game MU – Arsenal or Chelsea- Liverpool? Or a top ref from Spain doing a top game in England? Or one from Germany? Or why not one from Holland or Belgium or France?

If in the CL two English teams meat the game will be done by a ref from another country. So it can be done in the CL. Why not in the EPL?

The series will continue for there are still more problems and possible solutions to explore.

We’ve proven that the quality of refereeing is poor – but what is the cause Part 1?

If we adopted the same standards as Belgium we’d hardly have any refs left

The shocking figures that prove that the Premier League is bent

The History of Arsenal – latest article is on Jack Crayston

Making the Arsenal– in the light of current developments it almost makes sense

23 Replies to “Poor refereeing in the EPL: how do we find the right refs?”

  1. Totally agree on the familiarity issue. There is too many managers calling Rooney “wazza” and him calling them every name under the sun. It should be “referee” or even better simply “Sir”

  2. Yes I’ve thought for a long time that there should be a European pool of refs. I think this would also encourage more people to referee because if you are going to become a ref in say Switzerland (where the league is poor but there have been many top quality refs) then to have the chance to referee Arsenal – man u or barca – madrid would surely give good incentives. And as we have seen with foreign players being able to move more freely the standard or the top leagues benefit and although the standard in weaker leagues may not, the national teams of these countries certainly do. So the standard of refereeing would be higher to.

  3. I went through the system, became a grade one in 3 years, it was easy. I no longer ref because i have too busy a life, you need real dedication, and i took it up too late to get to a level where i could middle semi pro or pro.

    Two things were obvious to me

    1. As a player, i did not know the laws of the game, no players know the laws of the game. They have an idea, most of it learnt from tele, too much of it from Gray and Shearer et al. But no players qualify as refs, to players refs are aliens, they just don`t understand each other.

    2. The system sucked, the way we were taught sucked, everyone passed the course, everyone got a whistle. Even those who had never played, and showed very little understanding of the laws passed. Now i know they stay low down the leagues, doing kiddies football and sunday league, but it does result in a huge amount of bad feeling to refs at the lower level. It is cancerous

    In my view the solution to the problem lies in lower league and Semi Pro football. Good players lets face it, Not Zola and Bergkamp, but they all know what it takes to win a game, and what goes on in a game!!

    When they retire at 32-34 or whatever, fast track them as Refs to the professional game, make it a great package. They will come. I reckon someone playing League 2 or Semi pro would make a top grade Ref in about 2-3 years with tutorage and mentoring.

    the players would respect them, and too the fans.

    Now why it wont happen

    THE RA and the FA are frightened of letting go of Ref training. ike Lord Triesman said the other day to the Commons Committee, it is all they have left. Problem is they dont do it very well.

    Since i dropped out, the system has changed, and there is about 7 grades of Ref now. The FA identifies bright young prospects and mentors them from as young as 14. The problem with this system is that at 14. Kids should be playing football, not holding a whistle. You end up with the kids that cannot play, so have no experience of what it takes to win a match.

    we end up with this http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nsGbFgUvPmk&feature=related No wonder players hold them in contempt

  4. Layndryender, one of the best refs in HOlland was Dick Jol. He now is retired. But as a player he was not good enough for the game at the highest level. He even played one season for my local favourite team in Belgium.
    After his career as a footballer he became a ref and he became a Fifa ref. And he was well respected.
    the only downside of him was the fact that he was mentionned in some kind of gambling scandal in Holland. But later was cleared and continued a few years. But the system you mention is indeed a very valid option.

    But on the other hand… could you imgagine Barton becoming a ref? Now that is a scary thought…

  5. The point about someone like Barton is he knows he is fouling, when he is taught the laws of the game and paid to uphold them, he is more capable then anyone of reading intent.

    However it will not happen with that numpty (thank god) because he is already a millionaire.

    I think it will appeal to those players who retire still with mortgages and young families, like i said in the lower leagues.

  6. I would suggest, clubs should have no involvement in ref preference, which currently they do. They should have a roster where each ref referees an equal number of games of an equal number of sides, and should be assessed constantly. In reserve should be a pool of lower league refs whereby, if a ref has a run of bad games he can be replaced, be it temporarily or permanently. Therefore you take away the potentially corrupt influence, while also incentivising both Premier League and League refs

  7. Can I thank Walter and Dogface for spending so much time in not only writing the reports for us each week, but also working with the BBC on the interviews they gave.

    There’s a huge amount of effort from both writers in this project, and I’m really overwhelmed by the fact that both chose Untold as the place to publish their work.

    When I spoke to the journalist at the start of the BBC’s interest (and as you can probably imagine I have been bubbling over for days wanting to shout about it happening, but have had to keep quiet) he was very clear to me that he took what Walter and Dogface are doing very seriously indeed, and I think that comes out in the article.

    Can I also thank everyone who reads Untold – if we had not had such a great number of readers then the BBC would never have taken us so seriously.

    Quite a big day in Untold’s history.

  8. Congratulation to all at Untold on this BBC stuff, the more this sort of thing is publicised, the better the English game will become. And what better place to raise this than the BBC?

  9. My congratulation to Walter, DogFace and Untold Arsenal for featuring in BBC’s article posted above..

  10. The idea of foreign refs is an appealing one but I cast my mind back to the individual who failed to give Vela the penalty and subsequent dismissal of the defender when we played Braga. That single decision cost us that game I believe and left us in the pool to draw Barcelona in the CL. Are they actually better or just different? What about the tool that allowed Gibbs to get destroyed by that player who was sent on towards the end of a game with the express intent to injure as many Arsenal players as he could. An endeavor he succeeded in by putting Gibbs out for many weeks. It was pure spite and went unpunished. Sorry, but I can’t remember the team he played for. Mind you, the idea that we wouldn’t need to put up with dickheads like Dowd and Mason is appealing isn’t it? I can remember that for years people around me would talk about the team selection before a game, now the first question seems to be “who’s the ref?” seems wrong to me.

  11. Hooray for Walter, Dogface, Tony, and the entire Untold team. It’s encouraging that the BBC would take an interest in what is discussed here and not just snub it by labelling it fans’ moaning. That’s down to the effort you guys put in, in giving figures and proper analysis. There may be hope yet in this world.

    The Germans have really taken to football the right way though. And the dinosaurs won’t follow a good example. Says a lot about them. Anyway, this has given me some hope that we might see some change for the better.

  12. @Adam

    That tackle was against Standard Liege I think.

    The 2 worst matches in terms of refereeing that I saw in the CL recently were both against Portuguese clubs. I refer here of course only to Arsenal matches of course. Porto and Braga. Both losses, so again accusations of moaning, but I couldn’t help but think that if there is any betting syndicate controlling it, maybe its based in Portugal? 🙂 Just a thought..

    Again though, the absolute WORST match I’ve seen is this Newcastle one. Has anyone noticed how tamely the media has reacted to it? I would have expected them to go to town and paint it red because Arsenal gave up a 4 goal lead. But it’s been less then I expected. My guess is, they too realised that it was just too wrong for it to be one of those things..

  13. I like the sound of a European pool of refs very much. Properly supervised ( but without interference from Brussels of course!) it should dilute charges of bias, which is a major concern in the UK. In time, I would hope we could increase the responsibiliy of the 4th official, possibly with the aid of video equipment or something similar. At the moment, all they seem to be are sounding boards for irate managers.

  14. Adam, the refs in the groups of the CL have got an higher average score than the refs in the EPL. Out of my head the EPL low 60% the CL almost 70% and this 70% includes ref Kassai who did the game in Braga and who was very, very poor indeed. But this was one ref in 6 who was poor and we had 3 of them who were excellent and 2 between 60-70 % so acceptable. All out of my head as I don’t have the numbers here for the moment.
    So the one very bad result in the Braga game (1 in 6 games) got the total numbers down from the CL. 1 ref who has a bad game in 6 is better than in the PL where we have for the moment 8 refs who have a bad game out of 10!

    and in those 10 games we only had one defeat and for the rest we kept on marching one I would say. But I wasn’t happy with the level at all in those games most of the time.

  15. In hear you Walter and I guess it is always easy and probably unrepresentative to pick up a few incidents and make a judgement. The Everton game with the hapless Mason and Dowd’s quite terrifying display in the Newcastle game have really left me fuming. I think it’s their profound arrogance that irritates me most. I expect refs to make mistakes but something stinks in the PL at the moment and I am not sure if it is Arsenal thing or not. But then I cast my mind back to us losing a cup final after two late Owen goals and can still see Durkin’s contemptuous face as he waved away a couple of stick on had balls in the area, one off the line, from Handball Henchoz against Henry. That really pissed me off too and actually I am a very placid bloke for most of the time.

  16. @laundryender,
    your idea is a cracker! there is nothing more infuriating than watching the replays of an incident, knowing precisely why and how it happened, yet all in charge seem lost. fucking pundits have me screaming at the telly. and you look at refs cocksure – not a fucking clue, of course i am beginning to re think that as well!

  17. I really love this series Walter. can’t wait to read more.
    Also I have to say that story on BBC was great and made me really proud of Walter and Dogface and whole Untold, naturally I posted a link for it for my facebook and twitter (telling everyone to read it 😉 ).

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