The Great Ref Scandal: Time for transparancy!

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By Walter Broeckx

So time to make a final round up on all the different reasons which can lead to poor refereeing.   I opened this series with four reasons as to why we have a problem….

1. Not enough refs

2.  Fatigue

3. Familiarity

4. Influence as a result of not enough refs

Those four reasons are due to the fact that for some reason the PGMOL lead by Mike Riley is not doing a proper job. They have allowed the situation of not enough refs to develop, and they are allowing this to continue. They should be working on preventing a situation like this.

A ref has a lot of power on the field. So one should always take care that this power is not being used in the wrong way. Prevention is always better than cure is a phrase both in my country and in the UK, and never was it more true.  Yet the organisation of refs doesn’t seem to work that way.

There must be more refs in the EPL to have a bigger rotation and let the refs have a smaller effect on the total outcome of the league. I think it is close to criminal that the PGMOL has let this situation happen like it is now. This is putting the door wide open to poor refereeing in the games and possible wrong doings from refs. Shame on you PGMOL!

Then the series of articles moved on to a second set of influences of quite a different nature.

5. Childhood love

6. Underdog effect

7. Personal dislikes

8. Gambling

9. Bribery and corruption

Those are reasons that are down to the ref and his inner being. About the childhood love I have suggested referees inform the FA at the start of their career of which 3 teams they like and which you hate or dislike.

This little change does not solve all the other problem areas in the list, but it is better try to solve one problem than doing nothing at all.

For the rest one can only hope that the refs are decent human beings who don’t have any problem with some people.  If there is a way to track this down it would be great but how can you do such things? I’m not a specialist in such matters – I am open to ideas.

10. Instructions

11. Rewards

To prevent the last ones it is absolutely needed that the refs are monitored in each game. And I have recently found out that this is in fact happening. It seems that one of the partners of the PGMOL is a company that is giving them feedback and updates on how the ref have done their games.

The company is ProZone Sports Ltd. And this is what you can find on the website of the PGMOL.

ProZone Sports Ltd was formed in 1999 in order to facilitate the integration of sports science into football. ProZone are the pioneers of time-motion analysis and have evolved into the global brand for performance analysis solutions. At ProZone it is our vision to deliver insights to those committed to enhancing performance. We endeavour through our passion, expertise and innovation to support you in making better informed decisions. ProZone’s portfolio includes operations throughout the UK, Europe, America, South Africa, Australia and Asia. Our aim is to empower people involved in team based sports through the provision of performance affecting information. ProZone have several technologies and these analysis systems have been independently validated to ensure the output data is both accurate and reliable. The information captured supports analysis for individuals, teams and single or a series of games. This creates trend based information and the ability to analyse entire leagues or seasons. ProZone have worked with the PGMOL since 2002 and have assisted in revolutionising the way in which referees, and assistant referees, analyse match performances. ProZone’s dedication to constantly developing referee products and services through consultation with PGMOL experts has ensured that we are now world leaders in delivering performance enhancing feedback to match officials. For more information please visit us at

So that is great news I would say. But assessing the refs is one thing. The public should be informed about this!

Shard, one of our readers has informed us that in India the High Court has ruled that the information of the Cricket organizations should belong to the public domain and should be open to the public. This all was the result of the suspicion of corruption in cricket in India.

So wouldn’t it be nice to see how he FA and the PGMOL  assessed Dowd in the game at Newcastle. And  most of all wouldn’t it be nice  that we all could read this? This would mean that from now on we could see if the assessors are doing their job and if the refs would get punishment for a bad game.

We as spectators in the stadiums or in front of our TV are paying a lot of money to see the games. We can analyse everything and everyone.  Players are given marks for their performances. Managers are asked questions.  I even do the review of the refs.

So why not also have the numbers about the refs out in the open? This would mean that we can see how the FA  and the PGMOL is thinking about the rules.   This would mean that if we see that the FA and the PGMOL does nothing to punish refs who allow dangerous tackles in their games could be taken to court for negligence in their job.

This could open the door to improve the standard of refereeing. Because it would push the refs more to a stricter ruling on the field. It would make the refs aware of the fact that what they are doing wrong will come in the open and will be exposed. No more shoving it under the carpet in some backroom of the building far away from us, the fans who are paying for the product and who are keeping the system alive.

Because without us supporters, football as we know it will be dead and forgotten. Time to make a new start. Time to open the accounts. Time to open up the scores of the ref.

I can only hope that someone out there with some influence  will be asking the FA and the PGMOL to open up their files to the public.  After all if there is corruption they should open their files so we can see if there is. If there is no corruption they should open up their files to show us there is no corruption in the game.  Either way: Open your files to the public is a question that should be asked until they do.

Let us start our own peaceful revolution: the revolution that wants the FA and the PGMOL to open their books, all of them. Why don’t we just start asking them to open their files?

Football refs – are they biased or incompetent?

Making the Arsenal

Untold index

33 Replies to “The Great Ref Scandal: Time for transparancy!”

  1. Does anyone know of any National Football Association that DOES release data on Refereeing to the public? If so, what is the standard of refereeing in that particular country?

  2. Nice one Walter, as usual. It wont happen though. If the FA were to take your advise above, as well as become more transparent, they would lose thier control over influencing match results, and thus PL champions.
    Just like FIFA wont consider bringing in TV replays to help get the correct decision-as they would then also lose thier control over, and ability to influence games.

  3. Steppa, I will be looking to find an answer. I know in Germany they are more open to this in the way that they review the refs on TV and look at their decisions. But I don’t know how it is being done exactly as I cannot see the TV channels who do this.

  4. Robdogunner,
    Only when people know the data exists somewhere we can begin to aks to give the data. So the first task is to let people know that the files are there.

    And nothing is impossible if you do it step by step. So just spreading the news that the refs are being assesed by an organisation is the first step.

    And I will gladly contribute to bringing this under the attention of football fans.

  5. Running a campaign to make those statistics public would be interesting. At the end of the day, we pay the money; my season ticket at the Grove costs me best part of £1400.

    I am inadvertently paying for the assessments, so why should I not see them. Football is the peoples game, not the FA`s or the PL`s. without the paying public they have no product, no one to go to games, no one to watch on TV, and no one to buy this seasons replica shirt.

    What would be the best way to force the data public, would it be to follow the Indian example. Or a face book or internet campaign, something on twitter perhaps???

    I have seen many games ruined by what i perceive as bad referees. I should be reassured that all that can be done is being done, and that the product I am buying into is fit for purpose. Publish the data, independent scrutiny, tangible, verifiable, merit based.

    It is not a difficult task; all it involves is pressing a few buttons.

  6. @Walter

    Thanks once again for the great article. But i pity that none of the refrees in EPL have what it takes to read these insights or correct themselves in the future. When the leader of PGMOL is such a d**khead we can see what the guys who work under him would be. And i fear that either FIFA or english FA would try to bring in some latest technology assistance to improve the game before my life ends 🙁

    The only worry for me as a football fan apart from being a Gooner is that how few stupid peoples administration of the game is inflicting wounds across the globe, not only for the fans but it destroys many professionals career too. Only when the organisations like fifa, english fa or anyother fa is headed by intelligent and uncorrupt people we can hope for the real development.

  7. If there has been the so called assessment of refree’s performance constantly in epl and promoting or demoting them in regular basis the english team would have bagged atleast 1-2 WC in the recent times along with the euro honors 😛

  8. In my country, Romania, those data are open to the public. Don’t think that this makes the Romanian refs less bent or more competent, but EPL is one thing and the Romanian 1st League something totally different.

  9. People who say it can/will never happen are part of the problem. Bad refereeing depends on you depressing naysayers. My advice is don’t bother saying it because you are actively stopping progress and suffocating Walter and supporters efforts to bring these official reports – subsidized by fans’ ticket purchases – to life. That’s where the power lies – the paying fans and the viewing public. Of course the watchers don’t want to be watched. Of course, then, that’s the request/demand to make. Fans are either conscious or lemmings. Time approaches to choose to be conscious. A request/demand could take the form of an online petition and then have it presented to the PGMOL/FA to make the ProZone reviews public (as they are indirectly bottom-line being subsidized by fans).

  10. Of course the petition would then be presented – with due fanfare and media coverage – to keep the pressure on so that the sun never sets on the Lives of Riley and his ilk and string-pullers.

  11. Last but not least, this is what ProZone, working with PGMOL since 2002, provides its clients. Is this not worth SURFACING?:

    Prozone Referee Analysis Services allows an in-depth analysis of every action of each match official throughout the game. This can be used to aid training and supplement the official assessors reports.
    Our full match coverage, video clips and animation allow a deeper investigation of critical match decisions. This enables coaches and officials to better understand the decision making process and improve performance in key areas.

  12. Why do the same bums get reelected to congress year in and year out? In my opinion, it’s because they’re compromised and controllable. Is refereeing any different?

  13. Well if they are using it since 2002 I have a feeling that there hasn’t bee a lot of improvement in key areas. sigh…

  14. @Walter,
    Agreed, no improvement. But it could be that PGMOL are paying for the ProZone reports (whatever their quality) just to be able to say they do so (when the heat is on them), and then ignoring them anyway. Or, that ProZone is simply supplying substandard reports so as not to displease their PGMOL clients. Surfacing the reports would show whether ProZone reports are bogus and just there as window dressing, which enables PGMOL to continue its Shambolics, or that those reports are good ones and that Riley & Co. are ignoring them by promoting/continuing certain referees who, in turn, can be shown by other observers – your/UA reports, as a prime example – to be egregious repeat offenders. In any case, the call to open the files, so to speak, would be massively worthwhile, methinks.

  15. @ Dave Gooner
    If the FA, PGMOL or prozone have ever received a grant or goverment/Public funding then they may fall within “A governing body receiving financial support” and then maybe? will have to adhere to the freedom of info act. The freedom act will definately work for finding out if any of the above have received public money, Surely the FA has?

  16. Of course, let us not forget that this discussion is taking place against the immediate backdrop of last night’s dire performance by (let’s see, is it: inept, trying his best, not quite getting it right, that all-too-human, etc.) So-Called Referee who opened the floodgates to Stokes’ barbarian hordes. Can’t wait for UA ref review. This discussion and the specific review will surely add welcome grist to the Fair Football mill that is busy being re-born.

  17. Go talk to Samir Nasri’s agent, Walter.

    According to yesterday’s Independent, he may have detailed personal experience in how to influence matches and match officials.

    It wasn’t the sort of thing I expected to read over my breakfast cereal I must say…..

    Let’s hope all that is a thing of the past, eh?

  18. What are the root causes of the hate campaign? Is it something to do with Anglo Franco rivalry just don’t get it

  19. @Rhyss (oh dear god, not again, again)
    Yesterday, Rhyss insinuates that Walter/U.A. here is frothing with “hate”. Today Gaagamel wonders what are the root causes of the hate campaign – by which, I assume (and seriously pray), you mean the ongoing hatred directed against Arsenal? Yes? That said, back to Rhyss: may I ask if you have you been so (let’s charitably call it) spiritually undernourished that you can label the passion and vision of this website “hate”? You do like to invoke “science”, Rhyss. So yesterday I offered you “blaming the victim” to look-up when you next decide to have a go at Walter/Arsenal. Today I’d simply urge you to look up “projection” to best grasp your malaise. Surely you have learned to tarnish the silver at home; and to target this courageous and fragile chance, here at UA, to do some good in the hard world that you inhabit, as you read over your breakfast cereal before the next pontification. Have a nice day. Go Gunners!

  20. Bit off subject.

    Just noticed the TV schedule for April. Throughout the whole of the month, Arsenals KO time is later than that for Man Utd.


  21. Walter – I have to say this is one of your articles in this series. It avoids accusation and simply calls for data on referees performance to be made public, which all of us should support. I cannot actually beleive it isnt already public. I for one would support any kind of petition on this topic.

    I think of all the factors that could influence bad refereeing, lack of transparency is the biggest factor. I also like the idea of referees and assistants working as “units” as they do in American professional sports. All season long the same units work together, get to know each other, and can be assessed not only individually, but as part of a team.

  22. @Paul C., Walter
    Cheers, Paul.
    Working as units in America has not led to the best of results. Some units will and do naturally bond and can <> with false unanimity when one of them has really blown a serious call. What works is electronic replay, with however many challenges allowed to each side, and the lead referee (umpire) gets to view the various angles that were shot (as we have many on our tellies) and decides whether or not there is enough evidence to alter the on-field call. This doesn’t take long and adds elements of intrinsic drama to the matches. The fans, meanwhile, get to see much of the network video footage while waiting. And that footage is much of what the umpire gets to see. As long as the off-field producer’s booth doesnt’ control all of what the referee gets to see, this can be a great leap forward for transparency. Purists will argue that it slows up the “flow” of the game, but, right now, there is something so impure about the flows of our games (sewage in some) that we need a season-long trial period with this approach and then let it be re-assessed to see if it was worthwhile or not. Funny that the networks themselves, possessed of this capability, do not lobby for bringing it to bear on our matches. Even in lower than EPL league play. Do they fear the threat of a good example?!

  23. The sentence above should read: “Some units will and do naturally bond and can cover up with false unanimity when one of them has really blown a serious call.” The missing bit there was “cover up” – using brackets deleted the words (some kind of html issue). This, I promise, was just a coincidence, not a conspiracy to cause confusion!

  24. I remember reading a comment somewhere of a fan who said he regularly attends matches in the English lower divisions. He said that the standard of refereeing is so much better in the lower divisions than it is in the Premier League.

  25. Walter great article.
    The title should have been “Prozone leaves Arsenal fans reaching for the Prozac”

    Maybe we should write more Articles on how Prozone do little infact to improve any sports. I guess the PGMOL look at FIFA and think well if they dont have to come clean about anything in football why should our organisation 🙂

    Keep up the good work keep putting pressure on all concerned someday there will be a silver lining.

    Id love to see what Prozac said after each game we had a players leg broken ? “Lets hide the info no need for transparency” All a fix 🙂

  26. Hey, thanks for the mention Walter 🙂 Just to be clear, it was the Supreme Court of India which gave the ruling (making it unchallengeable) that the cricket board should be considered a public body. It’s already started to have an effect. With the Cricket World Cup happening here, many state boards are reluctant to continue their normal practice of giving out tickets as favours, as a direct result of that ruling. I have no idea what the law states in the UK or indeed what the status of the FA is. I would presume that they are classified as a private body and as such the Freedom of Information Act would not apply to them.

    Whether a change to that is best brought about through a legal petition, or a governmental ruling, or directly appealing to the FA and PGMOL through online campaigns, I don’t know. But surely, if the FA even claim to be custodians of the People’s game then they should be interested in removing any doubt of wrongdoing.

  27. Wlater, do you have any idea about the number of referees working in other leagues in Europe?

  28. Shard,
    an interesting question so I tried to look it up for you and I almost fell of my chair

    In Belgium a league with 16 teams and 8 games in a weekend they have 25 (twenty five!) referees in the Jupiler League.

    In Germany a league with 20 teams and 10 games in a weekend they have 42 (forty two!) refs to do the Bundesliga

    In France they have a league with 20 teams and 10 games in a weekend and they have 26 (twenty six) referees in the highest league.

    In Holland 18 teams and 9 games and 20 refs and 11 refs who are waiting for promotion

    As far as I could find in Spain they had 20 teams in the primera division and had 22 refs last season.

    And in Italy they have 20 teams and 20 refs in the serie A.

    So all of them have more refs than there are in the EPL and many of them have more younger refs in their highest divisions

  29. Are you sure about the number of refs in Germany Walter???! Maybe 42 is across the 2 or 3 leagues? If not then quite simply WOW! I watch the German league quite a bit and very rarely have I felt that any team has been cheated, and that is usually just one wrong decision like offside or handball.. The standard of refereeing in Germany is definitely higher.. Oh and, its 18 teams in Bundesliga.. Not 20. Which makes the figure of 42 refs simply incredible.. So incredible in fact that I’m finding myself doubting you.. Sorry about that 🙂

  30. Hi all,
    Firstly I know my comment below is probably v biased, but I had a person make v rude comments on facebook about arsenal supporters like myself complain that teams foul arsenal too much and highlighted how Arsenal’s discipline record is the 2nd worst in the EPL this season. I have since been on the premier league website and painfully worked out how many fouls each team has committed. I had to tally up each foul made by each player of each team (excel helped greatly via copy and paste). It appears that Arsenal seem to get “points” rather more easily than other teams (as do Aston Villa)…

    Team played Yellow red Pts fouls fouls / point
    Fulham 27 31 0 31 302 9.7
    Blackpl 27 34 1 37 208 5.6
    Bham 26 36 1 39 273 7.0
    Chelsea 26 37 1 40 339 8.5
    Everton 26 32 3 41 315 7.7
    Man Utd 26 40 1 43 290 6.7
    Ttnham 27 39 2 45 323 7.2
    Lpool 27 42 2 48 302 6.3
    West Hm 27 46 1 49 302 6.2
    Wolves 27 43 2 49 378 7.7
    Bburn 27 43 2 49 275 5.6
    Stoke 27 48 2 54 355 6.6
    Sland 27 44 4 56 319 5.7
    WBA 27 39 6 57 288 5.1
    Bolton 27 47 4 59 435 7.4
    Ncastle 27 57 1 60 317 5.3
    AVilla 27 55 2 61 298 4.9
    Wigan 27 50 4 62 428 6.9
    Arsenal 27 45 6 63 288 4.6
    ManCity 27 53 5 68 361 5.3

    Now I know this isnt a perfect comparison because red cards are weighted as 3 points and yellows as 1 point
    So I have recalculated based on red card being (2 yellows, ie 2 points)Again not perfect but worth looking at

    Team played Yellow red Ylw 1 /Rd2 fouls fouls/point
    Fulham 27 31 0 31 302 9.7
    Bpool 27 34 1 36 208 5.8
    Bham 26 36 1 38 273 7.2
    Chelsea 26 37 1 39 339 8.7
    Everton 26 32 3 38 315 8.3
    Man Utd 26 40 1 42 290 6.9
    Tnham 27 39 2 43 323 7.5
    Lpool 27 42 2 46 302 6.6
    WestHam 27 46 1 48 302 6.3
    Wolves 27 43 2 47 378 8.0
    Bburn 27 43 2 47 275 5.9
    Stoke 27 48 2 52 355 6.8
    Srland 27 44 4 52 319 6.1
    WBA 27 39 6 51 288 5.6
    Bolton 27 47 4 55 435 7.9
    Nwcstle 27 57 1 59 317 5.4
    AVilla 27 55 2 59 298 5.1
    Wigan 27 50 4 58 428 7.4
    Arsenal 27 45 6 57 288 5.1
    ManCity 27 53 5 63 361 5.7

    Now either I am missing a trick but still Arsenal players get booked sent off for fewer fouls committed. I dont know if my numbers are skewed somewhat because of the number of red cards that arsenal have received, but still by rebasing the stats based on a red card being 2 points instead of 3, I cant explain the skew.
    A couple of possible reasons are that when arsenal do commit fouls, they tend to be more bookable fouls than other teams (is this really the case?)
    Or that referees are being more strict with Arsenal.

    Does anyone have any thoughts/explanations?

  31. Just looking at the above – both arsenal and villa have french managers. NOw this is probably a mere coincidence, but I could look at last season where villa had a “British manager” and see where villa lie in the hall of shame…coming right up…

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