The final ref review – part 6 – the curtain closes for this season

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Some final thoughts

By Walter Broeckx, The Untold ref who will come back next season!

My ref reviews have attracted a lot of interest and so did many of the articles I wrote about refs. The discussion after such articles was a big joy for me. Even the comments of people who didn’t agree with my views. Because their view is maybe even more important than the agreement I mostly got from most of the readers.

Because I try to question myself each time I start a review and also when the review is done I question myself and ask myself if I can look in the mirror and be happy with the person I see. It is an attitude I have made my own from the moment I became a ref. And sometimes I wasn’t happy when I looked in the mirror. But in fact those where the moments that spurred me on to do better. The moments that made me sharper. But most of the time I can look in the mirror after my game and say to myself: I have done all I could to apply the laws of the game and been fair to both teams. And when you can say that as a ref you have done all you can.

I have made mistakes and I will make mistakes but I will never allow myself now or in the future to being biased when I am being a ref on my field. I will protect the players on my field as much as I can. I am fully aware of the responsibility I have as a ref and this is the same for a non-competitive game of youth teams to any other game in a league form. In fact each game should be treated like it is the FA Cup final when you start the game as a ref.

When we had a nice conversation on Sunday before the game against Aston Villa when speaking with Tony, Dogface and Laundryender I said  “I don’t want Arsenal to win because of a bias/mistake/wrong call from the ref.”

As a supporter I will take the victory, of course.

But as a person who loves football, who loves sport and sportsmanship I will not enjoy it. I will not enjoy it like I can enjoy a win where the ref has not done something wrong, be it in favour of Arsenal or in favour of the other team. To give an example I really didn’t enjoy our home win against Fulham. Our second goal should have been disallowed for offside. At first I jumped around in joy because I didn’t see the offside and the way Nasri danced in the penalty area was like a miracle. But when I saw the replay and noticed the offside I hoped we would score another goal. We didn’t and I still cant get over excited about that win.

Now the dust has settled and we can feel badly treated by the refs for the many lost points due to their bad decisions (for whatever reason) I think it is time to have another look at things and with an eye to the future.

When I started these refs reviews one of the initials things was to see if the refs made many mistakes. And to see if it would even out at the end of the season. It clearly didn’t for Arsenal.

So the long hours I spend when reviewing the games (and sometimes it was painful to see us lose the game again) is not over yet. Because the ultimate goal is to make the game more fair to all the teams. Like I said I don’t want us to win on bad decisions, but I certainly don’t want us to lose on bad decisions.

So I will continue to do my ref reviews next season. I will try to point out the  refs’ mistakes like this season. We will add more data to our database. We will be looking even more in details to some things. And I will do this with just one goal in front of me: to avoid wrong decisions as much as possible on the football field. I don’t do these reviews to murder refs. I do these reviews in the hope that people will realise that something need to be done. That there should come a form of immediate justice. So that unlike when I came to London to see a game that when I went home I knew even before leaving the stadium for 100% sure that we had been badly treated by the refs.

I don’t like coming over to see us lose on bad ref decisions. If the other team beats us fair and square so be it. But travelling hundreds of miles to see bad decisions costing us the game is something that I don’t want to see happening. So if my work might contribute to a change in mind of the people who hold the power and who want a clean and fair football on the field I will have done my job. In fact I would be out of my job of the ref reviews.

But until that day comes and I really hope the day of immediate video evidence will come to rectify mistakes from the ref on the field, I will continue with the only weapons I have against bad calls from referees: my computer, my TV, my remote control and my keyboard.

My interest is not to blame the refs, my interest is to make sure that when we go home we will know that the ref did his best and that the major decisions when it comes to goals and penalties have been the correct decisions. That is what matters most for me.

So the season is over. We have been badly hit by many bad referee decisions. I can only hope that next season will be a better one when it comes to this. And the refs can be sure about one thing: I will be watching you. Until the rules have been changed and I don’t have to watch you any more and I can become back what I want to be most: a football supporter.


The End of Season referee’s review….

Why does the quality of the refereeing get worse as the season goes on?  Part 5 of the whole year analysis.

The bias and “errors” of refs does NOT even out over the season

The overall performance of each individual ref this season – and is the Untold ref analysis biased?

The 10% bias – how refs fix the odds against Arsenal, and who is to blame.

Half the penalties in Arsenal games were wrongly given this season!  Shocking statistics from Untold Arsenal’s review of the last 10 months.


Untold Arsenal Index

History of Arsenal: how every history book gets the name of Arsenal’s second manager wrong.

Making the Arsenal – the book of Arsenal death and rebirth

36 Replies to “The final ref review – part 6 – the curtain closes for this season”

  1. On the other hand if the refs would be so kind to even things out during next season, as a supporter I would take the 13 points… 😉

  2. Evening out over the course of two seasons? I don’t see it happen. I’m afraid Sir Red Nose has to win league title number twenty next season.

    Have a well-deserved holiday Walter. You will be able to spend more time with your family. Until August, that is. Then it’s back to hours of reviewing ref performances 🙂 Many thanks for the work you put into this!

  3. Thanks as i know nothing will be done as corruption is soon killing football. If the FIFA president is corrupt, top officials corrupt then nothing shall stop referees to dicide the result in favour of the money giver team. Thanks for reccommandable job well done

  4. I jst got one question to ask; why is it Howard webb that officiate most of arsenal matches against Man U, when we all know he’s their fan? Cos he’s never been fair to arsenal. What an injustice webb!

  5. And again why always Mike Dean when it comes to arsenal against derby rivals chelsea? I’ve taken notice of these two refs when it comes to arsenal matches. They’ve never being fair to us. Shakur all the way from Benue, Nigeria. My thumb up to you keep the good job rolling man.

  6. @Ephraim Shakur: Say, over the last X number of seasons (3, 4, 5, whatever), are you right about Webb being chosen to ref Arse vs ManU and Dean chosen to ref Arse vs Chelsea? Did/would you make that count and tell us all? Even better, supply the result of each of the matches? That could be a very interesting piece of the evolving analysis. Cheers for this, and for that.
    @ Walter, here’s more thanks, kudos and hope the seeds you’ve planted this Spring bear such fruit (as Ephraim suggests) and ever more for the next Harvest. A resounding no to Rednose 20 and yes to Arseneknows for the x-fer window to be!

  7. Walter,
    You have done a fantastic job this past season…will you not writing general articles during the summer? Can’t wait for the next season to kick off. I am bored already.

  8. Naren, I will be writing other articles if I get some inspiration.
    and I understand your feeling. Now with the Arsenal supporters tournament behind me it felt like falling in to a big empty space. Very boring…
    During the season when we had for months a game every 3 days I sometimes wandered if I could keep up the pace but I managed. So yes it is very boring for now. Oh well we are already June this means that next month we are back in business. Oh my god, so soon…

  9. Bob, Ephraim,
    Dean has been the ref in the last 3 years for the match Chelsea – Arsenal (2 losses and 1 win in 2008)

    We have had Webb 4 times in Arsenal – MU (both home and away)in the last 3 seasons: won one, draw one, lost 2. 2 at home and one away

    In the year we didn’t have Webb at OT it was… Dean. Oh and in case you forgot: we lost that one also. Thanks to some blatant blindness from the ref on crucial moments. Actually it was the game that has been the start of our Ref review. So we must thank Dean in a way…

  10. Walter, I think the most important result that your work can produce is an increase in the number of Arsenal fans who take the issue of biased/corrupt refereeing seriously.

    In order to do that you have to hit their hot buttons. What are they? Ask the UA readers.

    For me it is not the “big calls”. They are pretty obvious and they do have an effect even without you hammering them home. I think it is the smaller issues that a fan sees and are then often quickly forgotten. Even if you remember an incident, you cannot describe it accurately enough to discuss it with other fans. They get lost in the wash and lost in the “same for both sides” arguments. Even in the Sunderland game, the totally biased/crooked ref gave us three calls we didn’t deserve!

    Having you detail the small errors, one by one and then in total helps to create a picture. I only talk to a handful of Arsenal fans (two of whom are my daughters where I have undue influence) but none of them noticed the special treatment Arshavin has been subjected to since the World Cup bid. Tony, perhaps you can do a monthly summary of Walter’s work highlighting the not so obvious?

  11. @Walter: perhaps this “interim” period of “boredom” could be filled with assembling video clips that demonstrate the pivotal calls/non-calls that you underscored in your third report I think? Also, aligning the links to all the reports on the home page would help a lot keep them in readily accessible circulation for visitors, viewers, publicists and believers. Please don’t underestimate accessibility; hunting for the reports to make/prove/cite/dispute/endorse viewpoints as we/any goes forward will not help. Please keep them in the public eye: (a) with supporting videos (as you recently had under consideration at least); and (b) with links on the home page, maybe on the left side where some of the adornments no sit. Your report – separate links or as one PDF – is the season’s best adornment of all. And to echo Anne, it IS what we have and not well-suited, methinks, for the e-mothballs.

  12. Walter,
    Thank you for the wonderful series of articles about refereeing. I won’t say I agreed to every one of them but most of them were pretty unbiased and took us closer to the truth. Keep up the good work. And may I suggest one thing- Can you review non-arsenal matches once in a while just for check. Because we saw this season % decisions correct in our games was around 60%. What will be the number in other team’s match? Little things like this can be sorted out from that and drawing inferences about bias will be easier if not clearer.

    It was bad season for us in terms of decisions we got but we still have the best manager and a fantastic bunch of players. Let’s see what comes next season.

  13. @Cape Gooner: the obvious are quickly forgotten and the not so obvious are not articulable, as you rightly say. Somehow packaging or hyper-linking to the report parts is one way to do both. (Tony? Walter? can a boy dream? Cheers!)

  14. @Walter: just to stir the pot in the doldrums period (oh, so boring, isn’t it?!), would you say, statistically speaking that is, that the frequency of Webb/Dowd assignments to those matches is, how shall I see, not quite a random sampling of the select ref pool? Then again, perhaps (wink, wink) it’s a matter of the cream rising to the top and the surely most accomplished referees being selected to adorn those higher profiled matches and a way that Riley/PGMOL pay homage to Arsenal for its august stature?

  15. Bob, I think a combination of those factors and then of course the one and always returning factor: if you don’t have enough referees you will always see the same ones coming up over and over again.

    Like the appointment of the same refs in the same games at almost the same days that our players have been kicked to pieces in the previous seasons was something that struck me as an observer. And it even struck a reporter when I pointed at it and he told me that this was a big disadvantage for Arsenal to see the same ref coming on the field. He found it unbelievable at the time. And he said the Fa or the PGMOL should have kept that same ref away from a next meeting between those teams.

    I wonder how much such things cross the minds of the players on the field: same conditions, same ref, same teams… who’s leg will be broken this time? It just doesn’t seem right

  16. Walter

    You mention ‘I really hope the day of immediate video evidence will come to rectify mistakes from the ref on the field’

    I’d be interested in your opinion on how this would work. Would it be just for goal-line decisions, or would all ‘game-changing’ decisions (goals, penalties, red cards etc) be covered? Would there be a ‘5th referee’ reviewing the video evidence? Would a challenge-based system (as for tennis, cricket, NFL etc) be used?

    I can see how video evidence can be used on line-calls (i.e. if the ball goes over the line), but am not clear on the best implementation for other major decisions.

    Another nicely written article – I may not always agree with your conclusions, but the points you raise are always thought-provoking and interesting.

  17. Walter, the potential “kicked to pieces” factor (conscious, unconscious, subliminal) would normally occur to any human being, except for agro-turfers like Barton, etc., and those who think players are machines or super-heros. My genuine fear is that such thoughts about the EPL could well be conscious factors that decide in the minds of at least some players and their agents that this League is not the place to ensure a long career of artful (if not joyful) football. If a Sagna or Cesc or Nasri (my main fears of who could leave) are weighing the potential career/season shortening injury factor, and they have agents who care to maximize both of their earnings (and who wouldn’t, or else why be/hire an agent), than the calls/non-calls are not only bad for football, but bad for Arsenal – and I do mean that this may (I pray not) impact player decisions to stay or leave or not to come. If Arsenal have its just reputation as a place where football is played as it should be AND it cannot play that game because of how the matches are being refereed (non-calls), then why would someone skilled want to put his body on the line and shorten their career to some agro-orc with a license to run amok (by an “unseeing” referee or two). It really has me worried. Do you think this an exaggerated concern?

  18. @Bobby P: Also, now, Major League Baseball here has immediate review. The umpires are attuned by some bad calls last season, to now stop play and video review a call. It’s currently reserved for important calls like whether a home run is fair or foul, or went into the stands or not (these need reviewing because it is recognized that the naked eye is not sufficient), and it cause only a reasonably short delay (often within a minute or 90 seconds); and people are generally accepting rather than have a meaningful game turn on that kind of missed call. The umpires leave the field and look at a review screen just off the field. In pro hockey in N. America, to my knowledge, there is an immediate review team at League headquarters that reviews significant calls in real time for games and gets back right away to the lead Referee on the ice, and the game continues accordingly. I could be a bit off on that, but something close to it is/was recently being done. It is so blatant an omission, if fair play were in the least bit seriously desired. Given that the technology has long been available and in practice, for anyone to stand against immediate replay in the name of purity, or it slows down the game too much, or it’s too costly (ha!), well, my two year old, so to speak, is far wiser and more knowing than that.

  19. @bob

    I agree that it’s farcical that there is no video technology in football, the world’s richest and most popular sport, in the 21st century. I guess Blatter and FIFA have to take most (all?) of the blame for that though, not sure if the Premier League would have the authority to introduce anything against FIFA/UEFA edicts.

    I was curious as to how Walter saw it being implemented though, as football is a free-flowing sport, without the natural breaks that are present in MLB (or cricket in this country). Something along the lines of the hockey system you mention may be the best way forward?

  20. @Bobby P

    I think we can find better examples than cricket. Hockey has it to determine penalty corners etc. Rugby uses it, though as far as I know only with whether the ball crossed the line for a try.

    I would like an American football type of challenge system though. True that the NFL has stoppages unlike football, but then rugby stops time too for the video replay. No reason football can’t do it.. I think the manager challenges a call to the 4th official when he deems an injustice has occurred, but the phase of play continues. They can come back and review it when that phase is over (or a video official could look at it while play goes on to save time), and if the appeal was correct then they get the benefit of the call. If in fact during the play continuing, the appealing team got an advantage, then the appeal should stand withdrawn and play starts from where it stopped. Just a suggestion and I’m sure the details will need working out, but it is completely possible to do.

  21. P.S. By Hockey meant hockey.. Not the American (and Canadian) Ice Hockey. 🙂

  22. Wonderful work Walter, your commitment to these ref reviews have been inspiring. Like the Arsenal players you deserve a rest this summer 😉

    I can’t even imagine what Diaby must be thinking. After the horror tackles he’s suffered this season from Robinson, Essien and Barton would anyone be surprised if he moved abroad ASAP? An even bigger shame is that many fans would respond to that with “good riddance”. I think Diaby is possibly the most underrated player at Arsenal, he has suffered terribly with injuries but his talent is undeniable, and when he’s been fit this season he had some excellent games. Barton assaulted him precisely because Diaby was absolutely running the show at Newcastle.

  23. @Wrenny: yes, totally agree. Diaby Knows at least this much, and if people wanted to get behind him rather than give him the boot, they’d at minimum take a lesson or two from he’s been enduring. We want our guys to stay and play beautiful football, or, let’s just say winning football, then let’s push harder for fair play now, and for the forthcoming season.

  24. @Shard: Just to say the obvious, in many (most?) sports, the game is interrupted by…injuries. It’s only in football (rugby too? don’t know) that the clock keeps on running. And this custom, of course, gives the ref (timekeeper?) the all-important decision on how much added time, all of which to say, Fergie Time, as football folk across the spectrum do call it. That control factor – the injury that empowers the referee to stipulate how much added time – rather than stopping the clock until the injury is sorted out seems to open the door to endless controversy and, to my lights, too much unnecessary power in the timekeeper/ref’s arsenal.

  25. @bob

    I agree, but I don’t know what can be done about it really. Unless you reduce the game time to an hour maybe, but that would be too radical. Because if you stop the clock in a 90 min game every time there is a stoppage, you’d end up playing around 120 mins. The only suggestion I had for this was to have an independent timekeeper who assesses time wasted by each team separately. When the 90 mins are up the common time wasted should be played as an added time, and the team that wasted less time should be able to decide whether they want to play the extra time that was wasted as a result of the other team’s antics. However, I’m not sure how practicable that is.

  26. @Wrenny: maybe a moratorium or retirement of the term “crocked” is in order? For one, I hate when it too often puts out that such smug, macho all-knowingness by those who toss it about, and, of course, when it’s so smugly applied at least some players (and maybe to cover certain other dislikes that go unspoken, just saying). I think that a pause for a closer look at non-calls over a stretch of such “crocked” players’ matches might reveal a bull or two run amok in the China shop, and an enabling ref or two, rather than merely a crocked player. It’s all well and good to lament or lambaste _player x___ (fill in the blank) for being “crocked;” but why not put some energy into shedding light on what the player has gone through and at whose hands, including non-calls… and Diaby has definitely been damaged by this, whatever one thinks of his consistency on the pitch.

  27. @Shard: I’m referring to evident injury stoppages as opposed to diving that the ref’s waive off anyway. There may be a time wasting factor here, but I don’t see 30 minutes of it, as per your example, that will chronically mean 120 minute matches. In fact, if a ref calls for a stoppage and the player is, on inspection, really faking it, then an ensuing red card would actually help cut down on the diving and, in turn, improve the game and waste less time in the long run. Anyway, how I see it…

  28. Fair enough. I was talking about basically all stoppages that happen during a game. The ref has immense discretionary powers there too, not just in the obvious injury situations. Regarding red card for faking injuries, it won’t work. Who will be the judge of whether the player is faking or not? I think we have to accept that we can’t solve everything that is a problem 🙂
    At least, not in one go.

  29. @Shard: yep, but no need to do all at once: trying to resolve just one problem – any one problem – would do nicely, for starters. does any one leap to mind? that might be a nice thread: something proactive to work, on our “summer vacation,” while UR gets underway and someone fashions a companion video to Walter’s report on errant calls/non-calls and the northwest passage opens up…

  30. @bob, do we know for sure UR is happening? Walter hasn’t mentioned it in all the end of season reviews so far. @Walter, what are your thoughts on Untold Refs, top 6 analysis etc which has been the subject of much debate and excitement?

  31. I doubt Fergie’s gonna win the 20 pretty soon. It won’t be that easy. I also believe the 19th must have come last year but somewhere the puzzle failed.

    You see the referees can only influence the decisions for a particular team but they can’t score a goal or deny one.

    There is a good possiblity of Arsenal winning next year. Liverpool coming up and may be Chelsea going down the ranks with Man Citeh, Arsenal, United and Liverpool making the top four.

    Its all branding, money, profits. I also believe silently the media, the ones who run this game would have sense a kind of unrest that the ticket price increase had caused among the Arsenal fans. I myself would have read some five to ten people posting they won’t be renewing their membership.

    So somewhere down the line Arsenal need to win something so that the crowd keeps coming.

  32. @Stevie E: right, we don’t know about UR as yet. Last I recall Dogface was working on weighting decision types and further data modeling. Not anything I know of thereabouts since then. I think it’s a moment of reflection hereabouts; perhaps a lull awaiting any hard news in the silly, er, transfer season. Hope springs eternal, but hopefully it will spring forth. I think there’s a lot on the plate and we’d both like to hear from Walter and Tony as to what, if anything, they see on the other side of today’s drawn report curtain.

  33. The reason why I didn’t mention the Untold REf project was because I wanted to focus on the past season with my review as much as possible.

    In the article where Laundryender talked about making another step I have said a few things but I think it was important to let our readers talk about this.

    My point is that I have decided to try to cover as much games as possible. On our sports channel we have the option to see games on demand for free (if they are broadcasted live). This usually are games of the top 6 teams so I will have acces to those games.

    If we create a different site or not will be up to Tony who has to create a new site for this.

    The thing with covering more games will be that people should not expect the ref reviews ready on mondaymorning on the site. No it could mean that the last review of the last games could be published on friday from a sunday game. Or even later.

    If we find more refs all the better. If not I (and some other people) will do all we can to expand our reviewing system and cover as many games as possible.
    Maybe it will cost me time to write on Untold itself a bit, but so be it then.

    I’m really looking forward to expanding it. I think it is a must in fact.

  34. Walter thanks for the immense work, I think we all hope it can springboard a much needed change of attitude and quality of refereeing in england …

    We’ll all meet next season !

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