A call to arms; let’s sort out this refereeing issue once and for all

By DogFace.

Untold Readers – this summer we have an opportunity to build upon the foundations that we furtively dug… or marked out – or maybe we first need to dig the foundations then build upon them?

Allow me recap; our plan is to watch the watchers and keep a close eye on football matches from a refereeing perspective – regular readers will know that the standard of refereeing in the EPL has long been a bee in our bonnet and we are at the stage now where we are suggesting that something stinks, not only with the standard of refereeing but also the consistency with regards to personal prejudice and bias (be that on a team, region or player/racial/nationality basis).

This was discussed here:


And here:


Of course we can’t just stand up and shout from the rooftops that something is amiss and declare that something is rotten in the state of Denmark (we tried that and you all, quite rightly, shouted back “Prove it” and (rightly or wrongly) “I never rated Bendtner anyway”) – so what we have to do is go into some more in depth analysis on the situation.  But to do this takes a considerable amount of man hours and specialist skills. So, all construction metaphors aside – we need help, so is there anyone out there who is handy with a shovel?

And this is where you [lucky reader] come in!  Untold needs you – your team needs you and your sport needs you in a very special project!

This project is not Arsenal-centric, and we will not go into it with any preconceptions or blunt axes and let us be clear that this is merely ‘phase 1’ of our project – that being ‘total awareness’ of officiating through data gathering i.e. all correct calls, all incorrect calls and all the calls that should have been… the analysis will be phase 2 and we will share our data with affiliated sites that carry out specialist football analysis to a very high standard.

To start with we will need to get together a list of qualified referees who know their onions from their shallots who are willing to give some of their time every week to watch an EPL football match and take notes on referee performance – this will be via a standardised electronic ‘point and click’ interface so there will be more watching and assessing than writing i.e. we’ll try to make it as easy as possible for you.  Walter and Laundryender will be your points of contact for this and they will define the guidelines.

Next, we will need to get an I.T. chap (or chaps) who know a bit about building websites – we would ideally like to create a new bespoke site for the EPL referee data that will not only present/mirror some analysis that appears in Untold but also provides the interface for registered referee’s to enter match data.  So if you can cut code – here is your chance to make a difference.  I [DogFace] will be your point of contact for this… and don’t worry – I’m in the industry and worked in the commercial sector for over 20 years so I won’t piss you off by asking you dumb questions or raising impossible specifications.  I will be taking charge of the back end of the site with regards to database administration, basic analysis and dataset generation – but I can also muck in with the coding side of things and help support the site once it is running.

Finally I could do with a researcher to help me make sense of some of the data I have – you need no other skills than the ability to use Google or have a login to your teams Arsenal TV Online (or equivalent) account in order to watch football matches in full.  I will just dish out a list with the player name and the time in the match (to the nearest second) and you need to take note of what happened – to explain, I have been given some data relating to match events but everything is encoded – this would help me enormously to crack the code by way of a lookup table – this data (if it does, as I suspect, contain referee decisions) could then hopefully be used to pre-populate a web form detailing the referee calls to save time when our assessors do their match referee reviews.

We will need to move fairly quickly on this – so if you think that you can help and would like to be a part of the Untold team then please leave a comment below.

Many thanks,

Untold Arsenal

The Untold Index

The History Index

The story of the last time something odd went on.

51 Replies to “A call to arms; let’s sort out this refereeing issue once and for all”

  1. @DogFace

    Nice article, but the ‘we will not go into it with any preconceptions or blunt axes’ is kind of spoiled by including the article under the heading ‘Match fixing scandal and corruption issues…’

    I’d be happy to help on the research side if there are genuinely no pre-conceptions, and a commitment to publish/continue this analysis, whatever the outcome.

  2. @BobbyP – the blunt axes comment was in regards to the research not trying to prove that any team in particular (i.e. Arsenal) are treated better or worse than any other.

    Of course we are researching the possibility of match fixing, corruption in regards to bias and predjudice as there has been much talk about it here (and increasingly in the mainstream media) so we need to investigate the theory.

    It may turn out that it all evens out ‘at the end of the day’ and we can all jolly well stop moaning.

    Who can say until we put the hours in and get a complete picture?

    @gooner – do you have a copy of Excel?

  3. Lord Kitchener on Untold..What next?

    How many hours work do you anticipate in being a researcher. I will have a little more time on my hands beyond next week so maybe (no promises) I can contribute. (I have Excel and ATVO). But I’d like a certain estimate of hours of work required, if that is possible at all.

    Finally, Kudos to all at Untold (Kitchener excepted) for making a real effort to turn this into a larger effort, while upping their own.

  4. For the research role you can do as many or as few hours as you like – you just watch a match (or find a match event thread somewhere out there) and make notes against numbers – every little helps!

    I will send emails out with information soon.

  5. Good ideas lads…I would like to see the tosser refs get it right at least 10% of the time

  6. Dogface,
    I am an Economics student at one of Britain’s best Universities and also a relatively highly qualified football referee (level 3 if that means anything to you). I was wondering what sort of timeframe you had put on this because throughout my next year at university (running October 2011 to April 2012), I have to complete an Economics dissetation and if I were to be on board, this would be a fantastic way of me obtaining data and preparing a project. I would be more than happy to help out in any capacity, whetehr that be researcher or as one of the referees (mindful of the fact that the football games could not be watched live by many referees as they will be refereeing at this time…) if there was a possibility to obtain the data you collect and use for a potential University project myself. I would appreciate it if you dropped me an email with the details of the project and whether this would be a possiblity.

  7. Dogface,

    as there are no games for the moment and no ref reviews to do I would like to help a hand if you need researchers. And I do have Excel and ATVO.

    which reminds me doesn’t the new Arsenal player is starting these days?

  8. @Dogface –> I’ve a group of “Programmer” at my disposal. If you want I’d be more than willing to discuss the scope/requirements to see if we can help out or not.

    On a completely irrelevant note, and perhaps should have posted somewhere else, i’m just too lazy and too irritated at the moment, so here it is… take a look at this completely pathetic little piece –> http://www.espnstar.com/editorial/news/detail/item629716/Arsene-Wenger's-secret*-diary/
    Perhaps someone should lodge a formal complaint to the site’s editor or something. This is clearly ‘below the belt’, but then perhaps this comes with their class.

  9. Hi Chowdhury

    The article is pathetic and a real desperate attempt to incite the fans.. no wonder fans are getting angrier everyday.

  10. @Abhishek Kumar: The espn-related “article/journal” is intro’d “As imagined by Kelvin Tan,” who, based on this kind of “accountability” I’d re-imagine as done by a stenographer for Asia-based gambling interests.

  11. @Oli: In fairness, what top University are you at? what’s one match where you were a referee? you’ve ask for project details, but what more-specific school project do you have in mind for the data you request?

  12. @BobbyP, Dogface: my understanding is also that the purpose of Untold Ref project is to proceed and publish with “no preconceptions.” I think that it would be good for Dogface or anyone to put forward the specific principles/measures by which the project will ensure that there indeed are no preconceptions. This way both the statistically astute and those who are relatively statistically challenged can be on the same page, the same level pitch, and that we agree to operate on the principle of full disclosure. Transparency is essential for this project to be legitimate and to be SEEN as legitimate when it is finally published and evaluated. At the right time, for example, I’d like to know your referee decision categories and how you will weight the types of calls and non-calls, etc. This is all meant in a constructive way: full disclosure and transparency, rather than exclusion from understanding the process. Not everyone, of course, is able to weigh in on the statistical nuances; and, to my lights, no one should be excluded from wishing to understand the process, especially at the outset when the most important decisions are being weighed and made. Time spent at the front-end, as we’ve discussed earlier in this process, will help ensure a quality outcome in the results.

  13. @Dogface: I’d be glad to be a match-watcher and make notes against time codes. I’d need to know what notes you need so that I can judge myself competent enough to spot what you are looking for. If I am not competent enough to consistently spot them, I will readily say-so. That said, I look forward to your email on this. Cheers!

  14. @bob

    ATVO has changed to Arsenal Player, well will from tomorrow.. (Not the best name I feel, but there you go) Unless Walter meant a new player being signed for Arsenal 🙂

  15. @Shard: cheers for the info. as to your smiley-face opticon, I’d smile out loud if the new playa name was, ahem, Clinical Striker. (well, there I go again…)

  16. All – I will be contacting you to discuss further, Walter I have sent you the first research task and will generate more sets for the other chaps soon – please give feedback ASAP if you need to ask any questions as you are my guinea pig.

    @Chowdhury – I will contact you with regards to the web site and how we could do it… we will need to look at the data capture and basic security (i.e. registration and login) first I think.

    If anyone else would like to get involved then please register your interest here.

    Thankyou to everyone for any time you can give!

  17. Hi Bob,

    I go to Warwick University. I referee at Level 3 which means I am eligible to referee games on the Southern League and Premier/Football League Reserve games and assist on Conference North/South games. The point of the project is to use a software package (Stata) to run various regressions to determine the effect of x on y. For example, a popular one may be ‘what is the effect of income on alcohol consumption?’. I was looking to do something a bit more out of the box and hence this is why I was interested in learning what data you planned on collecting so I could see if there was a way in which I could make a project out of it.

  18. Oli – here’s a project for you: Does the amount of money wagered on a football game have any effect on its outcome.


    I’m sure that the ref lads can use you on the team.

  19. I like the idea – it sounds very interesting and has an economics element to it too! I would be interested to know how you would go about this and the drivers that could cause a potential relationship. The other thing about my dissertation is that it must be 5000 words long though. I have little experience in this field but do you reckon that question has enough scope to cover such a word count? I would be more than happy to help out on the refs team as long as the commitment was minimal until the start of the season (I am away for a lot of the summer). I am in the middle of exams now so must get back to doing some work (!) but please drop me an email with further ideas and the details of the being on the refs team – it would be much appreciated.

  20. @Wrenny, Dogface: given your (Wrenny’s) demonstrated savvy around ferreting and interpreting some of the “commerce” of the game, I would nominate you for any team that considers the wagers/outcome, if and whenever that comes into play in the UR effort. Until then, glad to be seeing you at UA…

  21. Ah finally, Dogface!!!! Seems like you have really taken my advice. I completly support this idea. A thorough investigation. Nothing more can be asked for. Good luck!!

  22. @Dogface: I hope that you are eliciting Walter’s and other qualified ref’s input into the early definition and weighting of the calls and non-calls that are going to be examined or not by the UR process. I also hope that you will make those definitions and weightings public hereabouts on UA (or wherever) so that there is potential input by all who could contribute on these and
    other facets of the project. My feeling is that no one has the monopoly on the good/usable idea; and the UA community has a host of good minds with potentially constructive input. Is this something that you will consider/will do as you move forward?

  23. @DogFace – I’ll be up for researching, I don’t have a very fast internet connection so streaming’s a but of a pain but I’ll sit on Google for as long as needed. This is really good to see, even the dark one is on board, just goes to show when an ideas good, it gets everyone up for it 😉 @Bob, guess its gonna take a while for me to live that one down 😀

  24. @Stevie E

    The dark one apparently believes it was HIS idea in the first place. Well, as long as people are on board I suppose..


    Awaiting your email. By next week I should be able to let you know how much I can contribute to this effort. Looking forward to it. I can’t wait for the next season now.

  25. @Stevie E: hey, nothing to have to live down – “up is down, and down is up…,” said Alice (sort of)! As for any doubts about anything you need to live down (if you still mean this??? – but no need, mate!) please see my yesterday’s immediate post to you at: bob June 6th, 2011 at 6:10 pm Glad to be in this same boat…glug, glug.

  26. @Shard: The only way, alas, for a good idea to get done is to give it to someone else who then gets enthused enough to take credit for it. If it helps it get going, then great! The ego: a terrible thing to use.

  27. @Dogface, Please keep me informed of any bits of research you may need doing. I am at your service for this project.

  28. @ DogFace

    I don’t have ATVO, but I can view/record most televised matches. So I am happy to assist in the role of part time researcher

  29. @Dogface: I can also do part-time research, so I’m happy to help there as well.

  30. OK guys – just doing a bit of fine tuning with Walter and then I’ll generate some excel sheets and email them out.

  31. I’m willing to do research also! I’m going to have limited free time until mid September, but after that I’ll have a lot of free time to do as much as needed!

  32. @Dogface
    A timely shout

    I am looking forward personally to assessing some games that do not involve AFC and see how the likely suspects perform.
    I really hope refs that support teams other than AFC teams get involved so that they can do our games.

    It will be interesting to see if the term “Homer” can be applied to certain refs

  33. I am willing to help, although I don’t really know in what capacity (I can be of use) yet ?

  34. I will be delighted to do research. I can record the vast majority of matches and follow up as per your requests.

  35. I found you through the BBC article and I’d like to help with research. This appears to be a very interesting project.

    Do you plan on gathering data over the summer from the 2010/2011 season?

  36. @DogFace:

    I’m late on the thread, so I hope you’re still checking. Please count me in as a researcher. I have ATVO and Excel. Or at least, I had Excel until I accidentally fried my laptop on Monday, but that’s a different story 🙂 Anyway, I expect to have Excel again in the near future, and I’ll be happy to help out as much as time will allow. Awaiting your email.

  37. @Anne – do you have any “best practice” advice for research/data gathering etc?

  38. ok chaps prepare yourselves for a bit of data for the weekend – I think I’ve just cracked my database import… so I’ll set some assignments tomorrow! 🙂

  39. Hey…..hope i’m not too late & u guys still need some research bit done.. Would love to help out on this… let me know if there is anything i can help out with.

  40. Jeez, I’ve been missing in action for a while and when I come back DogFace has declared war!
    I’m in!
    I’ve got some web development experience, let me know if I can contribute.

    I read 1 thread here where I think it was Walter who said he believes Wenger reads Untold. I was in a rush and couldn’t comment, but I agree completely. I saw it myself, and thought, “is this a coincidence?” Especially the top 4 mini league bit, that really got me thinking… It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he read this blog, considering its one of the few positive Arsenal sites, where actual reasoning happens, and not just the same old “Wenger Out” crap.
    With that said, it may have drawn more than just HIS attention…
    Maybe our good friends at the FA are onto it as well, especially after the BBC article. As they watch this project develop, hopefully they might just turn down the intensity of the blatant cheating we’ve witnessed of late, for fear of having it exposed by this project, and also since SAF now has his precious 19th, perhaps its mission accomplished for them. After all, we were the biggest threat to that precious 19th before he retires. I have my doubts as to whether they’ll win it again next season, especially on a more level reffing field.
    I hope we get sooo much visibility on this project that it puts enough pressure on the cheating scum that they have to behave themselves. Even a 50% reduction in the ridiculous point-theft we’ve endured should make that vital difference.
    Brilliant idea, DogFace… 🙂

  41. Hey DogFace,

    Would you mind dropping me a mail in relation to this?
    I’ve been thinking of doing something like this except with a few differences and I would like your opinion on it:
    1. The opinions expressed would not be by a hired team of referees. It would be taken from ‘respected’ news sources like the guardian, telegraph or bbc. They have live blogs these days for almost all matches anyway. And when they dont, their natch reports would have to do. Why? In order to stave off the inevitable cries of bias. This will unfortunately mean that some poor decisions will not be highlighted because the match reports and the live blogs often skip over things they consider of lesser importance. But I think it is worth it in order to be possess the important “Don’t take my word for it. The Guardian says so” argument.

    2. Only red cards and penalties to be considered. This includes red cards that ought to have been but weren’t given, as well as red cards that were shown, but were unjustified. Same with penalties. Why? To have a neater easier to understand system. The idea is to award one point to the team that benefits from the incorrect decision. And minus one point to the ‘victim’ team. (So each poor decision carries two points) That way, at the end of the season, we can see which team has the most points, and so, benefits from ref decisions the most. Avoid things like an offside that led to a goal or an incorrect offside that *could* have been a goal – again because of simplicity. We don’t want unnecessary, distracting noise. We don’t want to provide people the opportunity to muddy the waters by nitpicking or being pedantic on things that arent *absolutely* black/white.

    3. All matches to be catalogued. Not just the Arsenal ones. The idea being that this is just meant to be a table cataloguing ref decisions. Nothing specific to Arsenal. Again to stop people from being able to write it off as “some website run by conspiracy theorist Arsenal fans”. Also, this can be presented as a table to determine if it is indeed the case that the smaller teams get the worst of the decisions. Nothing specific to Arsenal.

    BTW, if you feel any of these ideas might be used in your website, feel free to use them. I just want poor refereeing to stop. Or at least for them to be brought to light.

  42. Forgot to add a couple of more things:

    At the end of the season, not only will we have a definitive table of clubs who benefit the most from poor ref decisions, but it will also blow the “It all evens out in the end” argument right out of the water.

    Incidentally, the same data can be used to list the most ‘favoured’ clubs by each referee. For example, we can have a table of teams who Howard Webb awarded the most unfair points to.

    Yes, there are some flaws with this system: For example, an unfair decision that goes in your favour when you’re already winning 5-0 matters little in comparison to one that goes against you when its 1-1; but on paper, the two decisions will have ‘balanced’ each other out. But to this, I say so be it. No need to add a complicated (and subjective) weighting system of some sort. Again, simplicity is the key. If it is easier to understand and there are less things that people can nitpick over, the more widely accepted such a catalogue will be.

    In spite of the most blatant evidence to the contrary, people (even non ManU fans) will look for all sorts of silly excuses to disregard such findings. (“Who can say whats an unfair decision and what is not”, “Its too subjective”, “Its part of the game” etc.) So it is important to keep it simple and straight forward. My 2 cents anyway.

    Bonus: With enough time and manpower, one can compile such a catalogue today for the last season(s). The match reports and live blogs are all kept online anyway.

  43. Hi kushal, that sounds like an interesting project and something that could be done with little infrastructure – you could probably do it with a Excel spreadsheet and include the URL’s to back up your sources. I would be interested to see the results!

    There is, however, a conflict of interest with the world of punditry (and their active employment) perhaps not wishing to question the integrity of the gravy train they are riding… I have lost count of the amount of times the pundit simply keeps quiet or declares a ‘good robust challenge’ when presented with a violent assault. Look at the match reviews for the Newcastle Vs Arsenal game – all you will find is declerations of ‘the most exciting bestest game ever’ with smug quotes from the likes of Joey Barton.

    Not a word of Dowd was spoken – why? Out of ‘respect’ one presumes.

    We will be including all ‘black and white’ type as a matter of course as part of the data gathering and we are a fair way on with the project definition and now making steps to implementation.

    Also – we are not in the business of denial or giving a forum to apologists (with regards to excuses) – so that will not be an issue, but we will always take on board any constructive criticism.

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