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The influence of wrong calls on football games

Untold Arsenal on Twitter @UntoldArsenal

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NOTE: After some great feedback from our readers I decided to remake the table and add more information. Thanks for the feedback and the new table is added after my 9.51 comment

By Walter Broeckx

After having 20 games done in the EPL so far this season by myself and my team of ref reviewers I wanted to take a look at the wrong calls. I know some will say this is too early but I just wanted to give you a first impression. Later in the season we can compare this and see how things have changed or didn’t change.

First of all what are wrong calls? Well a wrong call is when a ref has just got it wrong. Let us say he gives a goal that should have been cancelled for offside. Or a player scored with this hand. For whatever reason the ref didn’t see it and gave the goal. Wrong.

But wrong calls also are about something that is not been given. A player gets a shove in the back loses the control over the ball but the ref doesn’t give the foul. Wrong.

As I have been saying for a while now and something that will be confirmed by every ref who knows how to stay under the radar when it comes to silently and invisibly trying to have an influence: not calling fouls is the master piece for doing so.

So it is the number of obvious wrong calls that everyone can see but also the not given fouls (that mostly go unnoticed because the ball keeps moving and no replays being shown) that we will have a closer look at in this article.

Now we all now that there can be different kinds of bias. Let us start with the most obvious. Human beings are influenced by the reaction of the crowd. This is not me who has invented it but in the past research has been done and well how hard you try you could get some influence by listening to the crowd. What I call the home advantage bias. Now this is a bias that should even out at the end of the season. In a perfect world. And we all know we live in a perfect world by now. Fact is that you could expect a 60/40 division in the calls when you are at home compared to being away. Again this is something that has been researched and who am I to doubt it.

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So if you see a home team getting the benefit of 60% of the wrong calls this just could be down to the ref being influenced by the home crowd. But like I said next week you play away and you get only 40% benefit from the wrong calls. And so it should even out.

Another bias is the “big team bias”. The big team gets all the calls. The big team always gets the benefit of the doubt. As the first bias (home advantage bias) is something human, the second one (big team bias) is already not that nice anymore. Because as a ref you shouldn’t look at the names of the teams but just at the events on the fields. Refs who expose such a big team bias are not good refs in my eyes.

And then you can have other sorts of bias. Like what I would call the  “wind direction” bias. North versus South, East versus West. Local dislikes against a certain region or part of the country. A kind of anti-capital bias.  I must admit that I cannot look further at this. It might exist but surely people should have got over this what I would call little town mentality by now? Have they?

But enough of the theoretical blah blah, let us get on to the numbers we have gathered with our team so far. We will show you the bias table and the higher the % you get in this table the more the refs have made bad calls against you. So being first in this table indicates that live has been difficult for you. Et voila….

% wrong Games Wrong calls Average/game Opponents
WBA 80,00 2 20 10 Chelsea/Mu
Arsenal 76,75 5 41 8 Newc/Liverp/ManU/Swansea/Blackburn
Fulham 70,00 1 7 7 Blackburn
Wigan 66,67 1 6 6 Man City
Sunderland 62,50 2 11 6 Liverpool/chelsea
Norwich 54,55 1 6 6 Chelsea
Tottenham 50,77 2 10 5 ManU/ManC
Swansea 50,00 2 5 3 ManU/Ars
Man City 49,49 4 18 5 Swansea/Tot/Bolton/Wigan
Bolton 45,60 3 9 3 Liverpool/MU/ManC
Liverpool 43,75 4 10 3 Sund/Ars/Bolton/stoke
Chelsea 43,15 4 28 7 Stoke/WBA/Norwich/Sunderland
Stoke 38,10 2 12 6 Chelsea/Liverpool
Man U 31,76 4 13 3 WBA/Tot/Ars/Bolton
Blackburn 18,57 2 4 2 Fulham/Arsenal
Newcastle 15,79 1 3 3 Arsenal

Poor WBA they have had the most calls going against them. But if you see at the teams in the last column you might consider that this could be the result of “big team bias”.

Well it will not be a big surprise to find Arsenal in second place in this table. And the strange thing is that we never had less than 50% of the wrong calls going against us. Not at home, not against the small teams…let alone against the other big teams.

Other teams suffering a bit from big team bias is Sunderland who in the games against Liverpool and Chelsea had more than 60% of the decisions going against them. Also Wigan had a bad score but this is only based on one game.

In an ideal world you should have a score of around 50%. City and Tottenham have this. Liverpool and Chelsea are not far away from the 50% mark.

There are other teams who well seem to be “lucky” with the wrong calls going against them. Stoke is such a team despite playing two big teams and so you should expect them to suffer more than to get more benefits from the refs. The interesting part will be to see how the game between Stoke and United goes this weekend. Just hope we can review this game.

Manchester United looks to be a very lucky team when it comes to mistakes of the refs. Are they the major benefits of the big team bias?

But there are two teams that are even more favoured by wrong calls than Manchester United. Blackburn and Newcastle are the luckiest teams so far in our reviewed games. Now how much would the fact that they played Arsenal in those games have to do with this good score?

Now the great thing about this table is that at the end of the season it should be a table with scores of only 50% by all the teams. Because well it should even out at the end of the season.. doesn’t it? Do I need to say that we will be keeping an eye on this?

38 comments to The influence of wrong calls on football games

  • Kentetsu

    Newcastle and Blackburn play each other this weekend. It will be interesting to know which one of the two will suffer the most from wrong calls. Although you’re right that Stoke – United is the one to keep a close eye on.

  • slim

    I don’t really get the teams/against column, does it mean we ONLY get wrong calls against those teams? And I’m pretty sure there’ve been more than 5 wrong calls against us by now

  • Kentetsu

    The teams against column shows the teams we have played against so far (and the match has been reviewed). As the EPL season is only five games under way, there are only five teams listed for Arsenal.
    Like Newcastle has had their match reviewed only once – against Arsenal – so their against column only reads Arsenal.

  • WalterBroeckx

    I will try to explain it as the problem is that when I am collecting the data I just think anyone will understand the table I made.

    If we take the Arsenal line: the 76.75 is the % of wrong calls we got in all our games in the EPL so far. The 5 is the number of games we have reviewed so far. And in the last column I mentioned the teams we played against.

    I could have included the real numbers in fact. Maybe I will try to do this and change the article. In fact it will make it clearer for all.

    Will try to change it immediatly

  • WalterBroeckx

    Did it. but the old table doesn’t want to leave the page. Sorry for the empty lines…

    I hope this makes it a bit clearer
    So you have the % of wrong calls
    the games its based upon
    and the total wrong calls
    and the opponents in which the wrong calls were made

  • Stevie E

    Sorry, am I being thick but Liverpool & Chelsea, both played 4, both on 43% but Liverpool have 10 wrong calls and Chelsea have 28?

  • willybilly

    This is gonna make for some interesting reading come the end of the season. Are all yur reviewers gooners? I was thinking, if it does get to the end of the season and Arsenal have been cheated(again!) maybe your findings won’t hold as much credence with the general public if they think it was all done by gooners?. Maybe you should get a few spud friends (if you have any) to review the Arsenal games? ones you can trust anyway! then there will be no doubt

  • Chowdhury

    Excellent post Walter. Will be waiting to find out how much “even out” there actually was.

    On the sides, came across this piece. Simply loved it.

  • Kentetsu

    Walter, rather than the total number of wrong calls, it’s better to give the average wrong calls per game, given the fact that not all teams are reviewd as many times.

  • Chowdhury

    Sorry about the link in my last comment. Here we go, link to the article itself.

  • WalterBroeckx


    a ref can have a good game and only make 3 wrong calls. It happened in our lost game against Liverpool in fact. But you can also have a ref making 21 bad calls in one game (Newcastle).

    But like Kentetsu said maybe it would be better to give the average wrong calls per team in the table.

    I will keep this in mind for a next article.

  • Dark Prince

    There are many factors that go into this…so really cant put all the blame on the refs also…jus thinkin how would this table pan out if technology was used in helpin in major decisions

  • WalterBroeckx

    And as this is all new from this season I really want you to give me as much feedback as you can to improve the way I present things.

  • Abhishek Kumar

    @DP: Amazing insight.. but it would be even better if you can point out what is wrong here and how can that be justified..

  • va cong

    I think you need to do all teams to make it fair and not just a few.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Va cong,

    if we would have more refs we would love it to do all the teams.

    But last season we just did Arsenal games. this season we are covering the top teams as much as we can. On average some 4 or 5 games each weekend.

  • I like this – this is another great step Walter in the ongoing evolutiuon of your referee reviews… if only we had more referee’s to review more games!

  • Shard

    “And we all know we live in a perfect world by now.”

    Haha. Yes we do. And Santa and his elves are up in the North pole 🙂

    But Walter, although its not ideal, I don’t really mind the ‘big team bias’. I’m not saying that just because Arsenal are a big team (though we seem to not get any benefit from that anyway), but because its always been around, across all the different sports that I have followed. A big name player, a big team, gets the close calls going their way. In a sense it can be seen as a right that is earned. A player early in his career will not get calls his way, but by the time he’s proved himself, he will start to get them. Same with a club. If it keeps performing well, will eventually start to get the close calls in its favour. That’s where the ‘you make your own luck’ line comes from.

    Why I bring this up is because I want to put forth, once again, my opinion that what I have seen happening in Arsenal matches, and indeed other matches in the League, goes beyond that. Big teams get close calls in their favour most times. But in this case, some teams get blatantly incorrect calls either favouring them, or harming them. That indicates more than the normal bias.

  • BobbyP


    To clarify, did you address the limitations raised in the article by Laundryender published on this site at the end of last season (, or are the refs still all Arsenal fans?

    To quote some relevant sections from that article:

    ‘It lacks credibility because it is by Arsenal supporters for Arsenal supporters. The emphasis Untold has put on refereeing bias is fundamentally flawed by that single fact. ‘

    ‘To validate the argument…we need to have referees reviewing games of clubs that they do not support’

    The problem with having Arsenal supporters reviewing Arsenal games is that it becomes very difficult to distinguish between genuine refereeing bias, and the inherent (albeit subconscious) bias that the reviewers will have towards Arsenal

    Leaving that aside, I still find the ref’s reviews informative and interesting, and well-presented in general – and summary articles like this are also very interesting, so thanks for that

  • Stevie E

    It’s the same with home advantage, I don’t have a problem with that either as that too also happens in all sports and “should” even itself out over the season.

  • WalterBroeckx

    the problem with big team bias is that it doesn’t even itself out over the season and this is more wrong imo than the possible home bias.

    But I have a problem with any bias and certainly one that is unknown… 😉

  • WalterBroeckx

    Bobby P,

    I would give a few fingers of my right hand to get refs involved who are not Arsenal supporters. (on second thought… I need them to write articles so will not consider it 😉 )

    My hope is that with the plans we have we can go to another level in the next weeks/months and get more publicity and hoping other refs will join in.

    My dream then would be to have all the games done each weekend.

    And if I may dream the wildest of dreams…. have each game done by 3 different ref reviewers….

    But things have to be done step by step. We do however rotate the ref reviewers as much as possible so that we can have as much different opinions as possible.

  • Worst call was not signing Cahill and believing Djourou and Von
    Skyscraper could form and effective defensive partnership.

  • WalterBroeckx


    I don’t like to go off topic as this is about refs and their decisions.
    But maybe the worst call surely must be that some people actually believe that Djourou and Mertesacker played together in central defense.

    And why do you call Mertesacker Von Skyscraper, mr. legweak? Why don’t you call our own players with their own name?

    Or do you have anything against German people in general?

    Of do you just want Cahill because he is English?

    For your information: yes the Arsenal defense has let in most goals so far (14) and do you know which defense then let in most goals? Well let me tell you it is Bolton with 13. You know the team with probably the best defender of the world in it: Cahill.

  • Shard


    Ideally, yes. But since this isn’t the perfect world you alluded to, I can accept it. I’ve seen it too often, and I guess it’s human nature that subconsciously, we favour the ‘winning’ side. I think the make your own luck maxim holds true for that reason. Eventually the decisions start coming your way. But that presumes that it is just bias, normal human failings, that affect those decisions. And I just wanted to highlight (the same as your numbers seem to do) that what has been happening with the decisions in the EPL goes way beyond that bias.

    Stevie E
    The difference between home advantage and big team bias is, as Walter pointed out, that Home advantage should even out at the end of the season. But, as I said. Being recognised as a big team, or big player, can be viewed as a right that has to be earned.

  • BobbyP


    Thanks for the response – things are certainly progressing with this, so hopefully that stage can be reached soon

  • Shard

    Sorry..COMPLETELY off topic, but whenever I see something to do with God Himself, Dennis Bergkamp, I tend to want to share it 🙂

    Ignore the talk of SOS etc. If Dennis is coming home, then I would LOVE it. Not saying it will happen. Just that Dennis Bergkamp is God 🙂

  • steww

    I have a similar man crush on Dennis, but this link takes us to a Daily St*r website. Bleaaagh.

  • Shard

    lol..And I have a similar feeling for the Daily Star..

  • Arvind

    @Shard: You LOVE the Daily Star? After Untold Media and your contributions? Well … I never… 😉 … When’s DB10 coming? When? When? When? I’m not excited at all…

  • Mandy Dodd

    I so wish that DB10 thing would be true. That would get rid of the negativity in 1 go, would also maybe help, should RVP need any help – over his long term future. That would be such a good move on every level and would take pressure, coming from some quarters off Wenger and Pat. But as ever, will believe when I see……

    As for the wrong decisions, one of the strange things to me was that the players did not exactly go overboard even appealing that certain pen against Theo at Blackburn, amost as if they are resigned to it?

  • Jimin

    I will first appreciate your efforts in bringing the Arsenal bias to another level. However i’ll want you do, if possible, prevent or prepare a defense for the cheats that will declare ur hard work as opinions from frustrated gunners who want to support Wenger. Maybe you can publish the name of each ref that review for u with the club they support. Come rain, come sunshine, your findings must be responded to by the authorities that fix matches. One other thing is that the officiating in manu was due to the fact that we were crippled be4 the match. This guys are efficient in destroying Arsenal. Somewhere somehow, they will start looking for ways to even out with arsenal wrong call maybe when the kill the team moral and they are fighting for relegation.

  • Kentetsu

    About Bergkamp, he’s about to sign an open-ended contract with Ajax as an assistant to Frank de Boer.

  • menace

    @Walter – God forbid UAGMOL !!!

    I can just see the outcry in screams from Singapore as all the Man U shareholders cry out that the Untold Arsenal Game Match referees are biased against their babies. I would however like to see at least 2 more suppliers of ‘Match Officials’ to ensure a balance and no monopoly. It must be a lucretive business proposition.

  • Ronnie Brown

    Would be good to send this to some of the papers, the refs need more pressure to make the right decsions, be fair and not have bias.

  • Ronnie Brown

    By the way, Arsenal TV online have a show on Friday at around 6pm if anybody doesn’t know, think it’s free to listen too, would be good to hear some of the Untold readers call in and offer a different perspective.

  • Ronnie Brown

    They are on each Friday, Fan’s Forum with Tom Watt, good show….

  • steve vallins

    Hi Walter re wrong calls , back in 1988 i took and passed a FA Preliminary coaching badge , part of this course was a lecture on the laws of the game during a discussion we were told how the crowd can influence a referees decision.The then referees say association carried out an experiment on up and coming refs.They all had the same game at the same time 10 in silence and 10 with headphones on with crowd noise guess what more wrong calls were made by the refs with headphones This only confirms what we already know 3000 away supporters at Old Trafford have no chance of influencing the ref 2 off side goals come to mind recently