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July 2021

The Arsenal bias: How the reviewers work

The Christmas gift for the fan with (almost) everything

By Walter Broeckx

One of our reader asked a few questions (before the site went down) which deserved a proper answer I thought. So this is what he said (and sorry for the late reply):

For this to be accepted by others you need to clarify who is doing the reviewing and what connection they have with the teams being reviewed.

Also the manner of reviewing. Is it off TV or is it at the ground? Is the reviewer off TV seeing multiple replays and are they going back to see what happened or just viewing replays as appears on coverage. Are all the reviewers following the same rules

Other things you have to clarify is
Are the reviewers supporters of one of the teams playing? This is very important as most people have preconceived ideas about things and when there are 50/50 decisions to be made.

Also are they using the rules to the letter of the law or do they have a regional basis? ie A English reviewer will probably have a different mindset to someone from the continent.

Some very good questions and remark and I will try to answer on a few things.

For the moment we only have reviewers who support Arsenal. So if we would expose a bias it should be clear visible in the Arsenal games. Meaning that if we win a game the ref should get high points, if we lose a game the ref will get low points. So I do look behind the scenes to see if this is the case. And I put this in a graphic in which I took the final score of the ref and compared this to the points we got. If you would see a similar line then it could mean that we are not doing a great job as reviewers. So judge yourself. To make things a bit clear the points gained from the games have been multiplied with 10 because otherwise the line would be too flat to see the changes.

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So you can see that in the first game we got a low score for the ref but got a point. And then two defeats in a row but the score of the ref is going up. Then we got the line dancing up and down together with the refs and the points but the ref in our defeat against Tottenham got more points than the ref in our last home win against Sunderland or against Stoke.

So the lines are not similar all the time. Of course they are the same a few times but remember we already had some big and very wrong decisions going against us so it can happen that we lose a game and the ref having a bad score. On the other hand if we win it could well be that the ref had a good game. But the last games shows that even when we win we have almost the lowest score given to a ref this season.

What this means for the other teams reviews is not that clear but I have seen high points given when our rivals won. So I think our ref reviewers are very capable of reviewing the decisions as they can see them and are not looking at who is benefiting from the decisions. If United don’t get a penalty we say it like it is. Even if we as supporter can live with it, as a ref reviewer we just call the bad decision a bad decision.

We review based on the images shown on TV. An advantage as the ref on the field hasn’t the chance to use them. But it brings also a limitation. We all know that some angles are not shown and we cannot choose our angles. So we have to work with the ones that are shown. So we can sometimes not be sure about things. In those instants we give the advantage to the refs and think his decision on the field was the correct one.

We are using the rule book to the letter of the game AND according to the instructions that are handed out to the refs. Those instructions can vary  each year or they tell the refs to look at certain things more specific. The instructions come from Fifa and they send them to the national football federations who hand them over to the refs. So a ref from South America should get the same instructions as a ref in England. It could well be that each country has its own way at adding something. If a country has a lot of troubles with let us say diving players they could focus on this and remember the refs to give the cards they should give according to Fifa rules and instructions.

And I can say that I am glad to mention that our ref reviewers live in different continents. So yes there could be a regional difference in the reviews. But I must say that we take turns on all the teams we do. Certainly for the Arsenal games we do this to make sure that you get all the angles on those games.

We also try to do this for the other games. But there we are more depending on the games that are shown in our different countries and that we can record somehow. So we are trying to do some rotational reviewing and we think this is the best way to avoid a possible regional bias.

And if you have seen the article about the scores the ref have got so far you will have noticed that Arsenal most hated ref from last season was leading the refs this season with the highest score so far. Another way of showing that we just look at the decisions that have to be made (or not) on the field and not the teams involved or even the ref involved.

And now I want to take the opportunity to make another appeal to refs who read this and who think that they might add something to our reviews. Also refs who support other teams don’t be affraid to join us. The more refs, the more fun. Just send a mail to me and we will get in touch. Or leave a comment below the articles. Because I can see your email address and can contact you.

Doing the reviews is time consuming but I think it is also fun for any ref who wants to learn and improve his own game. You can learn from other refs their mistakes and you can learn from their strong points also. So refs who want to join just let me know at

With over 2000 followers: Untold Arsenal on Twitter @UntoldArsenal

1 comment to The Arsenal bias: How the reviewers work

  • C4

    Walter, may I suggest asking Sammy to spread the word and try to recruit reviewers who support other teams? While Sammy does the rounds on various blogs for other teams, he could drop an invitation in some places, with links to Untold’s reviews, and especially to this article. I can understand that refs who support other teams may not be as eager as we are to get involved, because their teams are either the beneficiaries of a lot of this ref bias, or otherwise they’re somewhat neutral. In fact, it’s PROBABLE that their teams are on the receiving end of some favourable decisions whenever they play Arsenal, as shown by the fact that most of the wrong decisions in our games go the way of the opposing team. So I’d say there’s very little motivation there for them, they would prefer to turn a blind eye rather than admit that their beloved team was being helped, especially because we usually beat most of the other EPL teams. Apart from that, they would probably be carrying some animosity towards our club, some of it probably due to media influence.
    It takes a seeker of truth and a believer in fairness to participate in an exercise such as this one. And as we know, football is not synonymous with these two values right now.
    However, you never know. We might just find that seeker of truth among our rival teams’ supporters, so let’s give it a shot.