30% of all important ref decisions are wrong! But is it a first half/second half thing?


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By Walter Broeckx

As we steadily go further in our ref reviews I also try to look at very different angles and like I promised I will try to highlight some interesting numbers.

When looking at all the numbers I get from all the ref reviews I thought it might be interesting to see if there is any difference between the first half in a game and the second half. So I started  making all kind of graphics to see if there is a difference.

I also divided it in Arsenal games and non-Arsenal games to see if there is a difference between those games.

So let us start with the Arsenal games

We get a very mixed result in this table.  When it comes to yellow and red cards the second half of the refs is better. But with the penalty decisions it is the other way round. In the second half they drop a lot. In the goals we see a reverse situation with more and better calls in the second half. Still too low to be good but there doesn’t seem to be a difference because of the fatigue from the refs in this area.

Also the other decisions and the important decisions are better in the second half than in the first half. So at this stage in the league it seems that the refs are not that affected by fatigue when it comes to making important decisions. The offside decisions are on the same level in the first as in the second half.

But in the overall decisions (the smaller fouls one could say) we see the opposite. In the second half the refs seem to let a lot of things go that they didn’t let go in the first half. Maybe this has something to do with concentration of the ref that goes down during the game? Maybe they are focussed on the big decisions and by doing this neglect the small fouls?  And this also shows in the weight that we put on decisions. Because as we have seen against Chelsea a foul not given in the middle of the field can have a big impact on a game. On average the refs in Arsenal games suffer a loss of points of some  4,5% in the second half of a game.

How is this compared to the other games in the EPL? Just have a look.

And again we could say we get a very mixed result in this table.  But the results are not the same as in the Arsenal games. When it comes to yellow and red cards the first half of the refs is better. But the penalty decisions is the other way round. In the second half they get better.  And this is the opposite compared to the Arsenal games.  And also in the goals we see a reverse situation with more and better calls in the first  half.

The other decisions are better in the second half than in the first half. But in the important decisions we see that the first half is slightly better than the second half.  What is worrying a bit is the fact that the offside decisions dropped a lot in the second half.

For the overall, the weight and the average we see just a little margin between the first and second half but in every case the first half was better than the second.  The same trend as in the Arsenal games but the gap in the Arsenal games is bigger. In Arsenal games as been said around  4,5% in the other games only 1,13%.

But what happens if we put those two tables together and take the grand total of all the games we have done so far?  And in this table the weight of the non Arsenal games is much bigger. As we only have 1 Arsenal game in every 4 games.  And then we come up with these number


So what do we see ? When it comes to giving yellow and red cards the refs do better than in the first half. This is all very relative in fact because the score is in my opinion unacceptable low.

In the penalties the refs are dropping in the second half. Just over half of the penalty decisions are correct. Better news from the goals in the second half. But the other decisions drop.

But overall when it comes to the important decisions the refs get it better in the second half than in the first half. So there is no sign of fatigue until now in the season. It will be interesting to see how this number will change or not further in the season.

The difference in the overall decisions is small and also in the weight decision you cannot see much difference. The only remark one could make that a number of around 70% is just the minimum that a ref should get. And this number means that the average decision making is that 3 calls out of 10 are wrong. I think this just is too low.

Just as the fact that this also is the case for the important decisions. 3 out of 10 important decisions are wrong. And the problem is that we didn’t call them important just for the sake of calling something important. No, we call them important because they are important.

PGMOL, you got a big task on making sure these numbers go up. We keep you informed about this in the future when we got new and more numbers in a few months.


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5 Replies to “30% of all important ref decisions are wrong! But is it a first half/second half thing?”

  1. Walter, I’m not entirely clear on how you came up with the numbers on the third chart. For example, take the % of offside decisions correct.
    First half, Arsenal: 91%
    First half, non-Arsenal: 92%
    First half, all games: 84% ??

    Second half, Arsenal: 90%
    Second half, non-Arsenal: 85%
    Second half, all games: 94% ?

    They don’t seem to be averages, or even overall totals…

  2. Rusty,

    The difference comes from the fact that it all depends on the total number of decisions. So in one table it could be 6 wrong decisions on 15 (40%)but in the second table it could be 60 wrong decisions on 80 (75%) and if you add those two you get a totally different number. You get 66 wrong decisions on 95.(69%)
    So a grand total based on all the decisions in all the games

    Problem is I cannot give all the numbers otherwise it would be completely unreadable

  3. Walter, it would be nice if one of the sports journalists who can read would notice your team’s excellent work and run with it. perhaps you could email it to them.

  4. Just hope for the refs sake the wrong decisions are just mistakes, a few cricketers heading behind bars today, would hate to see that happen to any of our refs! Sends out a message to anyone who wants to alter matches in the uk though.

  5. Walter, anyone,
    I must assume that there are and have been honest and capable referees in professional football. That said:
    (1) Does anyone know of any former referee in any League who ever published a memoir or was quoted for the record about having witnessed or participated in corrupt (match-fixing or match-changing) practices? Or has it been a total wall of silence?
    (2) Given that present FIFA/UEFA/PGMOL/EPL referees would no longer be assigned games if they went public with information on bribe attempts, etc., what about former referees? Do former FIFA/UEFA referees get pensions that would be threatened if any were to go public, even with general statements?
    (3) Do you/anyone think that a petition by former referees calling for video replay of any sort could be a possibility?
    (4) Given the authoritative position that honest referees would command in the sport, would any refs out there consider such a petition, or memoir, or plea for fair play?

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