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August 2021

The shocking truth: only one in five red cards in the Prem League is correct!

By Walter Broeckx

Sometimes one wonders when enough is enough. Now before you might think that I will start complaining about the refs we had in Arsenal games I just want you to tell that in fact this is not the case in this article. Because at this moment in time we have done 60 ref reviews of games in the EPL this season. And the majority are NOT Arsenal games. In fact only 26 % of the games we have reviewed so far are Arsenal games.

Is 60 games enough to draw conclusions? Maybe yes, maybe no. But I thought it was a good moment to have a look at it and most of all look at the whole picture. And thus ask ourselves the question: is the level of refereeing high enough?

The only way to find out would be if the PGMOL made their reviews public. But as they don’t we had to do it our way. Of course if the PGMOL would disagree on this they can always come out with their evidence. Somehow I doubt they will come out in the open. And if they did, now wouldn’t that be fun?

So before I show you the graphic of the how many correct decisions refs make in the EPL I will take the time to give some more information on how we came to our numbers and this is for the people who are new to this site.

We have 4 ref reviewers who review as many games as they can. We look at every incident in the games we review and see if the ref made a correct decision or not. We then put this in some kind of spreadsheet that calculates the totals of the ref in that game. And those totals are then used to calculate what you are about to see.

We look at the overall decisions like a foul in midfield which is worth one point. We then take in account some weight because some decisions are more important than others. Yellow cards, red cards, goals, penalties. And we look at the offside decisions.

And from all those scores we make a total average score or each game and that score is also for the graphic I will show you. So here it is with nu further delay, the total % of correct decisions in the EPL in the season 2011-2012:

Yellow cards are shown at random it looks. Half of the decisions are correct. And this means that many cards were not correct but also that many cards should have been given but have not been given for one reason. Don’t know about you but this is poor. 50% correct decisions for top refs in the EPL is way below the required standard in my book. Refs should at least get a score of 70%.

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But things could get worse with the red cards. Only 1 red card in 5 is correct. Many are not shown and those that are shown are also wrong on occasion. The sending off in the Everton-Liverpool game comes to my mind as a not correct red card.

And if we look at the penalties one could say that the situation again is not very rosy. Not even 60% of penalties are correctly given or not given. And this is what we could call a game changing situation. A really terrible number.

One could say that the goals are rather good. In the games we reviewed we could say that 86.93% of the goals are correctly given or ruled out. But this is not enough. Because if you know that in every game day of the EPL there are around 29 goals scored and this means that 4 of them are wrongly given or ruled out.  4 goals each game day in the EPL. And if you know that goals is what football is all about this is a terrible number.

The other decisions which include recognising important fouls when you have to give yellow or red cards is a miserable 65 %. So again poor judgement from the refs is obvious to see.

And this leads to an overall score of all those important decisions of 65%. Only 65 % of the really important decisions are correct in the EPL. A few words spring to my mind when seeing this: disgrace, unacceptable,…

If we look at the offside decisions who are not that unimportant as they sometimes lead to goal scoring chances we can see that around 91% of the decisions are correct. But one miss can be the difference between winning or losing a game (or a draw). So again very important that we get it right.

And if we take all those decisions (including the offside decisions) we manage to get an average score of just above 70%. The minimum. The absolute minimum.

Now you could say that well I don’t mind that I go to a game and the refs get it all wrong. It’s a day away from my wife [I think that is a sexist comment Walter – a yellow card for that one… Tony] and I’m not that bothered by the final result. Okay, fine that is good for you. But I really do think that most football supporters would like to go to a game and when the final whistle is blown they know that the goals were correct, that the penalties were correct awarded or not.

I really hate to travel for hours to London and then during the game getting a text from a friend that stayed at home telling me the ref got it terribly wrong. This takes away a lot of my pleasure. Like one of our travelling companions once said after the ref screwed us over in a game: “I don’t think I will spend my money any more on going to a game only to find out that the refs get it wrong. I don’t get up at 6 am and come home the next day at 3 am in the knowledge that I have witnessed an injustice or a farce”.

So something must be done about it. The FA has decided to implement goal line technology and Fifa also said this would exist in the next world cup. Fine, very fine. I applaud this decision. A standing ovation should be given.

But please FA, FIFA or UEFA don’t stop there. Take the step to making football a sport where the spectator can go home satisfied in the knowledge that the decisions of the refs on the field were correct. We pay the money to see football. We are the customers of the product “football”. I know people who have stopped watching the game because they are fed up with the wrong decisions. So act and go further and do what is required.

Get the refs the needed assistance. Let them use video images to decide if a goal was correct or not. Let each penalty be checked by the video evidence. This will take no longer than we now lose time by attacking the ref when a penalty is given. This will take no longer than we now lose time when the players celebrate a goal.

We pay a lot of money to see football, so I think we are entitled to know that what we pay for is done in the most possible fair way and know that the refs on the field can be corrected if they get it wrong. Because refs can make honest mistakes. But if you don’t do everything to avoid that the smell of something else enters my nose. And that is a smell I really don’t like at all.

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23 comments to The shocking truth: only one in five red cards in the Prem League is correct!

  • Dino Abby

    Beautiful article. I hope the officiating in football will get better soon coz to me, the smell really stinks!!

  • WalterBroeckx

    never argue with the ref when he has given you a card… 😉

  • Sorry Walter – I tinkered with your Graph JPG and cropped off the white space, hope you don’t mind?

    Good article!

  • WalterBroeckx

    No please do, Dofgace, because I can just manage the ref reviews and keep them reasonably readable but then the knowledge stops for the moment.

  • It makes you wonder if the whole thing is orchestrated by someone who’s analysed the core values of the EPL brand isn’t quite smart enough to see what they really are.
    It’s as if the analysis is conducted by looking at what people like/dislike about other leagues and not by looking at what people like about the EPL.
    The EPL’s primary appeal is that it is a competitive league but the marketing men seem to have decided that a fight between two MASSIVE teams is more interesting because the only matches people bother to watch in Spain involve one or both of the big two.
    People like the idea that EPL teams never give up and would rather lose 4-1 than 1-0. Which is rubbish, the refereeing and the finances force most teams into dire, defensive, unmitigated rubbish in the hope of nicking a win or salvaging a draw.
    Because a global audience likes seeing global players you have a bizarre mix of poorly trained British players and talented foreigners acquired on the cheap, again mainly driven by finances.

    The end result is that for most supporters:
    They cannot identify with the players because they are all mercenaries;
    They cannot identify with the style of football because playing well and losing is much more interesting than playing badly and losing;
    They have no real hope against top teams because the players won’t get a chance and the referees will tilt the game to suit the TV audience.

    And they wonder why football appears to be dying…

  • Cape Gooner

    Accepting this level of performance is an open invitation to corruption. It doesn’t matter if the corruption is payoffs from the betting industry, payoffs from the football industry, bias by PGMOL or bias by individuals – while this level of performance is accepted and cannot be effectively questioned, then the door is wide open for corruption.

    While red cards and penalties are obviously game changing, we have seen in the last two games how yellows can do the same thing. Song’s yellow forced us into a change of shape with Arteta playing DM and Song playing further forward, while Mertesaker’s yellow limited his options when trying to deal with the TV header. And as you might expect from the data, one was right, one was wrong!

  • mark

    good article

    The offside decisions are better because there are two people working together to get it right. Clearly having another ref on the field would help increase the correct decisions in other areas. Two refs with two linesmen would help and are needed even if goal line tech and video replay is adopted.

    One other thing that your graph does not show and that is the inconsistency toward one team or another. The refs in the EPL are not good enough but they also seem to have bias. It is rare that they are equally bad to both teams. Why is this?

  • Gord

    According to the, we were scheduled to get Attwell for the 26th. Since the game has been moved back 24 hours (27th), any chance we’ll get a real referee? And who might that be?

  • don’t expect anything to change anytime soon walter. you may see the logic in it and i may wonder why the premier league continues to allow the FA to debase their brand. but experience tells me people like to wallow in the mud they are already in. most institutions you see around you are run the way they are because the lowest common denominator tend to rise to the top and promote their own kind to surround themselves with an aura of safety in numbers.

    your analysis is not wanted there as only neanderthals need apply. they will change when the stands are emptier and their feeble minds eventually catch on. look at blatter for instance; the man is a dunce. do you really expect him to understand video technology? he’s just now getting used to his walkman.

  • “your analysis is not wanted there as only neanderthals need apply. they will change when the stands are emptier and their feeble minds eventually catch on. look at blatter for instance; the man is a dunce. do you really expect him to understand video technology? he’s just now getting used to his walkman.”

    Sadly true. La Liga is dying on it’s arse, I wonder which will happen first, the top two break away or the bottom eighteen? The only reason the other clubs haven’t done it is they know their biggest pay day is when those two show up in town and the stadium fills with the plastic fans.
    Attendances are down at all grounds this year. What’s never mentioned is that Arsenal still packs in more fans per game than most other big clubs (barring United) who don’t sell out either, despite our ticket prices.

  • Gf60

    @Mike in Atlanta
    I’m a dunce…IT challenged is an understatement…but I uderstand, want, believe the world needs, video technology. So comparing me to Septic Bladder is a real insult! 😮

  • 037

    100% agree with this article!!
    Football’s officiating definitely needs help from video evidence.

  • LRV

    Walter, I admit it. I am one of those football fans who have been put off watching football. I feel that it’s become so bad as to rival the worst WWF show.

    95% of the time these days, you could almost predict what is likely to happen when certain teams are playing. What’s the point of that? Where is the thrill? The FA, PGMOL, Media & Pundits have all colluded to rob us of the joy of football.

    Only Football Fans can change the situation, I believe.

  • Sammy The Snake

    What’s to be done, Walter? Course of action? You’ve made the point we all suspected, but let’s take the matter seriously and take action.

  • Donnyfan1

    Cheers Walter.
    The difference in quality of performance between euro refs and ours is astonishing. Euro refs are not vastly superior– but they ref fairly. This is all we ask. The ‘agenda of bias’ our refs seem to use for the important games and the drop in standards (obviously) that goes with it- is being noticed in Europe. As with every unpalatable truth- the FA, the Media and the Press are not big enough to handle it- so don’t expect any leadership from them. They are all lap-dogs following the money!

  • Laundryender

    Great stuff Walter, the disparity between red and yellow cards demands explanation, it is far greater than it should be and suggests I believe that Referees do not apply the letter of the law in red cards but a “can I, can’t I” attitude, an interpretation based on the anticipated backlash.
    How will the press and media receive it?
    How will the managers receive it?
    How will the players react?
    Does he play for England?
    How will the crowd react?
    Is he a home or away player?
    Is he foreign?
    How badly is the other player injured?
    How early in the game is it
    Add to the list as you see fit, but what is a fact is that on the issue of red cards, Referees often bottle it, last night’s game (Spurs V Chelsea) as the game Chelsea V Man City was ample evidence of this fact. On both occasions the Referees did not apply the letter of the law because they did not want to upset the apple cart, or to be the headline. It is simply an abdication of duty, they are well rewarded for what they do, they are well rewarded to make the right decisions, and to ensure that the game is played within the laws. They are employed to apply the laws regardless of outcome, only in doing this can the sport be considered fair. If the application of the laws is not even handed, and without prejudice, it is not sport. SO WHERE ARE WE THEN!!!!

  • @Laundryender light entertainment?

  • bob

    Sammy the Snake, Laundryender, UA,
    Perhaps it’s Online petition for video replay/monitoring time?

  • Gooner Gal

    @ Laundryender – you ask some very, very important questions.

  • Laundryender

    @Dogface 🙂

    @Goonergal, dogfaces answer has credibility

  • bob

    but no petitioning has credibility, does it.

  • Laundryender


    re a petition

    the views of the FA were changed this year when Frank Lampards goal was chalked off against Germany in the W/C, they then decided that goal line technology was desireable, only because that decision may have cost them millions, funny that money forging opinion. The way that games are refereed is in the hands of FIFA, the FA can only lobby, FIFA is an instititution that is truly corrupt as recent evidence has highlighted.

    Do you think they will listen to a petition!

    In my opinion, change to the way the game is refereed will come about slowly, or after a monumental fuck up and exposure. The latter being the most probable, we live in hope.

  • bob

    While you wait for the monumental fuck up,
    I think a petition is a first step toward
    fans getting off the couch and deciding what to do next.
    But “do you think they will listen” is
    exactly the fatalism that helps keeps things
    the same way until the deliverance of the monumental fuck up that you await. And, then, who would step in to fix it? FIFA?