The refs’ association has closed its web site, and made a change. Have they been reading Untold?

By Walter Broeckx

As if I had not enough to do with all the reviewing of the games, trying to put the reviews on line, writing some other articles I just decided to have a look at the referee world in the EPL.

First I started to have a look at the old website of the PGMO (Professional Game Match Officials).  Well the website of the PGMO is dead. As dead as can be.  Because whatever page you click on this is the message you get: Sorry, an HTTP Error 500 Internal server error occurred while trying to load this page.

© RefWorld. All rights reserved.

Now surely guys there must be some money left to keep a website alive? Or has all the money been wasted?  I just included the copyright line because, well you know.. just be sure they don’t sue Untold Arsenal for taking some text from their website.

So with the website of the refs only accessible in another universe on the internet I had to look elsewhere for information. Luckily there is the internet and all the things online where you can find lots of interesting things. Things that the PGMO is not keen to let you know.

First the real good news.  There has been a change.  Was it our endless bashing the PGMO for the fact that they had only 16 refs in the EPL last season that caused the change? Well maybe, because from this season on we have 18 refs to do the games. Yep 18.

A few new names have been given a chance this season. We just have seen one at Aston Villa in fact, John Moss and we also have the for me unknown Neil Swarbrick as a new ref. But let us not start dancing in the street too soon because some refs really are nearing their sell-by date (or have passed it without realising it) so it could be that in a year or so we are back to where we were… with not enough refs to do the games.

In fact we have two refs currently in the EPL who are over 50 years old.  Mark Halsey and Peter Walton are 50 and 52 years old.

And in total we have 4 refs that are older than 45 years. And 45 years is the maximum age for refs to do games in Europe or for Fifa.  In most countries most refs stop doing games at 45 years old. Even the best ref in recent history, and I surely do not mean Webb, but the other bald one Colina stopped doing games completely at 45 years old.  Yet in the most demanding league in the world we have 4 refs who are just doing games beyond that age.

And in the reviews we are doing I also gather data to see how the refs do it comparing the first and the second half. And the further the season goes on the more difference you see between the first and second half. In fact in the last games we reviewed of the games in December we see that the gap between the first half and the second half is getting bigger and bigger.  The second half is getting very low scores even for refs who started well in their game in the first half. So the fatigue is getting in to the refs performances.

So more and younger refs wouldn’t be a bad thing. And promoting a ref who is already over 41 years old like the for me unknown Neil Swarbrick is not exactly bringing younger refs in to the EPL. John Moss is also 41 years old so there again not really a young one for the future.

But for now we could say that the PGMO has acted a bit and has brought in a few more refs in the EPL so that in it is good news.

But more on the refs in two other articles in the next days or hours. Keep following us as we once again come up with strange numbers.


We’ll be catching up on some of the ref reviews next, and will continue with Walter’s series of articles shortly.


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26 Replies to “The refs’ association has closed its web site, and made a change. Have they been reading Untold?”

  1. Correction from my part when reading the article again:
    “Yet in the most demanding league in the world we have 4 refs who are just doing games beyond that age.”

    Okay that should be 6 refs (I forgot to count the 2 older than 50) who are older than the maximum age set out by Fifa/uefa do to top games. 6 refs out of 18 that is 1 ref on 3 who is considered too old do to top games in Europe but in the EPL they are considered good enough in a league that is as demanding as any CL games these days.

  2. In all fairness, it is not as if the older refs are making more mistakes than the younger ones.

    And stats prove that the refs are still fit because they have to fit a certain criteria. It is also proven that refs cover more distance than the average player. So to complain that the old refs are not good enough is a poor point.

    What we can complain about is that the current system does not support refs and does not provide them with adequate information to make the best possible decision.

  3. You are right three men on a boat it is not as straight forward as you said it. But I don’t think I said that unless I put it in a wrong way that is open for this interpretation.

    I was more trying to say that the drop in correct decisions (for all refs) is very blatant to see in my numbers (which I will bring in a few days/weeks) and this goes for all the refs.
    My point was more that if we would have more refs (18 is still not enough if you ask me) then they would have more rest between the games and wouldn’t be so tired in the second half in games.

    Doing a game in the EPL makes a ref run something in between 10 and 15 km in a game and all this while you have to be completely focussed and it is very exhausting for he brain also.

    Every human being will suffer after a while and that is what I see in the numbers. And the older you get the more vulnerable you can become for making more bad calls because if we like it or not: the older we get the more we go backwards …

  4. Maybe they can get in more refs from the south of Englnd, just to rule out any possible north south bias of course

  5. Is there any particular reason for the 45 years age limit? When was this retirement age introduced? As there has been substantial change in the sport science field to extend the playing careers, can it not be applicable to the refs as well?

  6. Naren,
    on this link they explain a bit

    Basically they think that most refs have the best years around 40 year old and then go down from the age of 45.

    A reason is that the game has become faster over the years and as refs have to cover the whole field and have to run as much as the players who are 10-20 years younger the difference can become too much.

    If you type in “45 years age limit refs” in Google you get lots of links about this subject

  7. Walter,
    If FIFA will not allow refs older than 45 years for even one month tournaments, what is PGMOL doing with those refs in a league season which is notorious for its physical demands?
    Moreover, how does FIFA allow the PGMOL to do this? Are not the rules regarding the game supposed to be universal?
    How large do you think the ref pool should be?

  8. Walter – great article.
    Are there any stats. available that show the distances these refs cover in a match. I notice that during T.V match coverage when a player is substituted figures are sometimes shown stating the number of kilometres completed so I presume this could be done quite easily for referees. Would these figures show a disparity between first and second half I wonder. It would be most interesting to know.

  9. Dats,

    according to stats told to me by fifa refs (they get them as some feedback) but in CL games they cover between 10 to 15 km. And this are distances where you can slowly step, stand still, suddenly spring for 60 meters and then back if a counter is one and then again…
    and while doing all this running (which in it is not that bad as I ran some 10 to 15 km in my training at just under 50 years old and this some 4 or 5 times a week) you also have to be focused on the rules and fouls and everything else that can happen on a pitch. So it is a physical demand but also a mental demand. And both exhaust you a lot when doing it together.

  10. Naren, local FA can have their own age ruling but the refs who are over 45 must hand in their fifa badge.

    Most refs in the highest division in Belgium stop when they get to the age of 45 and when they hand in their fifa badge they just stop doing games.

  11. Why do the referees have to be English? Anyone else involved in the game can be a Johnny Foreigner. And the risk of bias would be smaller, too.

    Most importantly, though, we need video tech for the referees. Everything else is a stop gap.

  12. Yes, it’s more of a mental fatigue than a physical one. When someone gets into their 40’s it is a little bit harder to concentrate and stay focused.
    Even in chess where 99% of the game is mental, they often have a special division for players above a certain age. You would think that with age comes wisdom, and it does to a degree, but after a while it just becomes harder to stay focused over relatively long periods of time.

  13. Nice one, Walter.
    There has to be a real debate on this particular issue, it is a valid conclusion you come to as well, more unkind people might have concluded that the performances worsened with time because the ref was working harder at fixing the games and doing less refereeing! but we don’t condone this sort of unwarranted attack here at untold towers now, do we?

  14. i really do wonder why do the likes of walton and halsey keep doing games when they are way past their sell by date…shouldnt they be home taking care of their grandchildren? or is it there is too much money on stake for them to retire? if only that rat riley was available to answer the question on why grandpa`s continue to ref when its obvious they cant anymore..

  15. I refer to “refs cover more distance than the average player”. I totally agree. This of course leads to a tired set of legs and a worn out brain. What if (and I mean what if) the refs could be subbed too! We would have one ref doing the first half, and hand over to another to finish the 2nd half. Should a game go into extra time, then the 3rd ref can be called upon to take charge. This would help in a way that the game gets a set of fresh legs and mind – but also a less biased approach to officiating a game. Normally a ref would reflect on the 1st half in his decisions of the 2nd half – if it is the same individual. But a different ref would only have the notes of the 1st ref in terms of bookings and cautions – nothing else on his mind but the game

  16. @walter this is a bit off topic but is there a rule on how many games of a particular team a referee can do before being check on any suspicion bias towards that team? if there is then why oh why does howard webb keep getting man united matches to ref? i just dont remember the last time united have lost with him in charge infact im certain they have never lost with him as the referee

  17. Mahdain, no there is no such rule. It all depends on the people who decide which ref will do which game.
    So if the PGMO would decide that Webb would get every MU game not much can be done about it. Not that they will do such a thing because well that would raise some questions and the last thing the people in office want is…questions being asked.

  18. Da Vinci, a very nice proposal in fact.
    and one that could be done from tomorrow if the FA would like this to do. Because in every PL game there is a 4th ref who steps in in case of the first ref gets injured.

    Now the authorities could decide that each ref gets injured at half time. 😉

    But it could be done rather easy.

  19. A very interesting article Walter. 10-15km is a lot at 45; even though you ran that much 😉 and to do it say game in game out cannot be easy. That’s more than what central midfielders run on a team. Add to that the mental awareness needed as many have pointed out already; and it becomes near impossible to get correct decisions game in game out.

    I’d once pointed out the need for mental awareness being there for even players on the pitch; and more so for forward thinking players. That’s why it’s always the creative players who get replaced very often by AW. The people who run the most… say Song/Ramsey/Arteta don’t. While that sometimes seemed strange to me…it makes complete sense if you read THIS article.

    The frontmen in an AW system have the highest demands (physically & mentally) and that’s why they’re replaced more than anyone else. My take anyway 🙂

    If everyone knows all this why is there not more help using technology? Is it possible to calculate offside technically for one? Like they measure serves in tennis? That’d be really interesting… if a referee or a linesman could use technology to confirm an offside. The width of the pitch could be factor…but surely you didn’t think HawkEye would ever be invented so 10 years on in… who knows? Here’s hoping….

  20. @arvind nice suggestion but problem is bladder and his muppets are fifa are against it..why? its a no brainer really..they wont be able to fix matches if they introduce technology

  21. Arvind

    Using technology to detect an off side would be really easy. They need to use a ball with a chip and provide each player with a chip that can be tracked. Many teams already use similar technology to feedback to the dug out with heart rate, work rate etc… so not really difficult to achieve.

  22. Assuming the website for PGMO is, there is nothing at the Wayback Machine for them. I didn’t really think they would be important enough to be there however.

  23. In another thread, someone said PGMOL. The Wayback Machine does have 6 site copies for (4 in 2008, 1 in 2009, 1 in 2011). All of them seem to resolve to, with a page not found error. If you are looking for historical information, not even the wayback machine can help with this site.

  24. 5Live sport yesterday evening featured Mike Riley on Ask the Ref. Mike Riley’s arrogant and complacent attitude can be heard in all its glory. His answers are interspersed with match reports from Manures defeat by Newcastle which is a bonus. Go to the BBC iPlayer using the details below to find it:

    5Live Sport, Ask the Ref., 21:00, Wednesday, 4th January, 2012.

  25. No electronic chips on players please i’m with blatter on this one no tech this is football not rugby

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