Are London people unfit to referee… yes according to the PGMO

By Walter Broeckx

In my earlier article about the Professional Game Match Officials I commented on how the referees’ web site had been shut down and how the referees’ association has taken on some new referees for the Premier League.  Not many but at least a (very) small step in the right direction.

But then I got in to something else. Some people have said something about an existing bias based on to where the refs come from. So why not take a look at that I thought. Now I must admit that as a person from another part of the world, for me England is, well, just England. Come to think of it for me England is by and large just another word for London. But this is just me as a silly foreigner thinking. But anyway I never imagined that there could be something like a dislike between people in England based on to where they live or come from. But as some people talk about it I had to see if there was something in to it.

And so I did a little examination and compared it with a few numbers we can find about England. First of all I cut England in three pieces. The South/London and this included: East of England, London, South East England and South West England. A middle part that includes: East Midlands and the West Midlands. And then the North which includes North East England, North West England and Yorkshire. I know for some people in London the Midlands are also part of the North but I like to cut things in 3 so I just did it like that.

Then I started to look at where the refs come from and put them in aforementioned categories. And then we have the refs divided in South, Middle and North and this is how things stand for the moment:


North East England Clattenburg Moss Oliver
North West England Dean Foy Jones Halsey Mason Swarbrick Taylor
Yorkshire Riley (head) Webb Atkinson Marrinner


East Midlands Friend Walton
West Midlands Dowd Atwell


South East England
South West England Probert


In numbers we get :

North 13 refs

Middle 4 refs

South/London …… 1 ref. That is one. And as Probert is not really from London we could say that London has no refs in the EPL. Now of course it could be that people in London are not fit enough to become a referee.

Come to think of it if we just look at the numbers from the PGMO people in the south of England are just not fit enough to become a ref for whatever reason.

Now when I visited London in the past I never noticed anything wrong with the people over there. Most of the people I have had the pleasure of meeting looked rather normal to me. So why on earth is there not one person in the South of England who has made it to the EPL as a ref? I will try to come up with some kind of explanation later on in this article but let us first take a look at a few other numbers.

Because if we put the numbers of refs and compare this with the population in those parts we get a real strange picture.

The population of the North is around 29% of the total population in England. In the Middle we have around 19% and in the South/London we have around 52% of the population. And if we take this number and presume that people in England are fit enough to ref a game wherever they are born we have the situation and I also put in there how it should be if all people were equal in England for the PGMO.

North East England


North West England






Population needed for one ref


According to population should be


East Midlands


West Midlands




Population needed for one ref


According to population should be


East of England




South East England


South West England




Population needed for one ref


According to population should be



So apparently there is some serious health problem in the South of England. Because refs need to be fit and apparently people in the South of England are not fit enough to ref a game in the EPL

The North has 9 refs in the EPL and if you look at the population this should be around 5 refs. They got almost the double. The middle are almost where they should be. But the region South/London has only 1 (one) ref and they should have around 9.

Well you might try to explain this in the comment section but I cannot find any other reason apart from the fact that Riley is doing all he can to have as much Northern based refs as possible and hold London refs out of the EPL.


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59 Replies to “Are London people unfit to referee… yes according to the PGMO”

  1. Just a small nit to pick. Although he now lives in Bolton, Mark Halsey is actually from Ware in Hertfordshire and is, in fact a QPR fan! (his brother used to sit behind me in The Clock End)

  2. Thanks Steve.

    I had read somewhere some time ago that Halsey was not allowed to do Bolton games because he had a season ticket over there before becoming a ref. But don’t know if this is the truth or not.

  3. Walter, Mark Halsey’s not allowed to do Bolton games because he sometimes uses their training facility to keep up his fitness. Consequently, he’s probably too close to the club for questions not to be asked if he refereed their matches. Didn’t know that Probert was from the South?! But the South West is certainly very different from the South East – not as cosmopolitan! It’s quite unbelievable that no referees hail purely from London?! Especially when a quarter of the sides in the EPL come from there?! Whatever happened to Uriah Rennie? I know he was from the North (Sheffield) but I wonder how he treated Arsenal when he used to officiate our matches?

  4. Walter – it might be good to add either a link, or list as to ref and location to check for any other problems, because otherwise this doesn’t look great for the PGMO.

    Also, do we have a list of which clubs the individual ref’s can’t referee, so we can look to see if they favour those teams through their performance in other matches against opponents/rivals.

  5. This is interesting analysis.

    However I note the recently retired Graham Poll (Herts) and Steve Bennett (Kent). Prior to them David Elleray was from London.

    Re Mark Halsey, does anyone know why he moved to Bolton? Did he feel a need in order to advance his refereeing career?

  6. Having been the only ethnic minority referee in the EPL, I’d be fascinated to know what his experience was like and why he still remains the only one to this day?

  7. Walter – I have sent you something related to this as a shared document. Check it out as it might be usefull.

    Steve is correct – I have “Welwyn Garden City” down for Halsey – it’s all in the document.

  8. Very interesting, especially when you consider the population distribution. A lot in the north west, some big clubs up there! The thing I find strange is considering the tribal situation that is alleged to exist amongst some northern folk to greater or lesser degrees ie scousers not being over keen on mancs etc. well, mr Webb, think you are either from yorks, please explain your seemingly clear allegiance to a club from a part of the world that a good yorkshireman should not historically be overly keen on? Would the average northern football fan go first with more local tribal hostilities, or could a dislike of the south over rule such enmity? Sorry any northerners on here,resorting to a few stereotypes here which as arsenal fans you probably do not fit! No offence intended.
    And probert, think he is from the Swindon area? Cannot imagine what arsenal ever did to Swindon, apart from lose a league cup final to them. They did have ardiles managing them, maybe he got to probert at a vulnerable stage of his life?
    In all seriousness, of all the possible reasons for some of the refereeing issues this site has thoroughly researched, I think the north south bias could be amongst the most significant. I am not saying there are not other forces at work, but to me at least, this seems the most likely

  9. Who cares where they come from? I’m more concerned they’re so thoroughly poo on average

  10. Halsey moved to Bolton because his wife’s family come from there.
    The north-south divide is certainly a factor but then surely it would also harm Chelsea?! However they seem to be favoured somewhat now since they integrated more English players post the Vialli and Gullit eras. The level of xenophobia they experienced has diminished but it might well return if Villas Boas continues sidelining more of their Englishmen!

  11. In my view, geography alone doesn’t even account for someone’s personal biography, even as people might like to think it explains so much. For example, it is possible that someone who couldn’t make a go of life in the north might take out revenge against a northern club to spite its backers. Also, there’s no knowledge yet as to the teams that refs rooted for growing up. If at the level of where the money is there proved to be northern over-representation and northern bias, I’d find this more persuasive. To attribute northern bias to the ref, however, might point a finger at those who hire the refs and influence them, if we could find out where they come from. I find that attributing so much power to the individual ref is really a way to cloud the more searching question as to who controls them. If we/you think there are instructions from on high, which you do, then this article is no more than interesting, but not persuasive in the least.

  12. ole gunner,
    Exactly! It’s a diversion, whether from the incompetence theory or the malfeasance theory of ref-dumb or ref-usal. Tribal allegiance? well, a big maybe for a minor factor (sorry, Mandy Dodd, whose analysis I usually find to be the best.)

  13. This might also be interesting if you could look it up. Which districts do most London police officers come from ? You might find a very similar comparison to the refs.

  14. @DC Uriah Rennie was a terrible, terrible referee. Like Graham Poll though I don’t think he was bent, just useless, but the same for everyone. Unlike messrs Webb, Dean, Dowd, Probert etc. who most definitely are crooked.

  15. Lol, no worries there Bob! I am a southerner anyway so maybe not best to analyse northern tribalism!

  16. @Micko,
    I see. I often heard that he tended to make the whole match about him and treated it like his own private theatre and stage show?! I also understand that he was not a favourite of Manure as he didn’t bow down as the current set do?!
    On a side issue; what made Pierre Luigi Collina so consistently good as a ref and massively respected? I understand he’s still involved as a consultant?! Would be wonderful if we could somehow highlight our concerns to him about the English football and garner advice on what we as the real fans can do to remove the incompetence?!

  17. I have been saying for ages that the problem Arsenal and al Southern clubs face is not match fixing, but a loading in favour of certain Northern clubs.

    It is historical and it goes back a long way but when you consider that when the professional football league was first formed, there were 12 clubs, 6 from the North and 6 from the Midlands. Football was the working mans sport, the industrial worker, and they were all based up north, or in the industrial heartlands of the West Midlands. This is the reason all the stadiums were built in the middle of town, and close to the factories, it is so that supporters could attend matches. The feeling that prevailed and still prevails to this day is that the South is full of poofs and softies, and the term Southern Softie can still be heard. The first Southern club to be accepted were Woolwich Arsenal, but till he following year, and only into Div 2.

    The bias Arsenal face, and other Southern clubs is so deeply engrained into the culture of our game the only way to beat it is to be better than the opposition and + Ref. The Invincibles were, so too were Mourinhos Chelsea, I believe Mourinho beat the system because he came from a country where cheating in football in endemic, and he knew that winning was about more than being the best team with the best players.

    Great Arsenal teams from the past have beaten the system by being tough, Grahams players loved a scrap, so to did the 70-71 team, and the teams Herbert Chapman ( a Yorkshire man) put together had many Northern and Scottish players who came from that same hard as nails mould.

  18. Not adding anything to this discussion but some excellent points and probing questions by DC in this thread. Thank You.

  19. Maybe we do need more London and southern refs, trouble is with our luck, they would be spuds.
    And speaking of spuds wonder where they fit in all this. I remember a couple games when they were on the wrong end at OT but they do seem to get the rub of the ref against us. Some believe they have their very own ref gimp in the ranks of the pgmol, one of the unholy trinity who give us such a hard time.

  20. some interesting to add to them but sadly i dont think i could actually say something on this matter having never been to UK myself though it does begs questions on why there arent any london refs in the selected pool..perhaps the bias is there?

  21. BIAS is different from what we are seeing. Bias is present in all sports. In all humans in fact. It is impossible to eliminate bias from any human endeavour. In sports, a biased referee will make certain calls favouring a certain team/player etc. This can be in favour of a big team, the home team, his favourite team, a player of his nationality/region etc.

    But BIAS comes into play in 50/50 calls. Close calls. Whether the pitch was just in or just out of the strike zone (baseball), whether the feet of the defender were planted or moving at the point of contact (basketball), whether the batsman is LBW or not when the ball is going just close to the stumps (cricket) etc. In football, I guess it can result in certain close situations going for a certain favoured team. Bias, I can live with. I’ve seen it across all sports and it is just part of the human element and cannot be eliminated entirely (though technology can help overcome some of the frailties of humans)

    But when the decisions favouring a certain team go from being close calls, to blatantly wrong calls which follow a certain pattern, it crosses the line from bias to CHEATING. Anytime the outcome of a sports match is decided by the official rather than the teams, it is a sad day for sport. When these things happen consistently, it is corruption. It is cheating. I don’t care whether the motivation is money, money laundering, or some archaic notion of north-south discrimination. It is cheating. Pure and simple. It is no longer just bias.

  22. @Laundryender,
    I totally agree and with respect to “the Invincibles”; they were near perfection and no level of bias could have prevented them from attaining a feat that will never be bettered by any other EPL pretenders anytime soon (ONLY Arsene perhaps will achieve it again with his far-sighted vision akin to the Barcelona model?!).

  23. @Shard,
    Great points and in that thread, you have hit the nail on the head! Any split decisions that need to be immediately made by an individual “human-being” who is either abit unsure or incompetent, will always favour those who he likes or feels more emotional “kin-ship” towards without him even knowing they’ve been biased! Like it or hate it, that is why controversy still exists and discussions like these are being had every week all over the world by ALL sports fans!
    It’s interesting however, how the Americans have tried to remove this element with a modicum of success but it does still exist regardless.

  24. The only way to change that behaviour within that “human-being” is to highlight the mistake very clearly to that individual subsequently do they know that you have noticed it and they are aware for his future conduct.

  25. Walter I know I am always harping on about sky.

    I think Sky sports to be honest its their product they pay massive ammounts of money to clubs for where they place in the league and parachute payments for clubs going down each year.

    They say we have the best league in the world and the most exciting. I think we have but also have the worst referees.

    They should be paying the pgmol 10 mill a year for referees wages so that each Ref gets about 10k a match and lines men 5k each, with a monitored points based system like in belgium where if you are NOT good enough you get the boot relegated to division one.

    Refs dont have enough to loose or gain from been fair.

    Recruit the best from every country if we cant find them in the north of england.

    They make enough on TV rights to do it.

  26. Mike Riley is on Radio 5 tonight, after 9pm, and is open to questions. Might be a chance for someone to put some stuff to him?

  27. Man Utd need a result tonight, they have commissioned Howard Webb for the game against Newcastle.

    How many times do they call upon his services?

  28. What I meant to say was that bias indicates a subconscious element.. In my opinion there is nothing subconscious about the type of decisions we have been seeing for a few years now. They appear very deliberate. Hence I think bias is the wrong word to use in these circumstances. Bias just doesn’t explain it.

  29. Interesting attempt from Ferdinand to hump Ba’s thigh. No Webbalty from master Webb. I’m not complaining, it’s just funny he missed it!
    Ohhh. A nice goal from the Stoke reject. With the ‘fates’ as they are, I’d prefer a draw in this one.

  30. @Tasos and finsbury:

    Looking like a Newcastle win, despite Webb’s best efforts (in the parts of the match I’ve watched, at least).

  31. And apparently Carrick has decided to switch sides and play for Newcastle in the last minute… Interesting. (I think that was Carrick w/ the OG?).

  32. Hey, it just reminds me that spuds can go level with manure on jan 11 against everton.

  33. Two losses in a row for ManPoo. Six goals conceded in two games. Gotte love it!

    ManChew in trouble, their defense in shambles, Team in crisis, Alex out!

  34. We’ll unfortunately help sp@rs reach 2nd hem we beat United later this month.

  35. Fergie has lost the plot.
    Fergie out.
    The game has past Fergie by.
    Fergie out.
    Fergie didn’t spend massively in the last transfer window.
    Fergie out.
    Fergie allowed superstars exit the team.
    Fergie out.
    Fergie is English.
    (Jeeves! Change that goddamn script! Ok, boss)
    Fergie is valiant. With so many injuries he soldiers on atop the table. It’s a long season so let’s wait and see what happens in the January window and his track record doesn’t lie – he’s a proven winner. Under such duress, the march toward Fergie XX may have hit a speed bump. But, all things considered, I for one would not bet against the most successful manager in EPL history.

  36. A 3-0 hammering for Man Utd. I wonder what he score might have been had Man Ut only had 48 hrs rest like the rest of us. Plus the penalty Mr Webb failed to see.

  37. Laundryender,
    the invincibles were stronger than the opposition and the ref….but at the end the mother and father of all current crap refs finally managed to beat the invincibles… Mike Riley…

    When you work hard enough on it you can beat everyone.

  38. not even howard webb could save united from a battering…that was the first loss for united under webb since 2003(didnt he start in that year?)..yeah it took united 9 years to lose under webb…amazing

  39. (Surely H. Webb will have something to learn from L. Probert. Indeed, Webb may have actually thought he is the referee. He must be set to rights. Probert will now make a meteoric rise in the ranks and Webb will be seen to get the message: “Howie boy, you vill invent calls out of whole cloth (like Master Riley); and to hell with your reputation, Howie boy. Your career is collateral damage to what must be done. And you will do it or find yourself refereeing Swansea/Norwich. Get it? )

  40. Walter

    I believe that particular performance from old mother Riley became the blueprint for all his disciples.

  41. Tasos,
    But who appointed Mike Riley. There’s a layer above him that might be peeled away…

  42. As always look forward to the review (And previews!).

    Just wanted to clarify: ‘Stoke reject’ was not mocking Ba, just a reflection upon Pulisism.

  43. Bob

    Indeed. And while were about it, who organises the EPL fixture list?

    IMO its not only dodgy officials that need to be scrutinised.

  44. Where they come from does not matter if they are competent. What their ethnicity is does not matter if they do the job well.
    The key issue is that the refs in the EPL are not doing their job well enough! Please stick with the main issue. Who is benefiting from the bias and incompetence of the refs in the EPL? Clearly not Arsenal. So who? A particular club or clubs? A syndicate of gamblers?

  45. @Mahdain – Manchester United lost twice in the 2009-2010 season under Webb to Fulham and Everton. Arsenal even beat United 2-1 in 2008 with Webb in charge.

    Since Manchester United’s last loss under Webb (Everton – Feb. 20, 2010), they had won all 7 of their following matches until last night’s loss to Newcastle.

  46. @Johny thanks but already had someone clear it up for me..thing is i posted that without looking into it(wont make that mistake again) when i saw it tweeted by OptaManc but turns out it was incorrect as u have said they did lose 3-0 against fulham in 2009 and 3-1 against everton in happy to have that cleared up as i had misconception that they only had lost once under him…next time ill do my homework on that 😛

  47. Interesting post, something else to consider is the mileage a ref would have to do.

    A ref living in the south east would have to travel roughly 280miles to Manchester, (4-5 hours on a good run) to referee a game there and then drive back/stay over and come home the following day. On the flip-side, for Mark Halsey living in/near Bolton, it would take him 3-4 hours to drive to London for a game.

    Could Fatigue be an issue after all of these trips also?

    It would make much more sense to trust the professionalism of the Referee and use local referee’s wouldn’t it? Surely reducing the cost of travel and hotels would enable them to train up more and better referees?

    Just a thought.


  48. Definitely a valid point and from my experience, Lee Probert stands out in particular.

    I moved to Devon (South West for those not familiar with England Geography) from London many years ago and the discrimination I experienced from people there because I was a Londoner is something I nave never experienced before or since. In the village there were people from all over the UK but I seemed to be the only person receiving this bad treatment.

    This was not just confined to the village I lived in either. During a job interview with a major international company I was asked the question “Why should we employ you, you are from London?” A recruitment agency also told me that companies don’t like to recruit people who are “not from around here” I kid you not. Eventually I just gave up and moved back to London.

    Further proof of a regional bias. Whether intended or not, it exists!!

  49. Breaking News…..
    Howard Webb was sensationally axed by Sir Alex Ferguson after the Manchester United boss deemed he wasn’t fit to Ref.

    Webb has been dropped from United’s squad for Saturday’s FA Cup game away to Man City after a boozy night out on the Toon.

    Webb was subjected to Fergie’s infamous ‘hairdryer’ treatment and fined a week’s wages (via the brown envelope method) – £200,000 in Webb’s case. Webb was not considered to have broken a club curfew, but his performance was considered below par.

    Webb is said to have been aggrieved at being disciplined, feeling he was in a fit state to Ref. But United sources claim there is no ongoing rift between Ferguson and Webb.

    Ferguson has taken the bold decision to axe his most influential player, despite being hit by an injury and illness crisis, to prove once again that no employee is bigger than the club.

    That decision may backfire though, with United facing a top of the table City side away in the FA Cup on Sunday.

  50. There was another southern ref a few years back – Paul Taylor. He was worse than a northerner, he was a spurs fan who showed his bias by trying to get Wenger banned for 12 games. Thanks to Steve Webster (the first person to comment on this article) Taylor was found out to be lying.

    My belief is that Arsenal & Chelsea only won the premier league as they were 20+% better than Man Utd. This is borne out by Walter’s figures over the last 18 months. It was like this during Wenger’s first 8 years in charge but he had a strong group of players.

    What we need to do is get a sympathetic ear in the media to start asking some awkward questions.

  51. Really andy Kelly? Steve Webster on here did that? If so he has my never ending admiration

  52. Wow Andy Kelly.. I seem to remember something like that but I had completely forgotten it.

    And Steve Webster, I take a bow for you.

  53. F*CKING SH*T!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Sorry for this but you must read this about this Paul Taylor.

    I just found this on Wikipedia:


    This creature is working for the refs!!!!!!!!! Another one that tried to do us over in the past.

    And after Wenger was cleared he was put down from the PL referees back to the lower leagues. You cant have a lying b*st*rd in the PL.

    So this Paul Taylor who has been put out of the PL because of Arsenal and Wenger (or better said because of his lying) is now working with the refs we get week in week out.

    As if Riley was not enough…..

    How on earth can such a lying person get a position in the PGMOL?????????

    Can you imagine his influence on refs that work with him? Refs that he is coaching week in week out????????

    I suddenly feel sick….

  54. Why does that not surprise me? Wiki needs to be treated with caution, but no reason to not believe this on, suddenly explains quite a lot!
    I wonder what will finally end the pgmol cabal? Maybe they may switch their affections to citeh, fergie, a man not only one scorned but one who knows were the bodies are buried spills the beans? Far fetched I know but these things often end with people who are no longer beneficiaries who become bitter. May not be fergie but must be a lot of others who have not done too well out of this. And some may be too wealthy to buy their silence.

  55. wigangooner,
    I don’t get your mileage scenario. It seems that you’ve maximized their inconvenience and achieved a massive fatigue factor (that doesn’t add up); all the while ruling out the normal possibility (likelihood) that (some) refs might have their own local flats, or league-provided lodgings, or friends/family to lodge with? And why a drive when there’s a train? or perhaps a limo? I don’t see these 17 refs going without common sense creature comforts.

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