Referees and locality, 3. What did Mr Wenger mean when he said “We know what we expect here in London”

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By Walter Broeckx

In this new series about the refs I have so far published two articles:

London people are unfit to referee according to the referees’ association

The refs’ association has closed its web site, and made a change.

And those two articles covered quite a bit of ground.  But maybe there is still something else.

If we have another look at the refs and where they come from (and you may also want to look at the comments made after “London people” article as there were some notes about the origins of refs and where they live) there are some further interesting pointers.

So I take the table I used in the article before and I include once again the head of the refs our dear friend Mike Riley.


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


And we see first of all that the head of the refs is from Yorkshire. As was the former head of the refs in fact. Because Mr. Hackett also was from Yorkshire.  Apparently only people from Yorkshire are fit enough to become head of the refs!  And as Yorkshire is well in the North we see that most of the refs in the EPL are from the North also. If we count the Midlands and the North together as one big area it would mean that only 1 (one) ref is not from the North in fact. And as said before: no ref from London itself.

Also take note that the new refs (Moss and Swarbrick) are once again from the North so once again no Southern ref is judged good enough to become a ref in the EPL.

If we take in account that Riley (and his predecessor Hackett) are Northern boys it looks as if they have installed a regime with all the comrades from nearby. A bit of the “us knows us” in ref land.  And didn’t I mention that in my earlier articles about bias and refs? Yeah I did. And at that time I didn’t know these numbers.

Do you want more evidence about us knowing us? Why don’t we look at the names I put in bold.

Because those names in bold are the refs who have a Fifa badge. And in this we see that ALL the refs from Yorkshire have received a Fifa badge.  Given to them by the fellow Yorkshire boy Riley.  Now what a coincidence is this?  Or is a bit of “helping our countrymen”.  “All us Yorkshire lads together”?

Now I don’t want refs from London just for the sake of it. I don’t want refs from London because they could be more favourable for the London teams. But when people say to me that there is some kind of anti-Southern bias in the refs and when I look at where the refs come from this could be a possibility.

And I will say it again: I don’t want refs to help Arsenal in any way. NO, I only want refs who do their games in a fair way. And I really don’t have the impression that this is happening for the moment. Too many things go wrong against not just Arsenal but also against other London teams I have noticed the last few weeks.  With Riley at the helm at the PGMO there is nothing that brings hope to me to see any change soon. No he still keeps on pushing Northern refs in the EPL.

And Riley keeps on handing Fifa badges to his Northern refs as if no one else is competent. If you are from Yorkshire you will get your Fifa badge. Don’t worry.

So one of the tasks we will take on next in our numbers is seeing if there is a difference in the refs’ performances if there is a Northern/Southern team involved and try to see if the refs do things differently in those games compared to games between Northern and Southern teams only. Not sure what we will find but if there is something to be found, we will try to find it.

Now if you go back a few days and think of the words Mr. Wenger said in his interview with the BBC about the refs and those words were: “I never speak about the performance of the Referee, WE KNOW WHAT WE EXPECT HERE IN LONDON”.

As usual Arsène Wenger had those numbers already on his desk I think. And maybe this was what he was saying about the refs and their situation. And the situation not only Arsenal has to deal with but other clubs in the Southern area. Wasn’t it a few years ago when Chelsea lost the title because MU was getting a string of favourable decisions going their way. Even last season at the end of the season in MOTD they showed a big number of games where the most strange decisions brought points to United to secure the title.

Now, not just Arsène knows what we expect here in London. Now we all know what we have to expect from the refs here in London.

Referee Home Town Map

EPL Team Location Map

Corruption in the Premier League: Poor-Bert – the next head of PGMO
Incompetent or bent?  Certainly one or the other.   Fulham v Arsenal – the ref review
The Great Conspiracy – when they tried to shut Arsenal down
Ref Watch – Fulham v Arsenal


45 Replies to “Referees and locality, 3. What did Mr Wenger mean when he said “We know what we expect here in London””

  1. I posted this comment on another article but to keep it in the mix, here it is again.

    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!!

  2. @Stuart,
    You have my sympathy over the treatment you received in the South West, but I’m not surprised. I’m afraid London and its citizens suffer from the adverse publicity spawned by films, television and the newspapers. For instance, who would have heard of the Krays had they plied their trade in Budleigh Salterton? And that Cockney accent gives the game away….it just sounds dodgy to a countryman!
    “Townies” emigrating to the “Sticks” will be accepted (but about 3 generations down the line). Stuart, you left there too soon!

  3. typical of a Briton sorry guys no wonder England NT can’t win any international trophies.

  4. I hope everyone can see the maps – they should be interactive… google docs can be a bit iffy when it comes to this sort of thing?

  5. Walter

    If you delve back a little further in time you will notice that “Yorkshireman” Keith Hackett replaced yet another “Yorkshireman” in Philip Don as head of the organisation.

    Although Keith Hackett was from the north of England, it would appear he was not everyone’s “cup of tea”. Alex Ferguson publicly criticised the then head of the PGMOL on numerous occasions during 2007/8. After Man Utd lost to Portsmouth in the 2008 FA cup quarter final, he said.

    “Hackett has got a lot to answer for in this country,” said the Scot. “He’s not doing his job properly. He should be assessed like everyone else is assessed. I’m assessed as a manager, the players are assessed, referees are assessed. Martin Atkinson will referee next week, no problem, but his performance today should not be accepted in our game”.

    Keith Hackett was replaced by Mike Riley as head of PGMOL in June 2009.

  6. Those maps rock Dogface. Now I don’t have to calculate how far we travel for the away games. Thanks.

  7. After the last two MU games this could spell the end of Riley in the near future as head of the PGMOL. Who will it be? 😉

  8. I’m afraid I have no sympathy for Londoners screaming ‘bias!’

    I was brought up around London and have worked all over the place, including Glasgow, Manchester, Leeds.

    The worst discrimination of all is someone not currently working in London wanting to work in London.

    London claims, totally fallaciously, that they are superior.

    The following facts refute that:
    1. If you are superior you don’t electronically bug your inferiors because you won’t learn anything. If you do, it’s because you’re not superior. London firms bug people in the North of England. Ergo: they are not superior, merely more criminal.
    2. If you are fit and proper employers, people etc etc, you do not demand the commissioned work paid for by the North of England, then copy it for nothing in London HEIs. Trust me, my work was plagiarised like that by two Russell Group Universities in London. So London Institutions have no standards of probity either.
    3. If you are a city wishing to attract talent, you don’t espouse the values that you steal with impunity but fire or blackball anyone who exposes it. That’s exactly what London does.

    So, not to put too fine a point on it, Londoners: learn to behave, stop being criminals, plagiarists and liars and maybe you will earn some respect.

  9. I was listening to Mike Riley on BBC Radio 5 live last night between the hours of 21:00 and 22:00 (London time) and I have to say that he didn’t sound too convincing in places. Through the magic of modern technology I’m sure you can listen to the recording on the bbc radio 5 website.

    As a southern englishman (essex) I have to say that I find this situation childish and laughable. Serious questions have to be asked of a group of (apparently) adults who have allowed top level refereeing in England to become the preserve of old, white, northern men. Are any of the referees or the referee association on Twitter? Tony, Walter, Dogface and the rest of the guys: what do you think to the idea of a little twitter pressure? Surely the MP’s on the Sport, Media commission are on twitter? Can’t we ask them directly if they think this is a good state of affairs for the balance of decision making in the National sport? What do you guys think?

    Also would love to know what the make up of the FA is? I’m sure you all know that Dein was passed over for the head job in favour of the Ex Man City Chairman. Obviously, I know nothing about the internal politics of the football world but considering how much we all hear about how much of a reputation David Dein has within the game, I was quite surprised by that. Was anyone else? Any ideas what went down there?

    Anyway, it would be quite, er, well, shocking to find that not all regions of England were at least evenly (if not proportionally) represented in the FA. Guys got any ideas on this?

  10. at the end when they finish fixing the matches, it is the epl that will suffer, when will human beings be for all? if it will ever happen.

  11. @Jon
    I was posted my question to five live as below, and i also phoned up with the same question and was informed it would be considered and they would call me back if it was accepted.
    As you have Mike Riley head of PGMOL could you please respectfully ask him the following question, I believe this is a subject that demands an answer

    Hello Mr Riley
    The question I would like to ask is
    Why does the area South of Birmingham and the whole of Wales only supply 2 out of 18 Referees to the premier league. These areas account for 55% of the England and Wales population and 43 out of the 92 professional clubs in the English league. Is it poor training or a flawed system? Also why since Uriah Renee no black or Asian Refs, nor even neither black nor Asian Assistant Referees. Do these figures represent an institutional bias, or institutional racism?
    Alas the coward Riley or the cowards at the BBC thought it too controversial to ask.

    Riley did though tell one or two lies. He boasted that there are about 20 offside decisions in each game (lie) and that referees and their assistants get the 98% right (lie)
    He also told us that he had other data that suggested refereeing and player behaviour was improving, but that data was not to be publicised. I can only suggest it is because it was, unlike his doctored offside claim, not favourable.

  12. Indeed about the offside: those are lies and I can back them up by numbers as I already have done this season!

    The total correct offside decisions are 91% and certainly not 98% for the moment.
    And from 91% (assumed) correct we can only check about half of the decisions I guess because we don’t have any replays showing from the right camera angle.

  13. Laundryender,
    A great question!!

    And the answer to who decided to not ask your question would be one that I loved to see answered….

    Could you try to ask that (the who deleted it ) question? Now that would be interesting…

  14. @Jon
    I refuse to listen to the recording through the use of the modern technology… surely adding two extra officials will suffice!

  15. Walter,

    You say: “If we take in account that Riley (and his predecessor Hackett) are Northern boys it looks as if they have installed a regime with all the comrades from nearby. A bit of the “us knows us” in ref land.”
    No doubt, your work here is great, and you have well documented one layer of the onion. But imo, while your regional description correlates with the ref-shite on the tilted pitch, it is not sufficient to cause the results you document. Plus you run the risk, unless you say otherwise, that people will come away with this convinced that everything bad on the pitch comes down to tribal bias – that the northern huns are within the gates of Rome.

    While part of the total explanation (e.g., a ref cabal within the EPL), this is too pat (reductionist) and not an full or adequate explanation – and I think you might consider saying so.

    This said, where there’s smoke there’s fire, remains true (as well as a truism). More importantly, I think (and perhaps you do too) is that when it comes to understanding what Causes the refshite, we must ask other questions where the information is more concealed: For one, who finances the PGMOL? For another, who appointed Hackett and Riley and the next Riley? Is the leadership self-selecting from among the board members? Who are the board members? What’s each of their regional and other institutional affiliations? And, what is PGMOL’s relationship to the FA? and to FIFA beyond that? I in no way wish to pooh-pooh what you describe, but to say that you have described, and brilliantly, one layer of an onion with other layers to be identified that get closer to the center. If there is a “safe” ref group – a band of brothers, so to speak – they might well be reliable and controllable, at least some of them, and so, in a position to consistently deliver or try to deliver the goods. But the question is still begged: who is on the receiving end? (That is, while Riley lords over the Hives of Riley, who lords over Riley? There is no way that a PGMOL chief controls an outcome for regional pride alone; but a PGMOL chief may well deliver the results that his betters/bettors desire. After proper auditions under the right circumstance (such as the Unholy Trinity and LP have demo’d) the performers become eligible for selection. But, again, who selects from among the witting (and small and aging pool)?

  16. Bob, I like the onion comparison.

    It was last season (and if my memory serves me right it was after Probert did us at Wigan or it could have been Dowd at Newcastle) that I wrote a series of artices in which I described all possible bias that could exist within a referee.
    I numbered them a bit and I think I came to 10 different possible dangers that are lying around the corner. One of them was local bias.

    It is a bias that in my country exists as we have a federation and when in national football youth/reserves teams go from one federation to the another they get refs from the visited federation. So a club from the French speaking part of Belgium traveling to Flanders gets a Flemish (Dutch) speaking ref and in the return game the team from Flanders gets a French speaking ref.

    Now I dont want to paint myself better than I am but I must say that on many occasions I have been praised by the French speaking teams for the fact that I did my games in a very honest way. And I have been told by the Flemish teams that they never get a French speaking ref when they travel to them who does his games like me. When I lecture French speaking players I do this in French (much to the annoyement of the Flemish team as they never get spoken to in Flemish “on the other side”). But I do want that a player understand what and why I do something of give him a yellow.

    So i knew about the fact that such a bias can exist but although I am proud to be Flemish I will never in a game let this interfere my judgement. Because on a football field there are only “players” when I ref a game and I don’t give a damn from where they are.

    But I know many other refs make a difference between them. I have heard collegues say: Oh, I do my game in favour of the local team as they get the rough treatment when they go and play over there. Makes me sick such statements.

    But I do realise it is just one of the angles (or layers like you said) that has (or could have) an unfluence on how a ref does his game.

    And at the time I wrote this I never really realised that it could have an impact. But having seen where they all come from, and hearing statements from people in England (I haven’t got a clue to be honest) well it could be a part of the mistery.

  17. Oh and just to clarify: I don’t have anything against people from the Norht of England. For me they are all English be them from Dover, London or Newcastle.

  18. Reminds of that ref who didn’t give Alex Hleb a penalty against Liverpool in the CL when Dirk Kuyt tripped him in the box. He went on to say that Kuyt was Dutch and he was Dutch and that Kuyt was a very honest man or wtvr. Obviously not those exact words; but just saying… regionalism etc or whatever probably does exist.

    I do know that the whole world is divided into countries; countries into states, states into towns and towns based on direction and a 1000 other things. So while its probably nice to think that every man/woman is professional enough to not let bias of this kind (I dont mean an honest mistake) creep in; it probably does.

    And the number of people who think…really think in life are maybe 1-5% (random figure). The rest can be led on like puppets on a string with a little bit of “pressure” (define it yourself). So referees are probably no different. I’m not sure they WANT to be corrupt but its just the human frailties that a lot of them possess which leads them to be influenced in ways they would never consciously admit to. SAF Mind games anyone?

    Is there corruption? Maybe. Are all referees bent? Probably not. Are some bent? Maybe. But largely I think they are human beings who are influenced by factors outside; read – Media, Opinion, Bosses, Family etc.

    That’s my take anyway. Ideally Walter all would be like you where they didn’t give a damn about where people came from – and do a job what they are paid to do. Consciously or sub consciously ..most people probably find that hard.

    And hey…we’re Arsenal fans; we hate it when someone criticizes our players or manager..rt? (Apart from the AAA obviously). And we don’t always behave 100% objectively wrt our guys. We come close though on Untold..but its not perfect. That’s because we have a different type of bias.

    I think I rambled here and I apologize..but my point really is; bias of all kinds exists…its just that a lot of it can’t be proven…and a lot of it … the guy won’t even know he had it. Any psychology guys out here who can back my statement up? 🙂

  19. i agree that regionalism plays its part. probably more for some refs than others. who they supported as a kid, whether or not they like the club colors, crest, stadium, fans or what their wife thinks of said team or player could all potentially play a part. we just have to hope that people carry a certain amount of professionalism and pride in their work, but its humanly impossible not to bring your baggage of emotions and feelings along with you.

    its alarming that there are no refs from london, and almost none from the south. especially in regards to the population figures. it certainly has the look of a good old boys club. i think if you factor in the rather high ages of the refs you see that you have to pay your dues over many years, build the right relationships with the right people, and obviously its easier to do that when your pals from down the road. they obviously arent accelerating the careers of young refs with talent even in yorkshire, which seems to be the seat of power for refs in england.

    i think that regional bias might play its part at a subconcious level but half the players theses days arent locals boys at the club where they play. then theres always the brittish v foreign argument. i think what is far more interesting is;

    if you were wanting to run a corrupt organization with out getting caught.

    you want people that you have known for a long time, people you can trust to not only ‘do the job’ but also keep their mouths shut. people that know the ‘game’ and will not question the status quo.

    what i have been watching over the years, and seeing in the ref reviews suggests something more sinister and conscious. what i see in the stats of ref’s region and age is that we are dealing with a small circle of trusted associates that help the PMGO better serve the FA, uefa/fifa, betting syndicates, and corporate investors.

  20. Regional bias may be completely subconscious. It may be formed by your relationship with the game you grew up with. In the ‘North’ a physical tackle is merely part of ‘the man’s game’. Gary Neville claimed there was nothing illegitimate in his kicking Jose Reyes back to Spain – it’s taught in the ManUre Academy. If a ‘Southern softie’ makes an identical tackle, it is considered to be out of character, then his intent must be suspect.

  21. The very founding roots of football are found in locations, you only have to look at a clubs name to realise this. Then it should not come as a surprise when people identify local bias, To not recognise this is blind ignorance, to not act on it, is to allow discrimination. Arsenal are the only EPL side to not carry an area name, even Villa still carry their early aston park history in their current name.

  22. That yorks angle is very interesting, all the yorks football fans I know support Leeds, sheffield clubs or others, and detest man utd.. Yet these refs seem to go the other way, as I said yesterday, is the north south bias of greater magnitude than regional bias? Or are these guys just making a career move.
    From this , I will make a prediction.
    When Leeds get back in the epl, watch out!

  23. F*CKING SH*T!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Sorry for this but you must read this about this Paul Taylor. The ref that tried to get Wenger banned for 12 weeks some 10 years ago.

    I just found this on Wikipedia (hope they are right)


    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 alone 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….

  24. @ Walter, If he is from Enfield then he is most likely a Spurs fan. Apologese to any other Enfield gooners out there.

  25. Wenger has exposed a few refs, this guy, the fa apology as a result of the actions of probert and mike dean. Then there was the screening of the everton offside goal last season, on the big screen before the end of the game, made a ref look very silly, ok maybe not wenger induced this one.
    Revenge could be one of the many motives for the bias.
    Arsenal also successfully overturned the Scottish influenced ban for Eduardo supposedly diving. We all know how we have been treated in europe since then. Braga, barca, a kicking at olympiacos then the so favourable draws we seem to get!
    Maybe a few shots across to bows in the general direction of the club?

  26. I spotted the regional bias when I started keeping a record of which refs do which teams to see if I could spot who they may support.

    The media love to tell the story of how we dicked over Spurs at the end of the WW1, but what they don’t talk about is how it happened.

    Henry Norris knew that Liverpool had allowed Man Utd to win on the last day of the 1914-15 season to ensure that they stayed up at the expense of Spurs.

    For all the talk of the northern rivalries, when push comes to shove, they stick together, and I still believe that this continues today.

    Btw, has anyone else noticed that Martin Atkinson has not done a Man Utd game since United’s defeat at Chelsea last season? One thing is for sure, if Fergie doesn’t want a ref to do his sides’ games, then he gets his way.

  27. I vaguely remember that case.
    Also brings to mind,issues such as Phil brown, and some non entity he had as coach claiming cesc spat at them after a hull game. Apparently the orangeman had full league managers association backing . Some would say the Lma are a set of uk based managers set up to help fergie at all costs, prominent members include such luminaries as fergie, arry, pulis, big Sam, mark Hughes, Phil brown, you know,,the arsenal don’t like it up em brigade.
    As wel know, when it came to the crunch in the case against cesc, Phil browns coach, whoever he was was mysteriously abroad, after a policeman conflicted the hull evidence, as well as numerous players, and the case was dropped.
    In my view, and probably mine alone, arsenal were seriously challenging utd at the time and Phil brown, a new epl manager wanted to prove his pro fergie credentials. And made a fool of himself in doing so, just look at where he, and his coach are now!
    It is not only northern refs arsenal are up against….

  28. I enjoyed reading through the article and comments, lots of food for thought. I am not sure if it is off topic or on the money this piece.

    Alas there was no number provided so I could report the PGMOL to the FIFA recruited gangsters (yes really!), as a way of explaination, it could be said, ‘it takes one to know one’…or it could be in a business term ‘bringing them in house’, or audaciously making sure they take a bigger slice of the ‘cottage industry’ haha, which is illegal gambling.

    FIFA have found gangsters better bedfellows and than others (see below). Now why could that be????

  29. Hmm my other comment is still in moderation – is that what happens when you go away for a bit?

    @ Mandy Dodd, I remember the Phil Brown situation very well. I was staying overnight at a Manchester hotel and Phil Brown was on all the regional news channels having a pop at Arsenal. It started with Cesc, but it ended up with Phil Brown saying Arsenal were a joke because it allowed its captain to wear a puffa jacket and spitting just about summed up what Arsenal FC stood for. When I called London, Phil Brown’s comments hardly made the six o’clock news short, but elsewhere in the country it was constant 24hour rotation.

    When the whole incident was found to be untrue, Phil Brown was allowed to put it quietly down to a misunderstanding and the media thought it would improper of themselves to write and talk about the truth with the same gusto they did the lie. It was no coincidence that Phil Brown used to be Fergie’s favourite underling when it all kicked off.

    Hull FC and Arsenal FC have repaired their relationship since then which is a good thing.

  30. Well Goonergal, Phil brown certainly got his comeuppance, think he was sacked from….Preston recently? Never to return to his heady days. Think this was an attempt at brown nosing that went spectacularly wrong for him. Maybe he was trying to be fergies knight in shining armour avenging a certain situation involving fergie, our ex capitain and a dough, tomato, cheese and basil based pie like meal originating from southern Italy? Or maybe Phil brown is just what he has proven himself to be.
    Still, my point, he was trying to elevate his status by getting on board an anti arsenal band wagon, now why was that? He maybe a buffoon but there must have been reason for doing what he miserably attempted….still ….he pays the price for his inadequacies ….shame….

  31. Mandy Dodd,
    It looks like demonstrating your willingness to engage in Arsenal-bashing is how wannabee gang members in PGMOL and the LMA are respectively granted entree into the portals of an inner circle. Phil Brown and Paul Taylor have been metioned in today’s comments. And, it seems, Lee Probert’s disgraceful showing was the most recent audition. Let’s track his expectable rise in the ranks.

  32. Gooner Gal, no way we would not show your comments. But because in the first comment you had two links it had to be approved by “one of us” 😉

    Now I think after discovering that this Paul Taylor is working for the PGMOL it would be very interesting if we could find out who else is working for them…..

    Because the chief (Riley) is anti-Arsenal as we know, we have a referee-coach who has been made a fool because of his lies over Wenger. That is at least 2 people who seem to hate Arsenal and Wenger and have shown their hate in public. One of them has his personal reasons to hate us. The other well he just finds it amusing I think.

    The influence these people can have on any current and future ref in the PL is a scaring thought.

  33. As I said commented on another thread, Paul Taylor is a Tottenham fan. More than that, he is actually a spiteful vindictive anti-Arsenal fan who gloated about what he had done to Wenger.

  34. @ Mandy Dodd, all the attention went to his head. Phil Brown got promoted playing decent football, but by the end of it, he had a team of cloggers who could play football but weren’t. Boateng on Sagna was a nasty challenge that sticks in the mind am I am sure injuring Arsenal players would of earned him a pat on the back. I hope Brown never finds his way back to the Premiership.

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