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July 2021

Suspicious decisions – part 2: When is making mistakes more than making mistakes

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By Walter Broeckx

As making mistakes is human we should accept mistakes by the ref. And last time I checked I think I was human and I am very willingly to accept that I do make mistakes. In fact a ref that has made no mistakes in a game still has to be born I think.

So in a way we should try to accept that refs make mistakes. But of course the fewer mistakes you make as a ref the better ref you are.

Now I have tried to figure out for each ref how many mistakes he makes in a game on average and I have talked about how I got to this number which is different for each ref.

I have also explained that a fair ref should make mistakes in the same way for both teams. But I felt that we just could not stop by saying that if a ref makes 16 mistakes in a game that would mean that each team should accept that 8 wrong calls are made against them.

To give some more perspective I thought we should accept a little margin in which a ref could operate. A small remark: I am talking about a ref that is not trying to tilt the game in one or the other direction. A bit naïve maybe but well….

But I was thinking that the home/away influence could play a part and so we had to give a bit of room to the ref. As the home/away influence is generally accepted to be in the range of 60/40 I didn’t want to look too small-minded and I thought that we should give the ref a 25% margin. And within this margin I would say that it would still be acceptable for having more or less mistakes to one team or the other.

But when a ref crosses the line of getting higher than 50% of the average wrong calls, then at that moment in time red bells should be starting to flash, warning signs should become visible. Because at that moment things are getting out of control I think. It is fair to give the ref a bit of room but moving more than 50% away from the average is not acceptable.

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Lots of words and theory therefore, but how does this look in practice. Well let us take ref Walton to start with. He has an average numbers of 16 mistakes in his games. Rather high I think. So the even out theory should give us 8 mistakes against each team in each game on average. For Ref Walton I gave him a margin of 25% and this means that if he stays between 6 and 9 mistakes for or against a team I still would accept it and say it could be just human nature. But when he crosses the 50% barrier we move in to the land of the suspicious ref reviewer. For Walton this means that he is getting suspicious when he makes less than 4 mistakes or more than 11 mistakes.

And then I have put this in to a nice table and I will try to explain it. But before that I must admit that I am not a wizard with computers and graphics and all such things. I can work a bit with it but must admit that I am not completely satisfied with the final result but this was the best I could come up with. People who can give me suggestions please do.  But here is the graphical presentation of when Ref Walton looks suspicious or not.


First remark: I would have hoped that I could have changed the background a bit so you would see a green background between the numbers 6 and 9. And a red background between 4 and 11 and between those, yes an orange background as a warning indication. Alas, I’m not that kind of a genius yet. So the blue line is the line that we take as acceptable. Anything in between those lines is just well the ref being human one could say. The zone between the end of the blue line and the purple line is the zone where we enter the stage of things getting a bit abnormal. And once we have crossed the purple line… that team is in trouble or is having a great day out.

But more importantly let us go on to the numbers. And in this we can see that ref Walton had 2 games that look suspicious. First of all the Newcastle-Arsenal game. In this game he went over and under the alarm zone. Making more than the double of wrong calls against Arsenal and going under the alarm border for making very few wrong calls against Newcastle.

The other game that looks strange is the game between Chelsea and Bolton. Not that Bolton crossed the alarm line (they stayed between the acceptable and alarm line) but the fact that Chelsea was well treated with only 2 wrong calls makes this a bit strange.

The third game where you could say something was wrong is the game Stoke-Manchester United. In this game Manchester United got just up to the alarm line but didn’t cross it at the end. But still came close to what is acceptable.

But this graphic could show from which point something looks suspicious in some games.

Let me give another example of …let us see… Howard Webb. First the numbers.

Webb makes an average of 14 mistakes a game. Meaning 7 mistakes per team. Border of acceptable mistakes (25%) is between 5 and 9 mistakes. Alarm bell border is under 3 and over 10 mistakes.

So we see that Webb touched the alarm border line a few times but did not cross it really. The only time he did cross the alarm line was in the game Arsenal-Sunderland where he doubled his alarm line number by making 21 mistakes against Arsenal and also crossed the under alarm border line with only making two mistakes against Sunderland. The other game in which he crossed the alarm border line was… Arsenal-Everton where he made 50% more mistakes against Arsenal compared to the alarm border line.

So now we can take a look at all the refs in this way and show this to you reader.

Now if only I could get some colours in to this….


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26 comments to Suspicious decisions – part 2: When is making mistakes more than making mistakes

  • Peter Kenny

    You talked about mistakes by Referees and you reminded me of the mistake Wenger is making these days, or he is about to make. Here is how I should put it:

    Every Gunner recalls last summer transfer window and the humiliation Arsenal went through before the 5 transfer deadline signings. I think numerous injuries especially to our fullbacks have put us in similar situation we were in at that time Man united hummered us 8-2. I can see Wenger is again waiting till we lose to Swansea, Man united etc and again he rushes to make signings on 28 Jan!!!!! With the backline we have (because of injuries), we can only survive Swansea with a draw. Watch this space.
    One wonders why we can’t obtain Alex from Chelsea & Taiwo (possibly both loans) so that we can confidently play Swansea and the following games.

    Peter Kenny

  • Woolwich Peripatetic

    I applaud your work but I worry the analysis is a bit simple. Some refs will struggle with offsides for certain players, either because they think the player is slower than he really is or because the defense pushes up after the pass to trick the officials. Genuine mistakes like that. Whereas a ref who fails to award penalties but won’t book for simulation is clearly up to something. You have lumped the two into one category which seems to excuse in effect a competent but crooked ref.

  • Peter Kenny, we have been through the issue of transfers many times before.

    Those of us who were at the AISA AGM which Mr Gazidis attended will remember his explanation of how the transfer market was working, and his predictions of what would happen at the end of the transfer window – which were true.

    There are also several articles here about how the market is working – and unless you have some insider information to suggest something else is going on, the simplistic analysis that Wenger runs the transfer market and arranges the transfers he wants is just plain wrong.

    Pre-transfer arrangements include agents looking to talk up their players, clubs trying to get more from the sale of players, clubs hiding who they want so the price goes down, and the continuing belief all round that if a transfer to Man City, Chelsea, or even Liverpool can be arranged, insane prices will be achieved.

    So, as I summarised before, the manager wants A. The team goes to the club with A and says we want him, but if word of this gets out the deal is off. The club with A then has the choice of trying to edge the price up by offering him to Chelsea or going with it. There is a long silence as the deal is sorted.

    Meanwhile Arsenal let slip they want B (whom they don’t) and are looking at C (which they aren’t.) Agents suggest by saying Arsenal are after D.

    So it goes – to think that anyone can just go in and buy anyone they want is nonsense.

    Also you need to match players demands. Arsenal bought Diarra, and he looked terrific, but he made it clear he expected to play each week, so he had to go. Gave us a good profit on sell-on fees, but frustrating.

    Mind you, if you have read our piece about money laundering in football you will see another side of the story too.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Woolwich Peripatetic,
    You are right in a way of course. But at the moment we cannot make this difference…. yet! But believe me behind the scenes we are working on this to also make the difference between not that (at first sight) important mistakes and more important one.

    But in most cases the total mistakes gives a fairly good indication on what a ref is doing in a game. From the moment we give weight on it things will become even more clearer at times.

    But as I said in one of my earlier articles : not giving a lot of little decisions to a team makes that team start losing concentration, get angry, get worked up, players lose it, and that team forgets to play football at the end and so loses the game.

  • Stuart

    @ Tony, Walter & all

    I often wonder if there is any correlation to be found between the data gained from the ref reviews and the injury reviews. I mean if ours and other teams injury lists can be shown to relate directly to the refs performance / missed challenges / total number of bad challenges.

    My thinking is that although a player is not stretchered off during a game, they may be affected by something that occurs during a game even though they were fit enough to carry on at the time. I for example am currently experiencing issues due to an injury at work 4 years ago although I was fine at the time.

  • bob

    That’s a great question. I also wonder to what extent (any extent) the “mistake ridden,” non-regulated and ill-regulated EPL pitch might well be a disincentive for some players to come to the EPL and an incentive for others to leave for European sides. It’s one thing to celebrate the EPL as the fastest/toughest/best league; but is there not a dark side that is actually also understood by players/agents in which playing in the EPL makes one so injury-prone that it will shorten your career and possibly jeopardize it. Can anyone really say that the way we lost Eduardo, as everyone knows, and the horror of Ramsey’s injury did not make a searing/lasting impression on the likes of Cesc Fabregas? There’s no way to know until Cesc’s memoirs or a truly honest interview could determine, but Cesc or whomever: Why get paid well and run the career risks at EPL owing the refshite when there is better enforcement of rules and protections abroad? Can anyone say with certainty that no player/agent thinks about these things as part of their calculus? How could they not? In sum, the profligate NON-CALLS, imo, have a non-quantifiable but common-sense likely impact on whether someone chooses to come into the league or stay in the league.

  • bob

    p.s. or, to continue, which would give the injury-prone Cesc greater longevity – a continued EPL career or a non-EPL career? (I/we know about Barca, and his childhood team, and all the other factors. But this perspective has not been discussed, except by a very few hereabouts. Was Cesc’s back issues not at all due to the constant non-calls on the “aggressive” tackles he had to endure which went unflagged?) If there’s no protection from referees, why jeopardize any career, let alone a world class thoroughbred like his? Would you stay under the circumstances? All this to say that AFC (and any side) has a real stake in doing what it takes to get fair play and competent/unbent refereeing to catch on. An idea whose time has come. And when refs are chronically approaching or crossing the line, then not only are the outcomes tarnished, but so is player longevity jeopardized.

  • Tram

    I am not a statistician, but it seems to me that you are double-counting the same numbers. If a ref favours side A in (say) 70% of errors, then the opponents must also tip over the border at 30%. This for instance would give rise to the suggestion that Walton is a Newcastle lover as well as an Arsenal hater, when possibly only one of those is true. But in principle I admire your approach, and feel that the only way we will lift the lid on this can of worms is through work such as this, so thank you.

  • mv

    when will arsenal get a game with all the decisions going their way??

  • WalterBroeckx


    In the Newcastle-Arsenal game Walton was a bit tilting to the extreme one could say. Meaning giving a lot against one team and hardly anything against the other team. But this is not always like that.

    If you look at the Webb graphic you can see that in the Arsenal-Everton game he gave Everton the normal treatment with some 6 calls going against them. But in this game he came to a not normal high numbers of wrong decisions going against Arsrenal (15).

    So it could be that he is the “usual” himself for one team but not the “usual” himself for the other team.
    Let us say in the Arsenal – Evertong game “things did not even out”

  • rantetta

    @Bob: You’re correct re: injuries/non-calls. The whole thing about Arsenal and non-calls is that it’s not just the ref reviews that know about them. Arsenal’s players also know – and choose to keep trying to play, fairly, as insisted upon by Wenger. Wenger also insists that players don’t question refs too much.

    Fabregas pointed to his feet 3 times at Stoke, after scoring the winner, in relation to the leg-breaks he’d seen, and spoke guardedly about the shit Ars’s players have to put up with. (Followed by a Birmingham player smashing his leg, and then Puyol finally broke it in the game against Barca). Wenger himself speaks carefully (coded) about the shit, too.

    Arsenal’s player’s and fans have to put up with “Wenger’s moaning” stuff like the link, featuring John Hartson, I’ll post below:

    How on earth – as a player, do you keep giving your best, when you know the refs are going to allow you to be smashed all over the place and the offenders are unlikely to be punished. What must Gervinho think after his 1st match when assaulted by Barton/Taylor and another thug? What did Diaby think when 3 assaults were visited upon him last season (Essien/Robinson/Barton – none of which were even called fouls – all of which seem to further disable his right ankle). Perhaps Nasri thought; I’ll never win anything here, what with the decisions always going as they do. Hleb wasn’t pleased in his last season with us – having gotten a red card for summat, yet having been regularly kicked during that season. (Without punishment for the ****s).

    Bob, I’ve really enjoyed your contributions, particularly as those with contentious views, or outright continuing negativity (Dark Prince) have come with less stuff, since you ask questions of them.

    Untold Arsenal: You’re wonderful. Thank you so much.

  • Walter thanks for that piece as always you are spot on,one thing bother me though. In the champions league i have seen refs who are like zombies against the great Arsenal; Liver pool vs Arsenal and Barcelona vs Arsenal.Barcelona is Hell, of all three or four games we have played Barcelona the only game we did not get a red card we won.
    Are we being followed (Platin)

  • bob

    Thank you for your reply, that it’s so thoughtful a reply, and that we both appreciate thinking, yes, that out of the box thinking is full compatible if not being heart, soul and mind for AFC’s well being. Cheers! for seeing/sharing the light.

  • bob

    Hartson has joined the ranks of the ex-Arsenal players who make a meal or two out of Arsene/Arsenal bashing. In hard economic times, I fear will see more of him, Wrongy, Robson, and others whose taste for the payday outstrips and shred of conscience there might be left.

  • bob

    p.s. should read “any shred of conscience” (which probably attributes too much conscience to these opportunos)

  • RobL

    Tony & Walter, it’s good that you are looking into this and undoubtedly we are on the receiving end of some strange patterns, however it does deflect somewhat from other issues we have that we can potentially do something about.

    Fact: If all the decsions had gone out way, we could be joint top.
    Fact: If we could hit a cows arse with a banjo we would also be top.

    The first fact (that we can currently do nothing about) appears to be obscuring the second.

    Our shots to goals ratio this season in the premier league is around 9, whereas the total average against us is 7.2. We can see this in players like Gervinho and Ramsey, who are getting in great positions and snatching at it or passing as they lack confidence.

    Van Persie has the confidence, and Mr H walked on and calmly placed it, showing everyone how it is done; contrast with Arshavin who went for power instead of accuracy.

    I’m not saying it won’t come with time – or when the first one goes in, but currently we don’t have the back up of high scoring midfielders, and it’s hurting us, and all the fuss about refs is I believe obscuring it.

    Yes there are other issues, such as lack of width which should resolve itself with players coming back, but we are currently getting the chances anyway – just not putting them away.

    BTW I still think we should pursue corruption wherever it takes us.

  • Reader


    Valid point RobL, but try looking at what you are proposing from another angle:

    Fact: If all our shots were on goal / shots on goal were accurate, we would be top

    Fact: If all ref decisions were made fairly / were balanced out for both teams, we would be in a better position to focus on accuracy, and be top .

    (IE: not have to worry over avoiding getting fouled, pushed about, stops in play from poor ref decisions etc)

    You could argue that Fact 1 is actually obscuring Fact 2

    Is it easy to maintain accuracy in shooting when the conditions on the field and the ref are against you?

    Or are the two mutually exclusive – so much so that outside elements / factors are unable to tamper with one’s ability to shoot at goal (accurately)

    You may have raised a fair point on some players having the confidence to “shut-out” all distractions and overcome the poor decisions made by the ref.

    However, I believe it is not reasonable of us to expect that all the players will be able to play successfully in a “vacuum-like” environment and not be detrimentally affected in some way by the bad ref decisions.

  • Reader


    Thought of another analogy to make my point – the importance of having a level playing field

    Think of it as playing in a casino.

    When gambling at a casino, the odds are against the player. The casino always comes out the winner – in the long term.

    Yes, there will be occasions when you overcome the system and profit from a windfall (through skill / knowledge on how to game the system). Yet, if you continue to play and don’t cut your losses, it is highly likely the casino will recover its losses and make a profit out of you.

  • rantetta

    Bob. Thanks for your reply, and thank you for your kind words. (I’m touched).

  • rantetta


    Is “any shred of conscience”, a book, or perhaps an article, please.

  • RobL

    @ Reader, you make a valid point, that it could be other things distracting the players, however is it not the mark of a true professional that at that crucial point in time they are truely focused and in a vacuum?

    If I get the chance I will cross-refer the shots per goal stats I created against Tony’s ref review database and see if there is any correlation with ref performance and score ratio. I’ll also throw in goalkeeper MoM awards. Thanks for responding, Rob.

  • rantetta


    I’ve just woken up and re-read your comments, and now realise “any shred of conscience” was a correction to something you’d written. (I’d Googled it, bah) Excuse: twas really late at night.

    “Wrongy”!? Late at night I’d read “wrongLy”, and now I realise what you were saying, and of course, you’re correct. I can’t imagine Ian needs pundit/column money so desperately. After all, he’s had many TV shows over the years, and surely his footy playing son’s can spare him a couple of shillings. It pains me so much when Ars’s ex players talk bad about our club/manager. And then I see Wrighty come on the pitch, with other legends – and show/receive – much love, for Arsenal.

    I can’t talk about Robson. His talk makes my blood boil. I have to listen to foreign commentary, so I don’t get distracted from what’s happening on the pitch.

    I must say, TH14’s way of talking about the club he loves, consistently, brings me joy, and that joy has been unconfined – following his comeback match. “Class”.

  • C4

    If I was a football player and I saw the treatment AFC players get on the pitch, I would have to consider the possible ramifications to my career if I joined the club. Even if it was my dream club, and AW my dream manager to play under, I’d have to consider what would happen if let’s say Shawcross came across me and did “his thing” again. And the likelihood of that happening, since AFC players don’t get much protection. In all honesty, I might have to stay away, simply because of the added risk to my health and hence my career. The fact that the media and the rest of the EPL clubs don’t even want to acknowledge that AFC players are receiving brutal treatment would make me even more reluctant, because I’d know that it could be me next, especially if I’m performing well. It’s almost like silent or indirect encouragement of this brutality from EPL clubs and media, calling AW a whinger when he complains about legitimate mistreatment of his players and officials turning a blind eye. Just read some of the comments other managers and pundits make, they’re quite inhuman to speak that way if you ask me. We’re talking about human beings here. Anyone who’s ever had a broken limb will tell you, it’s the last thing you want to encourage.

  • anonym

    It is also important to remember SAF called Shawcross after ramsey incident.It was direct encouragement.Some people keep screaming about dive but how can that be so important over leg breaking tackles? In fact because of such tackles, players tend to fall as they trying to protect as soon as they anticipate a dangerous tackle.But it seems that someone behind the seen is encouraging to increase the noise about dive to hide real issue of dangerous tackles.

  • bob

    So well put, and too true to be good. There should be some way that a football club can bring a lawsuit against PGMOL when their players can be proven to be chronically threatened by factors that are within the referee’s control and mandate to control. This borders on criminal negligence if not intent. What would AFC do if the worst were to befall RvP owing to the refshite being documented hereabouts? What would the fans do?…. Video replay before it’s too late.

  • bob

    Thank you for taking the time and rediscovering that Wrighty is Wrongy! Cheers for sharing and ending with the hymn to TH14! You bring smiles, so many thanks.