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August 2021

Calciopoli in the EPL? Who really controls the refs?

By L. M.

On this site there has been often referred to the Calciopoli scandal in Italy. In short this was the system where a few top clubs like Juventus had a system where they conspired with the people who decided which ref would get which game.

The reasoning was that they knew/hoped which ref would favour the team involved and thus it would be helpful for the team to win that game.

In the EPL it is the PGMO who decides which games the refs will do. But how this is done remains in the dark a bit. Just like it was in Italy.  The PGMO decides and that’s it. Well that is what they try to tell the people. But if one could point at some strange occurances and link this to a club, and then point to some strange types of appointment this could point at some kind of calciopoli in the EPL.

Imagine if a club could call Mike Riley (the current head of the PGMO) and say: “we like to have a certain ref for a certain game.” This would be the same as happened in Italy.

To see if there is anything in this we might take a look at the statistics of the ref that is known worldwide as a Manchester United ref,  Howard Webb. And I think I can find a strange pattern in his appointments. And this is all about United games and almost always in top games between the top teams in the league.

Season ref


Won Lost Draw
2007-2008 Webb, H


3W 1L 1D

A good result all in all

2008-2009 Webb, H


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4W 2L

Still a fair result for United

2009-2010 Webb, H


3w 2L

Well the winning ratio goes down a bit at this moment and someone could have been upset a bit and what do we see in the next season…

2010-2011 Webb, H



Only 3 games involving Manchester United. But somehow Howard Webb has understood the message it seems because the winning ratio is going through the roof with all games won by United.

And so it looked as if someone was very satisfied with this and in this season we have so far after half the season done

2011-2012 Webb, H


2W 1L

Again not really perfect but after having only 3 games in the previous season but proving his worth in those he has already has 3 games and we are only half way the season. So it looks as if SAF will have his favourite ref as the top ref once again. Because apart from the 2010-2011 season it was always Webb who had most of United’s games in each season. A coincidence?

Now a clever guy could say: well Webb is a top ref in the EPL, a Fifa ref so it is obvious that he gets the top teams a lot. Let us see if it really goes like that.

Because what goes up must come down and calciopoli can work in both ways. The most obvious thought in this system relates to having your favourite ref do your matches as often as possible.

But if you can say, “we don’t want that ref because we don’t trust him,” it can also be some kind of calciopoli.   And avoiding refs that you think do not really liking your team is at least as easy as putting the ref you want, in place.

Refs that have cost you some points in a game and you want to punish that ref  – you tell the PGMO: ban him from my games. If the PGMO were really independent they would say: f*ck you, we send who we want. But does the PGMO have the guts to do this? Well let us try to see if they do…

Let us take Fifa ref Martin Atkinson and Manchester United.  How many games did he have?

2007-2008 Atkinson


Then came 08/03/2008 when Portsmouth won at Old Trafford in the FA cup after some dubious incidents.

And in the next season he had the following games of Manchester United

2008-2009 Atkinson


Was he punished? Only one game involving Manchester United and this for a Fifa ref? Strange. But obviously after that season someone thought he was punished enough and look at the next season:

2009-2010 Atkinson


Wow, as many games as Howard Webb. He seemed to be back in some ones Facebook friends I think. And in the next season we have…

2010-2011 Atkinson


And now you might think: what is the matter? Yes something happened in that season. In March he did his third game involving United. At Stamford Bridge and after that game a certain Sir was very upset and angry. And after that day and for the rest of the season Martin Atkinson did no more games involving Manchester United. And up to then he had done 3 games with still one quarter of the season to go. So if we follow the same pattern in appointments he should have had United at least for one more game. After all, as we note, Martin Atkinson is a Fifa ref.

But now the killer statistic.  This season after 21 games in the season ref Martin Atkinson has done the astonishing amount of zero games involving United.

So it looks as if a certain Knight of the Realm called a certain Mike and said to him: we don’t want him around anymore. And this Mike bowed and said: of course Sir, your wish is my command. And thus it happened that we can see the reverse calciopoli. Not just getting your favourite refs most of the time but also not getting the one you don’t trust near your football field.

Now one could say, it is understandable that when you get screwed by a ref the PGMO gives a breather for team and ref and keeps him away for a while. Okay very understandable and I could even agree with this principle.

But could someone explain me that although Dean, Dowd and other Proberts have screwed us over and over and over again and yet we get the same Dean, Dowd and other Proberts time and time again with an interval of around 6 games?

Why does one team get the chance to avoid a “screwing them over” ref for almost one year and yet Arsenal get Dean, Dowd et al every 5 or 6 weeks?

It is clear to see that the PGMO is not impartial in their appointments of the refs. One has to dig a bit but their bias is there to see if you want to see it. Mike maybe head of the PGMO on paper but there is always a bigger head somewhere behind the curtains. Someone that maybe once told a certain Mike: I cannot stand the humiliation of a certain team making it 50 games unbeaten in my theatre of dreams, you must stop them. And so he did. And since then it still looks that  he still listens to what that the director of that theatre tells him to do.


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41 comments to Calciopoli in the EPL? Who really controls the refs?

  • agan

    Pretty damning. so is there anything you can do with all this evidence? by the way, I just heard that Dean will be at the emirates this sunday!

  • WalterBroeckx

    Agan, you have heard right I’m afraid…

  • Matt D

    Although I find it hard to believe that this is happening in the English game (not saying that it doesn’t just personally I think its highly unlikely) I do think a more reasonable answer to the questions is that people like Sir Alex, Dalglish and probably our own Professor indirectly influence Mike Dean’s decisions by being out-spoken in the press about referees.
    If one ref makes a controversial decision about a team and the manager is out spoken about them, then that referee is not going to ref a game including that team for a while, mainly due to the fact if another error occurs the manager will kick off more and bring unwanted attention to the PGMO and refs in general. Sparking claims like this and such forth.
    With such a small pool of referees it means the same refs do ref the same teams generally.
    So while I do generally disagree with your notion the PGMO is corrupt it definitely needs changes with regards to ref numbers and a more transparent system for selecting refs.

  • WalterBroeckx

    If I may add about Dean : we had him for the first time at WHL and with the Utd game this will be the 3rd time we have him in 16 games. That is almost 1 in 5 games…..

    In fact in this article I missed the fact that sending refs to a team to damage them because they (PGMO – SAF – ??? ) know that they will try to damage them. This is also part of calciopoli.

    At this rate we will have Dean another 3 games at least in the EPL.
    This would be 6 games under Dean the ref that cost us most points in the EPL since the season 2007/2008.
    Dean cost us more points than Dowd and Webb combined.

    Such a nice thing calciopoli…when you can control it…

  • head

    Any news on this coming to attention in the wider press, guys?

  • Bradster

    All sounds rather fantastical like the Aluminati owning the premier league.

    Your evidence is pretty believable and yes Arsenal have been screwed by the ref’s time and again.

    But, a ref can only control a game up to a point. If Arsenal is playing well, a ref cannot give a penalty out of our box nor penalise us if we have possession in open play or disallow vaild goals that are not near any opponent to be a foul or off sides (if the linesmen are not in the referee mafia).

  • Let fifa agent of uefa come 2 england 2 do match fisting investigation cos is true we ar avin it in england not only tucky n seria a but in other league bt dey ar cover it.

  • Kentetsu

    Indeed it is noteworthy that United has not had Atkinson since the Chelsea match last season. But to actually give your explanation for this – ManU doesn’t like Atkinson – any credit, you should look beyond just the number of games Atkinson has done for United over the past five seasons. How does their win percentage under Atkinson compare to United’s overall win percentage? Likewise, how is United’s win percentage under Webb? How about the other referees? Which one do they have a lot/little/none? How do they perform under each? Is there a correlation between the performance and the number of matches each ref has been appointed?

  • WalterBroeckx

    kentetsu I think Dogface could answer your questions.

    But I have a feeling that Atkinson has a rather bad record at times in the past. have to look it up to be honest but maybe Dofgace will help us out on this

  • Tasos


    I’m sure we would all like to know a little more on how and why referees are appointed. This link is taken from the official premier league website;

    When are referees selected?

    The appointment of match officials for matches is traditionally announced each Monday with 19 referees available to officiate 10 Premier League matches and six selected Football League matches.
    The appointments are made by the Professional Game Match Officials Board (PGMOB).
    When making the appointments, a number of factors are taken into account including:
    – The current form of the official
    – The referee’s position in the merit table
    – Overall experience
    – How often they have refereed the Clubs involved
    – Proximity to the ground or city in which they were born or live
    – The team the referee supports
    – International appointments (For example if referees have UEFA matches on Thursdays they will only be available for matches on Sundays or Mondays).

    Martin Atkinson has clearly upset someone, when you take into consideration Martin Atkinson has actually officiated the most EPL games of any referee this season.

  • I feel I have to point out that the 2009-2010 season was the one prior to the World cup and, as I have documented in my Ref Watch series, all of Howard Webb’s statistics hit a strange pattern on absolute normality.

    After the world cup they then continued back along their previous vectors. I would say that the refs in line for the final were under greater scrutiny that season.

    Kentetsu/Walter – yes, I can get you whatever numbers you want if anyone wishes to do a follow up to this article.

    Martin Atkinson has a particularly good record with Chelsea – and that should be your focus for him… it’s not all Manchester United – there’s Manchester City, Harry Redknapp and Roman Abramovich to consider too… and also some other curious bias’ that could be subconcious or whatever.

  • DC

    Bias and favouritism are certainly the key things to consider with any official, if incompetence has been well and truly excluded! However, I’m not sure though if you can ever separate incompetence from this argument wrt the EPL officials?!
    Emotion is part of football and even the officials are bound to be afflicted by it too!
    Whether the impartiality is due to the managers, clubs or players involved, emotion is bound to also influence some of the decisions they make (especially the 50-50s). Whether that is conscious or subconcious can then be argued?!
    Honestly ask yourself this, if I am an Arsenal admirer (but NOT a official fan) and also an EPL referee, and I am officiating a match between one of their rivals and a lower-placed club, will I be totally impartial or inside will I be hoping that the lower-placed club somehow puts-one-over on them? I know I personally would feel the latter yet would not show it but it might just come out on occasions during the match particularly in those tight 50/50 calls that, without my knowing at the time, change and impact on the outcome of the whole match. That is what I feel that the likes of Webb, Probert, etc (under the all-encompassing stewardship of Mike Riley) are doing! They certainly are incompent but their “unofficial” admiration for certain clubs and individual managers and players further compounds it all!
    Incidentally, how many EPL refs and linos have actually admitted and disclosed that they do support, in some capacity (i.e. their 1st, 2nd or 3rd team) one of the “big clubs”? It wouldn’t surprise me if any of the names we regurgitate in such discussions have said that they do not, on the record?! Which of course would be unbelievable and a complete load of bulls**t!

  • DC

    Football will never be clean and fair again without technology to act as an arbiter to expose the truth!

  • Ifeanyi

    Well written article . It is only gunners among every big team in epl (top six) who earns whatever position they are on merit . Atleast gunners had more than a dozen penalty so far this season against opponent turned down where a stupid man on black awarded a frivolous penalty against swans and at the end of the day it was a game lost. A certain Phil dowd , a clone if a can Describe him as such, is one of ref whom i hate to see near gunners . He, it was, who officiated versus newcastle last season and also against i think fulham first leg.(against newcastle , he awarded them two frivolous penalty while against fulham, he denied arsenal a clear cut penalty) A certain ref killed wigan against man u(this season at old tratford) as he gave stupid red and awarded a penalty which i can best described as hoarse . In short ref and some club has some bond existing between them i suspect and are always in unism to punish certain club, besides i ll not be surprise if a scandal or more erupt in future in epl

  • @Dogface who was the last Ref to give Shrek a red card? I remember a referee who gave a red card was it bekc$m he was African/British or African/African i never saw him again. Isn’t there any African/British officiating in any league in the UK? if not why not if yes how many are they and which matches have they officiated! Dogface what are our chances of losing or wining against the Manures? Ref wise!What are the ODDS?
    Why do whore lists such as Steven horward want Arsenes head whenever he loses and Grin when he wins?

  • @Kampala gun

    Computer says:

    Referee TeamName home_team_name away_team_name League MatchDate MatchTime Season Card CardType Side Period PlayerName Position Reason Time

    Horacio Elizondo England England Portugal World Cup 2006-07-01 16:00:00 2005/2006 Red StraightRed Home SecondHalf Wayne Rooney Striker Fight 61

    Phil Dowd Manchester United Fulham Manchester United English Barclays Premier League 2009-03-21 15:00:00 2008/2009 Red SecondYellow Away SecondHalf Wayne Rooney Substitute Dissent 88

    The EPL game was in the 88th minute though – so who gives a shit…

    Oh – and I’ve not got recent international games – and I think there was another one where he kicked somebody – they are a bit of a hassle to download so I only tend to do it every now and then.

  • Come on – admit it, I’m fucking good… all other questions will be answered in the up-and-coming (now famous) RefWatch.


  • @DogFace you are a genius. Thanks mate

  • @DC Technology when England is playing with Germany after that its normal. Ha ha ha ha ah ahh ha ha

  • Mahdain

    a really eye opening article walter…very well written and says a lot about PGMO and their transparency.. i really do wonder what can we do to get dean/dowd suspended from refereeing our games? i mean if fergie can get atkinson banned from refereeing united games certainly other teams also can? oh wait its only fergie who has the right to complain

  • Arun

    What about this at the weekend : totts lose at manc and Dean decides that his favourite totts stay close to manu for a second place finish and does us a favour ????
    @ Dogface ,your database is really awesome. Can’t wait for next refwatch.

  • Mahdain

    @arun only problem is dean hates arsenal…he wouldnt think twice about screwing us over even if arry`s team loses

  • rusty

    I would like to see someone with a statistics background help us understand the significance of some of these figures. Frankly, four vs five games in a season just doesn’t seem like such a big deal — with the small sample size, random fluctuations are more likely to appear important, when they are just noise.

    In other words, if we wanted to establish the proposition “The PGMOL does not select refs for games at random” with 95% confidence, do we have the data to do so?

  • Dgeoel

    @ Bradster
    Actually they do all those things you say they can’t do if the team plays well. Phil Dowd, in that fabricated ‘come backs of all time’ at NewCastle where we drew 4-4. In that game Phil gave a 2nd pen which upto today no one can point with certainity for what. Last season, at the emirates against Man u, the ref made an incredible 5 times when Arsenal were in possecion and not once when the opponent had the ball!! If u want to call it coincidence, do it with your eyes closed. Read somewhere good old Phil will be a lineman @ the emirates this sunday. Mark my word, he will be there to misuse his flag on the offside rule!!

  • Dgeoel

    Meant 5 interceptions.

  • Arun

    @ Mahadain, may be I am too much optimistic.

  • Todd

    I seriously doubt anyone could ever say that with 95% certainty. The simple reason being the ones doing this know they have to fall in the realm of uncertainty, otherwise they go to jail. They can skew the appointments to well over 60-70% with very little chance of repurcussions, as that’s within the realm of possiblility, and surely big enough to impact the title and cup races….
    You’re right it COULD be just noise. The key is to look at the whole picture. Look at the combination of ref’s performances to appointments. Look at the lack of transparency in the process. Look at the lack of consistancy from the FA (Suarez 8 games vs. Terry 0 games). Read about the Italian issues, and see how it was doen and you see all the pieces in place in the EPL as well.

  • Johnny Deigh

    @Dog face @Kampala gun – Do you remember this Rooney sending off?

  • Oooh – must get some Champions League data… actually – I don’t think I can get any that goes back to 2005.

    Just checked – I only got full booking data going back to 2007/2008 in the Champions League.

  • DC

    Slightly off topic; it seems that the Spuds board could have put them in very big trouble and they are gradually getting dragged into very serious deep water over their Olympic stadium bid and the tactics they used during it.
    A fourth person in their employ has been arrested under allegations of spying on their competitors!
    Could this be the beginning of something that will ultimately destroy their hard fought competitive season? That would be such a shame if it did happen(!) Watch that space!
    Here’s the link to the story:

  • DC

    Probable criminal tactics and activities undertaken and associated with a “big premier league club”?! There you go!

  • Shard


    Then it can’t be Spurs can it? 🙂

  • DC

    @Shard, lol!
    Quite right! I must have had a momentary “out-of-body”, and reality, experience!

  • bob

    This article shows another brick in the road toward the EPL hoped-for Fergie XX – his crowning achievement on the way to becoming Lord Fergus of Football. Bit by bit the opposition crumbles. He ID’s T-Scums a few weeks ago as playing the best football. To me, this is a message to the Hives of Riley to make sure that some killer bees are alerted to derail ‘Arry’s train when the time comes. We shall see, but it’s my prediction. Manure is still the flagship enterprise and Shrek it’s avatar; and the brand is awash with overpaid (hint hint?) marketing partnershits – the ABC paper is the “official” arsewipe of Manure, etc. etc. Potential co-sponsors from watches to cars to airlines, etc. have queued up or continue to do so. In sum, imo, this brand will not be tarnished comes the end of the season; and the Hives of Reilly will be abuzz to deliver the anointment just in time.

  • Rhys Jaggar


    If it had been Arsenal, you’d have ranted at the officials for ruling out Adebayor’s goal before HT at WHL vs Wolves. Clearly onside, ruled out.

    That goes in, 2-1, not 1-1.

    Assuming 2nd half was all the same of course.

    Whether anything happened, who knows……

  • Tasos


    The treatment spurs have received recently only confirms the opinion many of us hold here. Get to close, become a threat and the reducer rears his ugly head.

  • walter

    Rhys, if this Tottenham game can be reviewed we will name it like it is. We have called the treatment Tottenham received at Stoke a scandal.

  • Lord horatio

    Guys guys guys i´m new here but so none of you have to take my word as gospal but the writers of this blog and a certain mr doggface are barking up the right tree´s and more info is out there is you are willing to look.

    ref selection is biased and it goes beyond refs and certain managers although harry et al mentioned before are a good bunch to start with.

    there is also an ex fulham manager you should be looking at who through 6 degrees of separation is linked to an arsenal star via one very dodgy man.

  • king gooner

    lets’s face it MANURE are the fa/media darlings-as if they don’t get enough of dodgy decisions in their favour,the fa appoint mike “i luv manure”riley as overlord of refs just to make sure the rest of epl can be shafted discreetly by the men in black when reqd-this is the same mike “i luv manure” riley who i seem to remember had some infamous old trafford record of six penalties in eight matches for manure at o/t or something to that effect?don’t have exact stats,perhaps dogface could sort that one out?you can almost guarrantee we are gong to get shafted by the “maginificent seven”every time-fat phil dowd,lee mason,lee probert,mike dean,martin atkinson,howard webbo,chris foy or clattenburg(not the worst)SHIT the lot of ’em-if we can#t have technology,which would find a lot of these jokers out-what about top euro refs being brought in for major clashes-it breaks your heart..

  • goonergerry

    It really is unacceptable that the process for the selection of referees for games in the EPL is so lacking in transparency-thus leaving the PGMO open to suspicions of undue influence or worse.

    The issue of bias in favour of one team-or against another is difficult to prove on the basis of simple statistical associations alone. For example, from season 98/99 until the start of this season ManU have had 18 penalties awarded against them-the fewest in the EPL and Arsenal have had 23 for the same period-5 more- but the second lowest number-not a difference that represents evidence of a pattern of bias against Arsenal when the total number of penalties awarded is considered.

    However, in games between Arsenal and ManU over the same period, I believe that referees-not just Webb and Dean have consistent favoured Man U, in not awarding fouls, free kicks and penalties that should have been given against them. Most English referees are predisposed towards legitimising United’s more physical style of play-( lets not forget it was Ferguson who invented the bully Arsenal out of the game approach- adopted successfully by Allardyce and by the rest of the EPL).

    If top English games had been refereed by continental refs during the past 10 years United would never have got away with those tactics.
    I do agree with King gooner, the referees in England do behave as if they are influenced by prevailing media views-that portray United as inevitable champions each year-and it is entirely possible that the PGMO have had a major negative influence on the game in England by maintaining the status quo and by legitimising over-physical football.