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July 2021

Are the Refs in the Premier League bent? The evidence is worrying.


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By Tony Attwood

About four years ago a number of Arsenal supporters began to be concerned about what we saw as poor refereeing in the Premier League and indeed elsewhere in Europe.  On occasion it was so bad that it was to explain it all on ref incompetence – which is where British media – particularly BBC Radio 5, the UK station that carries the EPL commentaries, puts the blame.   Could it be, we wondered, that there is some corruption within football?

We knew then as we know now that any mention of corruption in football in England in the press always focusses on “unusual betting patterns”, and never on the notion that somehow clubs are fixing referees.  Fixed refs is a non-subject – for reasons that we have explored in many articles.

And yet the corruption of refs is what has happened – and it seems has continued to happen – in Italy.  We asked, if it happens in Italy (and elsewhere), could it not happen here – and indeed in other European countries -previously untouched by scandal.

So we have gathered evidence, week by week.  We started just by analysing the ref’s performance in Arsenal games.  Then we extended this to include EPL matches in which Arsenal did not participate.  After that we started making predictions before each league match as to what the result would be, based on the referee’s known past behaviour.

Over time we have added more analyses – looking at the way the Premier League referees association works, the geographic origins of referees in England, and comparing what we find in England with what we find elsewhere.  We’ve even produced several analyses of the nature of proof, in response to people who have raised this issue.

Our work has gained quite a lot of interest in the media – most notably when the BBC picked up on our work and linked to our site.  We know that the authorities not just in England but elsewhere are aware of what we do – there is strong evidence that an edict was issued telling all referee associations in Europe not to talk to us when we attempted a survey of their own rules.

Our referee reviews are published on Untold Arsenal – irrespective of which club they relate to – and are then archived on our Untold Referees site

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A broader set of reports, and our articles on corruption among referees, is carried on Untold Corruption – and again the articles appear on this site first.

Here are our latest two Untold Ref reviews…

Wigan 0 Man City 1

Swansea 1 Chelsea 1

Referee Atwell relegated by the ref authorities.  Does that mean that they are taking note of Untold Ref Reviews at last?

I do hope you find the series interesting, and that it will help to answer any nagging doubts you might have when you watch a top game and think, “there was something wrong with that referee today”.



Injuries in the Premier League – our regular weekly round up

What Hazard really said: an exclusive Untold Arsenal translation of his interview in France about Tottenham, Arsenal, and Real Madrid

What you read about corruption, administration, liquidation and Rangers might not be the whole story.

Vermaelen interview, the translation of the full interview


From the Arsenal History Society web site

No 8 in the series of iconic moments in Arsenal’s history – the third consecutive championship, achieved under 3 different managers – and Tottenham are relegated.

Iconic moment No 7 – caretaker manager Joe Shaw wins the league.


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36 comments to Are the Refs in the Premier League bent? The evidence is worrying.

  • No doubt! Mike Dean’s last 11 games involving Arsenal – no wins. Phil Dowd’s shameful record involving Arsenal – just look at last season, particularly 4-4 V Newc, Home V Sunderland, Home V Tot. Lee Probert this season at Fulham.


    Infact,thankGOD You guys are speaking has now become increasingly alarming that any match ARSENALHAS which is to be officiated by webb,they are bound to lose it.In my area,if its webb that is officiating,everyone already knows what the result will be.its verybad for the game&i think its hightime the authorities looked into it.Howard webb is one referee that applies too much sentiment on his job.if he doesn’t like’ur team,then forget the game.

  • Ziggy

    This is fast becoming my favourite blog. Thanks guys for all the hard work. I always suspected refs to be at least biased if not corrupt. Certain refs are notorious and we know their names(thaqt’s right Mr. Dowd, Dean and others) Isn’t it strange that Howard Webb despite being known for being Man Utd fan gets to referee their matches so often where they can’t do no wrong with a very predictable result? Against Sunderland, imagine Robin Van Persie penalty call happening on the other end, there would be “stonewalled” penalty granted against us, you could count on it! Everyone is talking of inconsistencies but the problem obviously runs deeper. Nobody seem to talk about possible corruption as if not to aggravate already biased refs but unless something is done they will eventually ruin the beautiful game.

  • Big Lebowski

    Maybe it should be compulsory for refs to have a post match press conference. The press could then go straight for the throat instead of getting the manager charged for disrepute.

  • Martin Radooli

    I now beginning to believe there is a consipiracy against Arsenal and a corruption among the refs can not be ruled out. Mike Riley was another one who when officiating a game against Arsenal would favour the opposing team. Webb yesterday denied a blant penalty against Van Persie committed by Oshea. He was near but chose to ignore it. That would have brought Arsenal back into the game. True Webb puts alot of emotions and sentiments in his job. He is not professional at all. Look at the World Cup Game were he just dished out cards as if fans were interested in seeing yellow cards instead of football.

    Wake up Howard Webb

  • Rhys Jaggar

    I must say that the most blatant influence a ref had on a game I saw was at Goodison Park, where Graham Poll denied Everton a stonewall penalty against Arsenal and then sent an Evertonian off for presumably telling him that he didn’t agree with his decision.

    Evertonians were fairly forceful in telling Graham Poll what they thought of him and Arsenal won with a late Adebayor goal.

    I have no idea if Poll had been leant on but it is indubitably the case that I’ve seen 5 games where Arsenal won due to dodgy refereeing decisions. Arsenal 2 Wigan 1 is one which comes to mind….

    I haven’t done statistical analyses on it and I’d like to see detailed analyses on whether other teams also have ‘referees they do badly with’.

    Your assumption, unspoken it appears to me, is that this is organised by Manchester Utd. It would be interesting to know whether Liverpool FC did likewise during their 15 year period of domination between 1976 and 1990.

    I didn’t see yesterday’s game so won’t comment on it. I did hear Gareth Southgate say at the end though that Sunderland ‘had two hand ball shouts turned down so the decisions evened themselves out in the end’. I flipped the channel to ITV + 1 hour during adverts on some Freeview channel if you must know how that came about……

    It’s important that you address that issue, because it goes to the crux of whether things are biased or simply the result of referees being imperfect human beings.

    One other issue to address is this: do other teams, notably Man Utd, have as many bad decisions but they do not affect the result as they score more goals? It’s important not to cry conspiracy theory if this is a function of Arsenal not taking other chances so needing to emphasise wrong decisions to cover that up. Again, I make no comment or judgement on that, because I don’t know the answer. I’m saying it’s a critical point of analysis. Because the theory would go that less good teams would suffer more through this analysis when actually they’re not suffering much more in reality.

    This is hard to quantify unless you have analysed 20 matches involving every side in the EPL. That’s a lot of work.

    But if football fans are serious about this, they should get a non-partisan group together and seek funding to carry it out each season as a service to football fans, if not to the EPL or the media.

    I don’t know what results would emerge from that.

    But I would be confident that if you had three adjudicators on each match, one supporter of each side and one independent judge you would get the best, most rigorous and most reliable outcome.

    I wonder whether M. Platini believes in Footballing Fair Play?

    Perhaps you can find out by asking him to fund such an operation, eh????

  • Rhys Jaggar

    If you want an example of how a scientist went about debunking some currently contentious ‘theory’, here’s a good example:

    This story shows the following:

    1. You can collect data sources from surprising places – you don’t need to use official data.
    2. High variability from data point to data point can be a normal part of long-term records.
    3. That high variability can be part of no long-term trend.
    4. You don’t need particularly high tech to measure certain things, even if the Establishment are using ridiculously complex satellite measurements currently.
    5. The data allows you to draw conclusions which are contrary to the current religion.
    6. You may have difficulty in getting your publication accepted if your views go contrary to the Establishment position.
    7. This scientist was prepared to get 100,000 manual records digitised prior to doing his analysis. That’s about 250 years, 12 months a year, 30 odd stations per month. That’s a labour of love to be sure. But it adds huge credibility to conclusions……..

  • Rhys there is no assumption. We started the series because Walter and I wondered if the notion that “all refs make mistakes sometimes” and “it all balances out in the end” was true. We were not specifically trying to point to anything beyond that – just wondering if it really did all balance out in the end.

    In fact we have found that it didn’t, and we have spent a very long time establishing why. There are many reasons – one being the low number of refs in the EPL which makes bias more possible, and the other being the apparent willingness off the authorities to punish refs who regularly fail to get a decent number of decisions correct.

    So the first point is: is the refereeing of the EPL all fair and square – in which case it all will balance out in the end.

    Second, if it does not look right, then what else can we find behind this first observation. This is where the lack of numbers, the geographic bias, and the way in which certain clubs are regularly refereed by certain men, comes in to play.

    Third, and this is the element we are still working on, which is why your notion of Manchester U is unfounded, if there is something odd going on, akin to the Italian situation, who is it favouring.

    We know that in Italy four or five teams were involved in the scam, and ultimately they all got punishments. Juve, Inter, Milan were all involved.

    Now in Italy the problem was that no one was bribing the refs – they were simply organising the league so that they were more likely to get certain refs for certain games, and those refs were more likely to favour the bribing team, because they were being given general gifts from time to time (the holiday villa is the obvious example).

    So it gets hard to read. If we take your example of Manchester U, we might say that they are getting a ref to ensure they get a victory. But they might also be ensuring that Chelsea get refs who ensure Chelsea don’t get a victory. Now if we have five clubs up to no good, it gets very complex indeed.

    I think we are gathering evidence that this is what is happening here, as it happened in Italy. One thing I can say for sure, it is not as simplistic as it being one club getting all the good calls.

  • Just one other word, to anyone wondering why his/her comment has not appeared.

    It is a rule on Untold that comments should not be abusive, and should be about the subject written about. I have just removed a couple of posts which were here and had nothing to do with the article above.

    We like argument and debate, but no mindless opinion, simplistic abuse or discussions on something that is not related to the topic written about.

    If you don’t find us writing about what you want to have discussed, please do submit an article. There are details on how to do this on the home page.

  • Charlie

    Who cares, it’s not like anything will be done about it. You remind me of the fiddlers on the Titanic. While our club collapses with a a series of terrible performances due to mismanagement over the last 10 years you continue to go on about referees.

  • FinnGun

    “… mismanagement over the last 10 years…”


    Erm. have you forgotten the Invincibles? Take account of the fact that we have still finished higher in the league on an average – certainly on a ten year average – than before Wenger. And we have regularly gone further in the cups and in Europe. And there’s the little thing of the new stadium. Wenger wasn’t voted the manager of the decade for nothing, you know. And all this while billionaires changed the whole competitive environment in the PL. Barcelona went without trophies for 6 years, not so long ago. And we’ve consistently done better than e.g. Liverpool while spending a hell of a lot less. Of course it helps that they have real fans…

    On top of all this, we have referees who are inept, biased and/or corrupt. So yes, it matters.
    Besides, it’s more helpful to fiddle than to boo.

  • Martin Radooli

    It is good Rhys Jagger admits he did not watch the game but is basing his argument on a commentary by the former Borough coach. i only noted the denial of a penalty. How about the number of times Gardner and Cattermole had to faul Arsenal Players before they received a yellow card. Gardner received a yellow card after 6 fouls while Cattermole after 5 fouls. but Varmealen only once and so was Song. The fouls by Gardner and Catermole were blant pulling of jerseys, hold ing opponents and coming in with rough tackles. Does it mean that one tackle by an arsenal player is equal to 6 tackles by a sunderland player?

    Jaggar you need to watch the game to understand what we are saying.

  • Ricky

    Of course Arsene Wenger has never actually lost a match. There have been a few when the other side scored more goals though.

  • Adam

    As far as Ref bias goes. I think even with the wonderful work untold has put in, it is not hard evidence of wrong doing, just bad workmanship and refs plying their trade without the right tools for the job. As far as the tune group sponsoring the Pgmol that is hard evidence of a conflict of interests and should have been dealt with by the Premier league. Which for me proves that they are inept or on the take.

  • DC

    It’s not just the regularity of the smaller missed or wrong calls that has concerned me over the past 10 years or so, but it is the increasing frequency of blatantly wrong decisions that have ultimately influenced the outcomes of matches, and are never explored further by the authorities or the media but conversely are headlined with “Wenger moans about the referee, again”!
    ManU do get alot of bias, whether knowingly or not, and it is in no small measure due to the patriarchal status of their manager and their CV of success in the EPL-era whilst in his charge! As another example, in Spain, Barcelona now, and it was Real Madrid before them, are the favoured ones and also get the same level of officiating priveleges. It should also not be overlooked in this context that ManU do not seem to get this same treatment in the CL and are less favoured by the European officials, whilst Barcelona seem to be.

    With all that said, I think that the public conveyance of this situation (and in no small measure, I’m sure, because of the work of UA and Walter et al) will indeed make accountability a future must and assist in cleaning up this side of our game. However, for it to continue in its progress, the work must continue unabated and without prejudice! Keep it up UA!

  • bob

    Imo, it’s not sentiment that the Webbmaster applies. It’s $entiment that’s been applied to him; and the $ong that he sings is the hymn to Rednose, Lord Football-to-be, in this most fateful year of the Fergus XX. Webb is capable of professional refereeing. But as Webbmaster he’s taken the devil’s bargain and goes on a Slave to it.

  • El Tel

    This is my favorite subject and the main reason I only watch the Arsenal over the past five years.

    Yes I am an Arsenal fan and have been all my life and yes I whine about the Refs. As an Arsenal fan we know what it is like to be truly hated by all other Clubs.

    The London neighbors are jealous of our success and the Northern based Fergie mobsters just hate Londoners.

    Looking at the match yesterday I saw one team being allowed to man handle e opposition and following through the opponent at will and the other team getting penalized when doing the same thing.

    Ramsey got away 40 yards from goal at one point and got felled by an outstretched arm, no problem there as the free kick was given but when TV I think it was did the same thing later in the game out came the card.

    Two identical fouls but with a different outcome. One defender not facing a sending off for making a mistake and another who has to be very cautious not to commit again.

    Regarding the non penalty decision. Wether the former Man U player got the ball first or not it was a foul. I saw highlights of a penalty awarded to Howard Webbs team against Chelsea which again was identical. Sturbridge took ball and foot at the same time but guess what? You got it. There was then a really soft penalty awarded them soon after which got them back into the match.

    RVP got hauled to the ground yesterday and Townsend said this was ok as the ball was way over his head. Does it say in the rules that you can pull someone down as long as the ball is not close to you? If this is so then let’s see all teams pulling their opponents to the floor at any time to find out if it’s in the rules.

    What if the ball had been poorly cleared and RVP was fortunate enough to be right where the ball lands? Instead He was on his back laying on the grass. After being thrown to the ground.

    There was two handball penalty shouts for Sunderland that I can remember one when the ball hit Song and it seemed like He knew little about this, the ball in fact did still go across the box so it could have been worse for Arsenal and then TV got hit on the arm with a cross which again He knew little about as the opponent was a couple of yards away and the ball was hit hard.

    There was some little ginger haired player in the Sunderland team who just pulled and pushed and body checked at will. I think he did get a card but it was very late in the game.

    Lastly how about this cracker of a comment form years gone by. Poor old Paul Scholes those fouls he makes are because he can’t tackle. Vieira is dirty and constantly fouling. How about saying Vieira can’t tackle either. Both of them fouled often so why not.

    I know it’s because Scholes is and England international from Man U and Vieira is French and from the Arsenal.

    Are Refs bent was the question.

    You don’t need a survey to answer this one IMO.

  • Paul

    Completely agree with Martin Radooli, I was so angry at the way the game went, I know that Arsenal played really poor, but Sunderland did do their homework and went out to kick our players just so they can break up play. You could tell the players weren’t happy at all, Webb didn’t do much except awarding a couple of free kick here and there, but as soon as Arsenal players have lost it and started fouling as well, this is when the yellow cards starting rolling out. As if both Sunderland and Webb knew it’s gonna happen. 3 Arsenal players got booked (Vermaelen and Sagna deserved theirs though). It wasn’t until 74:35 that a Sunderland player has finally been booked! One thing which did make me angry is this:

    “20:48 Michael Turner concedes a free kick for a foul on Aaron Ramsey. Free kick taken by Mikel Arteta.
    “38:09 Johan Djourou gives away a free kick for an unfair challenge on Craig Gardner.
    38:16 Booking
    Johan Djourou receives a yellow card.” (Source: BBC)

    Now where is the difference between the foul by Turner from that made by Djourou? The one by Turner was a really straight forward and deliberate in order to stop Ramsey entering the box. You could see Ramseys protest, he wasn’t happy. The one by Djourou was more stupidly accidental and the Sunderland player went down like a Sergio Busquets trainee. It is still a foul, but the same as the one on Ramsey, did it even out in the end? No, Djourou got a yellow and we conceded a silly goal. Turner is a hero, Djourou is an idiot. Can see the AAA shouting : “Get reed of that donkey Djourou, buy Turner, he knows how to defend blah blah”. Anyway got taken away here slightly, hope you got my point, it just makes me angry how referees alow teams like Sunderland to break up Arsenal’s play by fouling them in every way possible and getting away with it, but as soon as Arsenal start doing the same, this is when it’s considered to be dangerous play…biased advantage to the team with lesser ball possession.

  • Marcus

    People will see what they want to see, and believe what they want to believe. I didn’t think the refereeing was that bad yesterday to be honest…but I tend to think the Premiership and the European Cups are where the stakes are highest…

    I suppose the big question is: Does Football matter? Is it just a boys’ game played by adults, or is it something which has the power to pollute or edify society?

    I tend to the latter view myself. Football was probably promoted into a major sport by the Illuminati in order to create fierce tribalisms, and a channel for people to divert their political frustrations.

    I do though applaud the work of this site, although I suspect it is a dangerous enterprise. I think Viv Richards once said with a smile, after a man tried to kill him with a crowbar, “It’s not always easy to go into Politics, there are people who want things a certain way”.

    Personally I have enjoyed what Arsenal have contributed to football, especially as an antidote to the alternatives…..but when Wenger loses his job, I will probably lose most of my interest in this sport.

    It’s all pretty much rigged, and a rigged game is of very little intrinsic interest. My advice to season supporters of any team is save your money and invest in your own and your childrens’ education.

  • bob

    To Rhyss Jaggar, Scientist in Residence:
    You do insinuate that the UA/Ref Project is using its Ref Analysis to cover up AFC’s missed chances. You and I have actually agreed that missed chances are a serious problem. But it conflating this actual problem with the tacit allegation that UA’s Ref Project exists as an attempted cover-up of this problem is a nasty piece of work.

    You tacitly require that, to be serious and credible, UA/Refs must first work out a Ratio of Ref Miscalls :: Missed Chances for each and every EPL team (over how many years?), before any assertion that AFC is disproportionately hard done by a handful of bent referees. However, as you softly note, your so-called standard of credibility would, of course, pose a logistical nightmare to UA/unfunded fans. By contrast, your heroic role model of (trumpets) a serious and credible effort is that of a well-funded institutional scientist who has (yes exhaustively) quantified reports of snowfall on one mountain range – not all mountain ranges, mind you; and then tacitly lends his local findings to debunk claims of serious man-made global climate change.

    Now, IF I have this right, you are NOT asking that this man repeat his exercise for All mountain ranges, correct? Of course not: for that too would pose a logistical nightmare – even to someone as he who has an institutional perch and some level of (undisclosed) financing to attempt more of the same. Moreover, your man’s finding – that there’s not been appreciable absence of expectable snowfall on that mountain range – lends itself (willingly?) to those high-octane interests who deny global warming is man-made.

    This begs further questions: If, let’s say for the sake of further argument, that you too are a climate-change denier, would that perhaps be why you DO NOT demand that your role model first examine snowfall records for ALL mountain ranges before publishing his conclusions about one mountain range? It seems that if you are sympathetic to the direction of that research (and, after all, you do seem to slate belief in global warming as “the current religion”), then you do not demand that every mountain range be sampled first, or the research can’t be credible. Whereas, dear Scientist in Residence, should you not like the direction of the research (when it potentially disturbs your worldview and comfort zone) – as in UA’s documentation/analysis effort, then you demand (oh, I know, you’re ‘just saying”) that all teams must be sampled for the allegation of bended-knee ref bias to be credible enough to be published and taken seriously.

    In sum, to be polite, I think you have a double-standard going. (And don’t get me started on your religion: the god of Purported Objective Quantification, before which all other aspirants to truth shall be put to the sword.)

  • DC

    The tactic employed by Sunderland is exactly the same as that employed by most teams against us as the referees turn a blind-eye to it! It you recall, that tactic was also employed by the Dutch against Spain in the recent World Cup final and we all know who was in charge then too?!
    Howard Webb is now a very incompetent referee, as most of his cohorts are too, and he does not understand the dynamics of the game of football and the illegal tactics employed by some managers and their teams as was clearly shown yesterday! The only way to beat it is to not allow any of these players near you and you move the ball much faster and widen the pitch. Unfortunately, in desperation, these other players will become so exuberant that they will commit reckless challenges which result at result in serious injury, as usually happens to us!
    Not dealing with similar incidents equally makes the referee an arse and Webb has been in the top 4 of that particular league for some time now!

  • DC

    In addition, because the team is not moving and passing the ball as well as they need to and should, they are now looking very average against these sorts of teams and officials that turn a blind eye, and reward, their rotational fouling and disruption in our play!

  • bob

    Well observed and well said.
    (But unless you have sampled all EPL teams over the last 10 years and determined their Missed Calls to Missed Opportunities ratio, then you have no right to insinuate that anything is systematically awry in the football of the Septic Aisle. 🙂 At least that’s a foul for which our Scientist-in-Residence well might award you a Red-card.)

  • bob

    Is Webb a very very incompetent arse, or does he touch (or cross) that very careful borderline into dependably delivering the goods? Would you think?

  • DC

    I think the latter is more the reality but then of course we couldn’t possibly say that as it would be tantamount to deformation of character and slander! After all, he’s still “the best referee in England”! LOL!!! What a pile of shit!

  • @Tony how many injuries did we get? It was a jung-su match. @Tony the 4th official wot was he discussing with O’Neil!before the match and in the middle of the match something big was going on.
    So are we having dowd or web again! What did the professor say after the game? if it was in Nakivubo stadium Tony trust me that match would not have ended without punches.

  • bob

    Speaking probabilistically, deformation of character is likely the case; but defamation of character, well surely no one here would go there, so to speak 🙂

  • bob

    If we were being ref-shited (that is, kicked-shited with a blind-eye by the WebbMaster) and this took its toll, then it’s a case that has got to be made by the Club, and absent that, Gooner fandom, at some point THIS season. Perhaps it will be made with video-taped evidence if/when we either have clinched 4th place in spite of it all, or after there is no longer hope of 4th place. I hope that one time or another, the visual evidence for what’s been accumulating here will become public and stir the widest discussion outside the censoring stenographic football editors, writers and pundits on the Arse-Beatdown circuitry.

  • dan

    Isn’t Webb-boy from Manchester???

  • bob

    Martin Radooli,
    You may have unearthed something that could be verifiable going forward: the 1:6 ratio. One yellow card for every six fouls against us; whereas our fouls might be 1:2 or 1:3. It would be worth looking for this as the rest of the wrestling matches unfold.

  • DC

    @bob: 4.07pm,
    LOL! Yes, certainly not with the latter! ;-D

  • Blimey – the telegraph are doing a RefWatch… looks like it’s going main-stream.

  • bob

    A UM tidbit:
    The Manchester Guardians have just come up with this bit of lens crafting from Louise Taylor’s (not to be confused with the fair minded Amy Lawrence) sleight of hand in her stenographic coverage of Arsene’s press conference. Asked by another reporter for “your position” on questions again being raised about his being coach after this week’s defeats, just as they were raised after the 8-2 ManU defeat, Arsene’s answer was: “There’s no position.” Louise Taylor turned that answer into this: “He seemed affronted to be asked about his own position. ‘What position?’ he replied.” Arsene did not betray feeling affronted (though he had every right to feel that way), nor did he answer defensively nor with a snap of ire as her contextualization and misrepresenting the words (“What position?,” she wrote) would have it. It’s not only god that’s in the details; but the devil too, in this case the Red Devils? Good try Louise Taylor, for building your case, but we’re not as dumb as you’d have us. (Btw, if it was your editor, or Richard Williams who changed the words, and I have unfairly slated you, you have my apologies and suggestion that you fight back or resign, and write in hereabouts with what it’s like being there on the Arse-Beatdown right now, what with the manly Messrs. Williams, Hytner, Steinberg, et. al., all slobbering to stick their cleated fingers in our eyes via their keyboards.)

  • @DogFace I guess the telegraph are working with our website data considering the way they have presented it 🙂

  • If cricket can be investigated why not football where we all see the ref’s being bent?