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July 2021

Referees : Is there something to hide? – Part 2

By Walter Broeckx

One of our readers asked the following question after one of my ref articles. I will try to answer the parts in bold.

Ref Reviewer #? It would be kind and instructive and de-mystifying to readers hear to have you weigh in on some questions. Refreshingly, you write: there are “moments when you cant see a blatant foul under your nose.” Fine, but how is this possible? Is this down to fatigue? What goes into a slump like this? What happens to a ref when this occurs say more than once; or more than once in the same game?

This said, do you feel that there should be ref press conferences after a game? Do you feel that PGMO ref reports should be made public the week after every game? Is there any training that is based on such mistakes? When does it take place? Any mid-season adjustments? After the season? Is there post-game reviewing by the ref and his peers for quality control purposes? If so, please describe. If not, why not?

I think it’s due time that our Ref Reviewers, whose work is appreciated, be asked to help us understand what really goes on. If this means undoing the black wall of silence, please do and help us to learn what is going on as much as you can or will. Cheers.

In some countries the refs talk to the press after a game. Holland is such a country. I have mentioned before that refs come to the camera’s after the game look at the images and admit a mistake.

I do think this is something that can only bring benefit to the refs and also brings more understanding for refs who have made a mistake. It is painful of course for the ref in question to see that you made a mistake.  And when you then can look in the camera and apologise for the mistake you made it will not change the outcome of the game. It will not change the points in the league table. But it changes the whole perspective for the supporters.

They can still feel angry about the mistake but when they see that the ref is feeling embarrassed about his mistake it eases the pain a bit. The supporters know that it was wrong but see the regret and see that the ref made his apology. So in a way the incident gets closed for the supporters and for the ref.

For the ref coming out for their mistake is also something that will make you stronger in the long run. Nobody likes it to be pointed at after a game. And no ref will like to admit his mistakes in front of the audience. So what will this ref do in his next game? He will make damn sure he doesn’t have to go through it again. And he will do all and everything to avoid having to face the media again.

So the refs will want to improve their game and make as few mistakes as possible. And isn’t this what it’s all about?

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It also is very helpful for the organisation that is following the refs. If a ref has openly admitted his mistake the organisation can see if he needs punishment or not. You could install a system like with the yellow cards. 5 yellow cards is a game suspension. So you could give refs a game suspension after a number of mistakes. Again it will be an incentive for the refs to prevent such a suspension.

Because when a ref has made to many such mistakes and (let us say) after 2 suspensions they could consider demoting the ref and put him back to the lower leagues. And it will also help the public understand better why a ref has been demoted or why not.

In some countries there are reviews as we do them over here, of each game in the highest division. And they give the ref points (like we do over here) and at the end of the season the ref must have a score of 70% or will lose his status and possible lose money the next season.

The refs are informed about the score they got so they know if they are on the right track or not.

In my country refs also can have free help from a sports psychologist when they don’t feel comfortable with their own performances. As for a football player confidence is important for the ref also and the aim is to help restore confidence when things are not going as good as planned.

Last year I asked all the European football federation a few questions about this and how they do such things. The received answers was….zero. Apart from one federation who said that they could not answer those questions to me because they had agreed to not answer to such questions. My plans to write a study on referees in Europe had received a major blow with the non-answers from the football federations. I still dream about it but I have hit the black wall of silence myself last year.

Thus I know how the situation is in Belgium because of my inside knowledge but how other countries deal with this is a well hidden secret as no football federation is willing to answer any questions about the refs.

So in Belgium there is post match reviewing and it would be a bloody shame if this wouldn’t happen in England.

With the demoting of Stuart Atwell recently I think there is such a system and every now and then it seems to work. But it brings up the question why it only works with a relative young and inexperienced ref. And not with “top” refs who make “mistake” after mistake and get no punishment.

Most things in the referee world are done behind closed doors. Nothing is made public apart from the odd exception. And I don’t know for you but I always feel very suspicious about things that are done in private rooms. Football is a public sport. Football is from the public and for the public. And yet the things about the person who is the most important person on the field are all done in a secret way.

You can have a game without Rooney. You can have a game without Van Persie. You can have a game without Messi. But you cannot have a game without the ref. The ref is the most important person in each football game. And we don’t get any information about this person. Questions are not answered. Nothing is made public. And this leads to this all important question:

Is there something to hide?




Why we really do have to blame the refs

Referees mistakes all even out in the end don’t they?   Well actually, no they don’t

Our latest Untold Ref Review is… Manchester City 3 Fulham 0


On the history site:

When Arsenal lost its temper with a make believe media


34 comments to Referees : Is there something to hide? – Part 2

  • Kentetsu

    Walter, you did not answer any of the questions asked at the start of your article (I believe it was bob who asked the questions in the first place?) and only hinted at answering the question about ref press conferences. Taking on the example of Holland, you seem to support the idea of ref press conferences.

    For all the other questions you did not give any answer. I understand you may not know the answers and your search into professional refereeing across Europe hit the proverbial wall, but could you explain your own experiences in Belgium on a non-professional level. Do you have (annual) meetings organised by the KBVB to brush up your knowledge? Does the KBVB at times assess your performance?

  • Gerry Lennon

    Personally I would like it sorted on the pitch at the time?
    Introduction of the orange card. Not for a player, but for the referee to inform the public that a decision, or non decision is being looked at by an off-field referee. By taking the pointless 4th Official off the touchline to somewhere to have instant access to cameras from all angles, with a technician to run the action through, but still allowing play to continue for at least another 60 seconds with the on-field ref’s decision standing.
    No hold up in play. Absolutely no ‘discussions’ by players after the ‘Orange’ signal has been given. If a mistake has been made, then play is brought back and justice is done there and then. Otherwise, play continues with the on-field ref decision as being the correct one, or no ‘obvious’ error made.

  • Walter


    there has been a bit of a mix up as this was part 2 and part 1 still has to be published.

  • Walter

    In Belgium we have at least one annual meeting with the refs. The higher you find yourself as a ref you get more meetings and group trainings. Top refs have weekly trainings and meetings.

    About after the match interviews I do think it should be done.

    I know some refs will think it will undermine them but I think it will have the opposite reaction in the long term.
    Like I said nobody wants to confess in public they made a mistake. So the ref will do all he can to avoid this. And thus making “deliberate” mistakes will go away. Unless you have a masochistic character and like the humiliation.

  • Walter

    The annual meetings takes place at the start of the season.

    In Belgium the post game reviews are done in a rather similar way to what we are doing here at Untold. Looking at the whole game and see what the ref did or not did and check it with what can be seen on the images.

  • Spyder

    Certainly there is something to hide about English referees, bo doubt about that.

  • Gerry,
    It’s a good idea but it this obsession with ‘hold ups in play’ is a fallacy used to keep the football loving public biased against the use of technology.
    Take tennis. Technology only intrudes at what in football would be termed a dead ball situation, either at service or when the ball leaves the play area.
    Take rugby union. Firstly, the amount of time the ball is actually in play is ~80 minutes, compared to a usual amount of around 60 to 70 minutes in an average football match IIRC. Secondly, it is very rare for a referee to stop play based on the advice of the TMO. Referees aren’t afraid to issue cards and warnings at the next break down of play for something they missed previously. Thirdly, rugby is a stop start game, every successful tackle results in the ball being on the floor and the game pausing naturally. The referee has very little to do with it.
    Take cricket. Twenty20 is played with the assistance of technology and at a fairly rapid pace so there is no inherent reason that technology slows the game down.

  • Walter

    And of course I think the PGMO ref reports should be made public. So the public can check the PGMO itself and see if they do a good job in checking the refs.

    The biggest problem will be some bruised ref ego’s at times but hey if you cannot stand the heat, stay out of the kitchen.

  • Walter

    Woolwich I agree but I think the idea from Gerry is good in the way that this can undermine the forces that are in power to stop video evidence entering the playing field.

    Fifa/uefa hide behind this “holding up play” to stop it from becoming active. So any idea to undermine this is a good idea.

  • Walter,
    You’re suggesting that an organisation that does not want to have their actions subjected to scrutiny will introduce a measure that is actually effective at scrutinising their actions?

    My suggestion would be to increase the number of match officials to twenty two, one for each player, with ten substitute officials, in order to make bribing every official so difficult as to make the practice unworkable.
    Or a ‘referee services auction’, tagline: “Will throw games to the highest bidder”. A completely open and transparent process whereby gambling syndicates and corrupt FA officials have to bid against each other to secure the outcome they desire.
    I regard both of the above as MORE LIKELY than the introduction of technology.

  • 1979gooner

    quite simply, Yes!

    the workings of the PGMO are hidden and it does appear that something is being hidden

  • Stevie E

    I remember an incident where a player had been fouled in the box and the ball went out of play, for which the ref called a corner. The camera then went to the dugout to show the manager (Steve Bruce I think) watching a replay of the incident and then going crazy trying to show the 4th official it was in fact a pen. The 4th wouldn’t even look at the screen. All this happened while the player was sill on the floor and a couple of Sunderland (?) players were remonstrating with the ref. This proves how quickly video replay can be shown and what a difference it can make to the outcome of the match.

  • Tasos

    Video technology will eventually enter the game, as it has in so many other sports. EPL supremo Richard Scudamore has said that “tests are on-going” but its very doubtful anything we be in place before next season.

    Tests are on-going? You could ask, what needs to be tested?

    Television was invented many years ago and Sky have broadcast football in the EPL for two/three decades, they now have so many cameras positioned around the field of play that someone watching the English game in Outer-Mongolia is able to judge a debatable/wrong decision within seconds, he can know if the correct decision has been made but the officials are unable to do likewise. The game must move with the times.

    Amongst the many other sports that have adapted, Tennis has Hawk-eye and Mac-Cam, Cricket has the third umpire and Rugby has Video Referees, the technology is already there, you could say that other sports have already tested it for the people that govern football.

    So why hasn’t it been brought in already Mr Scudamore?

  • bob

    Yes! And Scudamore is delaying with “tests” in order to implement “goal line technology” instead of true video replay. It’s one big sham of a holding pattern designed to continue to hide what is there in plain sight – that is, what is being hidden in plain sight. Perhaps you misspelled his name – isn’t it Spud-Amore?

  • bob

    And could add that in US (so-called) football – especially in the biggest and championship games – the games are stopped, by rule, for ref video review. And It provides extra drama, not boredom and interruption of the precious flow that traditionalists argue (and thereby help continue the alleged “incompetence” that video replay could alleviate).

  • bob

    Walter, Kentetsu,
    Cheers, very glad to be of any use! 🙂

    The need for fair play is fast becoming dire. And it outweighs the traditional ideal of football as a pure continuum of non-stop play. It is neither pure nor continuous. Already there is stoppage for substitutions, real and faked injuries (via dives), fouls/advantage, whatever; and perhaps other such moments for replay/review could be teased out. It needn’t take any longer that the rapid-fire replay that commercial cameras already provide on many occasions. At the very least, there could be a system of coach’s challenges (two per half as in US Football); with one challenge (of the four) removed whenever a coach gratuitously tosses a flag, or tosses a flag for an honest challenge that proves incorrect (on replay review). The alternative: endless laments, tsk-tsk’s and hand-ringing, and embittered fans from MANY teams.

    The question is whether we will hide behind the “continuous flow” mantra, or whether fans will summon the moxie to pose a demand for video replay – have the keyboard-courage to raise and sign a petition. Like today’s, UA/Ref Review has continually taken us to the edge of posing such a demand. And it’s not just about Arsenal. In the previous thread, Tasos gave us an Amazing link to a passionate, principled Chelsea supporter (and ref), who, like their coach AVB, had the courage to call out a ref (Foy and Webb, respectively) and the PGMO itself. Does their being Chelsea really so blind us to the common ground that a common demand for fair play via video replay could bring to us, to football? Or is the masochism of self-righteous whinging our true lifestyle preference?

  • Stevie,
    I would say conservatively that a system to track players moving into offside positions using fixed cameras around the stadium would be trivial to implement. To then identify those players would be an order of magnitude harder but not impossible. Working with testing conditions like rain and poor pitches where there is low contrast between shirts and the background would be difficult but certainly not impossible.
    Video goal line technology I believe is a red herring, how many times is there actually an argument about whether a ball crossed the line, versus the number of times dubious offside goals are given and onside goals are wrongly disallowed.
    All of this misses the point that once you remove the ability to make mistakes by humans you remove the ability for them to make them deliberately.
    I’d love to see the scorelines when a bunch of cloggers (let’s nominate Stoke) try to repel a nine man Wigan side with only five players left on the pitch. That’d be football worth watching, unlike the dross the PL regularly serves up.

  • bob

    Yes, capital idea!!! I’d purchase advance season’s tickets for such Stoke-Wigan matches, just to help make it possible. (And, oh please, assign some of the favored stenographers to cover it in the Sun, Mirror and Manchester Guardians’ football pages.)

  • Kentetsu

    Walter, thanks for the clarification on your standpoint and your experience in Belgian football.

    Like you, I am a proponent of transparency. The more transparency, the less shady business can/will take place. Not sure though, whether the general public would need full access to weekly ref reports, though. All the clubs in the professional leagues definitely should have, but I think for the average joe an annual report would suffice.

  • Kentetsu

    Some more questions for you.

    Is the EPL the only league where the refs are full time professionals?

    Is the FA the only national association which does not directly employ the refs (but through the PGMO instead)?

  • bob

    With such ref reports to ponder on a weekly basis, Joe would become above average. And as for transparency, are you only advocating transparency for the few? Why not give everyone a continual chance to learn something worth learning, not an annual chance?

  • Gerry Lennon

    I am pleased that my suggestion has had such a positive feedback, thank you.
    The way I see it working in reality is this:
    The 4th official, alongside a video technician, has a main screen, alongside a bank of monitors. Each monitor runs a loop at 10 or 15 seconds intervals behind the ‘live’ action. The technician has access to all camera angles and can bring up any one to the main screen. If it is not a ‘clear’ wrong decision, then play continues with the original decision standing. If a decision is changed in favour of the ‘innocent party, which would also mean rescinding any card wrongly given, or even recalling a player ‘sent off’. Also the time to reset the play from say a goal to a goal kick, can easily be calculated and added to the extra time, although I stress, in most cases, this will be minimum. I think at least 3 views can be seen inside a minute? However, if play has still held up, then more time could be allowed without incurring any extra-time?
    It is all about having the correct decisions being made so teams are not UNFAIRLY penalised. This is still a refereeing decision, albeit relayed to the on-field official. It does not undermine referees. It does penalise cheating. A foul is a foul, a dive is a dive, off-the ball incidents … the aggressor gets the greater punishment. In the latter, this could be a two way thing, where the 4th official alerts the on-field ref that something has happened?
    All these things are a bane to managers and supporters alike, when they are on the receiving end of a wrong decision.
    All decisions could be relayed to the big screen at the ground for all to see? This transparency should remove any suspicion of bias? That at least, is something the referee’s association should wecome … unless they really do have some thing to hide?

  • Kentetsu

    In the first place, if all EPL clubs have access to full weekly ref reports for matches in the EPL, then they will be able to control each other. I do not believe that the EPL is that rotten that all twenty clubs are in on the match fixing, whichever form it may have.

    I am not against full publication of the weekly reports so that you and I will be able to read it, but I know for myself that I am not likely to read a weekly report. An annual year review on the other hand I am likely to read. From that standpoint, I would say complete access to the weekly reports may not be very interesting, but yes, I guess other people will read weekly reports with interest.

  • bob

    Gerry Lennon,
    The problem I see is in who chooses the neutrality of the now all-important 4th referee, who could well be drawn from the same tainted batch. In my view, the reviewing ref need to be fished from another non-PGMO pool, or somehow ensure total transparency. That said, I love the idea of then showing the call on the stadium telescreen for all to see. Indeed, why not: except for what is being hidden to preserve the holy tri-une deity of PGMO/FA/EPL.

  • Tasos


    If you want an example of how stoppages in-play are already going unnoticed by the masses, watch how well Mike Dean ignores the constant time-wasting tactics from Arsenals opponents this weekend, especially when/if they’re in an advantageous position (not loosing), in fact he even complements the act with his very own version, chatting with his assistants and even opposition players once play has been stopped.

    If I remember correctly Mike Dean penalised RVP, in the recent home game against Man Utd, for daring to question his complete control in this field.

  • bob

    A weekly available report allows people to advocate/demand fairness and pressure for corrections to be made midstream. Your preference for an annual report is for something that is not a living document, but a review of what’s already been done; and so, which can only impact the following season (after the storm is over). An annual review could channel the potential energy for redress and reform away from and outside the season itself. I don’t think that this serves actual reform in a more immediate, self-correcting way that is both possible and needed.

  • bob

    Yes, good one. The “normal” ref-induced/controlled stoppages that go unseen and do impede the otherwise perfect flow. Perhaps we Should label it Dean-Time?

  • Kentetsu

    Fair points, but if the clubs have access to the latest reports, they will be able to address any issues directly. The clubs are also the ones with the most power to force the PGMO to address the problems. The FA doesn’t seem to care, the media is already turning a blind eye to anything that does not help the elite few, and the power of the mass – which I believe will be limited in number, considering the small number of people who raise their concern about the quality of refereeing is sub-par – is limited.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Dean-Time… almost as good as a Webbalty 🙂

  • ak47

    great art. Woolwich Peripatetic-1004 🙂 nail-head.

    my questions would be, how do we go about forcing this action through.

    whom could provide the most effective opposition to those cheating scum.

  • bob

    So we have an unholy trinity:
    What an interesting candidate for quantifying.

  • Mahdain

    seriously i just cant understand why after 25 games there are refs yet to ref our matches while we are getting dean for the FOURTH time this weekend.. yes people there are refs who we are yet to have..4 of them actually in friend,halsey,taylor and jones

  • Woolwich Peripatetic

    I’ve got a new one, even better than the referee services auction! Meta-rigged betting.
    Bets are taken on whether the referee has been bribed or not (or is naturally biased/incompetent in a way that favours one team). They’d go mad for that sort of thing in Macau. And the best part for the gambling syndicates is they don’t even have to waste their time/money bribing anyone because people will see the announced officials and bet accordingly.