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August 2021

How to fix the Premier League in 10 simple steps

By Tony Attwood

Let’s imagine that you wanted to fix the Premier League so that your favourite team won.  What would you do?

1.  The most obvious approach would be to get someone else to suggest to certain referees that if they saw their way clear to helping your team then that lovely villa you have in the south of France would be theirs for the asking whenever the ref or his family, wanted a well- earned break.  No money changes hands, and it is not necessary to “fix” each game – just give one or two odd decisions along the way in favour of your team.  Throw in a few other benefits for the family – a cruise, a week in New York, any tickets for any shows in the West End that you want… all the things that can move through five different hands so as not to leave any trail.

2.  Of course the “most obvious” approach is not always the most subtle, so a second element can be introduced by asking refs to give those handful of dubious off-sides and penalties against certain other teams who seem to be rivals rather than in favour of your team.  This list of teams to fix against can be changed through the season so that it doesn’t become too obvious.    Newcastle might not be considered a threat so are not mentioned.  But then they have  a great run so their name appears and they pick up a few dubious decisions against them.  They slip back so attention turns elsewhere.  All very gentle and fairly subtle.

3.  Deflecting attention is important – for you not only want to fix matches you also want to avoid discovery.  So try and few other very public tricks along the way.  In a match you have not fixed, but have won, publicly praise the ref.  Maybe get the manager to march onto the pitch and shake the ref’s hand.

4.  Limit the number of refs.  Too many refs make it very hard to fix enough to make an impact, so keep the number of refs very low, and make sure that the same ref referees the same team (ie one of the teams you want to fix) say half a dozen times in the season.  But make this part of the pattern so it doesn’t stand out.

5.  Ensure that the powers-that-be refuse all requests for information about how refs are reviewed, or on how the statistics that the association puts out, are obtained.  You can be sure that the papers will print stories of refs getting 95% of off sides right without too much question, so just run these and let the lackeys in the newspapers do the rest for you.  Oh and when they do, be helpful to the same media by offering further “insights” into the world of the ref.

6.  Refuse refs the right to speak after a game.  You don’t want any awkward questions around from any members of the press trying to make a name for themselves.

7.  Talk to the press a lot behind closed doors, and have your man in the studio when the TV stations do their running reviews of games, so he can give the inside view.  Keep pumping out the story that “it all balances out in the end” but don’t put out any stats that allow this to be considered.  Better, choose a wholly irrelevant statistic, like the number of penalties teams get, to show something.  It doesn’t matter what, but the papers will run the story, and interest in other matters will be deflected.  So if one manager is getting a bit uppity about a whole series of bad decisions, when a ref sends his player off in dubious circumstances get the press to all run “that’s 50 red cards since he became manager”.  Don’t tell them how many reds other clubs or managers have had – but do get people like the pundits on Sky to say how shameful it is that one club should have so many cards.  Imply always that “50” or whatever the number is, is way above everyone else.

8.  Stop managers speaking out.  If a manager criticises a ref punish him by putting him in the stands for three matches.   Criticism of refs by managers could lead to insights emerging that you don’t want.  If you do see a manager heading in the direction of suggesting something is wrong, punish him more, and leak a story to the press that the manager is “losing it”.

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9.  Encourage false explanations every time there is an incident picked up in the press – for example always get the press to speak of “unusual betting patterns” so that any match fixing is related to gambling, rather than attempts by the clubs themselves to fix games.

10.  When a story circulates about problems with match fixing in other countries ensure that no one ever, ever, ever, asks the question: could it happen here?  That will lead to an investigation into the safeguards against match fixing and people will quickly notice that there are not any.

So, if I wanted to fix football, that is what I would do.  But I am not sure I have to, for looking at the detailed analysis of matches this last season, and looking at all the Untold reports on how PGMOL run their side of things I rather think this approach is in operation.

That does not mean PGMOL is bent, nor that match fixing is going on.  But if I were in PGMOL and I saw that the way refereeing in the EPL is organised is exactly the way it should be organised if anyone wanted to fix matches, I would change it dead quick to ensure that everyone in the world can see that there is no match fixing in England.  To leave things as they are would be, well, suspicious.

50 comments to How to fix the Premier League in 10 simple steps

  • durk

    what do you think about this site?

  • olly

    Oh god! You wouldn’t be saying the refs were biased against you if you were winning every week and the winning trophies! Stop finding excuses for your club being bad sometimes

  • Arun

    @ Olly, if you aren’t Arsenal fan, what are you doing here???

  • El Tel

    We would be winning trophies if the Refs were fair. Point is when a Team as attaking as Arsenal got no pens at home all season something smells. When Rooney gets one booking all season then for sure there is an hidden agenda. Funny that with the Euros being played this summer Rooney is percieved to have changed his ways.

    Lets see how the Mancs like it when Citeh start getting the decisions, I bet the media will soon hit on cheating going on to help their beloved Mancs get a fair (unfair balance). Mr Gill will have to work treble hard this coming season otherwise the Mancs will be scrapping with the also rans of the second tier Clubs.

  • Legolas

    @ Olly you stupid man go check statistics and you will see that ref are biased against us .

  • Arun

    The worst thing is the 7th point. Media will say that the team won through a controversial penalty. And then justify that by saying that it all evens out in the end. I just don’t believe how people believe such nonsense stories. Just last night, I was reading a story on how RVP is not agreeing on a new contract with Arsenal. Some interesting points about it:
    1. No author
    2. Reference: A previous story from the same paper and insider source( who seems to have access to the talk between Arsenal and RVP on a new contract).
    3. No quotes
    4. The worst part: the comments from the people, even Arsenal fans, blaming RVP for showing no loyalty.
    Unfortunately, in today’s world, Medai has too much power and as they say, power corrupts.

  • nicky

    I’m beginning to think we ought to have a close season on articles and posts (however interesting) on matters like… whether Van Persie will stay, who we are about to sign, who we are selling, and the price of shirts and season tickets. From the tone of the comments generated,it is clear to me that the nerves and hypertension of Gooners are in grave need of relief by way of the odd off-topic.
    For instance, why not sit quietly, pint of grog in one hand, eyes closed and calculate the percentage of Joan Collins which is put in a drawer each night when she retires to bed.

  • ak47

    only gloryhunters of the oil money clubs and the deluded spud fans who are too busy hating us ignore the ref issue.

    kinda like how most ppl in england could care less about equality and the banksters till their stranded in another country because an airline has gone bust or they get bonnie and clyded.

  • Ti Webb

    Exactly olly that’s a great point. But actually backs up the argument made on this site. For us to win trophies the refs would by default not be biased against us. Not many teams would fix matches so that they don’t win trophies

  • Alzation

    Very interesting article and difficult to argue against any point.

    However, if we look at things from a different angle, how does bias against a style of play influence decisions? Perhaps a referee isn’t intentionally favouring one club over another, but has a greater empathy with a typical English style over a more continental style, as that is how they rose through the ranks?

  • @Alzation – I think you make a good point; there are many reasons why an environment can be hostile to some and forgiving to others.

    I do believe one of these factors is the brand identity of the EPL and the attitudes of the stuffed shirts in the FA et al on what they think English football should be about.

  • Mandy Dodd

    All over the media, it has been happening in Italy….again. Think an AC and a Genoa player have actually been arrested, apparently more to come, including runours of a high profile coach in Italy.
    But as you say, could never happen here!

  • @Mandy Dodd – Correct; the simple fact fo the matter is that they are Italian and we are British – therefore we need not discuss this any further.

  • Dan

    What you speak is the truth. Why do you think the people at the top do not want video technology. It would stop cheating.

  • marcus

    @AK47 – you are, of course, sublimely correct

    only gloryhunters of the oil money clubs and the deluded spud fans who are too busy hating us ignore the ref issue.

    kinda like how most ppl in england could care less about equality and the banksters till their stranded in another country because an airline has gone bust or they get bonnie and clyded.

    The reality of football is that it is a huge conglomeration of assets, emotional persuasion, and propaganda.

    Billions of people and trillions of currency follow football……does anyone seriously think that the “powers what be” – (aka the illuminati) – won’t have a controlling stake in such a conglomerate?


  • ak47


    indeed limiting the victories of the self sustainable makes perfect sense if you wanna live in an unfair world. what kind of example is this sending to kids born in the 1990s and 2000?
    but yet they say they wanna fix this recession?!

    i would imagine it would be easier to remain in power if the majority were poor and uneducated than the reverse.

    thats why i love this site. all we can do is document and raise awareness.

  • My personal opinion , i don’t think the ref in PL are fixed. I just think that they are awful.

  • Mandy Dodd

    You have a point Nirab, but they are more awful to some than others

  • Stuart


    They wouldn’t be biased against us then so no we wouldn’t

  • There is something utterly distasteful about Olly’s view. His notion that if Arsenal won every week we would never question dubious ref decisions takes us down to the level of people with no moral vision or purpose.

    That may be Olly’s view, but it is not mine. I want Arsenal to win fairly and nothing else will do. The Olly approach represents the most disgraceful lack of moral fibre that can be found, and his assertion that we should all be at his level is repugnant in the extreme/

  • jaroda

    Nice to see the guys at Debatable Decisions have confirmed Arsenal as bottom of the table of the big decisions table. However, I do find it interesting that once the errors are corrected it shows us preparing for Thursday nights Channel 5…. go figure!

  • Stuart

    Olly, Tony,

    I commented in jest earlier. I am actually in agreement with Tony’s comment about winning fairly. I couldn’t celebrate a hollow victory. Half of the appeal about Arsenal is the fact things are done the right way and we don’t have to hang our heads in shame.

  • Mike

    Mike Riley is the head of the PGMOL. A few seasons ago he refereed 49 games. 41 didn’t involve Man U and he gave one penalty. In the 8 games involving Man U he gave 9 penalties all to Man U. More chance of a lottery win! Now they have Howard Webb to take over the mantle.

    You also missed an important 11th step. Keep the list of referees down to about 18 and make sure half of them come from the North West and only one of the 18 comes from within 100 miles of London. That seems fair……but then perhaps that evens itself out too!!! (There is, of course, a small flaw in that argument in that the vast majority of Man U fans don’t come from the North West either!!!)

  • Mike

    It hurts to say this too but it may not be just us who get bad decisions. The Spuds also didn’t get a penalty at home this season. Funny how the two clubs with the top number of home penalties (9 & 8 ) both come from Manchester………..perhaps that has something to do with all those refs from the NW!

  • bob

    Sorry, but you left one out: The THEN-and-NOW Rule:
    It has two parts.
    Part 1: Ensure there is a Golden Escalator to the top (now) of certain institutions for services rendered (then) by certain servants (possibly Bussacca, Riley, Walton);
    Part 2: and, further, do ensure that certain stellar matches are never brought up in any media story that might mention of any these (now) highest protectors of the integrity of game. Said otherwise, never pair such a name with a high-profile match (or season of such matches) which preceded (usually within a year’s time) said name’s elevation to the top of his “chosen” profession.

  • bob

    p.s. Part 2 above is the “eyes wide shut” corollary to the Then-And-Now rule. It was first enforced by Luca Brazzi in Godfather I.

  • bob

    At a certain stage nearing half-way through the season, Don Fungus loudly was quoted in the media as calling Spuds “the in form side” I read (sorry, hypothesize) Slur Alex’s wee pronunciamiento as a call to his pitch-boyz to perform a service (or two or three). Your posting has me wondering when the non-calls on penalties that Spuds should have had were actually made, by which refs, and their impact at the time.

  • Steve Palmer

    My what are you suggesting,it has got to the stage that if it was happening, that it is well hidden the FA are allways under scrutiny but there seems to be no mud sticking. Fifa on the other hand have been quite blatent where board members openly ask for cash payments and that is to the England officials but this was just shrugged off maybe a slap on the hand but thats it Where FIFA is incharge of most things they get away with whatever they like when it comes to a vote for their leader one drops out and Sep just steps straight back in they have a closed shop and if you don’t like it they will punnish you most sports that can be bet on can be fixed but whoever runs the sport are the overall winners.

  • ziggy

    Sol Campell got more bookings and sending offs at Arsenal than anywhere else in his career and he was astonished. After winning the PL under Wenger the 1st time Arsenal resorted to 9 against 11 training games, did they know something? Wenger was charged and fined for bringing the game into disrepute by saying the whole league was not honest and warned. Coincidentally when wr’ve not been near the Top of the table the bookings abd red cards dwindle. An amazing coincidence if you ask me.

  • bob

    That’s an amazing remembrance – Arsene’s new training exercises after winning the league. Do you have any link that would reference it. Something like that should be very significant hereabouts. Cheers 🙂

  • bob

    Walter, Dogface,
    In your “ample” free time, I hope you enlist your data to analyze ziggy’s sense that there’s been fewer cards (red, yellow, non-calls perhaps) dealt our way when we stand further from the table top than closer to the table top?

  • @bob @ziggy

    That’s an interesting analysis project… hmm – I have the data so I might give it a crack.

  • Jacobite Gunner

    The fact is people in general emphatically rule out match fixing because they think it is quintissentially un-british despite the blatant motives to carry it out.

    It may happen in other european countries but that’s because they are viewed by the british as not being as professional as us or have that kinda liar stereotype placed on them similar to the “cheat” label the media and public place on foreigners in the EPL/SPL when they are tackled badly and think it merits a free-kick.

    Would be so hard to do with the support of a few refs and a few media outlet’s (oh no, but a newspaper would never be involved in anything to murky- Levenson inquiry, Murdoch, NOTW anyone?)

  • Domhuaille MacMathghamhna

    Again, it is exceedingly difficult if not impossible to filter out the incompetence of officials versus them being corrupt. The very nature of officiating is judgement and so any official who decides to influence a game one way or the other need not worry about being found out, as everything evens out in the end,right?
    When something smells rotten, appears to be rotten and is shown to be consistently rotten, but is British then, compared to the rottenness of a continental affair, it is pure as snow.

  • Arsenal1Again

    I’m sure the Premiership would be transformed beyond recognition with just two steps and so would the teams in the Top Four.

    Step 1. A huge LCD screen in the ground showing the REF instant replays of incidents in real-time – allowing on the spot correct decision making about fouls and dives.

    Step 2. Goalpost technology. I recall QPR being relegated in their last game some years ago because this technology was unavailable. Other results have been proven to be wrong after games finished.

    These 2 steps would stop biased decisions going against Arsenal and stop biased favourable decisions giving advantage to teams like Man Utd.

  • Notoverthehill

    Tony, I blame the bookmakers and their “silly” bets!!!

  • bjtgooner

    Tony – good article and very topical. the question you elude to in your final paragraph really begs an answer – why don’t the PGMOL take all necessary steps to show their organisation as completely fair – by introducing complete transparency in all their activities, including finance?

    The fact that this doesn’t happen and that they have gone the other way – by removing their web site and lowering a cloak of secrecy – leaves them open to suspicion.

  • I kind of wandered into this debate from newsnow, and couldn’t help but comment

    You see I’m a huge CITEH fan and spend a lot of my time helping out at

    Every year we get the same topic brought up. The same type of evidence is paraded and the usual suspects blamed. I have argued long and hard that every club in the premiership feels exactly the same……

    We were even complaining about it when we had our hopes and prayers were carried on the shoulders of Stuart Pearce, Georgio Samaras and the likes. Funny thing is, we were still complaining about it this season between Xmas and April

    It’s an easy cop out guys, you would probably find it less of a problem if you were improving the quality of your playing staff

  • Shard


    That is because the people at Debatable Decisions utilise the heavily biased editing of the Motd on BBC for their analysis. Thus, Arsenal would end up behind Spurs if all the right calls were made. That conclusion is flawed, because their data is incomplete. The BBC ensures it is incomplete in a specific way.

    By the way, when I was in England, I found it very hard to watch many matches involving other teams. Is that often the case (with matches not being televised)? If so, then I guess more people rely on ‘highlights’ packages like the MOTD, and that might explain why people aren’t as aware of the refereeing problem, as they would be otherwise.

  • bjtgooner

    @French Paddy

    Yes, our playing staff are so bad that you guys keep buying them!

  • Damien Luu

    @Tony: Amazing article. And amazingly all of those 10 things have already been doing. And even more amazingly people still close their eyes really tight, “No, I don’t see anything. There could not be match fixing in football. And even if there is, it must be somewhere else, it could not be here.” Like sheeps. Oh, SHEEPS.

    @bjtgooner: I see French Paddy’s big foot is still in his mouth 😀

  • bob

    I think you’re spot on with this: “By the way, when I was in England, I found it very hard to watch many matches involving other teams. Is that often the case (with matches not being televised)? If so, then I guess more people rely on ‘highlights’ packages like the MOTD, and that might explain why people aren’t as aware of the refereeing problem, as they would be otherwise.” This is the NECESSARY FILTER to keep a just enough (a working majority of) fans nationwide in the dark, whereas the obvious cesspools of matchday refshite are only well known locally. This, in turn, would lead to recurrent triumphalist comments like French Paddy’s: “I have argued long and hard that every club in the premiership feels exactly the same……”

  • .

    Eh? I’m trying to point out that within every team there are a group of supporters who completely believe that there is a refs conspiracy against them.

    The truth that a few of you seem not to want to swallow is that you need to improve the team, not blame refs for the struggles you now encounter.

    Whether we bought your players or Barcelona did is neither here nor there if you aren’t using the resources you get in return to improve the club

    As for the triumphalist comments, I have waited 44 years to see my team lift the premier league title, I think I have been pretty restrained here to be honest

  • bob

    French Paddy
    Eh?, you say. Well, you see (or not), it’s evidence, or not. There’s bent or there’s not bent. Calls made and televised, or not; non-calls made and televised, or not. If your MOTD does not show egregious game-changing calls and/or non-calls (still following?), then nationwide there is no sense of a generalized problem. So then, where a problem is perceived is within the support of each team. Now whether it’s every team, or whether that is a tiny handful as your exhaustive evidence has proven (would you mind offering it so all can learn from you), then your dismissal is snide, snarky and triumphalist, eh? Congratulations, by the way, for de-railing the Rednose XX. Personally, your Monied One has made this possible this year. So go back to enjoying it while you can, note your preferred model won’t last forever; and, as it it feels good to be king (however purchased) and we’ll be looking at you next season, with you looking upwards wondering what happened, eh?

  • bob

    ^ sorry, meant to write: ^ “without such evidence your dismissal is snide, snarky and triumphalist…” Oh, and enjoy the graphic.

  • Shard


    To return to the thing about the highlight packages and matches not being televised. The EPL rules state that any matches played at 3 PM will not be televised (while probably the others don’t HAVE to be) We know the TV companies manipulate the scheduling (that isn’t even a secret) So Murdoch and pals can sit there and decide which games get shown in full, and which don’t.

    This ruling probably exists because of the old (ancient?) fear that nobody will turn up to the stadium if the match is shown on tv. I think the NFL in the US has a similar ruling, which says the local (city) tv networks can’t show the game, UNTIL 70 (or 80) % of the tickets have been sold. Surely a similar ruling should be brought in if the EPL is only worried about occupancy at the grounds.

    Another thing is..The occupancy at the grounds affects the individual clubs financially. So it is in their interest that they stay full. But, how often your games get picked for TV, decides your allocation of tv money. So while the EPL is much more equitable in terms of distributing tv money than Spain, the financial benefits from tv are still a gift from the Sky, as to how worthy they deem you to be shown on tv.

    So, to sum up. A twofold power with the tv companies. Decide what matches people can and can’t see in full. And decide who gets a higher percentage of the tv money and higher exposure for their brand. Take a guess which club benefits the most on both counts?

  • Shard

    Sorry.. the other thing is that the scheduling is also favouring the very same club.. 3 extra days rest than their rivals.. Getting more favourable kick off times.. Again.. TV decides. Who really runs the Premier League? My guess is the FA have F*** All to do with it. Maybe that’s why the FA Cup has better refereeing performances because there the FA has direct control?? Just a guess..

  • A Malaysia Gooner.

    Even here in my country, Citeh fans (mostly teenagers) have already started to mock other teams for being useless this season. They even have the guts to write blogs just to bash other teams, like they have been a Citeh fans for years! So people, guys like Melon Man exist in every part of this world, like errrr Melonss!!

  • bob

    And then MOTD only runs what’s been televised, right?
    (It gets external TV feeds and edits them, presumably.
    Or the feeds might come in pre-edited? Hmmmm.)
    So, either way, the public gets another layer of the same perspective, to reinforce the lessons to be learned or not to be noticed. It’s all self-reinforcing – a monologue, then.

  • Matt Clarke

    A thorough and convincing guide to fixing the EPL – thank you.

    However, I know how to stop your evil plan and really fix the EPL

    Turn your whistleblowers into whistleblowers.

    Well, there has to be one conscience amongst them?