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July 2021

How to avoid refs making mistakes: use payment by results

By Walter Broeckx

The subject of referees was raised in an article of one of our readers this week, and the question was asked how the FA or the PGMOL could make sure refs would make less mistakes.

A reader asked about some kind of punishment that should be installed if a ref has had an influence on a game. And this was as so many I might say,  another example of a person who writes a comment on Untold bringing up a good idea.

I put my brain to work and in fact the answer could be very simple. And it could bring a mechanism at work that could stop a ref from doing things that he shouldn’t do. If you understand what I mean.

The current situation is that refs are being paid by the PGMOL (I think) and in turn PGMOL are paid by the FA/EPL (again I think).   PGMOL also get money  from sponsors (I think). And apparently this is a first problem. We have to presume this as I cannot directly find out those things. As the public website from the PGMOL went down when we started to show an interest and there is nowhere to be found where the money comes from.

Presonally I think the PGMOL should only be paid by the FA/EPL. There is no need for sponsoring the refs. And certainly when those sponsors are betting companies or companies that also sponsor a team at the same time then there is a conflict of interest.   I’m not saying anything is wrong with those sponsors but I think it is important to even avoid anything that could lead to raising eyebrows.

The first thing they then should do is to give a nice pay raise to the refs in the EPL. I have heard they now earn around £60.000 a year. They can double it. Or even triple it. But not just for doing nothing different compared to today. No the trick is in making their income dependant on performance and correct decisions.

Let us explore this via a hypothetical example. Let us assume refs could earn around £250.000 a season. And this means that if they do 25 games they could earn a possible £10.000 a game.

We could say for expenses and for their training during the week they are sure of keeping at least £2.000 of that money for each game. But the rest is dependant on how they did their game.  In short it is payment by results.  Not payment for each Man U win – but payment according to how accurate their decision making is.

If a ref gets a score on a ref review of more than 90% of the decisions correct it could mean that he would get the full £10.000 for that game.

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If he only gets a score of 70% he will only get a maximum of £7.000 for his game. So making correct decisions becomes highly important for the ref himself. It will hurt him in his wallet. And nobody likes to get hit there.

Of course he might try to get 90% of the decisions correct and still try to tilt the game in favour of one team by giving a penalty to one team. Or refusing to give a penalty to the other team.   We therefore have to make sure that the system gets fine tuned to avoid people from cheating.

So we could say that if they make a mistake on the big calls like red cards, a penalty or a goal that no matter what the rest of the score was they will lose 30% of their income per decision from that game.

An example: Howard Webb in the Chelsea – MU game this season should have lost 30% for not giving a red card to Cahill for a foul as the last defender. He should have lost another 30% for giving a penalty to MU that wasn’t one. This would mean that if he would have all the rest of the decisions correct he could only get a maximum of £4.000 for that game.

So a ref knowing he could lose £6.000 in 90 minutes for making the wrong calls (and he could lose up to £8.000 in a game) will maybe make sure that he will try to do his damnedest and will not give silly penalties or don’t give blatant penalties depending on the teams on his field.

This will meant that a good ref could earn a maximum of £250.000 a year but if he makes a lot of mistakes it could drop to £50.000. So how would you react as a ref if someone comes over and asks you “to make mistakes?  Knowing it could cost you a lot of money.,,

And of course the final thing is that this should be made public. The PGMOL or the FA/EPL should not say he got £4.000 for this game. No they could just say he had a score of 60% and missed two important decisions. Then people will know the refs are not just followed but also punished for their “mistakes”.

And this system can be used to judge the refs at the end of the season and demote refs who have got too many low scores and who have made too many wrong decisions. Again the key words are “opening up” on how the refs are being assessed and judged.

People might say that if we would do it like that, there would be nobody left to do the job. Well I think they are wrong. I think 99,99% of the refs become a ref because they are attracted to it, (or not talented enough as a player) They don’t start becoming a ref for “the money”. Refs in the lower divisions get peanuts so money is not the main reason.

Money only becomes important when you get higher up the ranks. And when you get higher you get more money. But as every coin has a back side it also will mean that the higher you get the more exposure you will get. And the more your performances will be examined and your mistakes will be made public and exposed.

Is this hard for the refs? Maybe. But remember nobody is holding a gun against their head to become a ref. If they can’t stand the pressure they can write a letter to the PGMOL saying they want to stop. And then they can go back to their former job and put back the police uniform on. Or go back to plumbing. Or start to study for optician as there was something wrong with your eyes.

If they can’t stand the heat, they better stay out of the kitchen. I think there are enough candidates to do the job if they would get the chance. If they are good they can get praised for being good and earn a nice amount of money. If they are not that good they will feel it in their wallet and get exposed as not that good. The choice would be up to the refs: do your job in the right way and earn and be praised or be a bad ref and earn less and eventually lose the job.

Like I have said a few hundred times before: bring the ref reviews and all what goes with being a ref in the open and there will be no dark things to hide.

Of course there is another solution if the PGMOL and the FA/EPL don’t like this one. They could bring in something like instant video replay during the games….

But doing nothing…is not an option if you ask me.

24 comments to How to avoid refs making mistakes: use payment by results

  • silenetstan

    TBh i think your surname should be worded slightly different.

    offering extra money will not affect the ability to spot infringements in a game plagued by cheaters and played at speed.

    the only reason we belive todays refs are not up to scrath is because of teh endless slow mo replays. leave them alone, reduce teh pressure and then you might see les errors

  • RedGooner

    These Refs have been trained and still cant do the job the only real incentive would be if Sky decided to pay them 10k a Ref per week and 5k each lines man and fourth official.

    I mean they can give millions upon millions in parachute payments to clubs been relegated why not run a similar system for Refs ? bottom 3 get relegated and loose the cushy pay packet by going back to the championship.

    The problem is you would need a panel of Refs like Untold have to review the performances in a non biased way.

    On top of that its Skys league more or less maybe they like the controversy …I mean why else would they call it the best league in the world and put up with the crap Ref performances week in week out?

    The jobs should also be open to all nationalities Refs from every country and someone like Collina put in charge.

  • Alzation

    A nice idea, provided the refs are fairly assessed. The assessors themselves need to be open as well.

    Transparency is the key as always. I would like to see both the referee’s report and the assessor’s report published in full online within 24 hours of a game. That ought to bring out honest decisions.

  • ozzie

    The officials are human and no matter how many there are or how much we pay them they will still make mistakes…the only fair and effective solution at the top level is to have a video ref (with a technician and full control of all the gadgetry) monitoring the game and assisting the onfield ref…practically all decisions can then be made correctly within a very few seconds without stopping the game unnecessarily, as in playing advantage…if a definitive decision cannot be made within the accepted time frame the protocol must be to “play on”…

  • rusty

    The key to this discussion is realizing the PGMOL already defends itself by arguing that they currently assess the referees’ decisions in a fair and objective manner… although they won’t let anyone see the scores.

    So while @Alzation makes a good point about the feasibility of the assessment, we should remember that the PGMOL must not have such concerns.

  • nicky

    Two of the points you raise caught my eye:
    1. Abolish referee sponsoring.
    2. Doing nothing is not an option.
    Having said that, reviewing the work of officials AFTER the Clubs have been affected by poor decisions, brings stable door, horse and bolted to mind. And which body would do the post mortems?
    The answer, IMO, keeps returning to massive video and other technology with all the delay that would entail during play. I am beginning to lose faith in human nature ALONE, ever to devise a means of ensuring honesty and fairness in all that we do in sport. None of us are blessed with that sort of inbuilt goodness, I’m afraid.

  • This will never work. Just one example: if an assistant referee (linesman) makes a wrong call do we still penalise the ref?
    I am thinking offsides when it is usually difficult for a referee to make an accurate call.
    Just a second example: if a referee simply doesn’t see an incident rather than making a wrong call, is that to be classed as a mistake?
    I agree something needs to be done problem is I don’t know what it is.

  • Goonerific

    PGMOL’s sponsors are none other Tune Group
    Targeting the Asian betting markets perhaps? When in doubt, hide in plain sight.

  • bob

    Elton, Nicky,
    It’s Walter’s option 2 – video replay – that should win the day. At this point of undeniably rampant poor-to-bent decision making, the minor delays* FAR outweigh the crap result that is re-fried and sold back to us as teeth-gnashing entertainment. (* And they are minor as per, for example) the National Hockey League is reviewing, as you read, its playoff games from a central booth, and for all games; and it ADDS to the drama!)

  • Sam

    Here is an excellent article which makes some fair and relevant points, although there is some critcism of Mr Wenger (something you wouldn’t see it on this site)….

    There is nothing in the article that you linked Sam which has anything to do with the article that we published. It has been a rule of Untold for four years that commentary has to have something to do with the article. How can you possibly think it is a good idea to put in a link which has nothing at all to do with the original? (It is actually a piece about Jens Lehmann)

    I think an award is required.

  • Stuart

    I think a more proactive approach needs to be taken where by the likelihood of refs making mistakes is eliminated, prevention is always better than cure. The trouble with the refs losing money is that it is open for abuse. If a ref can lose £8000 per game for wrong decisions, who is to stop ‘Multi Billionaire Owner A’ from paying the ref £10K to rig the match?

  • nicky

    The obvious worry to officialdom is that to do the job properly, the delays during a match will be more than “minor”. Personally, I don’t care. The importance is to cut out all these appalling mistakes, deliberate or otherwise.

  • bob

    p.s. And as the National Hockey League makes considerably less profit that the Barclay’s EPL, it’s obviously willing to spend a substantial amount on its review process to at least try and ensure a non-bent result. None of this FA smoke-in-your-eyes claptrap about testing goal line technology this summer and we’ll see. But wait, that’s it, is it? The more profitable, the less willing to have it reviewed? Well, maybe. But the National Football League, an immensely profitable enterprise in America has reviews. Hmmmmm. Curiouser and curiouser, said Alice.

  • bob

    Stuart, Nicky,
    Completely agree on all points. We do know how to make it better; it’s no mystery, just their naked (and I do mean exposed) power.

  • Stuart

    Video replay is the only way forward in my opinion. Give each manager up to 3 incorrect calls and let them make their query whilst play is still going on as usual. If they are correct in querying, the play goes back and the manager doesn’t lose a call, if not play just carries on and they have one less time to call.

  • nicky

    I wonder whether Untold or Cultured or even a new site, shouldn’t start a movement promoting the introduction of specialised technology in order to aid accuracy in controlling the professional game.
    Forget for now, referee reviews. Walter and others have proved beyond doubt the malaise contaminating that aspect of football.
    Far better to concentrate on the technology already seving other sports and how it could be adapted to assist in our national game.

  • Is it just me or is a massive advert squashing the text? Anything with a chart/graph in it is going to look a bit crap without the standard 580px width… just sayin.

  • Stuart


    I did wonder what caused that.

  • Adam

    What the FA hides behind is, Implementing a structure that can work throughout the whole of the football pyramid. It is about time they seperate Pro ball from amateur ball. More officials and video replay in the pro area with pitch officials having equal authority, only being over-ruled by the video official/s at any moment during play.

  • mark

    I agree they ought to be paid more and it ought to be linked to performance in a way that is transparent.

    But I also think they need to have two refs on the field as that would also improve the decision making, it would help with away from the ball fouls. They still get off sides wrong with two involved in the decision but it is less often wrong because there are two trying to get it right.

    Then the performance pay ought to linked to the whole set of refs and linesmen. Video tech ought to be used.

    But all of this raises the question do the ones controlling the game really want the refs to make correct decisions? Do they really want this? It seems as this point that refs making correct decisions is not really the highest priority of the ones in control.

  • Walter

    I don’t know who raised the good question: what if the assistant makes a mistake. Well he should be treated in the same way of course as the ref himself and lose money for making mistakes.

    In fact you just should get to a situation that when you make a mistake you pay for it. And this will bring 100% concentration and motivation to make the right decisions.

    That is the whole point of what I wrote down and goes for both ref and assistant.

    And as Bob said, this isn’t really needed if they would go for video refs who assist the refs on the field.

  • para

    Yes Walter, something needs to be done, and i for one suspect that there is wheeling and dealing going on, this is why the refferee situation is set up this way. Personally i think it is connected with “high stakes private betting”.

    ” I am beginning to lose faith in human nature ALONE, ever to devise a means of ensuring honesty and fairness in all that we do in sport. None of us are blessed with that sort of inbuilt goodness, I’m afraid.
    the fact that you are complaining about ypur “quote” does say you at least have inbuilt goodness, and i can tell for sure there are a lot of people in this world who do, dont fall for the hype of the corrupt, who want to make everyone exactly like themselves.

  • Micko

    @ Goonerific
    Maybe someone should write to Tune Group asking them if they are happy to be associated (via sponsorship) to a quite clearly bent/dodgy organisation such as the PGMOL.

  • Domhuaille MacMathghamhna

    Walter…honestly all I say is that, the day the players are paid according to how well they do then the referees should be as well.