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August 2021

EPL REFEREE REVIEW 2012: Introduction to a historic study

By Walter Broeckx

  • Did you ever felt the ref didn’t do his job properly?
  • Can you remember yourself swearing and shouting at the ref?
  • Did you ever think the ref must have been blind to not see that obvious foul?
  • Have you ever felt like throwing objects towards the ref at the end of the game?
  • Did you ever said that the ref was rubbish?
  • Did you ever question the integrity of a ref?
  • Did you ever feel that you team was hard done by the ref?
  • Did you think the ref was bought by the opposition?
  • Did you ever think the ref was scared of the other team?
  • Did you ever think the manager of the other team has an influence on the refs?
  • Did you ever think that the PGMOL is not doing their job?
  • Did you ever think that the head of the PGMOL, Mike Riley, is a somewhat sinister and shady person? Too shady to be head of the refs?
  • Did you ever wanted the PGMOL to be more open?
  • Do you think the PGMOL doesn’t do what they should do about educating the people about the refs?
  • Did you ever think that the quality of the refs in the PL was not as it should be?

I could go on for a while but I think most of us will admit that they can answer yes to one of those questions. Some maybe will say that they can answer yes to more than one of those questions. Maybe some of you will say that can answer  yes to all those questions.

And if you posed those questions in the pub, on the internet, on the radio or on whatever medium that is at our disposal these days,  did you get an answer that sounded like these: “sour grapes mate. You always moan when you lose.” Pointing that you even put those questions forward when winning makes no difference for the person who answers.

Or did they gave you the answer that is maybe the most popular reply given to anyone who questions the refs: “It all evens out at the end of the season”.

That answer is what we hear from pundits whenever they have to admit a ref looked bad. That answer is what we read in newspapers when a ref made a blunder that cost points to a team. “It all evens out at the end of the season”.

But did anyone ever made an attempt to prove this accepted truth? Do we just have to believe people on their word when they say this? Do we have to believe the pundits on TV or radio when they say this when a supporter complains about the ref? Do we have to accept that the newspaper repeats this to keep you silent after a bad referee performance?

Has there ever been done a study to check this before? Of course I do not know every study in the world about football and referees but I don’t think there has been a study. If there has been please inform us because the more numbers we can find and compare with the better.

Well the only study that was made was an attempt to check this statement (“it evens out”), was last year on this Untold Arsenal website. In that study we checked all the Arsenal games. The final outcome was that for Arsenal it didn’t even out at the end of that season.

The biggest critics when these finding where revealed was that it only was about one team and only about 38 games in the season. And that in a league where there are 380 games in a season. So it could well be that the numbers from those 38 games where not accurate for the rest of the league.

So we accepted those critical voices. Yes we said, doing one team and just 38 games is not enough. We should do more games. And so tried to find other refs who would join the only ref reviewer we had. And we found another 2 who wanted to help out. We started the season not knowing where it would end. We vowed to do as much games as possible without risking an angry wife at home. And so gradually we reviewed. Game after game after game.

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What we will start to reveal now is the first and biggest study on the refs in the EPL done by any independent blog. If you care to follow us we will maybe give you an answer to some of your questions. We cannot answer all the questions. To do such a thing,  would need us to do all the games in the EPL in one season.

But we did what we could within our own spare time and we build a database on the refs and the teams in the PL season 2011-2012. Some shocking results. Some strange results. We didn’t know what to expect when we started it and I must admit that I have learned a lot in the last year. And I have learned that some things are really strange. Some results that came out were not expected. If you want to learn a bit more about the referees in the PL and about the standard of the referees this is the place to visit.

If you want to know that it will even out at the end of the season, this is the place to check. Who knows, maybe it does even out at the end of the season? The numbers will tell.

For the possible new readers we will start by giving you a short look at how it all developed over the last years. This to give you a bit of information before you can see the numbers and in the hope that you understand how we got to all the numbers.

If you don’t care about that and just want to see the numbers you must come back on Monday. But today and tomorrow we will try to give you some insight in how it all worked and show you a bit of the “behind the scenes” of the Untold Referee Review 2011-2012.

Next article in this series : How it all started



14 comments to EPL REFEREE REVIEW 2012: Introduction to a historic study

  • MJB

    Cheers Walter, I’m looking forward to this with baited breath!


  • Reviewer 02

    I too am really excited. So excited I can’t study, (which I am supposed to be doing)

    Something people must bear in mind is the following

    A Review can take up to 5 hours to put together, well for me anyway!

    If there is ever any doubt about a decision we confer amongst ourselves. 50/50 decisions we go with the Ref, WE GO WITH THE REF.

    Bring it on, and well done to the Bearded Northbanker

    And we are all qualified and experienced Referees with various FAs, so our conclusions are qualified, unlike the tripe you hear from MOTD or the SKY Juggernaut.

    Bring it on, and well done to the Bearded Northbanker

  • Reviewer 02

    Did I say

    Bring it on, and well done to the Bearded Northbanker

    ctrlV is shaking in aticipation

  • LRV

    Walter, I can’t wait till Monday. How I wish today is Monday?

  • zak

    Is the closest thing I’ve seen, and they’ve been doing it for awhile. However, they do not use referees to make their judgments, instead relying on 5 “unbiased” fans to vote on whether contentious decisions were correct or not.

  • WalterBroeckx

    we will come back to the debatable decision website later on in this series as they also do a valuable job. We will point at the differences in the way they work but also point at similarities .

  • You are in for a treat boys and girls – Walter and I have double-teamed the analysis and I have spent about 50 hours building the database tools to do the job…

    …and, in case you haven’t noticed, I’m pretty fucking handy with a database.

    Expect lots of lovely graphs/charts and clear interpretations.

    You ready to make history Walter?


  • Also – got to say a big thanks to the qualified referees for collecting this data – I would have helped out myself but I’m not an expert and I would have just messed it up.

    Apologies if I made your life harder with format changes to the data gathering process, etc!

  • Adam

    Absolutely gutted about the timing of this coming series. Got a whole month of retraining and examinations. Will be stuck for time to read and comment. Good luck though. Looking forward to a belated read.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Sorry Adam but well we cant please everybody…
    But with things standing for the moment the series will still be giving new numbers even in August… and everything will stay on line of course

    But if all goes right we should be able to publish results earlier after next season as Dogface by then will have his homework done. Well it will be the same homework as this years homework I guess. Just maybe and lets hope about even more games…

  • Nah – I’ll keep upping my game, I’m not one to rest on my laurals… speaking of which – I’ve had an idea for that new visualisation I was talking about the other day, I reckon I’ll have a crack at it monday and see if I can get it into the teams sections.


  • WalterBroeckx

    I somehow like the idea already 🙂

    Oh we’ve just got the next article on line I see 😉

    let us see how it all started….

  • FinnGun

    Enough with the teasing, already. Wish it was Monday.

  • we re the east stand

    Sounds like a study that’s well over due. People point to corruption in other countries but can’t open eyes to some very strange patterns in refereeing decisions in England. Looking forward to seeing it!