The previous articles in this series can be read here

By DogFace and Walter Broeckx

Untold Arsenal has a team of qualified referees who have reviewed more than 40% of the EPL games from last season. The reviews themselves were based on full match video footage with the advantage of video technology features such as slow motion and pause.

By reviewing those 155 games we have made a database of more than 7000 decisions that have been judged by our panel of dedicated and qualified referees.

The numbers you will see are based on those decisions and those reviewed games.

Teams include:

Blackburn Rovers
Bolton Wanderers
Manchester City
Manchester United
Wigan Athletic

Untold Vs PGMOL - North West clubs 2011/2012

From this part of the country we managed to come close to the 50% mark. Of course this is due to the fact that with both Manchester clubs and Liverpool we have 3 big clubs that are shown a lot on TV. And also Everton has been on TV a few times. Even the smaller teams like Blackburn, Bolton and Wigan were shown regularly last season.

PGMOL Vs EPL - Basic Competency - North West clubs 2011/2012

If we look at the basic competency of the refs it looks better than compared with the overall numbers. Not world shocking better but still, better is better. Let us take a look at how the different decisions are when we split them up.

PGMOL Vs EPL - Basic Competency Breakdown - North West clubs 2011/2012

The goal decisions are almost the same as the average. But the offside decisions are lower compared with the average.

The overall decisions are better so that is an encouraging number for the teams form the North West.  But there seems to be a lower number of correct penalties in the numbers for the teams from the North West. This could be penalties for or against those teams. Something we will investigate further when we go in to the different teams.

The distribution of red cards is better compared to the league total. But the yellow cards are showing a reverse situation.  A 2% swing in both the handing out of the cards.


PGMOL Vs EPL - Incorrect calls Breakdown - North West clubs 2011/2012

If we start from the zero line in the graphic on the left we can see that there is a definite home advantage for the teams from the North West when they play at home. You don’t have to count the different numbers you just can check it beneath the bars behind the word “bias”. There is the difference between the favourable calls and the calls going against the teams in this survey.

When teams from the North West go away from home they lose some of their advantage and they go to a negative bias. But the combined score of home and away games still gives a significant advantage to teams from the North West when it comes to making bad calls.

If we move to the graphic on the right where we bring in the weight we see that the global picture remains the same.  The home advantage bias raises to a very high score of 4.770 but when they go away the bias turns negative and goes up to a -1.228 decisions against the teams from the North West.

Despite Mike Riley telling us there is no bias in the PL the numbers prove him wrong again. The numbers show that there is a combined bias in this. Compared to the overall bias we can see clearly that the home bias is 76% bigger and if we put weight on it, it even goes up to 82% more favourable calls in favour of the teams from the North West.

Even when they go away from home the bias against them is smaller if you compare them with the total of all the games.  Unweighed the numbers are 2,5 times better than the overall numbers. If we put weight to it is clear that they will get only 50% of what can be expected from the overall numbers.

So Mike Riley has some explaining to do because how comes that teams from the North West in general get more wrong calls in their favour and get less wrong calls against them. There is clearly something wrong that needs an explanation.


PGMOL Vs EPL - Incorrect calls Breakdown by Team - North West clubs (Un-Weighted) 2011/2012

The next thing we did is looking at the different teams and see how the score of incorrect call is split up between them.

And then we can see that Manchester City had a negative bias. This means that they had more calls going against them than in their favour in all the 32 games we reviewed them. Also Wigan had a negative balance but only just. One could say that in the unweighted score they come close to even out. Everton and Blackburn are two teams with a slightly positive bias. Meaning they get more decisions in their favour than going against them but not very dramatic.

And then we go to the big earners. First of all Bolton and I can imagine their fans not agreeing with this as they got rather badly treatment from the ref in the final game of the season at Stoke. But in the 10 games we did they got a very large bias in their favour.

The same goes for Liverpool who also was a major benefiter from the refs their wrong decisions.   Maybe some will remember Kenny Dalglish going to Mike Riley early in the season after being badly treated at Tottenham by the ref. Well that is what he felt had happened. So the media told us Dalglish had a meeting with Riley. Nothing was told later on what was said or agreed but well it sure did seem to have a effect on how the refs treated Liverpool after that.

Top of the league in getting the incorrect call in their favour is Manchester United. They are coming close to getting the double of wrong calls in their favour compared to their opponents. One could say for every wrong call the other get they get 2 in their favour.

PGMOL Vs EPL - Incorrect calls Breakdown by Team - North West clubs (Weighted) 2011/2012

If we put weight on to the decisions we see almost the same table. Manchester City and Wigan with a negative bias against them. Blackburn and Everton with a little positive bias in their favour. And Bolton and Liverpool with a nice positive bias in their favour.

And Manchester United on top again with the biggest positive bias swing in this group of teams.  Again the total bias shows that they get the double compared to their opponents.

A conclusion up to now from looking at these numbers is that there is a clear bias in favour of the teams from the North West in general but that the most favoured teams are Liverpool and Manchester United. With the latter one clearly way ahead the rest. Manchester City who won the league had to suffer a negative bias swing in general.

Let us see if we can see some kind of relation between the refs and the combined  score of teams from the North West. Of course now the number of games gets smaller and so we could get some unreliable numbers. If a ref only did one game with a team from the North West and he had a bad day then his numbers could be totally out of line. To sort this out it would be helpful if we could have more reviewers and more games next season.  But never the less this is what we find:

EPL vs PGMOL - Incorrect calls Breakdown by Referee - North West clubs (Un-Weighted) 2011/2012

So we had 16 refs who done games with teams involved from the North West. And only 3 of those 16 show a negative bias towards those teams. I must admit to my surprise Peter Walton is amongst them showing the biggest negative swing against teams from the North West.  I think we will get back to this later in detail when we look at this ref in particular because lot can depend on the games he did of course. The other two refs who have a negative bias towards those teams are Mark Clattenburg and Michael Jones.

But the rest, all 13 of them, have been favourable for the teams in the North West. The king of the North West is Stuart Atwell but this is only based on one games so could be not completely reliable. But Lee Mason, Chris Foy and Mark Halsey are surely very much what we could call North West referees.

EPL vs PGMOL - Incorrect calls Breakdown by Referee - North West clubs (Weighted) 2011/2012

And if we put the weight in the decisions the big picture remains the same.  4 refs this time with a negative bias score against the North West but 12 refs with a positive bias score in favour of the North West.

The final conclusion:

There is a clear regional bias in favour of the North West. The advantage in wrong decisions compared with the overall numbers show that the North West clearly is favoured by the refs in general.

Manchester City is not favoured a lot in general. In fact they are somewhat the opposite from that other team from Manchester who has gotten most favourable calls from all the teams from the North West.

If we look at the refs we can say that at least 12 refs gave favours to the North West teams  during the season in some way or the other. That is 75% of the refs who did favours to those teams.

NEXT ARTICLE IN THIS SERIES: How is the situation in the North East?



  1. Great stuff, the PGMOL have a case to answer.

    Do we know where the referees come from (or were brought up) and who they support?

  2. This is serious research that has credibility and substance!!

    Loving it!!

  3. Given what you were saying about funding yesterday, you guys should publish all this in a book ready for Christmas….I’d buy it and I know loads of mates who would too.

  4. For years I have had a gut feeling that bias existed but I was seduced by the media experts telling me that it was all in my imagination. How foolish was I to listen to them now that I can see the evidence to support my instincts clearly established and presented. Fantastic work, all the media pundits should be made to read this.

  5. Mick,
    Great and honest posting. The lens crafters and stenographers’ success is to convince enough (and by no means all) of our fans that we didn’t really just see what we have seen because they say so. They erase the evidence of things seen and divide us against our own perceptions. As you’ve said it, their mantra is: “it was all in my imagination” The football media come between ourselves as fans and the evidence of our senses.

    Imo, any re-viewing of our “defeat” at Old Trafford 2004, will offer us exhibit A: the media-abetted fans of ManUre were as quick to be convinced in their own minds that they won a legitimate match as many (and by no means all) of the media-abetted fans of Arsenal were to be ground down over time into thinking that “it all evens out in the end.”

  6. In the above charts, do the bias for away teams include the data when a team from the northwest is the away team (therefore including data of north west bias against the north west) or is it a true northwest vs rest of country?

  7. Hi Stuart,

    This is just the NW teams – and it is their home/combined/away stats – so we see how NW teams did at home and on the road.

    Any NW/NW is zero-sum and will cancel itself out.

  8. I don’t think anyone will be surprised really about ManU’s swing up there. We all know it too well. Even some close relations who are ManU fans were begining to feel embarassed by it all.

  9. From my understanding, if refs are biased towards teams of the north west and you are including north west teams away to North west teams in these results, the overall mean average will be diluted surely so it is actually worse than you show us

  10. Dogface
    I’m sorry if this is a stupid question, but I’m struggling to understand the Low,Medium,High decisions. What decisions would be classed as “high un-weighted”? If it’s pens/reds etc wouldn’t they just be classed as weighted? Thanks

  11. Stevie e.
    Unweighted is the number of decisions, weighted is where the more severe offences are given a higher score to take into account their higher influence of the overall outcome. Hope this helps.

  12. Stuart
    Brilliant, thanks for clearing that up for me mate, I was scratching me head a bit there 🙂

  13. Apologies for being off topic but some breaking news on Talksport. RVP has just issued a statement saying he is not extending his contract, he says for football reasons not financial.

  14. The real news on Arsenal being shafted is elsewhere on this site. Open your frigging eyes.

  15. If we look at the position of Clattenburg in the graphics and then think about the fact that he didn’t get much top games lately….

  16. So you have now proved the pro Manchester United bias with these charts. Brilliant job!

  17. “This is what we find” indeed.
    It’s good reading as it matches my expectations based on years of observation.
    Great work all – I look forward to each addition.

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