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July 2021

REFEREE REVIEW 2012: Michael Oliver; excellent but an occasional bias


This article is part of the series : REFEREE REVIEW 2012


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.

The next ref in our review is Michael Oliver

Michael Oliver
Michael Oliver

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Untold Vs PGMOL - MichaelOliver 2011/2012

We have done 8 of his games in the PL last season. That is a total of 38.10% of his games. If you want us to do more next (this) season and if you are a ref you could always try to help us of course by dropping us a note or a comment and we will get back to you.

Let us first have a look and see if he is a competent ref or not?

PGMOL Vs EPL - Basic Competency - MichaelOliver 2011/2012

And well those are really great numbers! A score of just under 80% is showing that he made a lot of good decisions and certainly was way above the average of all the referees. A great result.

If we put weight on this we see that his points drop a bit to 77.26% correct decision.  We will be having a look at this in the next graphics but this could point at the fact that he was a bit more uncertain in the big decisions than in the overall decisions.

So the next thing is to see how he did in those different type of decisions.

PGMOL Vs EPL - Basic Competency Breakdown - MichaelOliver 2011/2012

The goal decisions are rather good. Only one goal decision wrong in the games we reviewed, so that is all in all a great result.

The offside decisions are a bit below average but this is not just down to the ref of course but comes down to the teamwork.

The “other” decisions are great with a score of more than 80% (81,73 to be precise) and that is all we can ask for. More of this please.

This cannot be said about the penalty decisions. A score of only 53% correct penalty decisions is not good enough. This might be down to “penalty box fever” as it is sometimes called.  He has proven he can spot a foul, but he suddenly freezes when the same foul happens in the penalty box. Maybe this is something that will improve with getting more experience.

The red card decisions are bad if you look at the score of 0% correct. But it was only on one decision that he  had to make on red cards.  I will get back to that later in my final conclusion if you don’t mind.

The yellow cards are also not what we can expect when looking at the rest of the good numbers. Maybe this also is a bit down to being one of the younger referees in the PL?

The next thing to do is look at the bias numbers in general.

PGMOL Vs EPL - Incorrect calls Breakdown - MichaelOliver 2011/2012

Well this is certainly very close to the league average numbers. One could say that he is a bit of a home referee, but not a totally clear one. The league average negative away bias is -1.826 so he just is a bit on the bad site of this but we will not slaughter him for this. Still something to keep in mind and to work on.

If we put weight on the decisions the numbers go up a bit. But again one of the best overall scores from all the refs. So not really bad even though we would like to see it go down so that no home or away bias can be seen. In the mean time, just hope to have him at home.

Let us now go and see at how the different clubs have fared under Michael Oliver in the games we reviewed.

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

The first thing I would like to point at is the fact that with this ref Arsenal is in a mid-table position when it comes to bias. It is a negative bias and too big to be good but compared to other refs I think we would take it if he would do more Arsenal games. If the PGMOL reads this we probably will not see him again in the next weeks or months.

In total we have numbers of 13 different teams. 7 have a negative bias and 6 a positive bias. We notice that Manchester City had a big negative bias and Manchester United almost the same positive bias. Chelsea is also not one of his favoured teams according to these numbers.  Food for thought I would say.

What is remarkable is that he has a big negative bias against Fulham.  The biggest of all the clubs he did. And the team that got most things from Oliver last season seems to be Aston Villa.

Let us see what happens if we put weight on the decisions.

EPL vs PGMOL - Incorrect calls Breakdown by Referee - MichaelOliver (Weighted) 2011/2012

Well in a way the general picture remains the same. Fulham is very hard done by this ref. And suddenly Swansea got a few big calls in their favour from this ref to put them in the first place from benefiting from his (big) mistakes.

What is again catching my eye is the fact that Chelsea, Manchester City and Arsenal are having a major negative bias swing. And the one top team that is having a big positive swing is Manchester United.  Is this showing his true colours?

Again I would like to point at the fact that even though the negative bias is big against Arsenal it isn’t the biggest of them all and remains well in control compared to other refs.


This is on paper a very competent ref with a lot of potential. He has shown in his games that he can spot a foul. That is of course very important.  Certainly a ref to keep in the PL for my part.

Now let us get back to the red and yellow cards decisions as they were a bit out of line with the rest of his excellent numbers.

From the competency numbers we can conclude that he knows a foul when he sees one and that he makes a lot of correct decisions. I really am convinced that the fact that he only had to make one red card decision in the games we reviewed is because he got his calls correct.  If a ref in general makes a lot of good calls the players notice that and they will try to play more within the rules. And thus less yellow or red cards have to be given.

The better you are as a ref and the better you have things in control (by making correct decisions) the less problems you will have. A ref that keeps it tight in the beginning of a game will be able to loosen up after some 10 minutes as by then the players have understood the game plan from the ref. And this normally leads to fewer fouls, fewer yellow and red cards.

So not having to make many decisions on those could well be down to doing some good to great games.

My only worry is the difference between one top team and the rest of the top teams. That is worrying as far as I’m concerned.  Is he a bit too much in favour of Manchester United? The numbers we have suggest this and certainly when you combine the good numbers from United and the bad numbers of all the other top teams you might get the impression that he is not a big team biased ref but more for one big team in particular. And that is something to keep an eye on. Not just us, but also the PGMOL should do this. But that is day dreaming I think.

But never the less, apart from the bias problem, a very good ref in the games we reviewed.

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6 comments to REFEREE REVIEW 2012: Michael Oliver; excellent but an occasional bias

  • I thought the same as you reference in your conclusions – not only does this referee favour Man Utd in their games but he seems to give decisions against their rivals too!

    Still waiting to find that ref that favours us!

  • Matt Clarke

    Thanks Ref Review team once more.

    How sad for us when we have to say that we wouldn’t mind this referee in one of our games.
    Even though he appears biased against us (and with leanings towards ManU); he is not as bad as most of the rest of them. 🙁

  • Wolfgang

    Ref Review is doing a great job. The fact that he shows bias towards the redfaced is notable. If you add on more refs with a similar disposition to the rfc,you will realise why the latter is perpetuating his domination.
    And that is why for all his strangle hold on the epl,he is unable to conquer the cl. One word sums it all up:refs.

  • Gerry Lennon

    Another splendid example of your work Walter. Surely this is how the referee’s governing body should be doing their reports? Obviously, not the same one that sponsors their Professional body, whilst at the same time has links with football clubs, but an independant body that examines every match? Roll on more technology and camera footage, so all games can be reviewed.
    The big question is, as each of these referees performance is brought into the public domain how will they react? How will the above react if, on his next visit to Fulhan, finds a copy of this pinned to his dressing room door??
    Great stuff, keep them coming.

  • ClockEndRider

    Gerry Lennon,
    You might suggest we pin this sites report on the refs door tomorrow following the excellent analysis of Mason, tomorrow’s ref. go look it up if you haven’t seen it.

    Personally I’m looking for the day when bias is minimal. I don’t want refs being in our favour. Just not obviously against us as is currently the case.

  • Gf60

    Two thoughts that I should have raised as this survey started.
    1. The 2 Pie charts showing the games covered, rarely (?if ever?)show Arsenal as RED? Somebody there working for Nike?

    2. Penalty stats. Any chance of breaking down the penalties into:
    Given and correct
    Given but not correct
    Not given but should have been

    Where’s the Sunderland review btw? For a change, I thought Chris Foy had a good game…love to see how the professional reviewer marked him.