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REF REVIEW 2012: Blatant Bias, incompetence, imbalance, inaccuracy, poor selection policy


This article is part of the series : REFEREE REVIEW 2012


By Walter Broeckx

Last season we analysed around 40% of the matches in the Premier League and looked at the referees in each case, what they did and how accurate they were.  We threw up many cases of inaccuracy, and now we have reached the end of our reports.

If you want to read them all you can find all the articles on this page.

I have said it before and I cannot point enough at the importance of the whole team in this review of the season we did.

This is not about me or about Dogface or about the referee reviewers.  I would be nothing without Dogface of course. And he would have no data if it hadn’t have been for the reviewers. And we would have no place to publish if it wouldn’t have been for Tony Attwood.  Because I started the reviews at the time (it seems a long time ago now…) and for my articles I somewhat became the face of the Untold referee review. But I never could have done it on my own. So I want to thank all who have made this possible from the bottom of my heart.

It has been a privilege of being able to work with you (and still are working of course). Some of the people who have made this possible,  I have got to know in person. For a few others, this hasn’t been the case as they live very far away from where I live and far away from the Emirates.   I hope one day in our lives we get the chance of meeting in person so I can thank you for all the work you have done for this project. And I would buy you a drink. Or 2 or more (as long as you don’t drive afterwards) to show you my appreciation for your commitment.

And believe me for the moment behind the scenes things are buzzing like never before. Even now when I write these final articles we have made a new step. You already know the new site we have set up. But believe me what we are doing now behind the scenes will change the referee reviews completely and make it THE standard on the internet. Be patient my friends for what will come at you in the next days or weeks when the last growing pains have been dealt with.

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But back to last season. With all the results now published we should draw the conclusions and then present some things that we think is essential to make the PL really the best league in the world.  Because for now…it isn’t the best league in the world in my opinion.  Why? Well simply because in the best league in the world, they would have the best standard in referees. And we found that there are a lot of things that are not really like they should be. And we have and will prove this with the numbers we gathered in our hands.

I know “prove” is a difficult and dangerous word to use. I bet all scientists can have different opinions. I can imagine people not accepting more than 40% of the games reviewed as enough. But for us this is enough. What we found in the numbers can in most cases be extrapolated to the whole league.

So what did we prove?

1. Almost half of Premier League refs are not competent enough

From the 15 referees we took in to account (3 of them we didn’t count because not having enough games reviewed) we found that only 8 of them got a final score of more than 70%.  Or in other words 7 refs didn’t make the 70% score.  That is almost 50% of the referees who are not good enough! If you would translate this in to a football team and half of your team would not be good enough to play in the PL you would go down at the end of the season.  The results can be found over here.

2. There is bias

During last season Mike Riley, head of the PGMOL, stated that as far as he is concerned there is no bias at all in the PL. But our reviews clearly showed there is bias.   There is a clear home and away bias. And the statement from Mike Riley is all the worse because he claimed there isn’t and it now looks as if he is sticking his head in the sand. And the last thing you can do when you are head of the referees is sticking your head in the sand.  How can you even think of improving referee standards if you say there is nothing wrong? This is negligent to say it in a friendly way.

So yes our reviews have proven the home and away bias that  also has been found in other sports. Football referees are not immune to the pressure of the home crowd.

3. It does NOT even out

How many times have we heard it been said over the years. The hush hush sentence to shut everybody up:  “at the end of the season it does even out”. This is utter nonsense.  For only one of the teams we reviewed we have found a team where you can say it did even out at the end of the season. And for some teams the difference between good and wrong decisions was immense. “It evens out” is a myth. Kept in place by the FA, the PGMOL, the media. On the first occasion someone examined it we proved it doesn’t even out.  Or well it did even out for one team. One team out of 20.  This means that for 95% of the teams it didn’t even out.

4. Things aren’t like Mike Riley said they are

During the season, Mike Riley claimed that 99% of the offside decisions are correct in the PL. The number we found and remember  our system has been very generous towards the refs is that only 90% are correct.

Once again we see that the PGMOL and well assisted by the not really critical media is throwing numbers around that cannot be backed up with the facts. And in case of doubt or when we had no clear replay of evidence we gave the decisions to the ref as correct.

And once again I have the feeling that the fact that the PGMOL claims a number is even worse than the actual fact of 10% offside calls being found wrong. How can you improve yourself and raise the standard when you think all is fine and well? Sticking your head in the sand is the worst thing you can do when you are responsible for any organisation and this also goes for the PGMOL: You will not improve the referees when you tell the world everything is fine.

5. Some teams are very favoured and some not

Some teams got a lot of things going their way and others not. You can see a few tables over here. We have proved this and we can point at other websites who have found the same things for many teams. We work different compared to debatable decisions but the top and bottom we found are the same. And even the claims that we are an Arsenal site can be swept aside thanks to the work from the Debatable Decisions website. Arsenal has been the hardest done by the referees in the PL. Stoke has been the team that got most from the refs.

6. Personal bias from some referees

One of the major surprises was that we also could point at some refs who clearly had problems with some teams. You can check out on each page of each ref who those teams are. And on this page you can see that some of those refs can be very unbiased with many other teams. This is a clear indication that something is wrong with some refs and some teams. What is the matter is something we cannot find out unless we get the chance to speak with the persons in question. But some referees must take a look in the mirror and try to examine themselves and make sure that whatever is bothering them with certain teams comes to an end, or ask the PGMOL to remove them from the games of those teams.

7. The influence of some referees is too big

Because the PGMOL does not have enough referees the personal weight and the personal bias of some referees can have a big influence on some teams. It is an unhealthy situation if some refs do more than 3 games the same team in one season.  Yet we have seen one team having one bad ref for them 6 times in a season. And other teams had more favourable refs up to 5 times in a season.

And some top teams had a ref only once after they had a big defeat with that ref.  Was that club influence?  We can’t prove that but it is NOT acceptable for a club to keep having the same ref, or suddenly not get that ref at all.

In short we have proven that a lot of things are not as they should be in the PL. And that is why the PL cannot be considered the best in the world. If it addresses those remarks we can reconsider this but not for now.

All those things came out of reviewing 40% of the league.  And for those not liking it…, for those brushing it aside as not enough… just wait in 12 months.

I have pointed out some of the things that are wrong in the referee world, not all as I could go on for a while. And of course for some of those things the referees are not responsible at all. We can’t blame them for the bad things their organisation does. Like having not enough refs or sending the same refs over and over.  But it is those men on the field who get the blame when they make mistakes.  Be they honest mistakes or not that honest mistakes.

So the next step is to make some propositions to improve the things we have found that are not good enough in the EPL in respect to the referees. This is something for the next article.

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17 comments to REF REVIEW 2012: Blatant Bias, incompetence, imbalance, inaccuracy, poor selection policy

  • Elvis Senthil

    Legendary work !

    Someone ought shove this down the media cows throats and wake those retards (read pundits) to some semblance of reality .

    Also can someone kick the BBC MOTD team in the balls for me ? I’m from India and can’t get to them . Will contribute significantly for a reward (as would thousands )

    Gooner For Life !

  • the mickster

    if anyone had any doubt as to the merits of this work, a read of this article sums it up brilliantly. How long can / will the mainstream media ignore this ! for the past 30+ years i’ve sat watching Arsenal, and after about 10 mins of fouls committed by the oppo, turned and said to my dad, 1st Arsenal player to committ a foul will get booked ! lo and behold, guess what!
    It’s nice to know i’m not as paranoid as i think !
    Thank you Walter / Tony / Dog Face et al

  • El Gringo

    The work is truly monumental and legendary! Well done. And now that it’s out and the conclusions are well and truly damaging to PGMOL and the EPL, we’ll see how deep heads are really in the sand. Will we see another article on the BBC? What about the Guardian and their supposed love for exposing corruption? Will the MOTD men acknowledge their favourite myth has gone down the drain? Will Mike Riley ‘fess up to having less-than-correct numbers and making less-than-demonstrable claims about bias?

    Of course not. They know they’re lying, and their silence will be on their own heads come judgment day.

    But at least now we know the truth, and that we have it on a pretty decent spread of damn good data. And we know that we can judge this season on a nearly-comprehensive set of similarly good data. The more information we have, and the longer we have it for, and the more people see it, the harder the sandyheads will find it to keep quiet and inactive. Through truth, change.

  • Dutchie

    I absolutely have to agree with the guys above. Brilliant work, you guys did what well-paid journalists had to do but didn’t.

    But i wonder what will happen if your work reaches the bigger crowd and other media. Then surely PGMOL can not stay behind and will respond immidiatly by changing their policy, so they can deny every accusion (as other journalists might collect data, or they bring their own data). Ofcourse this would be a good thing for the sport we all love, but personally i want more. I want the world to recognize the corruption in English football, i want to see people from the FA and PGMOL admitting these facts and if footballclubs are involved, they have to be punished.

    So maybe it would be better to do your work under the radar, so people inside PGMOL cannot respond to that quick enough to clear their souls.

    I hope my English is understandable.

  • Mandy Dodd

    amazing research and data, and it does not make comfortable reading. In many ways, this backs up what many have believed we are seeing with our own eyes.
    It is not only our own club on the wrong end of this, but in many ways, we are the easiest target. A big foreign influence,relatively small technical players, challenges to the status quo, the FFP posterboys, an unconventional French manager to apply lazy xenophobic stereotypes to, a different approach to most league clubs, which has enabled us to punch above our weight if you can see beyond trophies as the be all and end all.The media seem to have a problem with us, Talk$hite presenters do daily features on us,although I must admit, I have been taken aback by Alan Hansens recent praise. Some ref scertainly have a problem with this team.
    Ivan Gazidis now moves in high places. Other clubs in the top half of the EPL now seem to be taking on our model. The PGMOL web site has been shut down. Is sucking up to Fergie any longer the same career move it once was? Is it possible, the situation could start to improve?

  • Charlie

    This is excellent work but it needs to reach the wider media and I wish I could suggest how to do that. Love him or hate him Piers Morgan would be a useful ally on this and you would think that he would have something to say on the blatant bias against Arsenal that was identified. Don’t know the bloke personally though. Strangely enough I haven’t felt that Arsenal have been treated unfairly by officials yet this season. Coincidence or are they aware that they’re under extra scrutiny ? I still question whether the judges can be totally unbiased in favour of Arsenal but even excluding Arsenal from the results the refs do seem to be incompetent.

  • GoingGoingGooner

    It is interesting that the place where the refs seemed to have fared worst was on the red cards. That might be a place to examine in further detail. Losing a player for the rest of the match is huge and yet most of the referees got a huge number of them wrong. Contentious, yes, biased, maybe, unpredictable, almost certainly. Would this be a place to use technology? Maybe not. Would this be a place where a second official would be useful? Indubitably, especially for fouls off the ball.

  • Woolwich Peripatetic

    My guess would be that referees have faired badly because they choose to ignore some red card fouls (to make a game of it etc.) not due to any inability to spot them. This season alone we’ve had red card incidents right in front of the referee and no red was produced. Gerrard’s “tackle” on Vermaelen for instance.

  • Dave C

    My guess is that this work will go largely unappreciated by the fans of the BPL, but it will have a huge impact on the league. Fans will be fans and defend their club regardless. But keep in mind, you ARE making a difference by highlighting not only the incompetence and bias of the PGMOL but the Media ignoring it because they have a vested interest in the cash cow that is the BPL. As trivial as life can be, the work you are doing actually means something. Sport needs principle. Sport needs the work done by all the reviewers involved.

  • Sammy The Snake

    Great job, how do we make the world take notice?

  • bjtgooner

    Great work Walter et al. I have followed this series closely and have been very impressed with the commitment of your team of refs and writers. What all this also shows is that not only is Riley avoiding the truth but so far his employers are doing the same – these faceless employers need to know that they have responsibilities that they cannot walk away from.

    So far this season we have seen some appalling performances from the officials – perhaps the worst being at the Everton – Newcastle match – I would like to hear Riley or his apologist Gallagher comment on that one.

    Keep up the good work guys, the pressure must win through in the end – but; do we now have enough evidence to take further? Is the Minister for Sport in the UK ultimately responsible for fair play on the field? (not that I consider any politician worth a damn.)

  • bob

    What to do now? Let’s make suggestions.
    For an easy starter: anyone who appreciates this work, just send a link to this page to 2 or more fans that you know and ask them to do the same. Be fruitful and multiply!

  • bob

    Amy Lawrence of the Guardian wrote to UA a few weeks ago. Surely she’d be contactable or hopefully will wander hereabouts. Here’s a great scoop just waiting for some sports/news jorno to simply cover it. Is that too much to ask? Well, ask anyway.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Yet another shameful ref performance at the Theatre of Schemes….again….once more…..

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Great work ,Walter and the rest of you guys ,really awesome .
    We should endeavor to diseminate these findings to as many as possible (as suggested above )and to as many persons of influence as possible .
    We should not allowed this information to be buried or be distorted ,and spread it as wide as possible till it hurts .
    Again ,fantastic job guys .

  • Adam

    @Bob, I think something of this magnitude should not be covered by a sports journo they have no credibility as it is, Without them ruining what Untold is trying to achieve.
    I hope Untold can cover all the games this season, I hope a university picks up on this research and can confirm the method and findings to give it unquestionable credibility. I believe PGMOL are aware of this and other studies but remain silent, Only a large established organisation could jolt Riley and his crew into action or make them defend their position. Maybe that is what Untold can do? Approach a university.

  • finga

    doz not help