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REF REVIEW 2012: The final words – How to improve refereeing and football


This article is part of the series : REFEREE REVIEW 2012


By Walter Broeckx

In our previous article we have pointed at the things we found that are bad in the referee world in general.

Now as we reach the end of the year review we will make some propositions on how the PL can improve and go to a higher level. And also at the same time move on to a fairer level.   Because we have proven that the PL is not a fair place and when a sports is not played in a fair way it will lose out at the end. I think we all know there were sports that once were sports but turned out as being organised and being decided before the game, fight or whatever actually took place. The die hard fans will still see it and accept that they are looking at a cheating contest.

Allow me to doubt that most football supporters will accept such a thing. The die hard club fans of the benefiting teams will accept it as they win prices. But I admit if I wouldn’t have been such a die hard supporter of Arsenal I would have stopped watching football.

In fact I do for a big part. I only watch the CL when Arsenal plays. But for the rest I ignore it and I just check the scores. The money the sponsors spent on me is lost money as I will not buy their products because I think the CL is a somewhat  fixed league.

If I didn’t  have to do the reviews I also would not watch the other games in the PL. Because of the reviews and my research in the last seasons I just feel that there are things behind the scenes at work that are not just. So the day I stop my reviewing…will be the day that the PL has lost me as a spectator. I will then only watch the Arsenal games.

I don’t like injustice and injustice makes me determined to fight it. If the PGMOL and the FA want me to stop…they just should stop the injustice I see.  Or at the very least entire a dialogue with us over the findings we have produced.

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And I don’t just mean the injustice that hit Arsenal over the last seasons. My football heart bleeds as it is seeing any injustice on a football field. Who ever wins from it, who ever loses from it.

So what follows should not be read as : how would Arsenal benefit from what I propose, because I am very realistic and know that on some days they will suffer from it. But when I can go home to my country from a game at the Emirates in the knowledge that the final result was a fair one and that no influence was there, I can take any defeat on the way home. Losing is part of football, cheating is not!

So what should change to improve football in general and in particular in the PL?    What follows isn’t a list of all things I think should change or be considered to change. I could go on for a while in fact. But let us start with a few things that really should be taken care of as soon as possible.

1. Fight time wasting: bring in extra balls

I want to start with something so simple that it beggars believe that it hasn’t been enforced yet. In a lot of other European top leagues they have found a very easy solution to stop time wasting when the ball goes out of play. Every ball boy has an approved match ball and when the ball goes out the ball boy just gives his ball and the team that has to take the throw has not excuse to delay the restart of the game.

This is such a simple solution that it reeks to sheer criminal neglecting what is good for football. We don’t pay our money to see 30 minutes lost per game by teams who take 30 seconds to 1 minute for a throw or a goal kick.  And most of all because most of the refs just ignore this time wasting completely. Maybe they are too tired to follow the game and are happy with the rest they can get? And this can have something to do with my second proposition.

2. Bring in younger referees

The game has become faster than ever (apart from the time wasting) and yet there are a lot of older refs who are reaching the age of 50 or have passed it. I also have passed that date and I just know that things go down hill from then on.

So having half a dozen refs who are 50 is not good. I have noticed a lot of refs running in a way that makes it obvious he is getting tired. And this is something that would improve with younger referees who are fitter and who can run further and for longer.  Experience is fine but when you can’t follow the game you will miss things and you will miss incidents.

3. Bring in more referees in the PL

In most leagues in Europe they have more referees in the top division than there are refs in the PL. The result of having only 16 PL referees (of whom a few are getting older) is that you have some refs doing the same team over and over again. A result is that some teams get the same ref 5 or 6 times in one season.

This means that this one ref can make a difference of some 15 or even 18 points for that team.  This is unacceptable. Certainly in the light that we have shown that some refs are a walking disaster for some teams and should be kept away from those teams. But there is no room for such a thing as it would only mean that other refs will have to do more games.

So this is walking in circles. The only solution is to bring on more referees so we have a least and this is a minimum of 20 PL refs at out disposal. By having 20 refs you could organise the league in such a way that each team only has each ref twice in the season. Reducing the impact or each ref to a maximum 6 points per season. In fact I think that we should have something of 25 referees in the PL. That way refs also can get more rest at times and you also have to take in account that also refs can get injured.

Not doing this is a crime against fairness.  This is something that the PGMOL must put right during this season. If not, they admit that the whole procedure of educating refs to the top level is a gigantic fiasco. And it is their job to produce the refs.  Quality wise but also quantity wise. And if they are not capable of doing this, heads should roll.

4. Make sure the final result of each game is a fair one

Even with more refs, younger refs, fitter refs, you still will have mistakes. Mistakes that will lead to teams winning titles or losing titles. Mistakes that will lead to teams being relegated or staying up. We should make sure that the final result of the league and thus the final result of each game is fair.

When a goal is scored it should be a goal beyond doubt. When a penalty is given, it should be a for a foul and not for a dive.  When I go home on my 4 or 5 hours journey from the Emirates I want to know that the result was correct. Not like last seasons when I knew the result was wrong even before the final whistle because at home they send me a message that the ref made a mistake even before the game restarted on the field.  So how can we do this?

4.a. Goal line technology

This is a first step that was promised for this season. I might have missed something but it all has gone very quiet on this. I remember from last season a few goals that weren’t given and some that were given that never passed the line. Come on PGMOL, come on FA,  you promised it, now deliver. But that is not all.

4.b. Use video replays on the important decisions

I think every goal should be checked immediately after it has been scored. Was there a missed offside? Was there a handball? Was there something the ref could not see?

This will lead to the assistant giving the attackers more benefit of the doubt as it should be by the way. Because they know that even if they didn’t give the offside, the people behind the review can still put it right.  It will add even more drama to the game as each goal will be celebrated twice. If the goal was valid the scoring team will celebrate twice. If the goal was wrongly given, both set of supporters will have a moment to cheer about.

Also each penalty can be checked immediately. Now it takes almost always up to a minute before a penalty is taken. First the team that got the penalty against them will protest the decision with the ref or the assistant and during that time the reviewers can look at the incident and agree with it or let the ref know that it was a dive.

No need to run at the ref when he gives a penalty because if it was a foul the reviewers will confirm it. And when it wasn’t a foul the decisions will be turned around.   Again this will be a reason for more celebration when the decision is given or for the other team when it is reversed.

A goal from a penalty could lead to a total of 3 celebrations. One when the ref gives the penalty, a second one when the decision is confirmed and a third when the penalty goes in.

It will bring more excitement to the game but most of all it will bring more fairness to the game. It will bring more fairness for all the teams. It will take away from the pressure that is put on the refs who only have a split second to make a decision.  Now they know that even if they made an initial mistake the reviewer is there to help them to give the correct decision.

Because every fair ref only wants to make the right decisions. Every fair ref wants to leave the field in the knowledge that the outcome of the game was a fair one and not down to him making mistakes. In some countries referees are demanding the help from reviews in order to achieve that. (The Netherlands are such a country) .

The main question is: DO WE WANT TO MAKE FOOTBALL FAIR AS MUCH AS CAN BE?  My answer to this is YES!!

To use a phrase that was used by a big sportswear company on these demands: JUST DO IT!


This is the end of our year review of the referees of the season 2011-2012. We hope you enjoyed it. We hope we have educated you about the rules. We hope we have showed you that not all refs are bad (some were) and that not all refs are always biased or bent (sometimes it looked as if they were). We hope we have given you something to think about, to talk about, to discuss….

I would like to thank once again our team of referee reviewers, Dogface and Tony. I want to thank the ones who live under the same roof as our reviewers who had to endure their husbands putting  so much time and effort in this project. Maybe they are the forgotten victims of bad referees. If all was well in football we wouldn’t be doing this and we would have more time for our wives and children. So they also have been contributing to this series by allowing us to do what we did.

I thank you for your attention and remember: we will continue our fight for better referees in the PL. Just check the follow up  out at Referee Decisions.  Hope to see you there.


Ref Review 2012 – the index

27 comments to REF REVIEW 2012: The final words – How to improve refereeing and football

  • Gf60

    Re Time wasting. Bring in extra balls. Interesting that on Wednesday night a Chelsea corner was held up for well over a minute when a new ball or three had to brought from inside the stadium. This led to the chorus from a gooner supporting pub of “No balls at all, no balls at all, they supported a side that had no balls at all.” Classic

  • fedda

    Very good points, but the FA is the FA. At least we are moving in the right direction with goal line technology.

    On your second point. I have played a lot of Sunday League games in England and witnessed a few when I come over from Norway. I must say that some of the ref’s who are in their early twenties have been fantastic, yet the older ones not so much. I know there is a huge difference from Sunday League to Premier League. Maybe younger ones would be a good solution to the problem though.

  • CB

    Great stuff, as always.

    Thanks to all of you, you should be proud.

  • CB

    Other suggestions.

    Video appeals after the game on cheating especially diving.

    And only the captain can talk to the ref. Refs also need support.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Sack Manc RIley and bring in Señor Collina

  • Matt Clarke

    I have followed with interest and delight (that someone else cares) – thanks!

    You said, “I can take any defeat on the way home. Losing is part of football, cheating is not!”

    I could not agree more.

    I also agree with your proposals, above, but would also like to have an off-field video referee(s) who follow(s) the game and who review fouls goals, card etc. and who has the authority to impose some authority on proceedings.

    For example, he spots an off-the-ball incident and signal that Player X should be yellow-carded.

    He reviews a free-kick award and subsequent yellow-card and decides it was a dive – the card gets rescinded and the diver booked instead. If a goal resulted, well (hopefully this ref. is quick enough to intervene before that happens) but the goal would have to be disallowed and play resumed from the spot of the kick if the offended team had not got any advantage.

    It could get messy if delays were too long, I know.

    All of your ideas are fine and workable (and I like mine too).
    However, FIFA etc need to allow the top level professional game to depart from the rest of football with the level of measures introduced. It is not good enough, any longer, for them to hide behind the mantra that the game must be the same at all levels.

    thanks Walter

  • Matt Clarke

    [I used ‘he’ above – I meant he/she/it of course – sorry all]

  • Gf60

    Matt…No she yet (plenty of its! )but Sian Massey can’t be too far away. If she refs as well as she flags, she’ll be doing FIFA very shortly.

  • Shard

    I’d bring in the challenge system for the video technology too, where the coach has the ability to appeal for a video review if he feels none of the refs has picked up on something.

    Also, I think this nonsense of yellow cards not being able to be rescinded, and farcical decisions of red card appeals must be done away with.

    Give the ref a day to review his own performance, and then submit a public report, and give an interview to the cameras about what he feels he got right and what he feels he got wrong. He should be allowed him to change any decision in terms of cards (both given and not given) This will not only remove the secret committes deciding on players’ fates (and the referee retains authority over the game too), but also take away the excuse of split second decision making being the reason for bad decisions. If the ref is biased, he will be forced to show his bias twice, including in a more deliberate manner. I think no ref will risk that for too long.

  • Shard

    And if there were a way to do so, I’d also change the dubious goal panel system (which has some ex refs and ex players on it- no one knows who) Those bastards robbed Henry of a goal for Arsenal (Blackburn), and it was the only goal I saw Henry score in the flesh. Fuck them. Henry still scored 229. No matter what those fucktards at the FA say.

  • Doanythingformoney

    And so say all of us- Walter. Thanks. And can i ask you this? For 3 or 4 years many Arsenal fans I know have had a certain impression that we were being shafted. You have proved it to be so. On a gut level- how do you read the ‘fairness’ of other major leagues- better or worse than ours?

    Can I suggest one more ‘improvement’. Although as a northerner it grieves me to say it– can we have some southern premier refs please- simply for the sake of balance. At least then- if we are going to have an open-season for benders and cheating- Mancville will get a share of the crap Arsenal have had to endure for 4 or 5 years– and what a kerfuffle on MOTD, Talksport and in the papers that would be!!!! Ee-by gum, sithee!!

  • Adam

    @ Mr Broeckx. I posted a link a while ago for the Football Associations handbook for chairman and in it they listed the approved officials list. It consisted of over 320 names of qualified refs so no real shortage just a shortage in the prem, Why is that?
    There are already rules in place to deal with delaying the restart of play. It’s just refs don’t enforce it.
    I personally believe we need to separate the professional game from the amateur game so we can introduce technology without thinking of the financial cost to the amateur game.
    You don’t see Hawkeye on any public tennis court, So why do Fifa Uefa and the FA think the amateur game would need the same level of technology to observe proceedings.

  • mark

    Thanks this is great!

    I think you are right about younger refs but I also think there needs to be two refs on the field. Basketball has three and they make it work. Football should have two plus involved linesmen so that lots of eyes are making the decisions. This would increase the likelihood of correct decisions.

    More refs also increases the quality because they can cull out the ones that are not consistently getting the decisions right. In almost all aspects of like there is a relationship between quantity and quality. The teams have lots of young players with the hope that one will be good and maybe there will be one who is great. But without a large pool of 16-17 year old kids they will not find the good players. If this is the case with players it is also the case with refs!

    Actually some of those guys that could not make it as a player might be good refs, and might be interested if it was a full time job!

  • Stuart

    Mark, basket ball has 3 refs on a much smaller pitch yet in football the ball can go from one end to the other in 1 kick taking just a few seconds (much like basketball). Add in the width and I would ask is 3 enough?

  • Shard

    Stuart and mark

    I don’t think the analogy with basketball is quite the same. Different games, different rules. The basketball court is much smaller, but that also means that the game is more congested with an area of 4700 sq feet being used by 10 players. Plus the rules are more complicated with different lines on the court, roving substitutions, personal fouls being counted, shot clock violations, whether a shot was a two pointer or a three pointer etc. Also, NBA players apparently run something like 5 miles (8km) in a game. That is despite a smaller court and substitutions. Which means that basketball games see a lot more ‘action’ than football games.

    A football pitch being much bigger might increase the amount of area an official has to cover, but it also means that the potential incidents are fewer as the game isn’t so congested, and the rules are relatively simpler. Only 22 players in field of 100m long by 60-70 metres wide means general play usually follows the ball, and infringments are likely to be only near that area.

    I am against making football more complicated. I don’t like the two referees idea (though hockey seems to get it to work) because I don’t think adding more humans reduces error, only increases the chance of it. It’ll also bring up issues of consistency since every official has subjective opinion on what constitutes a foul. (I think this issue is more apparent in football than in basketball or hockey) The only function I would be ok taking away from the referee is that of timekeeping, but I don’t see that happening for the moment.

  • Yommex

    While I agree with your submission, it just crossed my mind that what if the video reviewer happens to be one of those on MOTD or Talk Sport?

  • will

    Some really good stuff on this site, but looking at some stats on another site ( ) has Arsenal top of the “Cards conceded against” table by some way which surprised me. But lead me to thinking you haven’t published some stats that no doubt you have (or maybe I missed it). Fouls per card official/correct version and fouls to first card. I seen Arsenal kicked off the pitch from the outset of so many games with little given only to be carded on their first offence. Also I know its not totally 100% actuate to say, but most fouls would normal be committed by the team with out the ball. So Arsenal who got more yellow and red cards than stoke last year did so while have much less time to do so, average possession stats being 59% to 40%. I know totally ball park figures, the real data could be oddly skewed but even a spud could see that seems odd.

  • CB


    Makes a lot of sense, especially in light of the bias stats against Arsenal.

    You lost me at that last sentence. They are not bright enough.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Will, I think dogface has that data somewhere on his computer about how many fouls for a yellow card.
    but the poor guy is doing overtime behind the referee decisions site so I will ask about this later if you don’t mind.

  • will

    Thanks CB, what i meant for the last bit that the 60% of possession is a total average figure for the year, so maybe the games where arsenal pickup fouls and cards the actual possession was lower than average and so that would explain it.

  • Mahdain

    @walter my comment on the other site has been under moderation for a day now..was it that bad?

  • bob

    Shard @2:23, Walter,
    Have to fully agree on the overwhelming merits of a challenge system, so each manager gets 1 or 2 challenge flags per half to toss into play. Then the clock must stop, or else allow for extra time. If the replay goes against the coach who tosses a flag, he loses that challenge right. If the replay upholds the coach’s challenge, then the flag is retained for that half. This works well in US football (NFL); and, as Walter notes, replays (there) do add new layers of drama.

  • Stuart

    Further to that, if the ball is still in play, it can continue to remain in play whilst an official in the dugout reviews the incident. They can alert the ref via earpiece if play needs to go back or game will have just carried on as normal anyway.

  • WalterBroeckx

    when I wrote my propositions I wanted to be as realistic as possible and not as complete as possible.
    Realistic in the sense of this could be implemented without much problems.
    And I think it would be a great opportunity to put refs who reach the age of 50 in to the review box.

    And of course the reviewers will be reviewed and if they make mistakes should be punished and even fired

  • Al

    Great piece Walter, agree with all your assertions esp the part about stopping watching football. I watch about 70% less than I used to a couple of years ago. You may have guessed that I only watch Arsenal games, and the occasional good game in Europe.

    One possible way of controlling time wasting is to introduce a clock that only runs while the ball is in play, like Rugby, and stops whenever the ball goes out for a throw in, corner, substitutes,etc. That way noone would attempt to waste time anymore as it would be pointless.

  • Florian

    Just watched the news about the Valencia’s penaltydive at Anfield. The almost literal comments were:

    – I think referees should get help from the technology. This was a decision that changed the face of the game.
    – They’ve gotta start reviewing this stuff after [the match is over].
    – Why after? It’s already being done. It took 4 minutes for the penalty to be taken. Why can’t we spend 30 seconds [on the instant review]?

    COngratulations, Untold!

  • menace

    Walter, I am totally on your side when it comes to fairness and the introduction of TV assistance. The TV referee/s should be independent.

    In fact why do you not form a group of referees similar (but fair) to PGMOL so that the FA have a dilemma and have to accept that monopoly is unfair. I can just see it a new URL (Untold Referees Limited).

    I would love to see several referee organisations providing officials to football. It would allow more choice and fans would begin to enjoy real competition.

    Time wasting can be addressed by a law change. The player closest to the throw in must take it within 10 seconds of getting it in his possession. Failure to do this should result in a ‘turnover’. The goalkeeper must kick the ball back into play within 10 seconds of getting it in his possession in the box. Failure should result in a free kick to the opponents from the center circle. Persistent delays from a team should result in a warning and if free kicks from the center exceed 5 then a penalty should be awarded. The 6 second rule must be implemented, specially if there is no opponent within 10 yards of the keeper.
    Corner kicks must be taken with the whole of the ball in the quadrant.