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July 2021

Who really decides which ref will do which game? Mike or ….

By Walter Broeckx


Well it was another interesting moment involving referees in the PL the last days.


People often wonder why it is that referees fall for so many dives of United players and award penalties whenever they can. Or give decisions the United way.  I will give you an answer at the end of this article or try to give you some insight on how it works. Because first of all we have to start at the beginning of  it all. Our “beloved” PGMOL organisation. The organisation who sends out the refs in the PL. And if we take the words from Wikipedia and since the website from the PGMOL is shut down (check yourself) for the public we only can use what we have at our disposal so we take Wikipedia on their word.


For those who are too lazy to click on the link I will copy the most important information for this article below but do click on the link as I think you will like some of the content over there.

But this is what is written down:

The Professional Game Match Officials Board (PGMOB), and since made a Limited Liability Company (PGMOL, or Professional Game Match Officials Limited), was formed when English association football referees turned professional in 2001, specifically to provide match officials for all games played in the Premier League in England. The Board consists of the three governing bodies’ Chief Executives and Referees Managers in addition to The FA’s Head of Refereeing. The organisation is headed by Mike Riley.

The board are tasked with the responsibility of developing excellence in officiating in the English game at the professional level. The General Manager and his team of managers and coaches is responsible for the training, development and monitoring of referees.

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Mike Riley also decides which referees will officiate at Premier League matches while David Allison decides Football League matches and consults with the Football Association over the FA Cup.

So it is clear: Riley is the person who decides who will be referee at a game.


The next thing to keep in mind is what would be your preferred ground to go to as a ref. And with preferred I don’t mean that you prefer the team but just the stadium. Would you like to go to Old Trafford or do refs would prefer to go to Wigan? A ref is like a player. If you have the chance to choose between playing for Wigan or for Barcelona? Where will you go? Will you prefer playing for 15.000 crowds or would you prefer playing for 100.000? I think anyone will understand that playing or refereeing in a big stadium in front of a big crowd is far more pleasant than doing your job in front of a small crowd in a small stadium.


So been given a game at Old Trafford is by most refs seen as having a good appointment. A kind of reward even. I think any ref even without being the slightest bit of supportive for United will prefer to go to Old Trafford in stead of going to Wigan. Even I would go there with great expectation of having a big game in a big stadium. This is just one of the top stadiums in the PL so each ref will love to go there.  And remember it is Mike Riley who is responsible for this. At least that is what they pretend.


So let us try and take a few examples on what happens to refs who are in charge when United lose a game?


  • Mike Dean(Fifa-ref) was referee when Blackburn beat Manchester United 2-3 on 31/12/2011. Hasn’t done a game at Old Trafford since that day.
  • Mike Dean(Fifa-ref) was referee when Manchester United lost at home to Chelsea 1-2 on 03/04/2010. The next time he went to Old Trafford was 22/05/2011. More than a year later.
  • Mark Clattenburg(Fifa-ref) referee when Manchester United lost with 1-6 at home to Manchester City on 23/10/2011 hasn’t been given any United game since that date. Almost one year ago now. It speaks for itself he hasn’t been a ref at Old Trafford since that day.
  • Martin Atkinson(Fifa-ref) and Keith Hackett (see later) was heavily criticised when United lost in the FA cup from Portsmouth on 08/03/2008. He had to wait till 29/12/2008 to come back to Old Trafford.  That was his first game after that defeat. Before that he had been doing them 4 times in that season.
  • Martin Atkinson(Fifa-ref) who according to Ferguson was responsible for United losing at Chelsea on 01/03/2011 had to wait almost 1 year before getting another Manchester United game. In fact since that day now more than 1,5 years ago he has never been referee at Old Trafford again.
  • Almost at the end of the 2010-2011 season Arsenal won with 1-0 from Manchester United and Chris Foy was the ref. At the start of the next season Chris Foy had to do 2  games in league one (old 3rd division) and game in the Championship (old 2nd division) before he could return to the PL. It took him exactly one year to have another game at Old Trafford (06/05/2012 against Swansea)
  • And now after losing 2-3 to Tottenham this same Chris Foy gets immediately in a row two games in league one (3rd tier of English football) and Ferguson was rather critical about Foy after the game….


Of course people will say this is all coincidence.


Just as it will have been a coincidence that Keith Hackett was removed as head of the PGMOL in 2009 after being heavily criticised by Alex Ferguson in 2008 for the FA cup defeat when Atkinson was involved. Ferguson then also attacked Keith Hackett and almost blamed him personally.

And banning a ref seems to be easy  but getting rid of Hackett took a bit longer. But within a year Hackett was going out the PGMOL-door and was  replaced by Mike Riley.


Of course we want to be complete and give you the words from PGMOL spokesman Phil Dorward who said: “For the conspiracy theorists who think Chris Foy’s been demoted to Lg 2 this weekend. He’s not. Select Group has 16 refs who are rotated. Foy and Atkinson done the most PL games this season (5) and average of other refs is 3.6 games. Hence rotation.”


My thoughts on this: I find it rather suspicious that the PGMOL is so quick in denying Foy being demoted. I would say that he is not really demoted. Just punished. The rest of the world sees it as Foy being demoted/punished immediately.


And my other thought when reading the PGMOL spokesman was: 16 referees??? Only 16 referees??? You got to be joking. Still only 16 referees in the PL. What is the PGMOL head being paid for? To just listen to Ferguson moanings or to bring better referees and higher refereeing standards to the PL? It should be the latter but it looks to be the first.


And then I come back to my first question at the start of this article: why do refs fall for the falling of the United players that easy?


The answer is simple. I know this because I can look at data, read things. But those refs who come together, train together, talk with each other. They also know this. They experience it. They know when Ferguson picks on them they will get lesser games and will not get back to Old Trafford any time soon. And it is only human to want to go to Old Trafford or other highly regarded stadiums in the PL.


So we know it, the refs who have to go on the field know it. Mess with United and Ferguson and/or Riley will punish you. So what would you do if being a ref? Wouldn’t you feel some kind of extra pressure on your back when entering the field? Isn’t it maybe understandable that this pressure can force you in to making decisions that make you look an idiot afterwards?


So the result is that refs will do anything to avoid the “go to Wigan, Swansea, QPR,-each week”  scenario. A game of a top team in a top stadium is seen as a reward by refs so they will go a bit further in making this happening. And those who didn’t? Well they paid their price or are still paying it. The refs know this all too well.


The PGMOL can call it a coincidence? Sorry my dear friends at the PGMOL. I really find this hard to believe. Too much coincidence can point at something else. It usually does…. Oh and what was the Italian match fixing scandal all about? Yep about sending the “right” ref to the right games and avoiding the “wrong” ref for the “wrong” games.  I don’t see much difference with how things go in the PL…



46 comments to Who really decides which ref will do which game? Mike or ….

  • Vishal

    This article is a rip off of another one i read a few days ago. Atleast credit your source mate.

  • Mike Riley’s antics are known world wide.I do not understand why he is still in charge of referees in England.His integrity is suspect!

  • Mandy Dodd

    Says it all! Those stat you mentioned remove the possibility of coincidence. Upset Fergie and count games at OT out, possibly even games such as cup finals as well. Almost as if the refs head is a Utd supporter?
    It is a real shame that no ex refs have really broken ranks on this

  • WalterBroeckx


    This article was written by my on Tuesday evening based on a few facts I found on twitter.
    I then went on a search and must say that from the “original 10 facts” I deleted 3 of them as I could not find conclusive evidence in the stats of the referees. (Example Winter claims)
    I even added some things I found during my search on the ref and their stats.

    Now I know that in the mean time other persons have written in similar lines. Of course the facts are the facts but I have checked my facts (Jeff Winter also claimed something but I couldn’t find data to back it up so left it out) and I couldn’t but repeat the facts. I don’t really think that facts are protected under any copyright?

    But I wonder if you have written the whole article because apart from the facts (that are also mentioned elsewhere I agree) I offer another angle on to why refs fall for the falling.

  • Mick

    Could it be that the reason M Dean gets so many Arsenal games is to balance the small number of Man U games and thus maintain his overall average of ‘big games’. Plus of course the joy it must bring to Riley that Dean so hates Arsenal that we have only won once in his last 13 games with him as ref. It works well for Riley, if Dean is ‘anti’ both Arsenal and MU, by keeping him away from MU and giving him a lot of Arsenal games Riley achieves his ideal of helping MU and doing Arseal down in one go.

  • bob

    Your seeming outrage is solely about Authorship — which you do not even try to substantiate with a link or an analysis. Given what is being said in Walter’s article, I would say that what is suspect, mate, is your outrage and your drive-by reason for writing this here at all.

    No one owns the facts, mate. Do you dispute Walter’s interpretation? Did you know that Micky R. became PGMOL chief after a set of “stellar” demonstrations of loyalty to Don Fergus, the foremost being the theft of Arsenal’s unbeaten streak at Old Toilet in September 2004? Did you know that Walter has reviewed that crime scene of a match? Have you ever seen its (admittedly hard to come by) video on You Tube or elsewhere? It’s there, and links to both Walter’s review and that video have been posted here on several occasions. And they should be again because they are a present (not just historical) treasure.

    And now that Walter builds a further, searing indictment of the probable Ferguson-Riley tie, you summon all your powers of analysis and indignation and produce a mighty squeal. Impressive.

  • jaroda

    Why can’t they just have a random ‘referee to game’ selection process, like the FA cup draw? Draw the ref out of one bag and the game out of the other. Broadcast it live on Sky Sports News on an evening mid week (when they have naff all else on). Then appoint an independent adjudicator like at the National Lottery draw to audit it. Ahh wait, I see, that would be clarity that the PGMOL are incapable of displaying.

    All games are equal in importance (they should be from an ethical point of view) so all ref’s should have an equal chance of being appointed the glamourous games.

  • dan

    Riley is Fergie’s love child.

    Can’t recall seeing you on this site before, me wondering is your man u supporter?

  • dan

    me wondering are you a man u supporter?

  • dan

    I source Footballisfix (website gone for now)last season for highlighting the rotation of 5 select PGMOL ref’s for the Man Shitty games from mid December to the end of Feb, thereby defaulting the Reds of Manchester to the top in the PL given Shitty sudden lean period.

  • Dutchie

    There was a video on youtube called: ”Man Utd kicking Arsenal off park”, a 8-10 minute video with all the decisions against us in the game against Manchester where the Rooney dive ended our unbeaten run. This video is removed due to copyright claims (lol) by the FA… interesting fact, Riley was the ref. Now I haven’t seen many compilation videos or other forms of edited videos been removed… but maybe it is the normal procedure i don’t know.

    Anyway, if someone has it, please upload it. It showed the 100 percent red card Ferdinand should have get for fouling Ljungberg being the last defender. The 20 times Neville kicked Reyes without receiving a yellow card and ofcourse the Rooney dive. This referee performance was even more biased then the second half against Newcastle (4-4).

    For those who are sceptical about this article, look at Riley’s refereeing record. There was a period where he gave Utd 6 penalty’s in 6 consecutive games. And know the man has even more power…

  • Dutchie

    Know = now

  • Dutchie

    In April 2009 David Moyes wanted the FA to investigate the bias of Riley toward Man Utd. So it’s not only Arsenal fans who see it…

  • Sav from Australia

    Once again a lovely article Walter. I do not know what I would do without Untold, you guys shine the light beneath the dirty rocks to uncover the truth.

    It feels like Arsenal are being treated better, perhaps even fairly this season. Hopefully I did not speak too soon. But anybody who does not believe in pro Man Utd bias did not watch them get outplayed and gifted points at Liverpool the other week. Filthy scum that team, cheaters to the core.

  • Louis

    It is really incredible how untransparent the whole power system in football is. Is there not some sort of “democratic system” where the people in charge of football, the FA et al. are elected? Even if those so-called elections were not transparent, it would at least mean that Riley’s term would be limited.

    For example, since he was put in power in 2009 it would mean that maybe in 2013 he’d have to be reelected and someone with his trackrecord which is basically inexistant:
    – sufficient number of referees: uncheck
    – communication with the footballing world: uncheck
    – transparent referee training & selection: uncheck
    – transparent match referee selection: uncheck
    – stand for integrity in football:. uncheck
    could not be reelected.

    I’m sure even in England they must have realised that in the years he was in charge not much of note has improved for the better and surely there has to be someone impartial, it would even be best if that person came from outside of football, to get in charge at the PGMOL.

    I think it is even essential that such a person comes from outside of football, since not only would that person have a fresh set of new ideas, but most importantly it would not have old alliances and sympathies and would not easily be influencable.

  • colario

    I suspect it will be some time before Mr. Foy gets a spuds game.

  • Persian gunner

    Thank u Walter
    Very nice article!
    It really hurts, but I believe that here at Untold you are doing a great great job by highlighting these facts, it will work some day!

  • WalterBroeckx

    it was Vishal his first comment 😉

  • pj

    Walter, by using time machine, i’ve found archive of This is a sample of QAs with Riley.

    there is some interesting answer from him

  • Sammy The Snake

    And yet, noone does anything! Highway robbery…

  • Mandy Dodd

    All that can be done is to keep exposing this. Riley is not even subtle about it. He is probably in real trouble over what happened on the last game of last season.
    One question – if this really is as it seems, it it down mainly to Fergie? His club? Riley or someone a bit removed – Sky / The media?

    On another off topic note, really sad to see the comments from Tony Adams in two seperate articles on the BBC website – sports section.
    Tony, you are a legend, were a hero to many, you have a well deserved statue…but,
    1/you will never ever be Arsenal manager, and you have done nothing to suggest you are capable
    2/ Steve Bould got the job, you did not!
    Now stop your bitter sniping, you are starting to sound like Wrighty… and go back to being an Arsenal legend.
    Sorry, off topic rant over!

  • Gunz

    excellent find. After having a look at other links, from that page, there is very interesting information/background on the role of yhe PGMOL Ref Accessors.

    Information on Match Assessors

  • bjtgooner

    Good article Walter. The relationship between Red Nose and Riley is an interesting one which appears to have developed and matured following the stitch up which ended the Invincibles run.

    It cannot be right that one person with a flawed reputation has been rewarded with so much unquestioned control. When someone like this is given absolute authority the motives and integrity of those who put him there and keep him there must also be open to question.

  • Adam

    Nice one Gunz.

    The appointment of Match Officials to games is announced each Monday with nineteen Referees available to officiate ten Premier League games and six selected Football League games.

    When making the appointments several aspects have to be taken into account.

    •Current Form of the official
    •Position on Merit Table
    •Exposure to clubs with regard to frequency of appointment
    •Proximity to ground or City in which they were born or live
    •Any history with the clubs involved
    •Team that they support
    •International Appointments ( Referee has a UEFA game on Thursday will only be available for a Sunday or Monday game.

    The above was taken from the old Pgmol site that Gunz has opened up again for us. Nice one fella.

  • Adam

    For future reference Mr Broeckx a few quotes you could use with regards to the part-time refs, Some very interesting quotes too. Would like to draw your attention to ref rotation and their view on refs becoming too familiar with teams.

  • Gunz

    Thanks but credit goes to Pj@4:10pm, he found the archived Refworld(2008) website.

  • Adam

    Yes Gunz I noticed as soon as I posted that comment. @PJ you wonderful person, thank you very much.

  • bob

    Walter, bjtgooner, Dutchie,
    Walter has reviewed that travesty of a game and it’s now somewhere in the catacombs at Woolwich Arsenal. Walter, as people are curious yet again, how about producing a link to the review and to the video of the match if it’s still posted on the web.

  • Mahdain

    Really says it all doesn’t it? Upset Fergie and you better forget about doing any united games in near future. It has become so obvious that its rather pathetic that they are trying to deny it
    Another thing i noticed is that if you really upset Fergie you will wont only not get United matches but also be kept away from big matches which would explain why the best ref in England Mark Clattenburg rarely gets the big mathces nowadays and has do the games of stoke,wigan,swansea and the others

  • Norm

    Such a good article again, thank you. How satisfying it must be for Frigginson, to have a regular team player on the pitch, ‘manchester utd’s howard webb’, as well as his biggest ‘fixer’ old mother riley, working behind the scenes. I fear the worst today with Fat Dowd & even fatter thug allardyce conspiring against us. Cmon u Gunners!

  • Adam

    Can anyone find this merit table that the refs are judged by? I will keep looking but, Im not that hopeful, Me thinks this maybe another hidden gem from those behind closed doors.

    @Mr Broeckx, In a link I provided above it states that the refs are designated games a month in advance, Then the list is tweaked in the run up to the games. Does this go against what the PGMOL have stated in the past. Also with the PGMOL having the pick of the lower league games for their excess officials does this allow them to influence who can gain promotion to their top league (I.E the prem).
    Also in that article they state that geographical reasons will keep refs from officiating teams from their local area. Im sure we can find refs from Manchester officiating games from that area.

  • Adam

    6.3.1 Competences
    • There has been no consultation with key stakeholders to develop a set of competences for
    Professional Football Refereeing.
    • There has been no research on the nature of the Key Decisions as part of the competences
    required to be a Professional Football Referee.
    • The current criteria are vague and neither evidence-based nor specific .There are no sets of
    criteria, no national standards and no list of specific competences required as a Referee in
    Professional Football.
    • Although deemed important, decision-making is not recognised as the core competence in
    Referee performance.
    • As a result of improved Player and match analysis techniques there are now clear evidence based
    performance criteria for Players: there are for example now objective bench marks available for
    each playing position. There is now available a much greater range of objective tools to assess a
    Player’s performance and yet whilst there is much greater development of objective assessment
    of Player competences there has been no corresponding development in objective performance
    assessment for Professional Football Referees.

  • Mandy Dodd

    one good thing – our CEO now moves within the highest echelons of the English football establishment, along with his peers at the likes of Utd… lets hope he can use his influence in a positive way

  • Adam

    @Mandy Dodd, this is not a pop, But there lay the problem if Arsenal need a person in a position of influence. It will prove that the institution is corrupt and Arsenal are only playing along and not challenging the status quo. Most followers of football only want a level playing field not one that needs influencing to be fair to the minority but one that needs monitoring to be fair to all.

  • WalterBroeckx

    good posts and this sentence: “there has been no corresponding development in objective performance assessment for Professional Football Referees.” is saying it all.
    And well that is what have been trying to do the last season and are continuing to do on the new site.

  • WalterBroeckx

    I have written an article (or even a short series of articles) on the criteria used to assign referees and showed that they were just lies as I could point at things that were clearly contradicting their own criteria. Will see if I can find it on the site

  • Adam

    Mr Broeckx, Im going to put up this link again, It is a must read for any resonable football fan.

  • Al

    Here is the YouTube vid for that robbery at Old Toilet, for those that couldn’t be bothered to look for it. I used my phone so apologies if it won’t work.

  • You Must Be Joking

    This might work better:

    He has no shame.

    thanks, Al!

  • Walter

    thanks a lot for the link. If you did put it up earlier I must have missed it. Reading it and just liked this:

    Offside Decisions
    The PGMOL has commissioned research to assess the accuracy of offside decisions made by Assistant
    Referees in the PL 2007/08. The research compares the decision by the Assistant Referee against
    video evidence. This research has been provided by the PGMOL to the Working Party.
    The results are as follows:
    • There were on average 30 offside/onside situations per game.
    • 82.5% have been shown to be correct and 17.5% incorrect. An average of approximately 1 in 5
    incorrect decisions or between 5 and 6 errors per game.
    • Time in match was found not to be significant to errors through fatigue, as in fact, most errors in
    1st 15 minutes.

    Well apparantly Mike Riley came up with saying that last season 99% of the offside decisions were correct. And in this report they say only 82.5% correct.
    We came up with around 90% being correct.

    And as I said before we can only check around 1 in every 5 decisions as apparently for this report they could check more decisions as they probably had access to all the camera angles and we don’t have this.

    Bottom line: I do think Riley is excellent in telling fairy tales… 🙂

  • Walter

    And I got a great reaction from one of our readers who has pointed at a few things in my article and who has given me some more background information on some things. This could be very helpful for me in the future.

  • Walter

    My god Adame, you have given me real food for articles with your link…

    Thanks to this report a lot of things become clear…

  • Adam

    Mr Broeckx, That report was chaired by Greg Dyke ex head of the BBC and I presume prozone had done the research for them using prozone3, Matchviewer, Dashboard, trend and playback. Arsene Wenger has been using this system for some time but I do not think he was behind that report but the LMA put their name to it. Sir Alex Fergusen is a committee member as well as Alardyce and other British managers. If you want my opinion I believe Howard Wilkinson was behind this with the support of SAF and other managers probably including Arsene Wenger. Im behind this report 100%. We just need to tweek the rules of football now.

  • Adam
    I think, Maybe this report has been knocking around since before 2009. Might be why we keep getting screwed.

  • Adam

    Mr Broeckx, Sorry just to keep you busy.

    Page 182 of this report is LMAs written evidence to the House of commons regarding the governance of football. Where they staert of by stating,

    “The current system is not fit for purpose and is unable to provide the leadership that is necessary if English football is to regain it’s place at the top of World football”.

    The AST have also given written evidence pages 101.