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August 2021

Who do you think you are fooling Mr. Riley… fewer fouls given does not mean more goals

By Walter Broeckx

I don’t know if you ever have seen the English comedy series ‘Dad’s Army”. If you did you will probably remember the funny intro song . So if you know this tune just sign the title above along with me. I don’t know why exactly but this song suddenly came back in my mind and it didn’t leave while writing.   Now to more serious matters.

In the former articles about Riley I quoted him and  he said: “The balance between physicality and player protection is right,” said Riley. “Fewer free-kicks result in things such as an increase in average goals per game and average shots in the game.”

So is there any link between less fouls given and scoring more goals? Well why don’t we try to find out.



Fouls per game

England Premier League


Spain Primera Division


France Ligue One


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Italy Serie A


Germany Bundesliga


So if Mike Riley is right we should see that in the Pl we have more goals scored than in the league with the highest given fouls (and according to the BBC that is the German Bundesliga). The PL with only 23 fouls per game and the Bundesliga has 32 fouls per game. So Germany has many more fouls per game. And so according to Mr. Riley the PL should have many more goals scored.

You know this because of the free flowing football style allowed by Mike Riley and his referees.

So let us take the last 3 seasons to see if Mr. Riley is having a point….or if we can only find that he is telling fairy tales.

Season Premier League Bundesliga
Average goals/game Average goals/game









And what do we see? Well that in the last 3 seasons the Bundesliga where the refs don’t apply the Riley free flowing football rule has had on average more goals scored per game than the PL.

Maybe all these carefully chosen numbers are just said to underline what Riley said: Everything in the Premier League is moving towards an exciting game that people want to see.

Riley is just a person trying to sell a product. He is trying to sell the PL and he is doing this by using the numbers that fit him. Without telling the whole truth. But unlucky for him there is Untold. And we don’t take his word as the truth and nothing but the truth.  We check.

So one simple checking of the facts shows us that Riley is using the numbers to fit in the image he wants to paint. But he doesn’t care that the image is not what he thinks it is.

The facts clearly show that the number of fouls given has nothing really to do with the number of goals scored. Otherwise the Bundesliga wouldn’t be on top of goals scored per game.

Now I know that some people have said that there could be not much wrong with the referees otherwise the mainstream media would have written about it. But let me take this as a perfect example to prove that the ‘serious media’ is not interested in looking in to the facts at all.

For myself, as simple blogger, I read the words of Riley and I want to check them. I think this is a task that each serious journalist should do himself. But what do they do? They just take the words of Riley and print them. And their job is finished. That is all they do these days.

No checking, no digging. Nothing. So I, the simple blogger, do the checking and by checking one fact I see immediately that what Riley is saying is rubbish. Why is it me who finds this? Why is it Untold that publishes the fact that Riley is again twisting numbers and facts?  Shouldn’t this be the task of the ‘serious media’?

It looks as if they think: oh when it comes from the referees they will accept what I say as the truth. And that is it. But know that not all refs are honest. And so we look behind the numbers and the facts. In a way it shows that the serious media is not interested in showing Riley up for giving useless numbers.  It shows that they are on his side or that they are not interested in any other side of the story.

It shows that they have a vested interest in the PL being seen as straight and not corrupt, because they invest in the rights to print the fixtures, to get interviews. to show TV clips and so forth

It looks as if they think : referees are completely honest so we believe them on their word. And that is the way the referees and the PGMO can get away with anything they want. Because nobody in the serious media dares to question their honesty, their integrity. But then again we are not that serious. Thanks heaven for that.

People have called me all sorts of names. Conspiracy theorist they said. But they never came up with better numbers than we did. And when we look in to their numbers they might be correct but they never mention the other side of the coin. And they surely never check if the statements that are made by the PGMO and by Mike Riley are founded on reality.

Once again Untold Arsenal has shown that the media amd PGMO are not really straightforward with their interpretation of things. So tell me is this an organisation we should trust unconditionally? Is the PGMO  an organisation that shows complete trust and honesty?

The task Untold Arsenal is undertaking is a task that paid journalists should be doing. Not only the PGMO is behaving in a disgraceful way but also each reporter who didn’t check their numbers is not doing what he should be doing.  Remember Rangers and the way that the Scottish media accept Rangers Press Releases as investigative journalism?  It is the same in England.

Oh and one final thing Mr. Riley. I think the Bundesliga is the most attractive league in the world for the moment. And look at their fouls per game.

Just look.

The books…

The sites from the same team…




35 comments to Who do you think you are fooling Mr. Riley… fewer fouls given does not mean more goals

  • Mike

    But you forgot to take something into account Walter. What Riley proabably means is that the less free-kicks you give against Man U, the more goals they will be able to score……

  • Mark

    I wonder how many of the extra goals in Germany come from the extra penalties and free kicks awarded around the area.

  • americangooner

    “Everything in the Premier League is moving towards an exciting game that people want to see.”-riley
    Riley is really onto something here. As pointed out in the article he wants to do his part in PL publicity. He wants PL to be seen as place where free-flowing football triumphs. But he must choose his weapons wisely. As we all know ManUre is a club with the widest fanbase in the PL. No other team come close. So Riley must have thought ManUre to be used in promoting this mythic free-flow in PL. To appeal to ManUre’s fanbase, Riley and Co, deliberately or sub-consciously, do not try to give fouls against them lest it hindered the flow. On the contrary, UEFA refrees may not given such directions. To those UEFA refrees, maybe Barcelona appeals much and therefore we have UEFALona. Its just a refree rumour though.
    Caution: Calling something rumour can mean one does not have to provide the veracity of any statement.

  • Adam

    Again, why aren’t more people questioning this? When the premier league has the stand out data, we should be asking what’s wrong, not what’s wrong with the other leagues.

    The Premier league is suffering from a lack of quality, and the problem is only going to grow with people like Mike Riley involved in the game. Why would the best players come to England when there is a bigger chance of a career threatening injury here, than elsewhere.

    Apply the rules as they do on the continent. Stop trying to be different.

    Eduardo, Ramsey, Diaby.

    Dyer, Cisse, larsson the list could go on.

    Follow the link, the guy who did that is still playing football. Rachid Bouaouzan.

    In 2004 he broke that fellas leg in that horror challenge. Wigan Athletic signed him a few seasons later.

  • Adam

    Forgot to mention the fella in the link above was banned for 10 games and taken to civil court over that tackle.

    In England he would get a 3 game ban and a box of tissues.

  • Adam

    Walter, the data is out there as well, to prove the premier league is not the quickest league, nor do we cover more ground during the 90 minutes.

    We could have a fantastic league in this country if only the media got on board and highlighted certain issues.

  • ferro

    Both sides of the argument are flawed if you are comparing leagues. Too many factors to consider.

  • mertheo

    ferro is right.

    Walter, one stat doesn’t make it untrue .. when you check, you should keep all other parameters as same as possible ..

    for example, the french league I seem to remember always has less goals per game scored compared to others. reasons could be very many. it wouldn’t work to compare english and french league’s goals per game and fouls given per game, cos the difference in goals/game could be due to other differences between the leagues.

    So you should maybe compare within the PL itself across years if fouls/game has any correlation or effect with scored/game

    also, what if the italian league has less fouls per game given, and more goals scored than England. Can Riley then use that stat and say your stat is wrong? See why your basing argument on one stat is also poor, though it is absolutely right to question Riley’s assertion, I don’t think your stat makes any difference.

    Walter, do reply, because that is one nagging thing about Untold I can’t shake. Lot of the stats you dig out are awesome, some of the conclusions are not. Like concluding stuff on averages when they don’t make sense, too small samples, comparing apples with oranges like in this case etc.

    Just an honest critique, please take it as constructive

  • Menace

    Number of fouls given are a lot less than fouls committed. Riley cheats those gullible glory hunters who claim to be football supporters. The truth is that PGMOL are a monopoly in the truest sense of the word and have no accountability to any acceptable organisation. The FA are part the same ‘monopoly club’ and again have an unaccountable method of appointing these corrupt officials. The term corrupt is correct in that the Laws of the Game are interpreted inconsistently and blind eyes turned to select fouls by select teams.

    Untold have been alone in trying to establish accountability of PGMOL and the FA. Whilst it is obvious that news/sports media has a huge part to play in allowing corrupt practice to flourish, media also has a huge financial gain by doing so.

  • I enjoyed reading the Post but I question whether you have only partially quoted Old Ma Riley.

    You have the advantage of me in that I have not read Riley’s comment in full. So, with that in mind, can I posit a that he may have meant that fewer free kicks resulted in more goals simply because fewer bad tackles were being made, for fear of the inevitable yellow cards, because EPL players know ‘our’ refs are stricter than elsewhere.

    If that is indeed what he meant — there is logic to it.

    I do not doubt your wish to right a comment(s) that you believe is fundamentally wrong, but equally I think your contention that not all refs are honest or full of integrity, to paraphrase you, is very subjective and does not try and put a figure on how many of them are proven to be dishonest.

    I would be more inclined to question Riley, if what he is implying is that EPL referees are interpreting FIFA/UEFA rules differently to the rest of Europe, because that cannot be correct.

    There is also a contradiction in your argument, and that is this.
    Either you disagree with Riley on the basis that there is an error in his reasoning about the inverse number of goals to fouls committed in the EPL being a result of the actions of EPL referees, as can be seen in your schedules, whereas you seem focused on the premis of EPL referees being dishonest.

    One thing or the other, surely?

    I do not mean to be argumentative or dismissive, Walter, but I know you will appreciate an honest appraisal of your theory. 🙂

  • WalterBroeckx

    Red arse,

    of course you have the right to question some things.

    First: I think most of the Pl refs are honest. BUT and there is a big but.
    The inner circles of refereeing is dishonest. To the bone one could say. I know it was/is in my country.
    And because of the rumours that will come on line in the next days/weeks we have found I now know that what is happening in my country is also more or less happening in England.

    Let me rephrase it a bit: the refs might be honest themselves. But to advance in the system you need to corrupt yourself to the system OR be such a good ref that they cannot stop you.

    So if we could remove the dishonest body away from the referees most will no longer feel the need to gently stroke the system in order to gain their personal advantage.

    Rather cryptic but in my mother language I would use stronger words 🙂 but I think you will know what I am trying to say.

  • nicky

    I wonder whether a system of reviews a la rugby, cricket and tennis would be the answer to combat blatantly biased decisions by referees.
    I know it would slow up the game but to see the correction of glaring mistakes on screen, in game after game, might restore confidence in match officialdom.
    Perhaps, though, we should at least await a possible improvement after the departure of that controlling bully, Ferguson.

  • Mickey Finn

    If there is a correlation, it’s probably the other way ’round. The more fouls, the more goals. Why? Because planned fouls are used more often when the opposition is technically outplaying you and/or gaining an advantage – big or small. The correct refereeing of fouls must surely have a general pre-emptive effect as well, which further strengthens player protection and the statistical chance of goals.

    Enough already, video tech now!

  • nicky@ absolutely correct regarding Ferguson.
    With regards to referees and video replays, if you did that with Mike (I am a star) Dean, we would never reach half time.
    By the way folks, Riley has admitted he made a mistake when he awarded Rooneys penalty in game 49….jolly decent of him eh??
    Who was refereeing when the Neville brothers kicked Reyes all the way back to Spain?

  • AL

    I don’t know which matches riley watches, if any, but I don’t think I have seen any bone-crunching tackles in La Liga, Bundesliga or Serie A. Its only here where you see tackles that wouldn’t be out of place in a martial arts tournament go unpunished (the Mcmanaman tackle for instance). And this idiot comes up with this?

  • Rufusstan

    @Nicky — interesting thought

    is an interesting read for the perspective of the referees. Essentially, Riley’s point is that he is pro technology when you have clear yes/no answers, but for things like bad tackles, a 4th official just gets you 2 opinions. Not sure how much I agree.

    On the other side, sticking events on the big screens for a second look would solve a lot of those issues, but the PL stop replays of anything contentious in the ground.

    More generally, is an interesting article comparing leagues. The bit that is directly relevant shows that we commit fewer tackles than any of the other on average. This might have a knock-on to fewer fouls, but cannot account for all of it.

  • The Awenger

    And in a way the leniency in the PL is affecting the players who play in the CL who are often booked in champions league games for fouls that would have been waved away in the PL. Perhaps we should start an online petition?

  • WalterBroeckx

    I compare the fouls per game of both leagues with the goals per game of both leagues.
    And then people say the sample is too small. I took 3 years.
    How many years do you want before you say the sample is big enough?

    If the words of Riley would be correct (in short): “less fouls, more flow, more goals” then the PL should outscore the Bundesliga and this isn’t the case in the last 3 years.

    Now I am not a statistical expert and you can make things as complicated as you want but when you only have 2 parameters I don’t understand why we should make it more complicated than needed.

  • Slysoulman

    Ken Lo,
    I’m more than a little interested in a link to Riley’s mea culpa if you can please provide.

  • Stuart

    With modern technology, there is no need to slow up the game.

    Instant replays can be reviewed whilst the game is still in play so that way play will only need to stop if the ref didn’t give something. The only time it might actually slow things is when the call / non call was incorrect and I’m sure everyone would be happy to have the slight delay.

  • nicky

    The trouble with professional football today is that its big business mode has overtaken its sporting one.
    Big business is fraught with sharp practice and corruption and football is not exempt.
    Referees are no exception, neither are governing bodies like FIFA, UEFA and the FA.
    Until steps can be found to root out the canker of evil which appears to be the prerequisite to success in the game today, the future of the sport, worldwide, looks bleak. indeed.

  • Mickey Finn

    If the words of Riley would be correct (in short): “less fouls, more flow, more goals”

    If this would mean ” less real fouls”, it would be true. If there are less fouls, it improves flow and the number of goals. If he just meant ‘less calls by the ref’, that would be incorrect and lead to the opposite. Simples, no?

  • Adam

    What is actually missing is; Fouls given in play, I.E. Advantage given, this is a foul recognised but play continues due to a teams opportunity to gain an advantage and maybe score.

    Does anyone know how many goals have come about under the advantage signal in both the Premier league and Bundesliga?

    That would be a telling stat.

  • Slysoulman,
    Riley does a lot of after dinner speaking and said that he was asked the question about Rooneys penalty decision more than anything else.
    He said that after reviewing the incident he realised it was not a penalty.
    Don’t know where you can find the exact quote though.
    By the way, wasn’t it Riley who refereed the Reyes vs Neville brothers fight at Old Trafford?

  • Domhuail

    This debate, which Walter and Tony have rightly initiated on UA for the last 3-4 years, is rather circular. Here is why:

    1)Are referees and their administrators bent? Lets look at the stats….too vague and subjective to be certain BUT there is a trend to questionable behaviour with certain refs and teams.

    2) Therefore, lets ask the PGMOL. Opps, they don’t care to share their ¨facts¨with us, so they must be hiding something. BUT, it is in the nature of officiating worldwide to avoid publicity and media scrutiny….since this can unduly influence officials and bring the game into disrepute.

    3)The powers and authorities charged with promoting the game also are supposed to protect it and its players. This duty is given to the FA off the field and the officials on it. Here we clearly see that the EPL is less protective of its players than other leagues based on injuries per season (per capita) as FIFA and EUFA’s own records show.

    4)Riley’s statement is curious in that he doesn’t clarify whether the fewer fouls were more serious and brutal, did they lead to a goal or a goal-scoring opportunity because they were closer to the offender’s goal and did they merit a caution or ejection?

    5)When we watch the International leagues and the competitions (Cups) officiated, we see far less tolerance for serious foul play than in the EPL. Why is this?

    The circularity of this issue on UA is that we never get any of these questions convincingly answered, and this is likely to continue until we get transparency and openness from the Fa and the PGMOL. That won’t be anytime soon so we need a neutral, skilled and empowered body to undertake the highly detailed and scientific analysis of the EPL game, with a control group from outside the UK. UA can’t do this so, until one of us wins the lotto, we’ll continue to chase our tails:(

  • Mandy Dodd

    A few years ago, David moyes wanted Riley investigated as a possible Utd supporter.

    Lets see mr moyes continue his crusade

  • Gunz


    The “Rooney Dive” and “Reyes vs Neville brothers fight” was the exact same match. The travesty at Old Toilet that ended our 49 unbeaten run.

  • Gunz

    @ken lo gooner for ever

    The “Rooney Dive” and “Reyes vs Neville brothers fight” was the exact same match. The travesty at Old Toilet that ended our 49 unbeaten run.

  • Mark

    Riley is wrong, there is no factual correlation between number of fouls and goals scored. The facts Walter brings forth show Riley’s claim to be false. Walter is not trying to prove more than that with his facts from the Germany league.

    It would be hard to make a case on how goals and fouls are linked. More fouls call might lead to more goals or it might lead to fewer goals. Just as fewer fouls called might lead to more goals or fewer goals. The correlation can’t be made because the point has too many contributing factors/conditions. But Walter was not trying to prove either of these assertions, just that Riley’s assertion is nonsense.

    The key issue for refs and the ref association is to make correct decisions. That is really the only thing as a fan that I am interested in. Did they make more correct decisions? This is what is do disappointing about Riley and others that they are not even trying to answer the important question.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    If those who are supposed to look out for your wellbeing are crooked, who then do call upon ? A higher power ?In a lighter vein ….

    A housewife takes a lover during the day, while her husband is at work. Unbeknownst to her, her 9 year old son was hiding in the closet. Her husband came home unexpectedly, so she hid her lover in the closet. The boy now has company.

    Boy: “Dark in here.”
    Man: “Yes it is.”
    Boy: “I have a baseball.”
    Man: “That’s nice.”
    Boy: “Want to buy it?”
    Man: “No, thanks.”
    Boy: “My dad’s outside.”
    Man: “OK, how much?”
    Boy: “$250.”

    In the next few weeks, it happens again that the boy and the mom’s lover are in the closet together.

    Boy: “Dark in here.”
    Man: “Yes, it is.”
    Boy: “I have a baseball glove.”
    Man: “How much?”
    Boy: “$750.”
    Man: “Fine.”

    A few days later, the father says to the boy, “Grab your glove. Let’s go outside and toss the baseball.”

    The boy says, “I can’t,. I sold them.”
    The father asks, “How much did you sell them for?”
    The son says, “$1,000.”

    The father says, “That’s terrible to overcharge your friends like that.
    That is way more than those two things cost. I’m going to take you to church and make you confess.”

    They go to church and the father alerts the priest, makes the little boy sit in the confession booth, and closes the door.

    The boy says, “Dark in here.”

    The priest says, “Don’t start that shit again !”

  • WalterBroeckx

    About Riley and his “mistakes” in game 50 let us not forget him not giving a foul and red card against Ferdinand when Ferdinand dragged Ljunberg down who was racing on his own towards goal in the first half.
    That was for me the ultimate proof of bias or coward behaviour. Or both together

  • WalterBroeckx

    Or the scandalous kick from Van Nistelrooy with his studs on the knee of Cole. I think Van Nistelrooy got a 3 game ban afterwards but for Riley : see nothing, do nothing.

    I think he was trying to keep the game flowing…

  • John

    That particular match is the most conclusive illustration of the matters which Untold has been campaigning about.

    I wonder whether it could be the focus for demands / requests to the mainstream broadcast media and the press, to counter the stock responses that we are paranoid conspiracy theorists, that all teams suffer from referee mistakes, and that it all “evens itself out” over a season.

    A repeat showing of incidents from that match, especially from the first half, linked to the role of Riley then linked to his current role, would certainly advance the debate and help convince the people who tend to accept the conventional media line without question.

  • Pat

    The task Untold is undertaking is the one serious journalists should be doing.

    Well said Walter. Thank goodness Untold is doing it.