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July 2021

How the secrecy behind the referees’ organisation is leading to more and more rumours

By Our Man in Black

If the rumours can be believed it seems that not all games are assessed from a refereeing point of view, and, going one step further we might start to say that the assessments (or at least some of them) are more or less a joke.

And yet we have this Referee Merit Table based on incomplete data made by the powers that be, for the powers that be. But this Merit Table is the table on which refs are demoted and get promoted.

Put another way, since there is no separation between the central power base that runs PGMO and the people who undertake the reviews of referees for the Merit Table, there is no independence within the Merit Table.  Thus it is open to corruption.

Let us be clear however.  It appears, from the information we are getting, that the Merit Table is run by people in PGMO for PGMO and on the basis of the Merit Table referees are promoted or relegated.  There is no independent validation or checking process.   That is how it seems to us on the outside, and if that is the case then the Merit Table of referees is open to corruption.

To give some sort of context, if you recall last season, we had ref Stuart Attwell demoted from the PL half way the season. Now if he were the lowest scoring referee in the a completely reliable and independent Merit Table we could all understand and applaud his demotion.

But according to rumours we hear, this was not the case. According to rumours Attwell was actually in the top 10 in the merit table when he got demoted.

Of course we don’t know for sure. Because the Merit Table itself, and the way it is constructed, is probably the most secret table in football history.

The PGMO could (and we believe should) counter the rumour that is circulating about the Merit Table’s lack of authenticity by publishing the Merit Table on a regular base. Even making it public once a month would be a nice way to see how refs are doing. A weekly Merit Table released each Monday would be the best thing of course, but we aren’t seeking nirvana.  A once a month table would be enough to be going on with.

But the PGMO is what it is and keeps its secret tables hidden for the wider audience.

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To continue with Merit Table matters: we hear that referees who end up in the bottom two places in the Merit Table can be demoted to the lower divisions.

But unlike in football they are not demoted just on the basis of one season. In football as we all know, the teams who end on the last 3 places go down no matter how they did in the season before. But for the referees it is different.

If rumour is to be believed (and as so often we have to wonder why we have to rely on rumour – why is nothing made clear?) they go down when they come in one of the last two places for two seasons running. So on paper a ref could come 16th last season but then be 12th this season and so stay.

But… rumour has it that the last two positions in the merit table in the PL has been taken by the same refs for several years running. And yet they still can stay in the PL  Of course we don’t know, because nothing is made public.  So PGMO can do what they want and rumour has it that this is exactly what they do.

Bur moving on… Who should get promotion to the PL next season? To know who finished at the top of the merit table in the first division is rather simple. Because they are the ones who usually get to referee the play off finals on Wembley.

On that basis we can work out that this season Andy D’Urso and Kevin Strouth came first and second in the Merit Table.

And we must tell you that we are told it isn’t Mike Riley who runs the first division refs. That is a Mr. Dave Allison. And according to rumours he clashes with Riley on a regular basis. Always a good sign given the amount of secrecy there is in PGMO.

But back to the promotions. Will we see those two  in the PL next season? Well who knows? Presumably Mike Riley does – but that is just a guess.

But rumour has it that the ref who didn’t even finish in the top 5 will get  a chance of promotion. And according to the rumour mill this is not based on merit and performances but more based who you know and not on what you know.

Now if this is true then this is another indication that the PGMO is not running itself how it should be run.  And isn’t that the least we could expect of an organisation that should be the guardian of honesty in the PL through its referees?

Once again the fact that PGMO is not open to the public can lead to wild rumours. Imagine having a lower placed ref in the first division being catapulted in to the PL over the head of other refs who deserved it more than him.   Of course if that happened the rules of PGMO would want everything kept secret.

But let us be clear.  PGMO is utterly secret in terms of its workings.  We hear rumours, so we draw conclusions that might well not be true.  But no one can make a judgement because PGMO is a secret organisation.

Given that secrecy is their choice, they can hardly complain that rumours start to fly around. If they want to stop the rumours they should open up all their processes to public inspection.

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28 comments to How the secrecy behind the referees’ organisation is leading to more and more rumours

  • Adam


    My money’s on Roger East getting promoted, and I have all his past data if you want it, amongst a few others I think maybe promoted. Craig Pawson and Robert Madley.

    Andy Durso and Kevin Stroud have already been select group refs and I cannot see them getting back in, although they could.

    So there’s 5 already we could add to the 15 left. 20 refs for next season? Cannot see it.

  • ian

    The merit table seems the fairest way of measuring Refs as long of course as its honest and every ref is reviewed for every game, which does not seem to be the case.

    One would think that the merit table would be used as an overall measure on how refs are / have performed and promoted / demoted on that basis, with the only exceptions being for reasons where big mistakes are made in a particular game (incorrectly awarding / not awarding goals and sending offs etc).

    From the outside it seems something that is difficult to screw up, congratulations to the FA and PGMO for finding a away to achieve that!

  • Tricouri Personalizate Iasi

    Very interesting read. Thank you for sharing this article with us.

  • Mick

    Any chance the newly promoted refs are from the southern end of the country or will it be same as usual Yorkshire, Lancashire etc.

  • Adam

    Mick, the refs I put up are just a guess based on Premier league appearances from last season.

    Roger East is from Wiltshire (southern ish)
    Craig Pawson is from South Yorkshire (Surprise, surprise)
    Robert Madley is from, wait for it, West Yorkshire.
    Keith Stroud Hampshire
    Andy Durso Essex

    I swear this is why we get so many Yorkshire boys they split the bloody county up.

    Just so people know. There are NO nationally listed referee’s and only 5 assistant referee’s from the London association and that’s out of the 320 odd listed people.

  • Mick

    Thank’s for that Adam. I am from West Sussex, so if my son wished to become a referee and asked me what would be his chances of making it to the top as a Premier League official what should my advice be!!!

  • Adam

    “Move to Yorkshire my son”.

  • Adam

    There are a few from West Sussex and the surrounding counties, but the northern counties dominate.

    It is a weird occurrence that no teams from the home counties are represented in the Premiership, they are from London. And London has 6 teams in the Prem, 30% of the division but only 5 assistant refs and no referee’s from the 320. Consider that 10% of the premiership is now Welsh and we have no Welsh refs but more refs who are in closer proximity to Wales than London.

  • Adam

    12 Nationally listed refs are from Yorkshire. (Population approximately 5 million people). 1 team in the Premiership (Hull A.F.C. from the East riding area of Yorkshire).

    6 Nationally listed refs are from Surrey, Kent, Essex, Hertfordshire, Buckinghamshire and Berkshire all the counties that share a border with London, (Population approximately 10 million people). 0 teams in the Premiership.

    0 (ZERO) Nationally listed refs are from London (population approximately 12 million people), 6 teams in the Premiership.

    19 Nationally listed refs are from Greater Manchester, Cheshire, Lancashire, Merseyside, Derbyshire and West Yorkshire. Population approximately 9 million.
    5 teams in the Premiership.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Very interesting. Has the ref organisation always been so secretive or it this down to manc Riley?

  • Mandy Dodd

    Another strange thing about these Yorkist refs how come they have been so inclined to aid a team from the house of Lancaster. Do they not know their history?

  • TT

    I can understand why their performance scores are not published. It is after all a job and you are entitled to a bit of privacy.

    However having referees as self regulating is odd, because they work for the Premier League. Why do the PL allow PGMO to evaluate themselves? It is a bit like hiring a plumber and then asking the same plumber to rate how good a job he did, and whether you should hire him back.

    I don’t blame PMGO for wanting it that way, but it amounts to criminal negligence by the FA and the PL if they are not evaluating the service PMGO provide independently.

  • Adam

    The idea of a company “self regulating” is to offer the highest standard possible, which the PGMOL fail to do. So, in my mind they are offering an inferior product to what could be available with the proper oversight. Which could actually be a case for the office of fair trade.

    If there is a hint that this unregulated company is failing in it’s own regulating then I would suggest you pass on any information to the office of fair trading.

    The above is guidance on self regulation.

    Maybe a new approach is needed to get the powers that be to listen.

  • Stuart

    I don’t want to create any friction but I feel there is too much emphasis put on where referees come from when it really should be irrelevant and that is what we should be pushing.

    The refereeing system should be robust enough so that mistakes, when they happen, are noticed and rectified there and then.

    We need the fourth official or even a fifth official to be on the sidelines with instant replays constantly reviewing each decision and at the request of a teams manager, to review certain incidents they feel the ref did not make the right call. A limit into how many incorrect calls a manager is allowed would need to be imposed but other than that, you should have a fairly robust way of ensuring fans get what they pay for and players don’t get wound up and angry which could lead to bad consequences if they are going into a hard challenge in the wrong frame of mind.

    Where the referee is from shouldn’t be an issue.

  • WalterBroeckx

    I could give you a few other tips but just wait and reed the rest of the rumours that have been delivered on our door step. 😉 (The privilege of being able to look behind the door is great most of the time 🙂 )

  • Stuart

    Quick question / request for you if I may.

    Earlier last season you ran some articles covering each team and the win/draw/lose percentages they have with each ref :

    Will you be releasing an up to date edition before the season kicks off?

  • Mick

    Has there ever been any analysis done on the giving of cards and the ethnicity or nationality of the player. In other words do the chances of getting a card increase from say being white British (least likely to get booked), black British, white foreign through to black foreign (most likely to get booked)?

  • Adam

    @ Stuart, That would be nice, but it is an issue. Don’t you think its a bit weird that in the south east region we have 6 refs but a third of the population live there, and we have a third of the total teams in the Prem.

    Look at Manchester and the surrounding area, less population less teams in the prem but 3 times the referee’s.

    I know what your getting at. But, it is a problem and has been for some time.

  • Stuart

    Hi Adam,
    Yes, it is an issue if we choose to make it an issue but it shouldn’t be an issue and trying to balance it out is an impossible task and will be much like the ‘it all evens out in the end scenario’. The only fix is to prevent regional issues even coming into it.

  • Adam

    And how would you/we go about that? Im curious to understand.

    I believe their is a form of institutional bias within PGMOL, Greater Manchester & surrounding + Yorkshire & surrounding, dominates the officials listings.

    Why is this so? is it localised training? If so what are they doing right that some areas aren’t. If they are successfully training referee’s expand the programme to encompass more areas.

  • Stuart

    I also believe there is in a kind of boys club way.

    My argument is that trying to balance out the officials is firstly a headache and secondly, will cause more issues for example, what is the correct balance? 1 ref from each location per team? What if this means overlooking a better ref in favour of another from the ‘right’ location? What about who supports who. How does that affect things? What if they don’t support a premier league team but another team who we get in one of the cups, what do they let our opposition do to us?

    This can all be avoided by modifying the system and using modern technology to prevent it from even being possible for these biases to happen and lets face it, refs are only human and bias is only natural so it makes sense to have technology & real time monitoring.

    I just think trying to balance things out will never work as it can’t be done.

  • Stuart

    By the dugout, there should be a fifth official with a video replay facility and each manager given the opportunity to challenge the referees decisions on a three strike basis (three strikes referring to a maximum three occasions where the ref was actually correct and the managers challenge was wrong). Whilst the challenge / incident is reviewed, play would carry on as per how the referee called it and only stop if video replay showed there was infact an incident that the ref missed.

    I think the chances are, you would eliminate alot of the fouling both on and off the ball as players could signal to their own manager to make the call if they are confident of winning the appeal – would you smack a player behind the refs back when it can still be reviewed on video and dealt with? Likewise, diving could be almost eliminated if the player knows a video replay would show simulation and result in them getting booked.

  • Adam

    I agree Stuart, If people think Riley has it tough think about the guy who does the lower league ref delegations.

    On video tech; I don’t believe there should be a maximum challenge rule, I cannot see the sense in putting a limit on justice. But am all for Video tech.

    There are enough officials with big game experience that can officiate in the Premier league.

    Officials that have taken Leeds, Birmingham, Bolton, Middlesborough, Nottingham Forrest, QPR, Reading, Watford and Wigan in the Championship

    can do

    West ham, West Brom, Swansea, Sunderland, Stoke, Southampton, Norwich, Newcastle, Manchester City, Hull, Fulham, Cardiff and Crystal Palace in the Premier league as all these clubs have been in the Championship and the Premiership in the not too distant past or the present.

    How are officials supposed to gain Premier league experience if they are cut off from teams that; one season they can officiate the next they are not good enough?

    Some examples.

    Hull Vs Cardiff(now a premiership game Keith Stroud)
    Hull Vs Wolves Andy Woolmer
    Hull Vs Boro Simon Hooper
    Hull Vs Crystal Palace (now a premiership game Mark Haywood)
    Cardiff Vs Leeds (massive game Paul Tierney)
    Millwall Vs Cardiff (Massive game Simon Hooper)
    Cardiff Vs Crystal Palace (now a premiership game Gavin Ward)
    Cardiff Vs Blackburn Craig Pawson

    Then this

    Crystal palace Vs Brighton Mike Russel
    Brighton Vs Crystal palace Craig Pawson

    Play offs

    Crystal palace Vs Brighton (Micheal Oliver select group)
    Brighton Vs Crystal palace (Mark Clattenburg select group)

  • Stuart

    I know what you mean about no limit but I’d be worrired managers will abuse it.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    For some reason the following joke reminded me of the EPL,
    PGMOL, the media circus and the clowns who run the whole show and who make mockery of the paying public .

    One day an out of work mime is visiting the zoo and attempts to earn some money as a street performer. However, as soon as he starts to draw a crowd, the zookeeper grabs him and forcefully drags him into his office.

    The zookeeper then explains to the mime that the zoo’s most popular attraction, a gorilla, has died suddenly. The keeper fears that attendance at the zoo will fall off. He offers the mime a job to dress up as the gorilla until they can get another one. The mime accepts.

    The next morning, before visitors arrive at the zoo, the mime puts on the gorilla suit and enters the cage. He discovers that it’s a great job. He can sleep all he wants, play and make fun of people and he draws bigger crowds than he ever did as a mime.

    However, eventually the crowds tire of him and he gets bored just swinging on tires. He begins to notice that the people are paying more attention to the lion in the cage next to his.

    Not about to lose the attention of the adoring crowd, he climbs to the top of his cage, crawls across a partition, and dangles from the top to the lion’s cage. Of course, this makes the lion furious, but the crowd loves it.

    At the end of the day the zookeeper comes and gives the mime a raise for being such a good attraction as a gorilla.

    Well, this goes on for some time. The mime keeps taunting the lion, the crowds grow larger, and his salary keeps going up. Then one terrible day when he is dangling over the furious lion, he slips and falls. The mime is terrified. The lion gathers itself and prepares to pounce. The mime is so scared that he begins to run round and round the cage with the lion close behind.

    Finally, the mime starts screaming and yelling, “HELP! HELP ME!”, but the lion is quick and pounces. The mime soon finds himself flat on his back looking up at the angry lion when he suddenly hears the lion whisper: “Shut up you idiot! You wanna get us both fired?”

  • Pat

    Good joke Brickfields! Ending took me by surprise – as all good jokes should.