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July 2021

Ref Review 2012/3: Refs give opposition freedom to kick Arsenal off the park

By Walter Broeckx

This article is part of the series of the Referee Review 2013. You can find links to earlier articles on the bottom of this article.


In this part of the series we have a look at each team and see how the bias panned out for each team. This is based on the decisions themselves without putting any weight on each decision. A total table will be published at the end of this series and then you can compare each team with the other teams.

And it will be an interesting table I can assure you of that.

First we are providing a table for each team highlighting each type of decision. This gives the totals as for when the team in the article got a favourable decision and when they got it against them.

If the traditional mantra, “it all evens out at the end of the season” is true it should show in these statistics – and indeed for some clubs we have already reviewed, that is the case.

But as I said, in the table we just show the decisions as a decision and we didn’t put any weight on the decisions. That is something for later on. Now we just take each decision at the same value, which is of course not saying all because a wrong penalty call is a bit more important than a wrong throw in decision.

But now let us move to the last team in our survey:  Arsenal

We did all 38 games of Arsenal last season. A 100% score.  It can’t get any better.

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Now of course some of you might argue: oh well on an Arsenal blog (or a website once started from an Arsenal blog)  the numbers will be biased. I would like to point at one of our first articles in this series where we showed you how many refs in total were active in these reviews and in this article you can see that the majority of refs were not Arsenal supporting refs.  So what did our reviewers found about Arsenal in last season? Let us find out the numbers as they are and remember this is for all the games of the season.


In the second column we see the type of decision. And in the column “Favoured” we see how many decisions favoured this team when we reviewed them.  In the column “Penalised” we see how many times a wrong decision went against them.  The total swing is the difference between the favoured decisions and the penalised decisions.

A negative number in this column means that the total was against the team and a positive number means that the total decisions was in their favour.

In the last column we see the average swing per game, based on the games we reviewed. And this gives an indication on how many decisions went against a team or were in favour of a team. The lower the number the lower number of decisions that were wrong. And a positive number indicates that in each game they get some decisions in their favour and a negative indicates how many decisions the team has to overcome.

We had a total of 584 wrong decisions in the 38 games we did with Arsenal.  That is the highest number and that is understandable as this is the highest number of games.  But it also means that we had more than 15 wrong decisions per game when Arsenal was playing.  This surely is way too high.   But more importantly now is to see how the dividing was of those wrong decisions.

Of those 584 wrong decisions we found 131 in  favour of Arsenal  453 going against them. The difference is 322 decisions going against Arsenal  in total. This is more than a rather big  bias against them. We are talking about more than 8 decisions in total going against them each and every game.

And to make things worse…I know we have found games when there was a bias in favour of Arsenal. This means that when the bias was against Arsenal it was even higher than 8 decisions.

When we look at the decisions in detail we first see what went in favour of Arsenal. And then we see that in fact no real type of decision was in favour of Arsenal in total. The good thing for Arsenal is that they had no real problems with the goal decisions. As this in fact was evened out at the end of the season. They had some 5 wrong goal decisions in their favour and also 5 against them. Of course this could still mean that they lost points because of them. Because it is a big difference when the score is 1-0 or 5-0.

The other neutral decisions are the advantage and the goal kicks. Not that important in terms of overall decisions.

Let us move on to the negative decisions. And there were a lot. I will leave the not-that-important out of this article as we don’t have enough space and time and go to what really matters and that are the important decisions.

If we look at the penalty decisions we see a negative swing, but Arsenal also got 7 penalty decisions going their way.  On the other Arsenal had 9 penalty decisions going against them. But that is not that big a difference.

What however is really bad is the fact that the foul/free kick decisions are totally out of order. This is a complete mess. It seems that before Arsenal get a foul/free kick in their favour the foul really has to be very obvious and clear.

And what is for me completely unacceptable is the fact that the decisions about yellow cards, 2nd yellow cards and red cards are as wrong as can be. It seems that there is no room for Arsenal players to get away with. But on the other hand other teams seems to be able not only to kick Arsenal players and foul but also get away with murder before they get a yellow or a red card.

If you look at the record of broken legs Arsenal players have suffered over the years I wonder if there is any link between the visible lacklustre performances of referees in the PL and those broken legs. It looks as if there is a license to kick in the PGMOL against Arsenal players. Kick them and kick them hard. We will cover your acts and leave you unpunished.

And finally again I like to point at the fact that most of the reviewers WERE NOT ARSENAL SUPPORTING REFEREES!

Editorial note: if you want to comment it is perhaps worth having a look at some of the background to this research in the articles below, if you have not come across Referee Decisions before.  We have had situations in which supporters of various teams have not done this, and made comments which, in retrospect they maybe wish they hadn’t.




32 comments to Ref Review 2012/3: Refs give opposition freedom to kick Arsenal off the park

  • Stuart

    Were any of the refs who reviewed Arsenal games supporters of Arsenal?

  • WalterBroeckx

    Stuart, At times they were as we rotated games amongst the reviewers but I think the majority of times not.
    We tried to avoid it as much as possible that a ref would do games of the club he supported.
    This also was the same thing for other teams of course. A ref supporting Tottenham could have done a Tottenham game also. Or a Liverpool ref do a Liverpool game.

    But at those times it happened but then we tried to double check the game by one of the more senior reviewers.

  • blacksheep63

    This is an impressive body of evidence Walter and setting it out like this makes it quite clear to me that something is amiss with refereeing in the PL. Penalty decisions are scrutinized in the media but fouls/free-kicks are not routinely discussed.

    I was interested by Greg Dyke comments yesterday about the lack of opportunities for English players, and at many pundits’ suggestions that Wilshere, Ox and the like represent the future for the national side. Well, if English refs continue to allow opposition teams to get away with kicking them off the pitch we won’t have a team to take to Brazil (even if we get there).

    Am I right in thinking that the refereeing in CL games is less biased against us? If so the FA need to take a look at your findings

  • WalterBroeckx

    This underlines the fact what I have said a few years ago: refs will not that easily go for the big decisions to decide a game if they want to decide it. That catches the eye too much. But give the 50/50 calls always against one team will disturb that team and their focus for a big part.
    And the numbers seem to underline this.

    I also point at the fact that on the disciplinary front Arsenal players are given faster yellow and red cards than their opponents. That is where the other teams players can feel invited to kick and kick some more.

  • colario

    It Will be interesting to see if talksprot coment on this report or ignore it

  • Shard

    The feeling I had while watching last season was, that as compared to the previous season, Arsenal weren’t being punished with the big calls. In fact, this even led one of my ManU supporting friends, who had started keeping an eye on Arsenal games because of me, to conclude that I was full of shit.. Which might even explain why the big decisions were generally alright (and in some cases even favouring Arsenal). You can change the properties of something just by looking at it.Quantum physics.

    The smaller calls. The ‘spirit’ of the game as Wenger recently called it. No one pays attention to that, but it is a very effective way of ruining a game of football. That is what happened last year, and basically that is what Taylor started off with this season. He was goading Villa players into kicking Arsenal, and punishing Arsenal for any sort of contact. In addition, the advantage rule was applied in as one-sided a manner as I have ever seen.

    The review from last season seems to backup my impression of it. It also shows that the PGMOL are aware of the attention on them, and have an ability to adapt. And it also shows that referees can get the calls mostly right, when they are so inclined.

    Maybe with the Özil signing, some of it will stop. At least if it’s been about Arsenal not spending money.

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    Walter, these are mind blowingly bad figures. I have kept a subset of the ref review figures which I have drawn on for my occasional referee posts but I hadn’t noted the total numbers of decisions. I presume you will be sending these figures to Ivan Gazedis with a request that he raise them at the highest level with the Premier League board and also with Roy Hodgson on behalf of our English Core. Good job Ozil didn’t have them before agreeing to come!

  • finsbury

    It’s clear to anyone who went to Home games that the refs allowed Wilshere a kicking and would call fouls for equivalent fouls by AFC players. That is what it was. Nothing to ‘debate’.

    The injuries and a drop in form caught up with him in the spring and he fell too easily at times in his last few games but who could blame him!

    One extra bonus with Ozil’s signing is that St.Jack can be eased back this season. He’s had a long spell of disruption and his conditioning will be off those who’ve been playing consistently over the past 24 months (see Rambo’s curve!).


  • Mandy Dodd

    Completely agree with you there Andrew C. Greg Dyke is going on about properly developing young English players – we are doing just that, if the referees are part of the problem hindering this, he should be looking into this. I know it is simplistic, but I see these ref issues more linked with the Utd/Sky/Scudamore entity, and who knows, maybe even worse…. than the FA itself however the latter have not helped, it is about time they did if Mr Dyke means what he says. Does he want the continuation of what looks to be a policy that could see Wilshere Ox Theo or Jenks crocked in the way another of our British players was? As you say, Gazidis should be using his position to look into this armed with this type of data, any other CEO from our rivals certainly would. But, as much as I admire the words of Greg Dyke, I will believe when I see.

  • Mark

    Your research continues to show that something fishing is going on. While it might not be out an out manipulation so the league table will end in a certain order. It does seem to me that certain teams are favored and the refs that favor them get promoted.

    Regarding English football: the issue is the mentality of the game in England that raised the importance of aggression and physicality and plays down the issue of creativity and vision. When kids are 12 and 13 the ones that are praised are aggressive and have high physical abilities but their mental attributes and technical attributes are poor. Often in games at that ages the aggressive and physically strong can win. But by the time they are 21 the creative, mentally fast, cleave players that read the game well and anticipate well and know how to move cleverly off the ball have developed and consistently beat the ones that are just aggressive and physical. Spain, Brazil and Germany value the mental traits more in players when they are 12 and 13 and promote those players better. I would say that USA has a similar problem but they might be more able to change because they are less steeped in tradition.

  • bjtgooner

    Walter, the whole series – the analysis of all the ref reviews of 2012/2013 is masterful. It has produced an encyclopedia of information, most of which condemns the PGMOL.

    This review, re Arsenal, is even more revealing than I anticipated.

    The question now is: – how best to use this information to ensure the PGMOL is forced to provide fair play for all teams?

    I would have thought that there now sufficient information to stand cross examination and instigate corrective action.

    NB with a negative bias of 124 fouls, 117 free kicks & 8 reds – we did damn well to finish fourth – it really looks as if a major effort was made by the PGMOL to prevent that.

    Finally, through traveling I missed most of the drama of the close of the transfer window – so for the record I would like to belatedly say how delighted I am about Ozil and the other new players, it is a big boost to an already talented squad. The reaction of other clubs, media, punters, AAA, whingers, whiners, and wafflers (the WWW branch of the AAA?) is both revealing and comical.

  • para

    I agree the foul/free kick decisions are not in order, and on top of that there is too much ambiguity therein.
    I hear comments like “strong defending, strong tackle” and “he fell too easily”, “he is weak”, “he left his foot in” and many others to comment on exactly the same type of foul depending on the team fouling and the team being fouled. Why are they not looked at from all angles as well? A shoulder barge(which i abhor) is either “strong defending” or “he fell too easily” and leaves too much room for refs to manipulate, whether consciously or sub-consciously. To barge into someone and knock them down has nothing to do with what i call football skills. Sometimes it seems to me that there is an attempt to avoid skillful football being played in UK. Hence the talk of “too many non-English” players in the PL today. Either football moves on in the UK, or we will lose the attraction of the PL. It takes skill to close someone down limiting their options, but all it takes is physical strength to knock or push someone down.

  • Mandy Dodd

    A bit off topic, but just read arch anti Arsenalist Alan Hansen will be leaving MOTD at the end of the season. Shame. Just hope they replace him with person/persons less agenda driven and biased, less dinosaur like who gives us a fairer hearing on all sorts of issues. though with that programes editorial policy, that may be a bit optimistic to say the least.
    But the club really have to start doing something about these refs, not least to protect the physical wellbeing and health and safety of our players. Seeing Villa this season, it is clear opponents are aware of this and know it is open season on Arsenal with certain refs. This is one area where I think Arteta is invaluable for us, he used to play for a club that got away with dishing it out to us a bit, just get the feeling he knows exactly what is going on and how to try and counter it on the pitch, even if it means say instructing Jack to go down a bit easier and for a bit longer when exposed to some of the onslaughts he gets

  • Mick

    Great work Walter, and Arsenal’s results are shocking though unfortunately not surprising.
    With regard to the issuing of red and yellow cards it would be revealing to see at what time during the matches they were given. A yellow awarded to Kos in the 5th minute is obviously more serious and inhibiting than a yellow for Vidic given in the 85th minute. Without wishing even more work on you Walter would it be possible to average out the times yellow and reds were given against each team during the course of the season and present it in the form of a league table. This would surely reveal any bias in this area of decision making, and being based on easily verified facts could not possibly be disputed in any way by the ‘all evens out in the end’ brigade. I wouldn’t mind betting Arsenals average yellow card time is a lot nearer the start of the game than Man United’s.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Mick we have a list of all the wrong decisions and could filter them per team and time I think.

    I will have a look at them

  • WalterBroeckx

    Oh and I decided that today is Referee day at Untold Arsenal (who can stop me with Tony not around 😉 ) So later today we will give you an overview where you can see in a blink of an eye how much difference there is between certain teams in the PL when it comes to having to deal with wrong referee decisions.

    Sorry for those disliking the referee articles.

  • Mandy Dodd

    As for red cards, anyone else notice how many we get in the first games of the season? Without going into records and the distant past, can immediatly think of Kos this season, Kos for 2 very late bookings against Liverpool in 2010 and Gervinho at Newcastle just in the last few years…..sets the start of the season up well doesn’t it. Some of those a bit on the questionable side as well

  • Stuart


    Not sure that Talksprout will comment on this as I believe they were referring to the website and I believe these summaries are not being published there.

  • Tasos


    Also remember Alex Song receiving a 3 match retrospective ban after that Newcastle match.

  • Stuart


    Further to your 9.18am comment and Arsenal players getting faster cards, an idea for an article for you.

    Could you do a write up about fouls per booking per game and use a table (I like tables). It would be even better if you could do it based on your data of what is a booking rather than the ones that are called because we all know certain teams don’t get half of their fouls called up.

    It would be interesting to know for each team:-
    a) How many actual fouls
    b) How many of those fouls were called
    c) How many were fabricated / imagined
    d) How many actual fouls per foul called
    e) How many actual fouls per booking
    f) How many bookings per actual booking

    Which team gets the most leniency or turning of a blind eye? Who can commit more fouls before getting penalised.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Yes, had forgotten about that Tasos!

  • WalterBroeckx


    I hope Dogface reads this and can help me on this…

  • Pat

    Brings tears to your eyes doesn’t it? Makes you think of what might have been if we hadn’t been targeted in such a fashion.

    Thanks again, Walter and everybody, for all this hard work.

    That Aston Villa match was the perfect example. The Match of the Day ‘analysis’ concentrated on the two penalty calls and saying they were correct. No mention of how Aston Villa from the start was allowed to kick us all over the park and what effect that had on the match.

    In his interview for Arsenal Player, Mesut Oezil says what brought him to Arsenal was our attacking, technically good style of football.

    Now we have one of the world’s technically best football players in the Premier League. One who loves to play technically superior football.

    This should give English football fans a fantastic treat. Will the refs recognize that and referee in a fashion appropriate to a fast moving, technically great game? Or will they go on supporting the long ball up the middle, kick your opponent style of football? Which is more attractive and better to watch? Which gives fans more for their money?

  • bob

    Absolute bravos!
    As in the past, I feel that if you could produce say 5-10 video clips that are illustrative of each category of egregious refshite, you/AFC would have a high-powered indictment. The pairing of this immense statistical compilation with visual evidence could go the extra mile (in this image-driven world) to provide viewers and users of this information with a very powerful cudgel.

    Such videos are (for better and worse) the coin of the realm today, in the court of public opinion and perhaps behind the scenes (should Gazidis, as Mandy advocates, be armed with this information). Videos A-1…A-5, show bias type 1; clips B-1….B-5, show bias type 2, etc. etc. Yes, there is a danger that current and new players might be warned off joining AFC (or tempted to leave); but for that very reason it is more important than ever that this information get out there, and that the club protect its current and newest investment, in a proactive way, with evidence that is actionable and compelling.

    In my view, culling through the most illustrative video clips for a few outrageous calls and non-calls, match-changing calls especially, would provide a sledgehammer for those who advocate for a fair pitch for all. And it would give anyone a chance to post them on the web and help advance the case; should that be part of pressing the good fight forward. Please do consider this, or work with those who can pull this off technically. Any box (cell) in the spreadsheet can, in turn, link to a group of videos that illustrate the specific type of miscall.

  • bob

    With respect for your sentiments, which I fully share, you/we know the answers to your questions. Beyond the tears (tears of rage, tears of grief), the point is to try to do something with the information.

  • bob

    I would think that foundation or academic monies could be made available for yours and others to further refine and publicize this study. Perhaps someone – one of the many readers of this blog – with grant writing capability, or with a connection to a like and fair-minded sports organization or academic department or institute or patriotic (given how this hurts British, etc., football) or even medical organization (given the health implications) could offer you and your team whatever would be needed to take further steps with these major findings.

  • Asif

    Walter – i think we should make the step up and proactively write to Gazidis with our findings…the club may also be looking at these aspects of the game – maybe in a different guise – and this will provide them with data which can stand scrutiny.

    Also, I do appreciate the fact that Untold does not actively solicit visitors…however the ref reviews deserve a larger audience from among other club supporters as well as I remember other club followers too appreciating the effort and sharing our views.

    Had it been for a lesser mortal than Wenger, we would have disintegrated under this onslaught and blatant prejudice from refs and the media!

  • Arvind

    Thank You Walter for tirelessly doing this over a long period of time in the face of a lot of opposition from the AAA and their like. In a way, and I just thought of this as I wrote…you and Tony are to Untold..what AW is to Arsenal, in a way I think. You guys keep going in the face of a ton of adversity : )

  • jambug

    A couple of things.


    A few years back when the BBC had there forum I kept pointing out the discrepancy in fouls to bookings ratio between teams. No great investigation on my part, all I used was the SUNs (I read it back then) fair play table. To cut a long story short we basicly got a card about every 7 fouls, the average was about 9. This trend continued for years, sometimes a bit worse, sometimes better, but we was always at the wrong end of this trait, so to speak. Got to be honest havn’t bothered since I stopped buying the paper.


    Man Utd v Arsenal. The day they robbed the invincibles.

    On the run up to that game utd where averageing a booking around 1 in 15 fouls, we was again around 1 in 7.

    Yet on the run up to that game Fergie used the media relentlessly to stress how Arsenal was a bunch of whimps and cry babies, especially Rayes, and the Red Tops lapped it up. Honestly, for about 2 weeks, article after article in the Sun and Mirror. It was obviously intended to influence the right people ie the officials and boy did it influence them. Rayes was kicked from pillar to post by the Neville Brothers and the ref did absolutely nothing. But there was worse. Just before half time and no further than 10 yards from both the linesman and the ref, RVN nearly broke Ashly Cole in half. Not even a yellow. It was a disgrace and was subsequently deemed a red AFTER the game. Also Freddie through on goal, blatent foul, nothing. To add insult to injury Rooney wins a Pen with a blatent dive.

    2) The Shawcross foul on Ramsey. During the first half of that game we was kicked around the park. The second half started the same. By the time Shawcross assaulted Ramsey the foul count was over 20 and not a card in sight. Then crack !! No wonder he thought he could go in as wrecklessly as he wanted.

    3) Villa game recently. This is What I heard as I switched on the Radio in the car. Hartson and his co comentator.

    “The Arsenal crowd are really upset constantly getting at the ref” “Yes but what they have to realise is teams aren’t going to just let Arsenal play, they just have to deal with it”

    2 minutes later another bad foul. ” I think thats quite bad” “Yeah I think he’s booking him for that one” “Oh, no he’s not” “Ah, thats because it’s XXX and I don’t think he’s done one before” “Thats clever, do you think there shareing it about” “Looks like it” Followed by childish giggles!! SHARING IT ABOUT !! WTF. LAUGHING !!! WTF

    Seems attitudes havn’t changed at all. Pathetic really.

  • jambug


    What a wonderful job you do Sir!!

    I imagine you started down this road on the back of a general feeling that basically ‘We where/are being screwed'(I know thats why I started my own rather insignificant investigation all those years back) and from an intial project to prove your suspicions has blossomed a truely in depth, enlightening and somewhat disturbing body of work.

    The only problem is that it will make not a jot of difference. Why have I come to this rather sad conclusion? Because nobody gives a shit. I used to tell people we where getting a rum deal “We all do” “It all evens out in the end” is all you get.

    So I tried to show them some stats. They didn’t even want to look. “you’re paranoid”

    NO I’M NOT, LOOK AT THE STATS. “It all evens out in the end”

    NO IT DOESN’T THATS WHAT THE STATS SHOW. “Oh shut up you Arsenal fans are all the same”.

    And thats what I’m saying. You can say it as much as you want. You can have the proof in black and white, as you have (as did I to a much lesser degree) and NOBODY GIVES A SHIT. In fact I believe there is such an anti Arsenal agenda within football that they already know it and back it whole heartedly.

    Walter I really really hope you can turn the tide, or tidal wave as I see it, but I very much have my doubts.

    The truth is they love us getting screwed.

  • Matt Clarke

    A big thanks to Walter & Co for this brave and important study.
    I agree with Bob that there must be an institution out there that would take this up and run with it.

    Last year I approached a few obvious candidates (including Loughborough University which has an important sports department) and failed to illicit any positive response.

    Do persevere though Walter.

    It was interesting how much came out after Jimmy Saville died. Maybe with the recent change at ManU there may be an analgous wind change?

  • jambug

    My third and final rant. (Possibly)

    It is obvious to me your figures, and therefore the conclusions reached are gleened from a ballanced cross section of referees.

    It is also as plain as the nose on your face that our referees are quite clearly incompetent. Worse, show alarming bias ad incosistancy.

    It is also quite clear that this site, and more specifically your work on referees, has been noticed by refereeing bodies and media persons.

    Do you not think that if you had unearthed an outragous bias AGAINST Man Utd it wouldn’t already be out there splashed all over SKY, Talkshite and the tabloids?


    It’s Us, they don’t give a shit.

    Sorry to be such a neg head Walter but I’ve been banging this drum for years and most of the time I cant even get fellow goons angry about it.