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August 2021

Ref Review 2012/13 : The best ref in the PL was….

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.



After having dealt with the different teams and after having examined all the refs we now are bringing it all together. In the last article in this series we have shown the competency tables of the refs and if you missed it you can have a look over here.

And then we have added their bias to it. If you missed that one you can have a look here.

And now all we have to do is put those two things together and we will be able to announce who was the best ref in the PL.

So in the table we will show you in this article we will show you the final merit table of the referees. Not just based on their competence but also based on the fact that the lower the impact was of their errors on the different teams the better a ref you are. We can accept errors up to a certain way. But what we cannot accept is that errors always go in favour of one team or against one team.

So my dear readers and referees of the PL I will no longer leave you in tension and show you the final outcome of the Referee review 2012/2013 and here we go with the final table of this years review.

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Who was the best ref of the season 2012/2013 according to our reviews:

Final referee table 2012 2013

THE best ref of the season was Jonathan Moss. He was the best ref in the competency table but also was the ref with the best general bias score. In fact he managed to make no team really suffer very very badly when he was around. And combining this with a high score in his decision making it is a remarkable achievement.

I had to praise him a lot in his report for his decision making and somehow a good ref is usually a ref with a low bias against teams. Jonathan Moss is 42 years old now and only has been in the PL since 2011. Last year we only reviewed a few games so we couldn’t take him in to the tables but also then in the games we reviewed we noticed high scores and low bias scores. Now when doing him more games we found the same things.

If only he would have been younger than he should be give a Fifa badge. And if you look at the distance between him and the rest it is fair to say that he was sticking out with head and shoulders compared to the rest.

In second place taking in to account not only the competence but also the bias we find Mark Clattenburg. The winner of the ref of the season 2011/2012. Despite having a bad competence score, Clattenburg managed to save his season by showing just as last season that he is a ref who has an excellent bias score.  He only finished in 5th place in the competency but was in second place in the bias table. And that took him to the all round second place last season. I hope that Clattenburg can shake off what happened to him last season and which had a clear influence on his performances.

To complete the top 3 we have ref Andre Marriner.  His competency score was also the third best but he dropped some points in the bias table.  But he still could keep his third place by a small margin in front of Martin Atkinson.  Martin Atkinson who had a great score in the bias table and that saved his total score as he only finished 10th in the competency table.

A ref that was not expected to be so high was Lee Mason I think. With position 8 in the competency table he managed to move higher in the final table with his bias score.

The ref in 6th place needs a special mention. Kevin Friend was the ref with the second highest competency score but he dropped a lot of points when we look at the bias numbers.  He only came in 10th place. So an example on how even a rather competent ref still can be a bad ref. It was as if when he made mistakes it were big ones and made too many teams suffer. If this ref could bring some balance in to his game he might become a good ref. A thing to keep in mind is maybe having a look if there is some home bias in to his game. This might be a reason but I must admit I didn’t have the time to look in to that yet.

The next ref is Howard Webb. Last time he was the referee who did the world cup final. But in our final table he only comes in 7th place. The position he occupied in both competency and bias tables.

Michael Jones finished in 8th place just in front of Phil Dowd. A ref that finished higher the season before but couldn’t keep up his standard in the last season. Maybe his age is catching up on him?

In 10th place we find the Arsenal bogey ref Mike Dean. He had mediocre numbers in competency and bias and so a 10th place is all he can get.

Chris Foy finished in 11th place. And people who remember the competency table will remember him finishing last in this table. But he then showed that despite making a lot of mistakes his mistakes were rather evenly spread amongst the teams he did.  He was the 5th best referee in the bias table. And this indicates that when he makes mistakes he is rather fine in splitting them between the teams.

Neil Swarbrick finished in 12th place. This is a surprise as he finished 4th in the competency table. But when he made mistakes it all went one way and some teams suffered (and other benefited) in an extreme way. And it cost him lots of places in the table. Be more even is my advice.

In 13th place we find the ex-referee that refuses to keep his mouth shut and didn’t accept the silence money.  Keep on telling us things is my advice to Mark Halsey.

Then we have Lee Probert and Anthony Taylor. And they deserve their low ranking. No need to say any more.

And then we also have Michael Oliver who has scored very low.  The youngest referee in the PL and carrier of a Fifa badge. But such a low score. I must say that is or a bad move from the PGMOL to give him a Fifa badge before he really could establish himself in the PL and gain more experience. On the other hand FIFA forcing the local FA to give Fifa badged at an early age to refs that maybe are not ready for this. But that is another story.

I would advice to not take notice of Roger East. With only 2 games done it would be highly unfair to draw conclusions but I did mention him in the tables because otherwise we wouldn’t have taken all the games and all the refs we reviewed in to this article where we looked at the numbers.

There are more angles we will try to look at in the next days. And we will try to use the data of two seasons and try to come up with long term conclusions. We could try to see if things even out over more than one season. So still lots of interesting things to look forward too.


14 comments to Ref Review 2012/13 : The best ref in the PL was….

  • colario

    Thank you for this Walter. What can we do about the bias in football?

  • Florian

    It is indeed a pleasant surprise to have Mr. Moss in the top seat. Not sure whether last year it was the case, but maybe a symbolic award would be appropriate.

  • Mahdain

    To say im baffled at how Mason got into top five would be an understatement. Its only Arsenal he screw then the prick. On another note congrats to Jon Moss, with those numbers he deserves a fifa badge. Why did it take so long for him to get promoted though? PGMOL must really hate honest refs

  • WalterBroeckx

    you raise an important question.
    Moss himself played himself till in 1999 and then only became serious about his ref career. He was a qualified ref since 1988!
    So first doing his own football playing and when he stopped when he was 28 years old.
    In most countries starting a career as a ref at that point is too late to make a decent career. There are exceptions and that is if you qualities are so good that they cannot ignore you. And I think that is what happened to Moss.

    Or he had big friends in higher places somewhere 😉 which I doubt as otherwise he wouldn’t have such great numbers.

    About a Fifa badge: they only give fifa badges till you are 45 years old. And for a ref like Moss at the age of 42 they don’t give it to him as he only would be doing some youth games and tournaments in that period of 3 years.
    In fact in many countries they give Fifa badges to refs who are 25-28 years old in order to push them forward in the FIFA rankings as a ref.

  • WalterBroeckx

    I would have preferred Friend over Mason also to be honest, but the numbers are what they are. Also a small margin between the two of them. And this is adding fuel to the fact that sometimes ‘bad’ decisions going against Arsenal at a regular basis are maybe not pure coincidence but part of a strategy?
    I think I have said it more than a dozen times in the past that knowing what the leaders of the referees think about one team and providing them their desire can be helpful.

  • AL

    Not really surprised to see Taylor and Probert at the bottom end of this list. With dreadful figures like that its baffling that they are fifa referees. They sure know how to sing for their supper.

    Well done Jonathan Moss.

  • Gord

    As Walter has pointed out, it appears that Moss is significantly better than Clattenburg. It’s is up to you, whether this is a real difference, or an artifact of how the scores are calculated. But, if the effect is real and the method to calculate the scores is good, there are 2 other significant gaps: Taylor/Oliver and Swarbrick/Halsey. It is possible that the gap Halsey/Probert is also significant.

    If we ignore those gaps, the average fractional increment in score is a bit more than 0.02. But, we’ve picked out a number of high fractional increments as potential outliers, there is a low one as well (Oliver/East). Ignoring that makes the average increment about 0.022. The smallest high increment ignored is almost 2.7 times this much. The other large gaps are more than 4 times the average gap.

    I will guess that the average score for referees drawn from lower leagues to become EPL referees is about 120, and hence all referees new to the EPL will tend to cluster around 120.

    But, why is referring an activity where people tend to naturally spread out into equal improvements in quality, instead of pooling into a common average? Or another way to phrase it, is that quality is quantized and the maximum occupancy for each level is 1.

  • Stuart

    Interesting read Walter and you can’t really argue with these figures. I have also been doing a bit of analysing the numbers and will have something over to you shortly – it’s just a different way of looking at the numbers and coming to an overall standing for each ref.

  • TommieGun

    Thanks for all the information ! I must say that in the past few days I’ve been reading all the ref reviews and the summing posts regarding them. Very serious job was done here, no doubt and much appreciated.

    I would like to point out that perspective wise it is not important to view the table as a “table”, i.e., who came out first, second, etc. As can be easily seen – less than 10 points divide the 3nd best ref (marriner with 192) and the 7th best ref (webb with 183). This means that there are 5 refs who are not THAT significantly different from each other. To me it would make more sense to look at “groups” of refs, or to decide (after some thought) what would be the minimum score for a competent ref – rather than putting them into a table.

    I believe that it serves a better purpose – not saying who is BETTER, but saying who is competent enough to be a ref. It’s a Go-No-Go question in my opinion.

    Thanks again !

  • Mandy Dodd

    Well done mr moss and mr clattenberg hope we see more of them…

  • Pat

    Finally we have a winner!
    It’s been an exciting wait.
    Looking forward to seeing Moss in action now.

  • Pat

    And now we’ve got Lee Probert – fourth from bottom.

  • OMGArsenal

    Gord….good statistical analysis and maybe the answer to your final question is as follows:

    Officials tend to improve their skills with experience like everyone else but their fitness declines after age 38 or so as it becomes harder and harder to maintain the top form needed to do professional games. As well the pace of the game itself becomes faster (relatively speaking) as an official slows down both mentally and physically. Officials compensate with better positioning, more reliance on their assistants, more skilful anticipation of potential problems and in some cases heavy use of their cards. They also get to know the players and can predict who will do what and who needs a firmer hand, especially team-wise. These things tend to happen gradually so officials at a certain age will perform more or less similarly. The neophytes are better at keeping up with the game and have fewer biases but are weaker in man management. The mid-career officials are still pretty fast AND have more refined skills but have more preferences as well and the older ones are usually very adept at reading the game but less so at keeping up with play and they tend to have institutionalized their bad habits and prejudices as well.

  • Gord


    Thank you for your kind words.

    I never looked at ages or years in the EPL for that list. I am just surprised to see that the data seems to be quantized, with some gaps. I think explaining the gaps is important, as is finding why the data seems to be quantized.

    I’m 53, and I have done a little officiating and quite a bit more playing. I think I was mid 30’s the last time I played against teenagers. I was over 200 pounds then, and very few teenagers would outrun my in a sprint. I played against a guy in oldtimers who in his late 40’s and early 50’s, would still regularly beat teenagers in a sprint. My maximum strength was maybe 5 years ago (bench 400, deadlift 500, leg press 1200). So I don’t think I agree that age is necessarily a valid indicator. As far as officiating goes, I much preferred running line to being in the middle. But I seen very little in the way of infractions, I concentrated on offside and out of bounds. A very autistic approach to running line, and I would be lousy at man management.

    I think Walter has a gold mine here. I think there is some very good data sitting in here. I was considering setting up a VPN so that Walter could use tools I would write, because Walter is not a computer expert. UntoldArsenal owns the data. But I think the world is best served by having any specialised software needed to process this kind of stuff either be based solely on publicly documented methods that can’t be copywrited or patented, or is released as OpenSource. If some statistics department at a university got interested, I think writing or adapting software to help in this kind of grassroots effort to improve the game might even be possible to get something like Google Summer of Code support.