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August 2021

Unbiased refereeing in 2012/13 – Part 1 the Referees

By Andrew Crawshaw

What constitutes unbiased refereeing?  A simple question, the answer depends to a large degree on one’s viewpoint.

To me the answer comes in three parts.  1- Games where the referee made no mistakes – and yes there were some last year.  2 – Games where there were so few referee mistakes that bias becomes irrelevant (if there were 5 mistakes then the best split is 3/2 or 60/40, if the mistakes were split 4-1 the percentage would be 80/20 but for minor mistakes I don’t think anyone in the crowd would be bothered).  3 – Games where there were more mistakes but where both sets of supporters would feel aggreived about some decisions but would probably accept that they got the benefit of others.

Throughout this analysis I am using the weighted scores from the Referee Analysis Results from  Where quoted bias scores are against the home team first then the away team and they refer solely to the decisions that were adjudged to be incorrect (they add up to 100%).  I use the term key decisions for second yellow cards, red cards, penalties and goals being the obvious potential game changers.


I have also highlighted in yellow Arsenal games but this analysis is not intended to be team specific, I’ll get to that in part 2.


Games where the Referee was adjudged to have had 100% scores – no errors so no bias whatsoever

Anthony Taylor – Norwich v Man United 17/11/2012 (1-0)

Chris Foy – Newcastle v West Brom 28/10/2012 (2-1)

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Jonathan Moss – Wigan v West Ham 27/10/2012 (2-1)

Kevin Friend – Liverpool v Wigan 17/11/2012 (3-0)

Lee Probert – Everton v Southampton 29/9/2102 (3-1)

Mark Halsey – Stoke v Sunderland 27/10/2012 (0-0)

Martin Atkinson – Stoke v QPR 10/11/2012 (1-0)

Neil Swarbrick – Wigan v West Brom (1-2)


If you were in the crowd for any of those games, then you saw refereeing at it’s very best.


Games where overall referee score was 95% or greater – so few errors as to make bias irrelevant?  NB in none of these games were there any wrong key decisions

Andre Marriner – Spurs v West Ham 25/11/2012 (3-1)

Jonathan Moss – Stoke v Man United 14/04/2103 (0-2)

Lee Mason – Southampton v Spurs 28/10/2012 (1-2)

Michael Jones – Spurs v Fulham 17/03/2013 (0-1)

Howard Webb – Man City v West Ham 27/04/2013 (2-1)

Neil Swarbrick – West Ham v Southampton 20/10/2012 (4-1)

Phil Dowd – A Villa v Fulham 13/04/2013 (1-1)


Games where the overall bias was within 60/40 split between teams and where there were no wrong key decisions – an acceptable level of bias regardless of the overall referee performance? Games where both sets of supporters will have some grounds to feel aggrieved but overall it more or less balanced out.

Mike Dean – Southampton v Man United 02/09/2012 (2-3) 88% overall, bias against 57/43

Lee Probert – Man City v Everton 01/12/2012 (1-1) 80% overall, bias against 57/43

Jonathan Moss – Man United v W Brom 29/12/2012 (2-0) 93% overall, bias against 56/43

Martin Atkinson – Swansea – West Ham 25/08/2012 (3-0) 76% overall, bias against 65/43

Michael Jones – Wigan v Chelsea 19/08/2012 (0-2) 72% overall, bias against 54/46

Howard Webb – Stoke v Newcastle (2-1) 94% and a perfect 50/50 bias score.

Anthony Taylor – Man City v Liverpool 03/02/2013 (2-2) 89% overall andagain a perfect 50/50

Kevin Friend – Arsenal v Southampton 15/09/2012 (6-1) 89% overall and again a perfect 50/50

Mike Dean – Spurs v W Brom 25/08/2012 (1-1) 60% overall score (so a really bad day at the office) but bias against was 49/51 so no agenda against either team

Mark Clattenberg – W Brom v Spurs 03/02/2013 (0-1) 88% overall, bias against 47/53

Martin Atkinson – Arsenal v A Villa 23/02/2013 (2-1) 85% overall, bias against 47/53

Chris Foy – West Ham v Stoke 19/11/2012 (1-1) 77% overall, bias against 46/54

Andre Marriner – Liverpool v Man City 26/08/2013 (2-2) 66% overall (so another bad day at the office), bias against 46/54

Lee Mason – A Villa v Swansea 15/09/2012 (2-0) 92% overall, bias against 45/55

Chris Foy – Man United v Sunderland 25/12/2012 (3-1) 79% overall , bias against 45/55

Jonathan Moss – Wigan v Arsenal 22/12/2012 (0-1) 75% overall, bias against 41/59

Phil Dowd – Spurs v Newcastle 09/02/2013 (2-1) 82% overall, bias against 40/60

Lee Mason – West Ham v Sunderland 22/09/2012 81% overall, bias against 40/60

Phil Dowd – Chelsea v Newcastle 25/08/2012 (2-0) 61% overall (another terrible day at the office) but the overall bias lies on my self imposed limit at 40/60.


Games where the overall bias was still within the 60/40 range and where key wrong decisions either balanced out or where they really didn’t make much difference

Mark Clattenberg – QPR v West Ham 01/10/2012 (1-2) 59% overall (I am really unsure about including this as an example of fair refereeing the score is that low.  No referee in the Premier league should ever be that low – it is totally unacceptable).  Bias against 55/45 (at least the many errors kind of balanced out) there was one wrong key decision in the 94th minute when Taraabt should have been sent off for a second yellow card but I can’t see how that one decision would have affected the final score.

Lee Mason – Everton v Sunderland 10/11/2012 (2-1) 77% overall, bias against 49/51, one wrong key decision in minute 23 – Everton should have had a penalty, but they won without it anyway.

Michael Jones – Arsenal v W Brom 08/12/2012 (2-0) 69% overall, bias against 52/48 and one wrong key decision in Minute 24 Cazorla was wrongly awarded a penalty (he dived) but Arsenal were still comfortable winners.

Mike Dean – Man United v Man City 01/09/2012 (1-2) 86% overall bias against 46/54.  One wrong key decision in minute 76, a United player (not named in the review) should have been sent off for a two footed challenge but City won without the advantage of the extra man for 14 minutes.

Martin Atkinson – Sunderland v Spurs 29/12/2012 (1-2) 72% overall, bias against a perfect 50/50.  One wrong key decision in minute 80 Spurs should have had a penalty but won anyway.

Lee Probert – QPR v Swansea 18/08/2012 (0-5) 63% overall (another really bad day at the office) bias against 41/59 (so just creeping in as balanced).  Two wrong key decisions in minute 44 QPR player (not named) should have been sent off following a (not given) second yellow card and in minute 54 Diakate should also have been sent off following another (not given) second yellow.  Swansea won by a mile and those two decisions would have had no influence on the overall result.

Michael Oliver – Man City v Stoke 01/01/2013 (3-0) 77% overall, bias against 53/47.  Two wrong key decisions arising from the same incident in minute 72 when City were awarded and scored a penalty.  The foul was outside the area and it should have been a free kick.  City were comfortable winners and didn’t need the penalty for the points.


So using the criteria I defined, in the four lists there were 41 games where the refereeing was balanced – that represented 18.1%, roughly 1 in five of the games reviewed (I have 199 games in my list and think I have “lost” a couple from the total).


Looking at the referees first


There were 8 games where the referees made no mistakes so congratulations to Taylor, Foy, Moss, Friend, Probert, Halsey, Atkinson and Swarbrick.  They all deserve certificates of merit for those games.


There were a further 7 games where there were so few mistakes that balance was irrelevant, take a bow please Mssrs. Marriner, Moss, Mason, Jones, Webb, Swarbrick and Dowd for outstanding refereeing performances.


Of the other games where higher numbers of mistakes were made but things more or less balanced out we had games by Mssrs. Dean (3), Atkinson (3), Mason (3), Probert (2), Moss (2), Clattenberg (2), Dowd (2), Foy (2), Jones (2), Webb, Taylor, Friend, Marriner and Oliver.


So numerically you are most likely to get a balanced refereeing performance from Mssrs. Atkinson and Mason with 4 games, on 3 we have Mssrs. Dean, Probert, Jones, Foy, Mason and Dowd.  On 2 we have Mssrs. Swarbrick, Moss, Webb, Taylor, Friend, Clattenberg, Marriner and Moss and bringing up the rear we have Mssrs. Oliver and Halsey each with one game.


So with the exception of Roger East who only had two games reviewed, neither of which were within the 60/40 criteria, all of the referees appear at least once so the good news is that they are all capable of producing a balanced refereeing performance.


The referees have had differing numbers of games reviewed so factoring that in to the calculations which referees had the highest proportion of their games in the balanced category and which beat the 18.1% average?


In the most general terms, if you saw one of the following referees on duty for a premiership game last year you were more likely to see balanced refereeing than the statistical average


Michael Jones had 3 out of his 9 reviewed games counting so 33.3%

Neil Swarbrick had 2 out of his 6, so again 33%

Lee Mason had 4 out of 15 for 26.7%

Martin Atkinson had 4 out of 17 for 23.5%

Chris Foy had 3 out of 13 so 23.1%

Lee Probert had 3 out of 14 for 21.4%

Phil Dowd each had 3 out of 15 for 20%.


Of course this is far from the complete picture and a balanced performance wasn’t necessarily a good one.

8 comments to Unbiased refereeing in 2012/13 – Part 1 the Referees

  • WalterBroeckx

    Thanks Andrew for this fresh look at the numbers. It is always great to have another angle on the referee numbers we have from the reviews.
    As I am a ref myself I tend to look at things from the referee point of view (maybe a bit too much). But this is showing some interesting things.

    In fact the point that most refs are capable of having a good to great match on more than one occasion.
    And then if one is noticing bias against (or in favour) of the same team again and again…then this underlines the bias that we sometimes suppose there is.

  • WalterBroeckx

    And can’t wait for part 2. 😉 No pressure 😉 🙂

  • dosantos

    mark clattenberg won it cfc vs man united first leg

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    I haven’t used that game as an example of unbiased refereeing. In that game the review showed the bias to be 64/36 against the two teams. There were two wrong key decisions – Torres was wrongly given a second yellow card in minute 67 and the Hernandez goal in minute 74 should have been ruled out for offside. So yes the decisions in that game did directly influence the result and your perception of injustice is supported by the facts.

  • Mark

    Interesting to see no Arsenal games in the perfect ref list and no Arsenal games in the 95% list either.

    12 different teams in the perfect list and 4 others in the 95% list. So 16 of the 20 teams got a game with high quality officiating. Arsenal was not one of those teams.

    Only two of the top four teams got in the first two lists Manu and Mancity. Amazing that Wigan would have three games judged to have perfect officiating! Maybe the pressure on the refs is less intense at Wigan and they do a better job?

    More games in the 40/60 split category for Arsenal. But not all of the games are accounted for so there must be a list of games with the biggest amount of bias.

  • OMGArsenal

    Great review Andrew but there are some contestable points about what constitutes a top class referee performance:

    1)No game I have ever officiated or seen officiated was error free. It simply isn’t possible to officiate for 90+ minutes without errors. That said, it is possible to avoid serious errors for all 90+ minutes.

    2)I disagree that bias is always visible and measurable during a game. I never officiated a game with a distinct bias for one team or the other and tried to be firm but fair to both teams. However, if one team was a pain in the posterior and constantly infringing the Laws, as well as being both brutish and nasty to their adversaries, then the official would be inclined to be less tolerant to that team.

    3)Some officials are intimidated by one or the other team (or a player)and the crowd effect certainly can be very threatening as well, especially at the amateur level where crowd control is dubious at best and non-existent at worst.

    4)I believe that most officials fall into your category 2 or 3 at worst. When I was officiating in the NASL, I saw officials who were very competent but lacked courage to make the hard calls, or those who were so arrogant and sure of themselves that they believed themselves divine (usually FIFA referees but not always).

    5)We mustn’t forget that officials are a 3-4 man team and that teamwork is an essential part of the success of this mix. A poor assistant referee can make the referee look awful or can even cause serious errors to occur, and a poor referee can ignore his or her assistants and thus invite serious infringements being committed and going unpunished.

    I am sure Walter has seen all of the above and more. I remember Sir Stanley Rous telling me that the best referee is the invisible one…he gets on with his or her job and nobody notices until he or she is needed. I always liked that concept, since we aren’t supposed to be the centre of attention, the Football is. Promoting Beautiful and Safe football is our principle objective.

  • AL

    Fantastic work. Let me add it just occurred to me that we take you guys for granted for doing this work, we should appreciate the hard work you’re doing. Thank you.

    Like Mark said, interesting that Arsenal don’t feature in the first two groups, the groups with near-perfect refereeing. This confirms that we don’t just ‘moan’ about refs without justification, as we have been accused of. Every Arsenal game in the prem, regardless of the opposition, has some form of ref-tilting going on. Shocking what we are up against. Even more surprising is how we are always there every season fighting to the end, given what we are up against.

  • AL

    On the subject of refs’ making “mistakes”, it appears they, and the PL, rejected a proposal by the FA to use video evidence to ban diving cheats. One wonders what they stood to lose had this been approved.