Does it “all even out in the end”? At last the answer!

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.


On this site we have published all kinds of reports over the season 2012-2013.

We have dealt with the different teams. We have looked  more closely at the refs themselves, leading to the best ref election of the season according to the views and based on the numbers found by our referee reviewers.

We then had another look at the bias from the refs for and against each individual team.

The next step was to look at the four most important decisions on the football field that could have the biggest impact on the final result of games.

We have examined the wrong decisions about second yellow cards, red cards, penalties and goals.

These are the “important decisions” as we call them.  Decisions that can change games. And it is important to see how many decisions teams suffered in the games we reviewed. This will bring some extra light on the famous saying that it evens all out at the end of the season.

For some it might but shouldn’t it even out for all at the end of the season? Because if even for one team it doesn’t even out at the end… the playing field was not level. As it should be level for all!

So in this article we have taken all the previous important decisions and put them in total tables. We make no difference any more for the type of decisions. Because they all are the most important decisions. Decisions that can change games and results.  We will show you first the decisions that favoured the teams, then the decisions that made teams suffer and finally we will present you the total and the difference between the favourable decisions and the ones they suffered from per team.

That final table could be somewhat comparable with the debatable decisions website that was active for a while. But our table should be called: the wrong decisions table.

Let us first start with a table that shows which teams was favoured most from wrong decisions.

Favoured decisions

The first number I want to bring under your attention is the Arsenal score. Because at times people came over here and said: hey you are originally from an Arsenal side so your numbers are biased. We have made it clear that the last season the games were reviewed mostly by non-Arsenal supporting referees.  And I think the score of Arsenal shows this.

If we were really only wanting to show how bad Arsenal was treated then we might also want to cover up when Arsenal was favoured. (Because of our supposed bias of course) But look at our result. According to our reviews Arsenal has been lucky 13 times last season with referee decisions. So suggesting we only wanted to show the bad side about Arsenal and the referees can be put to bed now.

If we look at this table however we can see that in the important decisions there is some kind of big bias. As the teams that were favoured most are in general the teams that were fighting for CL spots.

That Manchester United came out on top with 24 decisions going their way might not be a big surprise to people who have followed football over the years. The team in second place is Chelsea and then we have Tottenham in 3rd place. They are far ahead of the rest of the teams.

The middle of the league teams in this table are Arsenal and Manchester City.

But to our surprise we also found ‘smaller’ teams like Stoke and Sunderland. Teams that are generally not linked with top spots in the league. So what can be the reason for this seemingly happy relationship with referees?  Local bias? I don’t know, your guess is as good as mine.

May I also point at poor Swansea that only really benefited once in the games we reviewed from a big referee error. QPR is the only team that went down that got rather lucky in this table with the refs.

Now let us move on to the other side of the coin: the teams that suffered from the important wrong decisions.

Suffering decisions

Now if we look at this table we see again some interesting things. Like the Arsenal score.  Arsenal had to overcome 33 important decisions last season. That is just under one important decision per game one could say.

But we also notice that Everton wasn’t really a refs favourite.  And also Chelsea was not really having a ball at times with the refs.

We even can say that Manchester United got some wrong things going against them over the season. Some 10 decisions. That is 1/3 of the total decisions Arsenal had to overcome.

The team that suffered less is Southampton. At least one could say that they didn’t get much but also didn’t suffer that much in total.

And that leads us to the question: does it even out? Well have a look at this table then:

total decisions

And this table is what you could call the “even out table” for important decisions of course.

And what do we see? That Arsenal have suffered most from the wrong decisions. If we compare the favourable decisions with the ones they suffered from we see a big difference. In total some 20 decisions going against them. More than the double than the team who ends second on the negative scale and that is Everton closely followed by their neighbours Liverpool.

And if we look at the other side of the spectrum we see that Manchester United had the biggest bonus from wrong referee decisions. A total of 14 big decisions going their way. Now who wouldn’t end up champions with such a big push in the back?

If we take a look at the the difference between MU and Arsenal we can come to the conclusion that there is in fact a gap of  34 wrong decisions. Or in other words: Arsenal has to overcome 34 important wrong decisions before they can play on a level playing field with Manchester United.

So the question, “does it even out?”  can be answered with a short : NO!  And just as last season we have shown once again that people who say this sentence (it evens out at the end) are just saying it without any justification. It is just some spin, media spin probably. For the second time running we have showed that it doesn’t even out.

Apart…apart for one team: Newcastle. They ended up with a zero. Seven big decisions going against them and seven big decisions going for them. And even that doesn’t mean it has evened out for them.

And as I said before even if we would find one team where it doesn’t even out, the the league can be called unfair. Now we have shown that for 19 teams it doesn’t even out so how can you call this league fair?

In this series

Wrong second yellow cards

Wrong red card decisions

Wrong PENALTY decisions, a closer look.

Wrong goal decisions

The earlier series of reviews:

15 Replies to “Does it “all even out in the end”? At last the answer!”

  1. Uhmm!
    Thanks Walter.
    But alas,
    When will this case come up?
    Who will argue our case?
    Who will hold brief for the other side?
    Indeed, who is the”other side”?
    And, most crucial of all, who will be the judge?

  2. Walter,

    A lot of thought and effort has gone into that Post and you deserve a lot of credit.

    I am sure you are aware of the ramifications of the following theory which in itself takes a bit of understanding, but has a significant impact on your own theory.

    The probability theory is a mathematical calculation concerning the odds of random events evening out and is normally associated with trying to calculate gambling odds, for example.

    Sadly for those smitten by gambling they have the mistaken belief that if something happens more frequently than normal during a given period, then it will happen less frequently in the future.

    This theory has been proven to be a fallacy.

    In reference to your Post, the probability theory could be directly used to show how the events in a sequence (random refereeing decisions) could give the illusion that the random events are “evening out. They do not.

    Crap refereeing decisions are just that and there is no ‘justice’ where they even out in the longer term. The idea that footballing decision are ‘fair’ is itself an illusion. ;-0

  3. Thanks for all this valuable work you are able to put numbers to what we can all see. Wonder if city are the new utd? Also looks like the spuds have friends in the media and pgmol

  4. I dont know what you do behind the scense to get these reports read and considered but you should consider rebranding.

    Why not rebrand this onto a different URL without Arsenal in the name, use a similar twitter feed and get a few other key bloggers from other teams to come to the party? Then target tweets/other communication channels at KOLs (key opinion leaders) in football.

    Otherwise I fear, to quote Bernie Taupin, “you’re a candle blowing in the wind”

  5. Great work Walter, and just shows what an unlevel playing field we have in the epl. Is it any wonder fergie ‘won’ so much while we haven’t given such bias.

  6. Great stuff. Thanks.

    Mike Dean Xmas special quiz. In aid of the Red Nose foundation, in memory of the anointed Arry, AVB and the first 5pur2s game. Putting the neigh into M.Owen’s plunditry.

    How many (rotational) fouls before Ramires gets a yellow (remember he’ll be playing Away)?

  7. Thank you for the article. I have often said that Utd have started the season for many many years with effectively around +15 points. They would have won 2 or 3 Premier League titles in my opinion without the ref but no more than that. ON the flip side I think Arsenal have started the season year on year with effectively around -15 points.

    The biggest pointer to the bias that exists are the seasons where Arsenals team was by far and away the best in the league – with the likes of Vieira, Bergkamp, Henry, Pires, etc and a solid defensive unit. Utd’s team was inferior in almost every position but they won the league year after year. Similar in fact to last year where City had a team so superior to Utd’s that it is crazy that Utd won the league – their team was awful.

    What we need to do though is be much clearer on motive. It is clear that the FA and PL will not investigate the clear bias, so someone has to. What you have shown is the bias, but why is this happening year after year?

    Is money changing hands?
    Is it more to do with who the senior FA officials and refs support (and of course they do support a team from child hood like all of us)?
    Is it to do with personalities and friendships? We all know Wenger is not sociable and that Fergie liked to have private text conversations with referees.

    I think we need more of a dossier on all these refs and FA officials. Who are they? where do they come from? Who did they support as kids? Where do they live? Is there a bias on who they referee each week?

    What you are measuring is what they do, but we now need more on why it could be happening. You have a lot of members/contributors here. I personally would be willing to contribute to a private and independent investigation.

  8. Some good points raised, jayram, esp with regards winning the title against superior sides. We are not saying this isn’t possible, but given Walter’s figures and the head starts we know they got from refs its not surprising they won so much. This season utd hasn’t been worse than previous utds, this is where they have always belonged actually without the support from officials. The only thing i could disagree slightly with from your post is the idea Wenger isn’t sociable. I think he is, but always wants to remain appropriate at all times, professional and observe boundaries. But i know you didn’t mean it a negative way, just thought some might latch onto that and use it against the good man.

  9. Walter,
    I believe your team has reviewed ALL the Arsenal games, but not all the games of all the other teams.
    Therefore, for a more accurate comparison, you really need to add a column for the number of games reviewed for each club & then show the resulting net average favoured/ penalised decisions per game.

  10. Walter, a great article and a great series.

    If ref errors were accidental and random they probably would balance out in the end; that they don’t, as you have clearly demonstrated, can only be because there is a deliberate (and/or desperate) campaign to nobble Arsenal.

  11. Barney,
    Of course with the teams we have covered more matches (like Arsenal and MU) the balance should be close to zero. It seems the more matches the bigger the difference…

  12. Why would any of us or any rational Football fan for that matter, regardless of which team he/she supports,not realize that the game is bent when they see the following:

    1)SAF regularly spoke with the PGMOL’s Riley about officials he wanted and didn’t want. Halsey’s revealing statements prove that beyond a shadow of a doubt.

    2)In practice, a referee who gave too many critical decisions (penalties,goals,cards) against United, rarely ever got back to Old Trafford or any game United played in. Some in fact found themselves demoted.

    3) Dalgleish spoke to Riley directly a couple of season ago and suddenly Liverpool started to get a better ¨quality¨ of officiating.

    4)UA and Walter have unarguably shown that the referees obtain an average score of around 70% correct decisions yet the PGMOL boldly states that their officials get more than 90% of decisions right….without showing any proof to back it up.

    5)Graham Poll has repeatedly stated that PGMOL officials make far too many serious errors and that the standards of officiating in the EPL need to be reviewed regularly and more carefully….but life rolls on merrily at the PGMOL HQ.

    6)When Arsenal or other EPL Clubs play in the CL or EL, the quality of officiating is generally better than what we get from the likes of Dean and company. There are exceptions but one can easily see the difference in style, severity and tolerance of FIFA (CL & EL)officials versus EPL referees. European officials tend not to tolerate the brutal or rotational fouling of the better players and also are less tolerant of the in-you-face behaviours of guys like Rooney and friends.

    There are many more symptoms of the malaise that afflicts the EPL but I am sure we all know most of them b y now.

  13. This backs up what I and a lot of people felt, certainly about multiple games with the Mancs and in particular during the 2010-11 season. Still remember the reaction to the Old Trafford farce in 2003 and the one-sided condemnation.
    Alluded to it in ‘Arsenal the French Connection’ and WSC got very upset about it. If we ever do a reprint we’ll put the quote: ‘This book contains puerile jibes about Alex Ferguson’ on the dust jacket.

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