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April 2021

Refereeing the referees: is it a Northern thing or worse?

By Walter Broeckx

On this site we have spend a lot of time debating not only the decisions of the referees in matches but also have done a lot of work in analysing the way the PGMOL works.

And one of the things we have found is that for a rather unknown reason there is only one southern referee in the PL. They are almost all from up north. Where they seem to like a different kind of football than what I can see in the rest of the world.

So it is very odd that referees from the south of England don’t make it to the top and in to the PL. What might be an explanation for this strange fact?

We could say that as Riley is from the North he likes to keep the referee world a Northern affair. But that would certainly be some form of discrimination. Now if this would be the case I wonder if the authorities could have a case against Riley. Is it because Riley is just a person who hates (soft?) southern  or is it that he uses his personal relations and friendship to promote referees?

So it will be very, very, very interesting to see who we will see being promoted in to the PL next season. If there isn’t a southern ref in it this time, yet southern referees on the Football League list have received high scores, which we understand may be the case, then we will know that the promotion process probably is not really being done based on merit. As it should be in a perfect referee world. The referee with the best scores should get the promotion. Not the referee with the best “friends” or “relatives” or who happen to come from the same part of the country as the boss of the PGMOL.

Now of course as always one could say: where is the proof of this assumption. I know my sources and I know they are reliable. Very reliable. They have told me things before that were correct. So I have no reason to doubt them.  But that is just the whole point of it.

Nobody has the proof…..except…. yes the top dogs of the PGMOL and those persons who are informed or who get to see something leaked.  The PGMOL is doing their job in the most secretive ways. I think we know more about the inner workings of secret services in the UK, USA, France or whatever country than we know something about the referees in England.

That the secret services of all the countries work in the shadow and have something to hide is understandable in a way. That is why the are called SECRET services. They deal in secrets that are better not known to you, me and anyone else.

But the fact that the PGMOL works in the same way is not.  They should have nothing to hide. They work in the public interest, work for something that involves millions of people in England and all around the world. So they should be working in the open.

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What is the secret about the list of merit of Football league referees?  Why shouldn’t we know the points the referees got in their assessments? Or at least the final ranking based on the points they got. That is, or should be a list open to all of us who are interested. But did you see such a list being made public? I didn’t.

I also wonder what happened with the promise Riley made a few seasons ago about meeting supporters groups of the clubs in a way to get more respect for the referees. I know Everton was one of the teams visited but then the big silence from the PGMOL came once again. I don’t think he ever visited Arsenal supporters groups.

So as time goes by we see or hear that another murky episode of the PGMOL is being kept secret. The media don’t care as long as their darlings from up north are not involved. And most clubs and their supporters only look at the latest decision from a referee in their match to decide if he is any  good or bad. It takes a few season of study to really say what he is. Study we have done in the last seasons and will resume this season in Arsenal matches.

Opening up the data is the only way to get us silenced. And as there is no sign of him doing it, we will keep on working for it on Untold.

So the key questions are: Who will be promoted to the Premier League list?  Where are they from?  Where did they finish in the Football League rankings last season?  And, if they were not top, why were they were promoted ahead of higher ranked referees?

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34 comments to Refereeing the referees: is it a Northern thing or worse?

  • GoingGoingGooner

    Hear! Hear!

  • Pat

    I’m sure you will be keeping us up to date on the answers to those last questions, Walter. If you can find them, that is, given the secrecy of the PGMOL.

  • oldgroover

    There’s actually two from the South: Lee Probert & Roger East both from Wilts.
    Are the lists of next season’s officials not out yet? They’re leaving it a bit late aren’t they?
    There used to be a bit more transparency. I remember Graham Poll giving after match interviews. They soon stopped all that nonsense didn’t they.
    Another thing you seldom get to hear is when a referee gets “punishment matches”. I went to a Bristol Rovers v AFC Wimbledon Div 2 game two or three seasons ago and Mike Dean was in charge. Where did that come from?

  • El Gringo

    This video makes it look like some of the EPL’s problems have migrated to the MLS:

  • Rupert Cook

    I don’t know why you should assume that a southern ref will be any less biased. What if he supports Manu? What if he’s married to a northerner? What if he has a great grandfather from Bolton?

    I’m sure we’d all like more transparency in football. I’m sure we’d all like it in every walk of life. But seeing as most fans believe all refs are biased against their team it’s hard to get taken too seriously.

    Refereeing standards worldwide appear to be poor if the World Cup was anything to go by. It’s more about incompetence than bias.

    I know you’re a ref Walter and I’d love to see you ref a game. I bet there’d be just as many fans who’d disagree with your decisions as those that would back them. Fans see what they want to see as they’re usually not very good at objectivity.

  • WalterBroeckx

    I think you will have missed my shout for video refereeing in the past then. As that is the direction we should take. But in the mean time I do hope that an even spread of referees would be something good to work for.

    Just imagine that all the people in the south of England had a green skin colour. And all the people in the north were purple. And we only would see purple refs referee in the PL? Wouldn’t there be an outcry about possible discrimination? Racism? Colourism? (is this a new word? )

    But some don’t see any problem that a purple coloured head of referees only picks purple coloured referees to do matches in the PL.

  • WalterBroeckx

    your opening sentence confirms that even you believe that northern referees are biased in favour of northern teams.

  • Mandy Dodd

    there may be no southern refs , but maybe they try to make up for it by giving the richest southern club their very own personal pet ref

  • the independent confirms that vanishing spray will be used by refs in the 2014/2015 season, is dat gud news?

  • oldgroover

    There’s actually two southern refs (both from Wilts), which everybody seems to be deliberately ignoring.
    This will of course cause multiple problems when Swindon, Oxford & Yeovil & the Bristol clubs get into the Premiership.

  • Rupert Cook

    @Walter, my opening sentence does say that but it’s more about acknowledging your belief in their bias rather than my opinion. Maybe there is bias, I really don’t know.

    Totally agree that there should be video refereeing. Football seems so antiquated in its approach towards technology.

  • BradJ

    I would add to the mix that ‘Probert and East both being from Wilts’ is a valid point, although there are no refs from anywhere near London or specifically the South East of England. Bearing in mind there have been no such refs since Poll (not that I like Poll); last season South East based teams totaled 7 (if you include Norwich), that’s no representation from an area making up 35% of the league. Clearly the balance is not correct in that respect.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Old Groover, yes Wilts is certainly south, though have not seen much of Roger East. But I want to see a ref born and bred in Finsbury Park with a son called Thierry, a daughter called Dennis, a dog called Charlie who cleverly rises through to the very top of ref ranks, sometimes resorting to method acting skills in pretending to support a north west club…

  • DR

    Cheers for posting that video, was hilarious to see everyone talking about how it should be a sending off when it’s such a dive.

    I’m not sure the issue is the goegraphy, so much as the kind of people involved. There is a North/South divide in terms of attitude but not to the extent of it being a problem, maybe it helps to get on with the rest of the refs but that’s all.

  • Mickey Finn

    I’d love to see a visualization of this. Just a simple map with the place of birth and home area of referees. If clear enough, the image would have viral potential.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Did you ever get that feeling that you cannot say all you know because it might bring serious problems to some people and that you don’t want them to get in to (more) trouble than they already have? This is how I feel right now.

  • Mandy Dodd

    one of the strange things abouth this north refs thing – both Webb and Riley are from Yorks, and claim to support Yorkshire clubs. Yet their allegiance throughout their career has been anything but Yorkist. They need to brush up on their history!

  • Rob

    I always enjoy your referee reviews & the worrying trends you have identified are both well argued and substantiated (a whole lot more so than most of what is published on the web).

    My chellenge, though, is about the motivation and how “high up” this goes. Apologies if this has been done to death on this site already but I believe there is an alternative theory which would explain this so-called Northern and anti-Arsenal bias.

    The simplest route to understanding is usually to follow the money. The Premier League is a money making machine precisely because it is different from the other leagues in Europe – faster, with more crunching tackles and more physical play.

    Everyone who exists or makes money off the back of the PL has an interest in keeping this going, hence the agenda against Arsenal who are an English club with a modern European style of manager and play. Actively encouraging (or at least not supressing) how Arsenal play would threaten the goose that keeps on laying the golden eggs.

    I don’t know whether Mike Riley is being leant on my the Premier League, or whether he knows which side his bread is buttered all by himself, but the end result is this “They Don’t Like It Up ‘Em”, anything goes football vs anti-football. Northern vs Southern bias is purely incidental – RIley promotes referees who help everyone make money ahead of the fairest and most impartial refs.

  • bjtgooner

    Where the refs come from is unimportant in itself provided we feel we are getting competent and unbiased decisions.

    The fact that many decisions are incompetent and over a season do not even out but show clear advantage to teams in the north west, from where most of the refs originate, gives a lot of validity to the article.

    But, while the area from where the refs originate may be a contributory factor in bias, in that by maintaining the northern clique within the select ref grouping it is easier to maintain its established preferred bias, the responsibility for that bias rests with Riley, those who employ him and the press/media who support (rather than question) his actions and those of his minions.

  • bjtgooner

    Walter @ 10.13 am

    Agreed. 🙂

  • Mandy Dodd

    Interesting post Rob, certainly think there is truth in what you say. Maybe there are what you mention….and perhaps other systems/ cliques Arsenal keep out of.
    Riley is an establishment figure, throughout his career seems to favour the high and mighty, thats why he is where he is today. Not just in the EPL, where his favours to a certain team, that he seems rather fond of have made him a joke figure, but also on the international stage, seem to remember how he completely stitched up Latvia against Germany. Yes refs can have bad days like everyone else, but his bad days always favoured the big teams, see a lot of that today amongst the refs under him.
    Walter, think your sources should pass on what they know to the authorities, but knowing who is possibly involved in dodgy dealings in football, can well see why they dont

  • colario

    The ‘North – South’ divide is not a new factor in English football.

    The Football League was founded in the North West and until quite recently its Head Quarters was in the North West.

    Quite naturally there being no team south of Birmingham until Arsenal entered the then 2nd division there was no team to compete with the winning clubs of the North.

    The first team to break the Northern hold was Arsenal and as we know it wasn’t a ‘one off’ season interuption to the ‘keep and control’ of the North.

    The history of the Football League at that time shows 100% rejection of all attempts to modernise the game. Sometimes making themselves the laughing stock of the country and not just the world of football.

    Ferguson’s arrivial at manure and his win at all costs paved the way for the League to regain its control of English Football.

    To keep its control it has to go back to its old ways of refusing any attempt to modernise the game.

    To go from ‘skillfully kick the player football to ‘skillfully kick the ball’ football.

    To refuse technology which would clarify what had actually happened when the action is quicker than the eye.

    To refuse to believe the possibilty of betting corruption could actually happen in England.

    To refuse openiness regarding referee appointments. What other set up has £50 000 ‘don’t tell’ payment?

    In the thirties Arsenal broke the mold and fought on the pitch the hold of the North.

    In recent times history has repeated itself with Arsenal breaking the mold. Last time they did it was with a former spuds player
    from Yorkshire as manager!

    As if that wasn’t bad enough this time they have done it with a ‘Frog’. He isn’t even English!

    Je suis un Gooner! Je suis un Londoner! 🙂

  • jambug

    The Referees are bad, but bad isn’t the main issue, bias is the issue.

    The question is what guides this bias.

    If I’ve said it once I’ve said it a thousand times.


    On Sunday morning, Monday morning, whatever, it is the judgement made on SKY, Talkshite, 5Live and in the Sun, The Mirror and The Mail etc. etc. that dictates whether the ref had a good or a bad game.

    For Example (again)

    Anyone with an ounce of knowledge about football knows the Referee against Villa and the Referee in the FA Cup Final where terrible.

    The Referee in the FA Cup Final missed 5 good penalty appeals.

    BT Sport, during and after the match dismissed EVERY claim and even accusing Santi of diving.

    The Radio and Printed press similarly dismissed all claims.

    My point, the general consensus, THE REF HAD A GOOD GAME

    He did NOT. He had a mare. But if the media say he did THEN HE DID.

    The PGMOL do not give a shit what there assessor says. There Referees live or die by how they are judged in the Media. It is utter irrelevant as to how they are judged by the PGMOL.

    This is why we don’t, and never will, be privy to there judgements, because they are completely and utterly irrelevant, as well as being ‘damming’ in the extreme.

    I have also said, lets say for example by some quirk of diabolical misfortune, we suddenly found media darling ‘Arry’ in charge, and we suddenly by some miracle, became flavour of the month in the Media (a stretch I know), I think we would suddenly see a miraculous turn round in our fortunes, as far as Refereeing bias is concerned.

    It has nothing to do with geography and everything to do with self preservation and the inherent human need to conform to the Status Quo.

  • WalterBroeckx


    I know the referees cared about our assessments… 😉 And about our referee of the year award.

    Not that they claimed their winners medal 🙂

  • jambug


    I have no doubt they did.

    But at the end of the day they are, believe it or not, only human and as such are worried about there jobs.

    As such they will be acutely aware of how there performances are judged.

    Now this is the crux.


    Or at least who are the judges that will ultimately determine whether they still have a job next week?

    Now this is where you and I may differ, but I truly believe that the way they are portrayed and ultimately judged in the media is THE MOST important consideration as far as a Referee is concerned.

    Did the Cup final Referee get hauled over the coals for a diabolical performance?

    Did Taylor for his disgraceful performance in the Villa game?


    Why not?

    We all know how bad they both where, especially your good self.

    Do you not think that the PGMOL know how bad they where? I think they do. They may be a lot of things but they are not blind.

    But the MEDIA said the Refs did well.

    PHEW !!!

    If the bad decisions had been the other way round and cost villa/Hull the games do you not agree the medias reaction would of been the polar opposite?

    In which case do you not agree with my point that had that been the case the respective referees would of been under so much media scrutiny and criticism that the PGMOL would, in such circumstances, of had no choice but to of taken action against said Referees?

    I certainly believe so.

    Do you not agree?

  • Mick

    No argument from me jambug, I absolutely agree.

  • Mick

    If the Sun managed to influence the brainless masses to vote Tory in 1992 I am sure they would find it easy to influence the average football fan and the PGMOL.

  • menace

    OK so some call it bias and others just human failings. I call it blatant cheating. I have called decisions before they happen based on the way referees cheat. I can bet you referees (PGMOL) will converse with our opponents rather than book them and book our players rather than converse with them. They will ‘not see’ several decisive fouls so that Arsenal miss out on goal scoring opportunities. It is a given in the EPL. I have watched these cheats for over 20 years get away with so much that it almost made me walk away from football.

    The match against Man U for our 50th undefeated is a case in point. Riley just did what he wanted to and allowed Reyes to be assaulted for most of the game before giving in to cheating from Rooney to complete his ‘PGMOL interview’.

    In spite of all the bias and cheating Arsenal has to rise to Victory as we have done in the past.

  • menace

    Jambug you are spot on. Only one thing is ‘conform to The Who (Walters choice)& not Status Quo’ 😉

  • finsbury

    The PGMOL is a structure designed for failure. They wouldn’t make it past Building Control 🙂

  • Mandy Dodd

    Correct menace, the behaviour of some of these refs can be predicted. Anyone doubting some of Untolds claims about refs should pay careful attention to how good the ref previews are at predicting the performances of certain refs. Beyond uncanny.
    Wonder if we get Taylor at the start of the season again?

  • AL

    Yes menace. For anyone to say the refs or the media aren’t biased against, they’re either blind or a troll, or both. I do think rising above this cheating is going to be difficult though as back then it was just Riley screwing us, now it seems to get a job in the pgmob one has to take an oath of allegiance to Riley. The whole lot are out to shaft us. No hope.

  • AL

    I liked the example of rooney getting rewarded for a dive to win the 50th game. That’s the same mentality the English players, and the media, take to tournaments such as the world cup thinking they’ll just ‘brush’ everyone aside like they do in the premiership. Looks like they’ll not learn their lesson anytime soon.

  • Pat

    Walter at 12.53.

    I love that: ‘not that they claimed their winners’ medal’!