Every reason why referees and their associations should not be secretive

By Tony Attwood

The essence of refereeing in England is secrecy.  Occasional statistics are given out which suggest that referees get almost every decision right all the time, but there’s nothing to back these claims up, and not much else made available.

There’s no web site about the work of premier league refs, there’s no real insight into what is going on behind those very very closed doors.

Which is why Untold started to analyse things, by asking, for example, a number of referees from various backgrounds, to analyse the work of their compatriots, and why because we are an Arsenal site, we’ve carried on analysing referee performances in Arsenal matches.

The results are troubling, and made all the more so when we compare how referees perform in relation to one club rather than another.  Now with the latest analysis published earlier today we can see another reason for concern.  Players who come to Arsenal seem to get yellow carded an awful lot more with us, than they ever did with their previous club.

Of course the notion that referees are not quite as straight as they ought to be is not one that is ever entertained on radio or TV.  Indeed most web sites stay away from this issue.  But the more we continue the more we can say, “there is mounting evidence that something is seriously wrong with refereeing in the Premier League.”

Put another way, there are a lot of reasons why we should be concerned.

Because quite simply, every time we look at the issue, we seem to find another problem.  We have referees analysing referees and we get accuracy figures hugely below those reported by the official bodies.  We compare yellow cards at Arsenal with yellow cards before, and we a distortion. We compare the number of wrong calls by refs for each club, and there is a huge imbalance.  We compare ref performances for a home team and an away team and find another disparity.

And we know, all the time, that there have been troubles in the past.  The infamous Calciopoli scandal in Italy showed us how the whole league could be manipulated even taking into account TV recordings of matches.

Of course against this there are cries that we are just conspiracy theorists – a line that is thrown at us without the writers normally examining considering what it means, and how it worked in Italy.

But in reply all one can say is that all the evidence we have suggests that something is seriously amiss.  After all, if it were not, why would referees be offered a sum of money at the end of their Premier League contract not to disclose any of the secrets from within the referees’ association? Indeed why should the referees’ association ever have secrets?

The more secret any organisation is, the more suspicious people get, because by and large organisations that are doing everything straight and by the book don’t need secrecy.

And there is a danger here, as we can see in Cyprus where a pipe bomb exploded outside the offices of the island’s referees’ association last week.  It was the second attack on referees within a month in Nicosia.  Earlier a fire bomb was thrown at the home of an assistant referee in Limassol.

Now of course we are nowhere near this level of anger in England, but the persistent refusal of PGMOL which organises referees for the Premier League, to engage with its critics and explain some of its more odd decisions, is worrying.  Key issues, such as their insistence on keeping the number of referees low are never discussed.  There can be no doubt that the small number of refs who can take Premier League games means that the danger of the influence of one bent ref would be greatly enhanced.  Increasing the number of refs – as well as ensuring their is an equal geographic spread – is such an utterly obvious step, that it is hard to see why it is not taken.

Then there is the PGMOL web site.  It used to be there, now it is private and restricted.

And the very mild comment that appeared on Wikipedia which mentioned a couple of issues covered here on the page about PGMOL under the heading “controversies”.  Someone – and of course we don’t know who – removed it.

No discussion, no openess, no explanation of the odd decisions, lots of different reasons to be concerned.  Put all that together, and you have a reason to ask, what on earth is going on?

The one thing we can say is that secret societies (for that is all PGMOL is – a secret society) always come unstuck in the end.

We just have to stay vigilant and wait.

Index to recent articles and to today’s Arsenal anniversaries

20 Replies to “Every reason why referees and their associations should not be secretive”

  1. im tryna figure out an effective and non distruptive protest on all our home matches. bannas/flags raising the issues with refs corruption .which the broadcasters cant miss.

  2. jr gunzz
    I have said the same too. I think that’s the only way to go. Two or three people hold a banner up saying something about this reffing injustice. The English media is utterly incompetent when it comes to these issues that I don’t even expect them to lift a finger to try and investigate any of this, as obvious as it is. But raising such a banner might get it covered by the foreign press, thereby forcing their British counterparts to take some action (investigative action, that is). The PGMOL reminds me of third world politics, and before anyone takes offence I’m from a third world country myself; no accountability, dictatorship (and no transparency on how officials are elected/selected), crony-ism, a compliant media, one rule for one and another for everyone else…. all the ingredients are there (I won’t ad corruption here as I’ve no evidence the PGMOL are corrupt 🙂 ) I know it, I’m speaking from experience as I’ve experienced all of the above first hand. The shocking thing is how such a body can exist in a democracy like the UK’s I’m still trying to figure this one out.

  3. The banners & flags will be ignored. What we need is a High Court Writ accusing the FA of monopoly and corrupt practice with officiating in sport.

    That will open all the doors and every club and media person will start to look for the money. There may not be any money to find but there will be sufficient evidence to show the Laws of the game blatantly being abused by a select group of cheating north of Watford based crooks. It will show racism in practice and show an unusual corruption of scale beyond the pale of normality. The injuries and bookings statistics will show the level of targetted bias.

  4. “A house built with spittle will be brought down by dew”- Old African saying of the wise. Carry on the ‘dew campaign’ dear folks at Untold. The house of lies will soon come crashing on the heads of this unholy herd of cheats and killjoys. It’s only a matter of time…

  5. Menace
    For that to work, everyone must be suffering from this ‘corruption’. But that is not the case. Do you think the likes of chelsea, utd (of two years ago and beyond), liverpool, etc., or even small clubs like stoke (who benefit from all the thuggery that’s allowed) ,would support an enquiry into refereeing standards here? You’d be laughed out of town if you publicly suggested referees are biased in England. Don’t forget that what you term ‘corrupt practice with officiating in sport’ actually benefits somebody(as surely if one person is gets robbed in sport there’s a direct beneficiary of that). Its that somebody (the benefactors) who’ll fight you even before the bodies you’re targeting get a chance to respond. And once one club stands up and says there’s no problem here, you’ll be labelled whingers, sore losers, and ridiculed in lots of ways. Your suggestion would work only if all clubs were to be on one side. But based on what I’ve seen, I’m afraid it will most likely be Arsenal versus 18 or 19 other clubs.

  6. A nice review of what is wrong with our refereeing. That there is something wrong is beyond doubt, exactly why there is something wrong is a separate but major question.

    A similar question concerns the media – why are they protecting the ref bias and why does the secretive PGMOL not attract investigative journalism?

    AL – you mentioned a third world type dictatorship re the PGMOL. I have noted a lot of corruption, poor decision making, greed and ego building – all in the UK unfortunately – the worst being a person from the north of England with major character deficiencies, but strangely in a position of authority – who has wrecked more than one company – and is still employed! What I am trying to cover is that I am not at all surprised that there is something very wrong with the PGMOL.

    Oh – as an aside – the person discussed above is a MU supporter!

    The real reason that there is a small number of refs is simple – someone with something to hide does not want too many people to know the truth – they fear the whistle-blower. If there are too many refs – sooner or later one may be (wrongly) employed who is honest and has a conscience!

  7. AL corruption does not have to impact everyone in the same way. The corruption I refer to is the monopoly of officiating and the secretive interpretation of Laws in an unsporting way. Corruption does not necessarily have to have a beneficiary. It has to have a deliberate adverse effect on the correct process to be corrupt. As for being laughed out of town, I wouldn’t care less. The truth has no shame. The beneficiaries are not my concern. The Game is my only concern. The Police will have to diagnose the legalities.

    I only want to open the ‘mess’ to the public and show the dishonesty.

  8. Bjt
    I know, there’s corruption everywhere, but the type you find in the pgmol is like that straight out of a pariah state. Maybe I’m a little naive but I never expected that kind/level of rot on these shores. And you absolutely right in that keeping the numbers of refs very small is because it’s easier to manage a small group and keep tabs on everyone, with a larger group the risk of someone breaking ranks is much higher. Anyway, all this will come out one day. Just a question of when, and if we will still be around to witness it.

  9. Menace
    I see what you driving at with regards to monopoly. Yes, others may well be interested in having that broken.

    Ok, what I was trying to say by beneficiaries I was referring to biased officiating. For every negative bias there’s a positive bias; as in if team A is unfairly penalised, say an unjustified penalty against them, then the opposing team B has gained from that bad decision. And if it happens so often that certain teams gain from such positive bias then they would not want that to stop and would naturally be opposed to any investigation. But I see what you mean. And I agree we all suffer in our own small ways that overall others will want corruption to end, even though they may gain from it occasionally. You know I once suggested, think one or two weeks but can’t remember the thread, that we as fans could file a suit against the pgmol or one of these bodies for lack of protection of our players. I said I would not expect to succeed, but just draw attention to a problem. So yes, tackling this in courts is quite a viable option. One we may have to go alone though.

  10. Al – The beauty of honesty is no memory. Any corruption needs to have memory and as people age, memory begins to fade, so every PGMOL official will need to be put down like loved hounds to prevent them forgetting their lies. The truth will rise above all evil and Arsenal will outlive all the cheats.

  11. I wonder if a (rich) fan could sue the PGMOL for the cost of their tickets over a period of years? The applicant would need to have a highly qualified statistician to show the unlikelihood of the imbalance of decisions over a period of time being due to chance. Cards and penalties are incontrovertible. The broader bias would be a harder sell as the re-refereeing of games, even if by neutral qualified referees, would be challenged.

  12. By the way, I see that Martin Atkinson has had another disastrous appointment tonight – he was in charge of the Serbia v Albania match. Although it probably wasn’t his fault!

  13. Thanks Untold! Keep it up. There is something wrong. Normal people see something strange and they accept that it is strange. But if they keep seeing the same strange thing happen then they begin to see that as normal. A few though do ask why does this strange thing keep happening? If something keeps happening there must be a cause. So what is causing these things? I think you are smack on- the refs. They are manipulated according to the PGMOL’s desires.

  14. some great investigative work going on here- the cards given for Arsenal players against cards at their previous clubs is worrying.
    What happened to the ref appointed to the PGMOL hierarchy this summer…think it was Webb? who promised to explain decisions to the fans? gone a bit silent.
    I can only think of one advantage when the great man decides to leave his post, we may get a more level playing field with refs, I am convinced much of this is about our manager, his relationship with the media as much as anything else, although bias to other clubs and corruption could well be other pertinent issues.
    Walter, without in any way compromising your sources, do you get the impression these refs are inherantly anti Arsenal/ Wenger? are instructed to be anti Arsenal….or pro someone else…or all of the above?

  15. Mandy
    Master Webb was replaced by a late substitution: Phil Neville 🙂

    Which is why we were treated to his theories on gamesmanship” as he called it after the game in West London last week. All well and good, but the problem with his comments is that in the experience of most sports fans or sportsmen and women, both amateur and professional, gamesmanship is usually conducted by the players (e.g. sledging as a mild example in some sports, including football – Zidane/Materazzi etc.), and is usually not conducted with regular frequency by the offical/referee against one particular set of players/team. The latter is not usually referred to as gamesmanship (you can ask Mike Gatting if you don’t believe me! He would know:) ), not by any known measure, but it is remarkable!

    I thank Phil Neville for those comments, which help remind all what gamesmanship is, and what it isn’t 😉

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