A FRIGHTFUL REALITY: the world of Premier League refs is not all it should be



There has been much written and posted about the PGMOL and its members. Lets be clear and rational about some aspects of these referees:

1) Where they come from probably doesn’t have much to do with how they officiate but who they support does.

2)What they are told to do or not do, as the case may be, is crucially important in the degree of fairness and honesty we see or don’t week in and week out…we are all in the dark about this.

3) We are also in the dark about the assessments the PGMOL does for every game. Do they concur with Walter’s assessments or are they spun to favour a rosier view?

4) I counted only 6 FIFA accredited officials on the EPL lists. Where is the 7th one?

5) How do these men feel about goal-line technology and video replays? Their willingness to support these technologies will tell us a lot about their willingness to improve.

6) The fundamental issue of too few referees is a real one since officiating every week, either as an assistant and/or a referee makes for a long , hard season. The more one handles big games, the more one is stressed and influenced by those games.

7) What really concerns me is that we haven’t seen a lot of new, fresh faces over the last 5-10 seasons in the PGMOL. This means the Clubs know EVERY official rather intimately and also can predict what they can get away with. In Europe, British teams have not fared too well when officiated by less familiar referees and this makes a big difference in the EPL, where they know which referee buttons to push and who they can influence.

8) There is a visible degree of familiarity and even chumminess between certain EPL teams, players and the referees. Referees should have NO friends or buddies on the field, their job is to avoid any appearance of favouritism….but I must say this is not always the case in EPL matches.

9) The consistency of decisions from game to game and referee to referee is my MAJOR concern and is always the Achilles heel of officiating. Last season, there was a dreadful disparity and incoherence from game to game and from referee to referee for many teams, not just the Arsenal. It is certain that many EPL officials do NOT consistently or correctly apply the Laws and their interpretations, despite FIFA’s strict requirement to do so. This is not only a failure of the officials BUT the PGMOL as well.

10)Finally, the total lack of accountability from the PGMOL, either for transparency and honesty is of crucial concern. We cannot trust them to correct their mistakes, improve their officials and ensure consistent and impartial application for all EPL teams. Yet that is their CORE mission…….a scary reality.

My points are presented in order to focus our attention on what really matters. Whether an official is from Yorkshire or Ypres  has little bearing on how he officiates.  His match preparedness and courage in fairly and firmly applying the Laws in an impartial manner is of crucial import.

Another point I would like to make is the absence of female officials in the PGMOL. As far as I know only Shaun Massey was ever used in the EPL as an assistant. She did a good job but was openly mocked by certain cave-dweller pundits and commentators and I don’t know if we’ll ever see her again. I have worked with female assistants and they are absolutely as good as their male counterparts so why don’t we have more women at this level?

We should NOT be fretting over whether the Arsenal will be protected and respected this season or any other one for that matter, yet we are and rightfully so. Imagine what results AFC would have had if SAF had been their manager and what results United would have had if Wenger had been theirs. They are both great managers BUT one performed miracles and the other black magic….I will leave the reader to divine which is which.

2015/16: An introduction to the Referees. Do not read this standing up.

Today’s anniversary….

  • 4 August 1999: Nic Anelka transferred to Real Madrid for £23,500,000 – a profit of £23m which it is said, paid for the new training complex that Mr Wenger wanted built.  Also quoted as 2 August in some reports.



22 Replies to “A FRIGHTFUL REALITY: the world of Premier League refs is not all it should be”

  1. Don,,

    I also miss Sian Massey as Assistant referee, in my opinion one of the best during her time in the Premier League. I always looked forward to her on the officials list. Always kept up with play and gave clear decisions impartially.

  2. It’s also interesting how we have managed to win more FA Cups than anyone else and that no referee is allowed to ref more than one FA Cup Final.

    Not so interesting is that we have Atkinson for West Ham this weekend!

  3. Looking at her profile on Football-Lineups, she last acted as Assistant Referee in the U20 World Cup where she was one of the officials for the South Korea v Mexico and New Zealand v Paraguay games.

    As referee her last game is listed in July 2014 when she took charge of the WSL (Women’s Super League) game between Birmingham City and Oxford.

    I have a Twitter note from Ben Smith of the BBC from February this year saying that she is to take a break from front-line action to give birth to her first child..

    A perfectly natural reason for her absence and the sooner she is able to restart her career the better.

  4. Talking about referees…. Martin Atkinson it will be for our opener against West Ham. How will he have swallowed us beating his favourite team last weekend?

  5. The points you raise, Don, are indeed valid and in particular, 8).
    I’ve long felt there is far too much touchy feely stuff going on between some players and referees on the field of play.
    You rightly emphasise that officials “should have no friends or buddies” at games.
    And verbal pests like Rooney should have no place on the football field.
    When strict formality is absent it looks like a sign of weakness on the part of the referee. 😉

  6. I think 3 comments have Martin Atkinson down as our ref on the weekend. Here is the rest of the appointment list:

    Saturday 8 August 2015
    K.O. . .MATCHES . . REFEREE . . . ASST. REF. 1 . .ASST. REF. 2 . .4TH OFFICIAL
    15:00 . Bournemouth – Aston Villa Mark Clattenburg S Beck . . .R West . .S Attwell
    17:30 . Chelsea – Swansea . . . . .Michael Oliver .M Mullarkey H Lennard P Tierney
    15:00 . Everton – Watford . . . . .Mike Jones . . .M Scholes . D Eaton . A Taylor
    15:00 . Leicester – Sunderland . . Lee Mason . . . P Kirkup . .I Hussin .M Dean
    12:45 . Man Utd – Spurs . . . . . .Jonathan Moss . J Brooks . .E Smart . A Marriner
    15:00 . Norwich – Crystal Palace . A Garratt . . . A Halliday .N Swarbrick
    Sunday 9 August 2015
    K.O. . .MATCHES . . REFEREE . . . ASST. REF. 1 . .ASST. REF. 2 . .4TH OFFICIAL
    13:30 . Arsenal – West Ham . . . . Martin Atkinson S Child . . S Burt . .M Oliver
    13:30 . Newcastle – Southampton . .Craig Pawson . .D Bryan . . S Ledger .A Marriner
    16:00 . Stoke – Liverpool . . . . .Anthony Taylor .G Beswick . D Cann . .J Moss
    Monday 10 August 2015
    K.O. . .MATCHES . . REFEREE . . . . ASST. REF. 1 . .ASST. REF. 2 . .4TH OFFICIAL
    20:00 . West Brom – Man City . . . Mike Dean . . . S Long . . .M Perry . M Clattenburg

    At least according to DuckDuckGo, the EPL is the most popular league for knowing who the referees are. Just searching for “referee appointments”, brings up the EPL referee appointments as the first hit.

  7. The issue is not a PGMO one but an FA one. The FA are the keepers of the Game and are totally devoid of any integrity. It is time the FA are taken to task & corrected on their bias & favouritism. Time for CHANGE!

    How can football be allowed to wallow in the sewers of mindless officials & a corrupt system.

  8. Don, your Point 4

    The missing accredited FIFA referee is present, but not listed as FIFA accredited: Craig Pawson.

    Looking at the list at FIFA.com, all of the “listed” referees are spelled: Firstname SURNAME. Our missing referee is spelled SURNAME Firstname.

    Is there a reason for this oddness?

  9. Craig Pawson’s entry of the FA website has not been updated to reflect his FIFA accreditation. His Wikipedia entry has been updated. Yet another way the FA lives up to the other use of the initials FA.

  10. The BIG games: This phrase should really not be valid, as this suggests that these so called big games are refereed differently to the other “normal” games.

    We hear things like:
    “the ref let the foul go as it was too early in the game and it would ruin the game.”

    This alone, without even mentioning the other silly phrases that commentators say and expect to happen, shows that there is no real fairness in the referring.

    If a ref does do that in a game at the beginning, we end up seeing many fouls coming fast and thick right after. The players decide they are going to foul until the first yellow card is given. For teams like Arsenal, who usually are called up at every foul and non-fouls sometimes too, this is a clear disadvantage.

    Other things we hear:
    “Come on ref, you are too strict, it was not a deliberate foul”.

    Now, how in the world does anyone know what is in the player’s mind, and if it is a deliberate foul?

    This is why i am again calling for ABSOLUTE rules.

    A foul is a foul, however it is carried out. If a player trips and causes another to trip, it’s a foul, you can’t say don’t punish him because he tripped.

    Any contact of elbows to people’s heads/faces is a foul, there is no room for ambiguity at all. In fact, this causes deliberate, yes DELIBERATE elbows to a player’s face. We see this every week.

    The favourite phrase of the commentators is:
    “He was clearly looking at the ball, so it is not a foul.” How stupid is this?

    I hope you can see where i am going with this, as there are so many more silly and unprofessional things that hinder the very few refs we have from doing their job properly.

    It is almost as though some sort of LEEWAY is purposely built in to allow manipulation. This alongside the minute amount of referees in a league as big as the PL, which also encompasses games from the two other cups, shows that this is probably not a random happening, but a deliberate design.

    ALL games should be refereed with the same criteria whether “Big” or “Small”. Try telling the other clubs and fans that their game is not a BIG game. I think you would hear some very colourful expletives from them.

  11. After looking at the appointments list kindly supplied by Gord, I’ve a strong feeling it’s laid out before us who the big five referees will be this year- Atkinson, Moss, Oliver, Taylor and Dean.

    I expect those five will be with the big five teams a lot, will ref the most games overall individually, and will feature in nearly all the contests between big clubs.

    Clattenburg will ‘challenge’, if he behaves himself to Riley’s liking. Dean can have a little more or a little less prominence if he satisfies Riley.

    Oliver is probably being very carefully watched, and offered lots of guidance, after showing some behaviour which could develop into a problem at Old Trafford last year.

    Hard to know what’s happening with old Dowd. But i’m sure he badly upset Jose last year and I’m pretty sure he was eased out of big games for a while after that.

    As has been said countless times, it’s a bad system. In Riley’s hands, a nightmare for us. There might be no outright corruption; but the system is exactly the one you would build and maintain if there were, and pretty much acts as though there is.

    As with our horror challenge and injury days, you can only assume no pressure is applied, from elsewhere, for a better system because nobody with power elsewhere is unhappy with the results that system generates.

  12. @Gord
    According to your list A Marriner is selected to ref Saturday (Man Utd – Spurs) and again on Sunday (Newcastle – Southampton). So he is doing two games in two days whilst others are not doing any, surely that cannot be right can it?

  13. Sorry Mick, there is only so much formatting wordpress will let me do. What you see on your end is a proportional width font, and different choices of that font will change how columns align. I can try to use something like underscores for spacing.

  14. nicky

    “I’ve long felt there is far too much touchy feely stuff going on between some players and referees on the field of play.
    You rightly emphasise that officials “should have no friends or buddies” at games.”

    Spot on.

    In the same vein I was astonished when Riley suggested that referees should spend more time at different Clubs to get to know the players better. It was a theme picked up in, and supported by the media. Apparently ‘Getting to know’ the players would somehow help them referee better.

    How the **** does that work?

    Surely knowing the laws of the game, and applying them fairly, and with complete and utter impartiality would be a far better place to start than making friends with Wayne Rooney.

    Or maybe that’s just me !!

  15. Jambug – knowing players ensures fixed results better. Laws of the Game are not what officials of PGMO do. They only follow Laws of the Pocket. Timed cards, selective vision, and friendly chats with evil butchers on the pitch. After all these players are not that kind!!

    Even the Community Shield was officiated by a selectively blind cheat. When the TV commentator is also a cheat, 99% correct decisions are reached.

  16. Menace

    I agree, and of course I realise it has nothing at all to do with improving refereeing standards.

    Surely the more you know players the less impartial you will be?

    Referees, despite evidence to the contrary, are in fact only human, and will inevitably like certain players more than others, as they get to know them. That’s just human nature.

    The same will be true for Managers and Clubs alike.

    They already have there favourites, so God only knows what they’ll be like after a few cosy lunches with the likes of Rooney and Co !!!

    How anybody can think that forming these relationships, and the inevitable likes and dislikes that will ensue, can contribute to fairer, more impartial refereeing, is beyond me?

  17. Don,
    Although you’re ‘probably’ correct when you say “Where they come from ‘probably’ doesn’t have much to do with how they officiate”, I’d really like them to have some geographical spread so we can find out if it’s actually correct or not.

  18. As the memory of the formerly dark , looming and intimidating specter of SAF progressively diminishes , so hopefully too will the pressure on the refs recede. Although AW now is the elder statesman among the present crop of managers, he has always stayed away fro going head to head with the refs.
    Whether this was done by choice or by orders from above , he has maintained a dignified stance towards them . May not have always been easy , but nonetheless I think in the long rum , it will help the club.
    All I want this season is a fairer crack of the whip from the refs . No more double standards or bias. At the tail end of last season , there appeared to be an improvement in the quality of refereeing , especially when we out of the race .
    Coincidence ? I for one don’t think so .

  19. It is better to not know the player personally than to be on the field with players you know in person. I always hated it when I bumped in to some players that I knew outside the field as it made my task more difficult than usual. You know a person and you want to make sure you stay unbiased but on the other hand he is such a nice guy or a bad guy as it can work both ways.
    But it is not because he is your friend outside the field that you should give him a penalty when he dives. Or that you should punish someone you don’t like outside the field for doing nothing at all.

    So it brings conflicts to a referee his mind when he knows the players too well and so they shouldn’t see each other more than 2 x 90 minutes in total on the field during the whole year.

  20. Walter


    Personally I have been advocating the use of foreign referees in the PL for years, possibly from an ‘elite’ European pool, similar to that used in the CL.

    Fly them in, fly them out. As little media interaction as possible. No interaction with the respective Clubs/Managers/players at all.

    Overt post match evaluations by independent referee observers.

    Promotion, relegation invoked on the back of these evaluations.

    Seems so simple to me I cant see why it hasn’t already been implemented.

    Personally I am convinced our referees are not that bad. I have always felt that there performances on the European and International stage have been at least adequate, and often as not pretty good. Compare that to the pathetic standards we see in the PL !!

    It begs the question. Why the discrepancy ?

    Media pressure.

    I am convinced they try to referee to the desires of the media. Take the media out of the equation and we COULD have a decent set of referees.

  21. I agree with everything you say, Don, except your point about where geographically the refs come from.

    I think it does matter. If refs from London and in fact from most of the South of England are not selected, and most of the refs come from a geographically limited area, there can be the suspicion that they are at the core an exclusive clique. A kind of suspicious cosiness may be allowed to develop.

    How could it be that from this large area of England, with many football clubs, there is not a single properly qualified ref who could be on the list? And this has been the situation for many years.

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