Why are so many referees from Manchester?
Having studied the Premier league Select group of referees, I decided to conduct some research. Not something the media are strong on but I wanted to show them how to write articles based on fact.
At this point I want to make it clear that I am not suggesting referees are biased or that football results are being deliberately manipulated. Those are seen as extreme views, irrespective of whether or not there is evidence available to support that opinion. The point of this article is to highlight serious failings within the sport that affect integrity and honesty. I believe I can prove that a system exists which CAN cause the manipulation of match results, whether deliberate or otherwise.
At the end of the day, fans of all clubs need to have comfort that the referee is going to be impartial. This cannot be guaranteed but you can minimise the chances by applying common sense and employing standard risk management techniques. This is not asking for anything other than standard practice. But the FA and PGMOL have decided to be complete idiots and defy the laws of good practice and logic.
The geographic make up of the Select group does nothing to create impartiality or trust. We have 18 referees to cover all Premier League games. Of this list, Lee Probert and Phil Dowd have not officiated this season due to injury and Michael Oliver is away at the FIFA U17 Wold Cup. The make-up of the select group can be broken down into geographic regions thus:
- Anthony Taylor Manchester, Lancashire
- Mike Jones Chester, Cheshire
- Lee Mason Bolton, Manchester
- Neil Swarbrick Preston, Lancashire
- Mike Dean Heswall, The Wirrel
- Phil Dowd Stoke, Staffordshire (Injured)
- Paul Tierney Wigan, Greater Manchester (on trial)
So of 18 referees we have SEVEN heralding from the Greater Manchester/Liverpool area. Despite the already unbalanced nature of the Select Group, what do they do? Yes they trial YET ANOTHER referee from the Manchester area, Paul Tierney. You couldn’t make this up. Is that really healthy for the integrity of the Premier League?
The next geographic region to feature is Yorkshire, the County Town of Mike Riley. In Yorkshire we have FOUR referees: Martin Atkinson, Robert Madley, Jonathan Moss and Craig Pawson.
We have THREE from the Midlands; Andre Marriner, Kevin Friend from Leicester and Graham Scott
TWO from the furthest Northern reaches; Northumberland and County Durham, Michael Oliver and Mark Clattenburg:
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Finally TWO from Wiltshire; Roger east and Lee Probert and that’s your lot.
None from London, the South East, the Home Counties or the South. The most densely populated regions have no referees with suitable ability to referee in the Premier League? Are we really expected to believe this. There is clearly a Northern bias in the selection of referees and that is unhealthy for a variety of reasons.
Should a match official referee his ‘home town’ team?
Now to be honest, I am not particularly bothered whether or not there are any London or Southern referees from an Arsenal fan perspective. It is totally irrelevant. However, common sense dictates that you need a diverse spread to avoid the possibility of ‘home town’ referees.
Why on earth would you put a referee into the position where he has to officiate a home team club? Isn’t it asking for trouble? It’s a valid point.
Let’s look at Anthony Taylor from Manchester
As you know, I was stunned that our game against Manchester United was going to be refereed by Anthony Taylor. Nothing personal but it was putting him in a difficult situation.
Now I am not suggesting the referee will be biased if he referees a team from his home town. But there is a risk he could be. Perhaps not deliberately biased but he could be based on a number of other factors. He will live locally. His children will attend the local school. Does he really want to upset the locals with a controversial last minute penalty? He will be influenced by the local media and may have friends and family who support the local team; even if he himself does not. There are just too many factors and red flags.
Personally, I find it incredible that Anthony Taylor, who lives 5 miles from Old Trafford was appointed to referee our game. Even more bizarre is that this was a game being played at the Emirates. Saving travel expenses by sharing the Manchester team bus may sound a great idea but the journey home may not be quite as much fun if you make a bad call.
There is no way based on a risk mitigation point of view, a referee should be appointed to referee a match involving his home town team.
Lets take this one step further. Should this official referee a match that may influence the status of their ‘home town’ club?
I have to be honest and say that if I was refereeing a game Spurs needed to win to stay up and the opposition striker fell over the ball in the penalty area, I would give a penalty. I would. I would even dance around the pitch at the final whistle and throw my shirt into the ‘away’ end. Jeez, I would have the bottle of champagne uncorked and sprayed over my fellow officials, while the party poppers cover the crowd in a sea of coloured swirls. That’s without the lap of honour and a six inch cigar hanging from my mouth and the post game announcements I would be making on the PR system!
So who is to blame for this geographical mockery and the appointments of referees. Mike Riley?
Well here is the thing. The blame for the Geographical bias can be laid at the feet of Neale Barry, a former referee from Scunthorpe. He is Head of Senior Referee Development at the FA. He has known for years that there is a problem in the development and promotion of referees from the Southern regions but has done nothing about it.
The evidence I have seen suggests to me priority is being given to the Northern regions, in particular the North West. The fact there was already a known issue, yet they still promote another referee from Lancashire highlights this fact.
Appointments for games is different.
The sole responsibility for this incompetence is Mike Riley. Yes he can only work with then referees he has on the Select Group but this does not means he cannot set a clear criteria for appointments. I always wondered how such an incompetent and easily intimidated referee like him was promoted to that top job. I suspect it is because he is weak and will therefore go along with whatever the FA want him to do. Just a guess on my part. But you know the saying; if it walks like a duck and quacks like a duck.
But until the FA and PGMOL are made to account for their actions nothing will change. We will still see Manchester or Liverpool based referees officiating our games. Self confessed Liverpool fan Mike Dean will still be doing everything he can to take points from us so his team can challenge Arsenal for that Champions League place.
So if you thought the Manchester United/Liverpool bias just existed in the TV studios, you were wrong.
And this is why I believe Arsenal never seem to catch a break. Appreciate your views.
More of today’s anniversaries:
- 26 October 1903. Arsenal won their 8th match in a row from the start of the season beating Leicester Fosse 8-0
- 26 October 1914: The Arsenal Football Club Limited was proclaimed for first time on masthead of the programme for the Football League v The Southern League at Highbury
On the Arsenal history site, perhaps the most complete analysis of what happened in Herbert Chapman’s first season that has ever been published.
And don’t forget the Untold Books
The Untold Books
- Woolwich Arsenal: The club that changed football – Arsenal’s early years
- Making the Arsenal – how the modern Arsenal was born in 1910
- The Crowd at Woolwich Arsenal