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October 2020

It looks like the Premier League is preparing to adopt one of Untold’s demands for a change in refereeing!

By Walter Broeckx

Is the Untold Arsenal campaign really going to lead to a change in refereeing? It seems that for the first time the answer could be yes!

Sticking your neck out isn’t always easy. You get ridiculed. You are called all sorts of names. But I have never backed away from explaining and defending what I believe in. And as I am a referee myself I am more or less used to getting shit (not literally of course) thrown at me. So in all my years of writing for Untold I never really was feeling bad about names they called me.

Writing about referees is of course always a bit problematic. You have lots of black and white but also a fair amount of grey decisions. But at the end of the day we (and this has been a work of many people) have always taken decisions based on what we saw from the TV images.  We were the video ref.

Now I will not claim to have been the one who invented this. Checking referee decisions with the help of images. In fact it has been there since the first match was televised long long time ago.

But I think that it is fair to say that our little blog (compared to all the big media companies around the world of course) has been the first to really take this matter to another level. And by being completely  open about it and talking about every decision we have been at a level that was unseen before. And maybe it is the fact that Untold has risen from a handful of readers eight years ago, to over 5,600,000 page views this year, helps the campaign a bit too.

Again I cannot thank enough the people who have been helping me with this project.

One of the items I have connected to our reviewing of the refs was not just the reviews but also the question: how to make decisions more accurate on the field. And then the best answer I could give was: use video refereeing on the spot. When I launched this idea 5 or 6 years ago I was called various names. But since then there has been a lot of movement in different countries. The Dutch FA has been a front runner and has experimented on this and asked permission to FIFA and IFAB to go further with it. The Belgian FA has also asked to these organisations to introduce this in the future.

(Just to explain, the International Football Association Board – IFAB – is the formal body that approves changes to the rules, which then relate to football worldwide.  It is made up of representatives from England, Scotland, Wales and N Ireland, representing the founders of the game, and representatives from Fifa.  To get a change agreed it is necessary for the Fifa delegate and two of the four UK delegates to agree.  Then the change becomes law in all football jurisdictions.)

And now… and reading it was hard to believe at first… the PL is going to ask the clubs if they would agree to test video refereeing in the future! I had to check if it wasn’t April 1st but no the article is from December 22. Unless this is the new April Fools day we can assume it is a serious article.

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So the FA/PL has written a letter to all the PL clubs to ask them if they want to go further with this idea and introduce it over time. The letter was written on December 18 and clubs should answer before January 6. And if the majority wants to go along with this the FA/PL intends to start a working group on February 4.

Are you still sitting in your chair? Or have you fallen to the ground like I almost did? (I’ve got armrests on the chair I was sitting in when I read the news, so I couldn’t fall off…)

So what are the decisions the FA/PL will ask to review by a video ref? In their letter they speak of:  Red cards, penalty kicks, goals, violent conduct, offsides and incidents off the ball.

In fact they could have picked this from the various articles I have written as that is exactly what I have been calling for all those years. It felt like shouting in the dessert at times what I did but slowly more and more the football authorities are moving to what I have been asking for.

I know that in the past few years a lot of Premier League and Football League referees have followed our reviews with great interest. Some refs did it to learn from (yes that is what I have been told by those on the inside) our observations, and to improve their own game. (I will not be giving any names, by the way. I know the names and that is enough).  They have been in touch and spoken with each other about it.  And yes Untold is well known, if not always popular, among the referees.

And now the PL is trying to do what we have been asking for all those years.

In a way this is also a big smack in the face for Mike Riley. The man of the “over 95% correct decisions on the field” with only “24 wrong decisions in total” statistics.  If his numbers had been correct then there would have been no need to change anything. But it seems that he is the only one to believe his numbers.

As the circulation of the discussion questionnaire on how to make decisions more correct on the field shows, there is an awareness that there are too many mistakes being made by the referees. Indeed, why else work on video refereeing if the numbers of Riley would be correct?

I think that the truth is that our Untold numbers have been far more correct than the numbers of Riley.  Actually, “Think” is putting it mildly in fact. “I know for fact” would be better. And I think that the FA/PL have opened their eyes and silently have agreed with our numbers and came to the conclusion that something had to be done about it.

And as we have always not only pointed out the problems but also offered a straightforward solution, they are trying to go for the Untold solution: bring in video refereeing.

Of course the IFAB has to agree with this and that might be a stumbling block. But as the FA is one of the members of IFAB, and given that we wouldn’t have got this far if Fifa were not in favour, it now only needs one of the Wales, N Ireland or Scotland reps to vote for it, and we are there.

In a reaction Graham Poll said that his first reaction was “Hallelujah.” So was mine. Hallelujah. Praise Untold.   Praise the million plus Untold readers who’ve visited the site this year.

Some more anniversaries

  • 24 December 1932: Arsenal 9 Sheffield Wed 2.  It meant that thus far in the season Arsenal had in different games scored 6, 7, 8 and 9 goals.  (Lambert scored 5 – which turned out to be his final hatrick (plus 2!) It was his 12th hat trick – more than any other player in the club’s history).
  • 24 December 1938: John Barnwell born.  After playing as an amateur for Bishop Auckland he moved to Arsenal in 1955 turned pro in 1956 and started playing for the first team in the match against Sunderland on 13 April 1957.

Woolwich Arsenal the club that changed football, is now available on Kindle at £9.99.  For more details and to buy a copy please click here or go to Amazon Kindle and search for Woolwich Arsenal.

40 comments to It looks like the Premier League is preparing to adopt one of Untold’s demands for a change in refereeing!

  • I really do think this is incredible. I know other media have touched on the issue from time to time, but it is the weekly reporting of the shockingly poor level of referee accuracy and the constant reminder of the PGMO’s crazy predictions that has led to this breakthrough.

    And the work behind all those referee reviews and the article after article analysing referee behaviour are down to Walter.

  • It was the article about the work of Walter and Dogface on the BBC website in February 2011 that really took the awareness of what we were doing up another level, and from that point on the door to reform has been forced open inch by inch.

    Now it looks like there might be reform. Brilliant work guys.

  • Usama Zaka

    Finally some signs of progress for video refereeing.

    Walter, I have been quite busy this past week so I was not able to post any ref reviews, as you know airports and terminals become a crowded and rushed up place during the Christmas period so work load increases.

    Now I have some free time on my hands and I will start working on the reviews.

  • WalterBroeckx

    Preparing for the Christmas party at our house (on the continent we celebrate mostly the evening before Christmas and use Christmas day to recover 😉 ) I must say that writing this article this morning was the ideal way to get started.

    HO HO HO !!!! 😉

    Other countries will support the idea. Countries like Holland, Belgium… who knows who will follow…

  • WalterBroeckx

    Don’t worry Usama. No pressure! We will be on their trail even if slightly behind 🙂

  • Laos gooner

    I feel good for you at Untold and I am very interested to see how the clubs respond. This could well be an opportune moment with Fifa entangled in investigations to move the game into the 21st century. An even playing field would certainly help improve the game for all, as we would then have more time to look at our teams performance rather than the mythical 5% wrong decisions by officials. Even if you are only a small part of this, thanks Untold

  • Usama Zaka

    Thanks Walter

  • ClockEndRider

    Great news. Thanks to Walter and his team for all their hard work. Keep it up. I won’t believe this until it’s sign sealed and delivered as turkeys don’t tend to vote for Christmas and the many vested interests in maintaining the status quo won’t take this lying down.

  • Andrew Crawshaw

    Walter, Tony and Usama. That is by a big distance the best possible pre-Christmas news. Well done to all of you and a Merry Christmas to you and all Untolders through the the World.

  • Samrat Jha

    congratulations Walter. great news indeed

  • Rich

    Excellent news.

    Eternal worrier and distrustful soul I am, I’d be fearful of some sort of misuse of video reffing- the injustice could be truly epic if they still gave a stinker after reviewing something, or failed to use it when they were meant to, etc- but it has to be welcomed.

    It allows for real hope of an improvement.

    Well done, fellas.

    Think first I heard of this was that it was the FA who were asking for it, which again opens up the intriguing possibility for me that there are people within that organisation who are mistrustful of PGMOL.

    First time I gave any thought to that possibility was over the Gabriel incident. We know it that case we had the FA to thank for correcting PGMOL injustice and that Riley and co showed defiance/unhappiness with that call by refusing to drop Mike Dean for so much as a week (as opposed to Mason who did 1 game in two months as punishment for an extremely borderline call- the right one for me- with Coquelin)

  • WalterBroeckx

    Of course we have to wait if all the teams want to go further with it. Wenger has said to be in favour. So it will be important that if the Pl clubs say no we know exactly who is saying no. We might be in for some interesting revelations….
    But any club that says no to this loses for eternity (till it is implemented) to moan about any referee injustice they suffer from

  • porter

    If it happens it can only be for the good of the game as a whole. It worries me though that the various F.A s have to vote on it. In my experience they have to be dragged along to change anything . Lets hope that they see the benefits and don’t see this as a means to undermine their authority.

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    The truth can only be delayed but it will eventually come up and reveal itself however long it might take. Anything that is opposite the truth is lies. Mike Riley’s led Pgmo have been working under the cover of false pretence making people believing they are all about doing the job in truth and in honesty.

    However, there are people that cannot be lied to or be deceived. People like Mr Walter Broeckx and Mr Tony Atwood who and others like Mr Asene Wenger have all fought a non surrender battle against Mr Mike Riley and his mafia outfit deceivers known as the Pgmo.

    This MUST be a happy Christmas and prosperous New Year news to all Arsenal Untolders. I greet you all!

  • Rantetta

    Yes, thanks Walter and Untold.

    Seasons greetings to all.

  • colario

    The daily mail has this article on the subject.

    Walter though you might like to know that following your info on paar, my local supermarket has grade 1 pears for sale all the way from Belgium. ( About a 1000 ks to the east of you.)

    Belgium chocolates, chips, beer and now pears, what next? Water from Walter? 🙂

  • thierryhenry22

    Hallelujja! Well done guys, big thank you for your efforts. This is going to lead to a much much more enjoyable game!

  • colario

    I suspect watching the house of cards that is FIFA starting to come falling down, the FA has decided it must do its best to clean up its own corrupt ridden hovel before the slow arm of the Law reaches it.

    I wish the FA a miserable Christmas and every true football supporter a Happy Christmas.

  • GoingGoingGooner

    It is about time. And to forestall the inevitable sour grapes of the AAA, it isn’t that you, Walter were the first or only to mention the need, it is that you followed up with your reviews and have not let the matter drop. Many others only bring up the issue when it concerns a particularly egregious goal/non goal, ignoring the cumulative effective of other mistakes (sic?) on a game. Untold Arsenal, through you, has picked at this scab unceasingly to expose it to the world.

  • Al

    Wow, can’t believe this! This is fabulous news, and that it could happen during Wenger’s reign makes it even more sweeter; in my view he’s undoubtedly the man that suffered the most. Well done UA for continuously banging on the door. As GGG pointed out, others only briefly mentioned video refereeing when the occasional decision went against their club, but nowhere near the way UA has done.

  • Andy Mack

    Don’t cheer too soon. Not only can it still be halted but you have to remember that the Video Ref will also be one the PGMO interpretation team….. So there will still be loads of really poor decisions.

  • Al

    You might have a point regarding the timing, the FA has always known there was a clamour for this so the timing could be interesting. Whatever the case, this is very welcome news.

  • nicky

    After all the mistakes (some deliberate) over the years, we simply must greet this news with real enthusiasm.
    Any improvement in the present system should be welcomed, because, quite frankly, we cannot continue to tolerate the suspicious omissions and practices by match officials, which, with modern TV coverage, are becoming more obvious and blatant by the week.

  • Well done for all yer good work but I think it needs to be acknowledged that the football is fixed blog has also done some great work on exposing the issue of refereeing and betting irregularities

  • Jambug

    We can but dream !!

    To Tony, Walter and all at UA.

    To all the brilliant contributors.

    A very merry Christmas.

  • Bar untold and football is fixed practically no other media outlets have looked into the issue of refereeing

  • This is truly Christmas! Easily the most welcome response to Untold Arsenal and its efforts in highlighting the inadequacies of the refs in the EPL especially. Well done Walter and the team. Good job. May your (pen?) continue to be sharp.

    Nothing may come out of this, and it just might be the beginning of positive change in the game we all love. But suffice it to say that someone somewhere is reading Untold and what they are reading seems to be making sense to them.
    Please keep up the good work. You will yet prevail.

  • bjtgooner

    Well done Walter et al for all the pressure that has now started to show some movement in the right direction.

    No doubt the FA and/or Riley will mess up if at all possible, however it appears as if they have at last realised that the repetitive incompetence shown by the Clones of Riley is not sustainable.

  • Mandy Dodd

    Well done for keeping up the pressure.
    Will believe this when I see it, I would expect opposition from certain clubs, especially the ones with a history of getting away with things, but still, this can only be seen as a positive development.
    Refs clearly need help.
    Platini and Blatterare now out of the way, the latter a known opponent of such things, so maybe things will move

  • Per Arne Flø

    I think the best way to implement video technology is to emphasize the benefit for the referees. That this is a new tool to help them make the right decision. Therefor it should be the referee that decides when he wants to look at video if he is in doubt about a decision. There might very well be a fourth official whispering in his ear but in the end it must be the main refree who decides if or not to look at video of a situation.

    If it is implemented in this way I think even Mike Riley and friends might be positive to video evidence. It will just be another tool for the referees to use and they will still be in charge.

  • Ando

    Well done Walter – as porter says above, for just keep plugging away at this. Amassing, correlating and checking all that data; and then writing it up…makes my head spin.

    i can’t even read it all, as on my Tablet it gets all mixed up with the league tables and suchlike, on the right. Help with that, anyone..?

    Anyway, I wish you and Tony and very Merry Chructams (such an ungainly typo, i felt to leave it in)

    and to all the other Untolders out there – seasons greetings and thanks for making this such an interesting and generally well-argued discussion forum


  • Ando

    Very interesting comment made by Masteralan on the below blog from the Grauniad:

    This is what will drive technology, if anything will

  • Pat

    Arsene Wenger said he would welcome this particularly for offside decisions because there is a clear right or wrong. He said some other decisions are debatable even with video evidence.

  • omgarsenal

    Anyone who has ever officiated or played in a fairly competitive match will appreciate the statistics that players AND officials have to face in order to succeed;

    1)The speed of play requires lightening fast judgement and exceptional reflexes whether playing or officiating it. The major difference is that the player can be substituted and the official cannot so, while the referee doesn’t normally have to touch the ball in play, they have no opportunity to rest and perhaps 10-20% more distance to cover than the average player.

    2)Players have to make split-second decisions and errors can be costly BUT they have 10 other players to support and cover for them. The referee has 2 other assistants, who are rarely close to the play and who may help out in a tough decision BUT the referee always has the final say AND sole responsibility.

    3)Referees have to cover roughly an 800 m2 area, which they can never afford to do,so they usually run a diagonal from corner post to corner post, relying on their assistants to take the side of the field they are farthest from. A person with good eyesight (not always the case with officials) can see clearly for about 50 feet in their field of vision and another 10 feet either side in their peripheral vision (very unreliable).

    4)On average, referees have less than 3 seconds to discern, judge and make a call based on the Laws. IF their view is blocked or they are in a bad position (very common) AND they are tired or stressed (both very common), they can make serious mistakes or miss the incident altogether. There is NO shame in making a late call once in awhile but there is shame in missing a vital incident that can be a game-changer.

    5)Once the call is made an official can rescind the call IF play has not restarted BUT rarely do officials ever do this. The reasons why they don’t are numerous but a big one is that, even If they are unsure, they can’t afford to appear unsure or hesitant or weak or to be vacillating. They rightly think that players will begin to doubt their competence or courage. As a senior referee once told me, even IF you’ve made the wrong call, you MUST act as IF it was the right call.

    Almost ever official I have encountered has been eager to get ANY technology that will make their lives easier and their work more precise, professional and fair. I have seen some rather novel innovations in my 50 years of referring like dual referees (a complete disaster, flashing flags (another farce), radio headsets (a success), 2 assistants on the opposite goal-lines( the jury is still out) etc.
    A true, fair and modern official welcomes goal-line technology, off-field video reviews and video referee reviews. My second favourite sport ice hockey already uses these very successfully and a few other rules Football would be smart to copy. the FA is finally waking from its slumber and hopefully will succeed in adopting the changes needed. The jury is still out!

  • LRV

    Well done Walter, Dogface & co. Very 9ce.

  • Brickfields Gunners

    Great news , guys and congrats to the UA team for their tireless efforts to right a gross wrong. This could be a start to greater transparency in the ref’s performance and hopefully more debate .

    Thank you Santa , please keep digging deep into your bag and dish out more presents for the faithful.

  • Florian

    Wow, the FA has decided to give us a Christmas gift! My skeptical nature says “careful what you wish for”, but we’ve already seen the benefits of goal line technology, so a gradual introduction of video tech will certainly help. Btw, they didn’t say they’ll make it retroactive, did they? No chance then to have back our 2 points from the Loserpool match and 1 from the Cheatski – never mind the rest of 8 lost on various occasions because of the “99% correct decisions” (my foot).

  • para

    Great strides.

    I hope that this is integrated seamlessly into the game video and it should automatically appear on screen when ball passes goal line during play.

  • Dave C

    A great day for football! I guess you can say season too! Mourinho out, we’re on a good run, and tough matches for other teams around us coming up!

  • sleekwhale

    Indeed it’s a very great milestone in football ⚽ that would ultimately improve the quality of the sport.