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February 2021

Over half the important decisions made by Premier League referees are wrong.

By Tony Attwood

Over the last couple of days I have been asking my colleagues on Untold who work on the referee reports whether overall referee decisions have been improving during the course of the season.  I had hoped that with our exposure of referee ineptitude and with the news that there might soon be video refereeing in the Premier League things would be getting better, but the answer seems to be … no.  In particular when we looked at three key issues we found these answers

  • Are penalty decisions improving? Very slightly. Yes
  • Are bookings and sending offs improving? Undoubtedly No, they are worse at an all time high.
  • Are the decisions of fouls improving? No, not at all.
The comment made by the refereeing review group on Untold was “for a similar incident, in 5 matches the referee will give a foul and in other 5 the ref will not give it a foul.   And it seems to be even more erratic when it comes to Arsenal.

Of course it is much easier for the refs to not give a major decision than it is to give it, when it comes to yellows, second yellows and reds. Teams and players exploit and make full use of referees keeping their cards in pocket.

When we look at the numbers in the first 120 games (up to week 12) there were nearly 135 second yellow and direct reds that referees failed to issue to the players.  That’s averaging nearly at 1.125 players not being sent off every game. This is how much dirty, foul playing “football” is being played.  (And of course on our site every single of these yellows and red not given is backed with its respective clip.)

Of the 135 second yellows and directs reds that all teams and players have not been given, Manchester United and Tottenham have escaped from 36 punishments (18+18), which is 26.6% of second yellows and reds not given. Or in simpler words, these two teams combined have committed more than one quarter of the dirty foul play in the league up to Week 12.   It is also a matter worthy of note when we consider the Telegraph’s analysis of the worst offenders in the League this season: Manchester United came out way ahead of every other team.

And of the 135 second yellows and direct reds that all teams and players have not been given, Arsenal and Bournemouth have been on the unfair end of it, with a total of 29 (16+13) second yellows and direct reds not given in their favour. That is 21.4% of the league total. More than one-fifth of the total.

And if you compare it with the correct number of second yellows and direct reds that have been in the first 120 games…. it’s only 8.

In an ideal league, teams like Man U and Spuds would be scraping the barrels of their academies to fill in players for all the suspended players.

But when we pull all the information together we find something just as appalling as the table below reveals…

Matchday 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12
Wrong Second Yellow Cards 3 7 4 5 4 1 3 5 8 7 3 6
Wrong Red Cards 6 2 5 2 3 5 8 10 9 10 13 6
Wrong Penalties 3 7 3 6 5 4 6 14 6 11 5 7
Wrong Goals 3 3 2 1 4 1 2 2 0 0 1 2
Total Wrong Major Decisions 15 19 14 14 16 11 19 31 23 28 22 21
Correct Second Yellow Cards 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 0 1 0 2
Correct Red Cards 1 0 0 0 2 1 0 1 0 0 0 0
Correct Penalties 7 12 10 21 10 15 10 13 12 11 11 19
Total Correct Major Decisions 8 12 10 21 12 16 10 14 12 12 11 21
Total number of decisions 23 31 24 35 28 27 29 45 35 40 33 42
Percentage of decisions right 34 39 42 60 43 59 34 56 34 30 33 50

This is alarming.  In only three categories is the number of accurate decisions more than half of all decisions made.  In one category there is a 50/50 split and in eight categories the percentage of wrong decisions is over 50%.

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Put another way, well over half of the important decisions made by Premier League referees are wrong.

In short, the football we watch each week is based fundamentally on wrong decisions, and the situation is not improving.

Tales from Untold 

Wenger ponders whether Yaya Sanogo will ever really be good enough for Arsenal. 

The most grotesque appalling display by a referee; the most disgraceful awful fans.

Arsenal – Stoke 3-1: Theo, Özil and Iwobi cancell out Lee’s opener

Arsenal v team whose supporters think it is cool to boo a player their man crippled

Arsenal v Stoke Sat 10 December 2016 – The Match Officials

At long last; legal action against Fifa over maltreatment of workers in Qatar begins

We can we learn after the first 14 games? A comparison with past years.

The psychology index: how the way players feel influences how they play

Arsenal to lose Özil and Alexis this summer as journalists ordered back on the job

Referee Appointments and Results Matchweek #12 complete with video evidence

26 comments to Over half the important decisions made by Premier League referees are wrong.

  • K Met

    sorry to have noticed but why is every premier league referee a white englishman?

  • Mandy Dodd

    Interesting. Even if one was to believe there is nothing more sinister afoot, and this is down to incompetence, of 45 year old slightly overweight guys not being to keep up with athletes in their prime, surely this indicates, at the very least refs need video help on these decisions. They are only human.
    It seems managers now know that if a player runs into one of our defenders at the Emirates, goes down, he is likely to get a penalty.
    Managers like pochettino, who we now know is being…kind of mentored by the master of the dark arts, Fergie clearly make a game plan around the very fringes of what they know they can get away with in any given game, which in their particular case, is rather a lot.
    Video refs and retrospective punishment would clear much, if not all of this up. So why is it not in place and what makes football lag behind every other major sport when played at the highest level?

  • Gord

    K Met

    Good question, too bad the medja and government won’t ask it.

  • para

    Another thing i’ve noticed is that when i watch a non UK stream the game replays are always shown where as on a UK stream they are not.
    Yet it’s the same providers, Sky,BT,NBC,BEIN. I am beginning to suspect that at least the UK broadcast of games is not fully shown. Or maybe other TV producers outside of UK want to show the full game with all clips. I will monitor this over the next games.

  • Usama Zaka


    Given that Sky and BT are the two chief broadcasters of EPL, others providers such as NBCSN, ESPN or BEIN I think just use the coverage that is provided by Sky or BT. So if anyone that can manipulate or edit out anything in live coverage its Sky or BT.

  • Gord

    Come on State Aid!

    I wonder if this officiating is fair or not? (I’m not watching.)

    It would have been nice if the spuds would have tied that earlier game.

  • porter

    No I am happy for Spurs to lose , the sooner the wheel falls off their chariot the better.

  • porter

    The more I see of it the more I conclude that it’s the players that cheat and frequently the ref either isn’t watching or else is engaged with something else. This is why retrospective action should be the norm. Take yesterday’s case . Sanchez was fouled and the ref played advantage and was probably watching Iwobi breaking clear and missed the stamp by The fat round , arse upon the ground Charlie Adam. A shame he missed it but not entirely surprising. This is where video should be used . In my mind in this case it’s not a criticism of the ref because I can understand him missing it along with most of the crowd as we were watching Iwobi too. However replays have it, shame that the powers that be refuse to show it. Had it been highlighted then action would have been taken . But that’s not the media agenda .

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    Have we gained? Yes! We have as we might have by now known that Arsenal have this weekend gained points in the table on 3 of their title rivals of: Man City, Liverpool & Tottenham Hs. And have already gained a 10 point lead on Man Utd. This is a significant gaining by Arsenal which has seen them remain within almost touching distance to Chelsea on the table.

    Arsenal will gain more points on their title rivals again on Tuesday night’s at Goodison Park as we expect the Gunners to walop Everton with a crushing defeat. We never can tell with certainty if Chelsea will come away with a result at the Stadium of light against the relegation threatened David Moyes’ Sunderland team on the same Tuesday night’s.

  • omgarsenal

    From the point of view of a retired referee and having seen many competent and incompetent persons officiating, I believe that, for the most part, the majority of amateur officials are pretty committed to doing a good job and like Walter,myself and others on UA who actually officiate or have done so,try and do their honest best and show integrity and courage every game.

    When it comes to professional officials, I have seen them in person in 5 different countries during my career and the best I have seen were in Germany. They were fit, well-trained, disciplined and very knowledgeable of the game and its Laws. The poorest overall were in the US, but that has changed since I ended my career. They were just starting to officiate the game at that level and were inexperienced and while enthusiastic, were ill-trained.

    I knew a large number of English and Scots officials who came to Canada and while there was significant variation among them, most were of a very high calibre (at the amateur level) and those in the NASL (now the MSL) were pretty good as well. What I saw throughout the 5 countries I lived or officiated in, was a common theme and one that hurt the officials and the Game significantly……..politics and ass-kissing. Ambitious officials would do what their masters demanded of them, regardless of how much lack of integrity it displayed. They would also stab their colleagues in the back and throw them under the bus If it advanced or aided their ambitions. This was far more common than one would believe, and I am sure Walter can attest to this in his country as well.

    So much of this uncertainty and abuse of power could be stopped in its tracks IF ONLY video officiating would be used in every professional level. Some officials are against this but 99% of those who want the game to be protected from incompetence and error are in favour……it only helps us do a better and fairer job and afterall that is what any decent official wants.

  • SamuelAkinsolaAdebosin

    Hmmn, Pgmol must positively acts on these contending negative issues in referring PL games by their match officials. Or alternatively, the hierarchies that are at the Pgmol will be swept away by the whirl wind of change for the better that is blowing right now across the world even before the video referee assistant is introduced in the PL games.

  • WalterBroeckx

    yes I can confirm about the ass-kissing and back stabbing and kissing bottoms to help their career…

  • Robido

    Thank you for your insight. I do like to hope that refs do the best they can.

    There seem to be instructions (or “boundaries”, or “guidance”) under which they are required to perform to interpret the laws in the grey areas if they wish to keep their job? Does this lead to the “English way” of game management that tries to keep the game flowing that would otherwise lead us to the sanitised bipolar European league?

    Some wrong decisions in the ref reviews, particularly handballs, may be seen as not wrong under today’s instructions but would have been handballs when Suarez took it to the extreme a few years back. In the same way sharp elbows and dives are frowned upon but still seen as streetwise by others.

    We may differ in opinion and I dare say, there are times even the ref would have decided differently had he had a different view. There are degrees of agreement or disagreement and its not always easy to be black and white.

    There are many howlers that could be quickly dealt with video technology and this would have to be a massive step forwards. There are other decisions we still may disagree with?

    There are a few sources that can be accessed that can give consensus ratings and this would be an interesting analysis but sadly rather time consuming.

  • Mandy Dodd

    OMG , sadly your words make a lot of sense, in all walks of life

  • Mandy Dodd

    Expecting some ….interesting ….refereeing in the next two games, we are far too threatening at the moment , and need to be taken down a peg or two

  • Zedsaunt

    Mr Wenger is the only person in football I hear who consistently uses the word ‘humility.’ From this, it seems to me, the biggest problem in football is the life inside the bubble, above the planet, watched by the planet, separated from everything.

    Floating high above the surface the PGMOB decided years ago that the rules of football exist, in the games played high above the planet, as the means to make the referee, their official, the supreme arbiter.

    The referee would be the most important person on the pitch.

  • If I told you a good friend and I often polotic about the officiating youd believe me. If I told you I called the FIFA investigation 2 seasons before it was revealed, you might be a little more sceptical, but I did.

    If I told you they are investigating still, hence no footage here shows the legs, feet and rarely the impact, would you believe me?

    The refereeing is corrupt s all hell, but if I said to you, there was good grounds for allowing it to continue, could you work out why? 5000/1, yet the odds of Leicester being releagted and winning champions League this season is only 500/1, wouldn’t you consider that odd? That infamous Jon Moss game, I know, you’re thinking which one. That one which would have seen them lose and drop that momentum in the dying embers of last season, you know the one, with the last minute 100% wrong call.

    Danny Rose the hatchet boy? Mikhi and Bellerin in a matter of weeks?

    Chips and Morgan, are they smoking from the same pipe, divisive comments. Struggling at home, Crowd, you sing when your winning, you chant when it’s not going your way, bloody toffs in the crowd, gawping, still wondering what offside is and having tickets they rarely use :/

    Iwobi, we have a boy with CR7 statur and some Messsi feet and you boo, I want more tricks, just better decisions around the final third, pace and some finishing work, are you dumb.

    Draxler, I don’t care sign him, Real and everyone else hands off, but I want to hear that Alexis talk, Arsenal or nothing, not this Sissoko talk, Oh spurs are good. £30m poorly spent, AGAIN!

    Sky, should Xaka have been sent off? He turns away and shields his body and Allen decides it’s worth a shot, put my face into his elbow and ask a question, of course Mason couldn’t wait.

    Although Monreal has gotten away with a couple so….

    Ghoulam, wouldn’t say no. What to do about Santi?

    Giroud, not first team, but too good to be a sub? Doesn’t suit us much anymore.

    Perez the real deal? I like the number 9, it’s an actual 9.

    Jack to come back, well we can’t win it without him, it’s just not right.

    Draxler, what does it mean for the Ox and Theo? I am still in the sell him to Liverpool when Barcelona come in for Coutinho category, they will need a replacement for Sturridge and Fiminio as he’ll be straight off after Phillipe. I must say Coutinho behind that three. Game ON.

    Any thoughts on who we should pull? I’d quite fancy Sevilla, Benfica, Porto, Real and Bayern I don’t fancy. Benfica are in form, so lets hope the break knocks them off their stride as opposed to illustrating just how much the money from TV rights at xmas cost the Premier League.

    Is a CB really necessary? I’d rather bed them in now, TBH!

    GK, with Osipna likely to want to move in the near future, how is Szczesny doing over in Rome? He’s one of Serie A top performers so….. Cech to tutor next season? I love him, great stopper, just needs to work on his concentration, distribution and decision making when one on one, impetuous, not poor.

    Aquisitions worth consideration. Niang AC Milan (cheap development Eric Pierre), Meyer Schalke (Nasri esque, without the issues).

    Gnabry to Bayern, caching! I liked, but he wanted to play and we already can’t deal with another bedding in with Niles, Adelade and Iwobi.

    Not worried about Alexis+Ozil, they’ll sign, make Kroenke pay, what do you think they talk about when they are chilling, or when Alexis is first in nattering with the Gaffer, performances of a wantaway. Ozil will join Barcelona and Alexis Real. Who wants to go to Italy, Alexis in Italy, with his slippers on, no I think not. And if England is cold, Germany is the Arctic right now.

    Debouchy out, Jenkinson off on loan, have we got a target? Tymon, we should get as third choice LB?

    Mert cannot be trusted now, agreed? What is with the jinx’ and random negative statements, I don’t think he quite means it but….

    My xmas list, Draxler, Meyer, CB, Tymon, Ghoulam, a RB, difficult with Bellerin’ age and quality though. I say buy them all in January and get a marquee forward and Creative Mid in the summer, we’re done! Consider who to shift on in the Summer, Giroud, Theo, Oxlade (not going anywhere for me or Wrighty), I favour cashing in on Santi, he’d enjoy China, but only if he wants to go, he can get himself more protection, if only he’s a bit less honestor more snide, however you see it.

    Playing for stoppages, very effective against ARSENAL, as we require a flow to our moves, REFS know it.

    Article on best/worst officials, like Dean on the touchline, whispering in ears, eurgh!

    If the judges must represent UK demographic as whole proportionately, why not referees?

    COYG, thanx for all the great articles guys keep it up.

  • As Columbo says, one last thing! Zedsaunt spot on, key words, Humility, focus and momentum will bring about the renaissance of the invincibles, this team have one hell of a standard to match and surpass. 14 and counting!

    He also spared some players against Basel and has made telling substitutions in a number of ggames. Now all he has to do is enforce the 4 contracts for key players, Jack, Alex, Mesut and Alexis. Spend another £100m wisely and we join the Elites, arguably we can say other than Bayern, we might just be best placed for the next 10 years. Barcelona are masking a transition well, Real will lose a great deal of the back line and talismen not so long from now. Juventus will always heamorage players due to the league and PSG, City and Utd are missing an ethos, identity and cohesion. Pep, meltdown.

    Liverppol are 2 sales away from a slip back to their usual top 8 position and Dortmund, well Pierre is a matter of time and with him Reus. Lets offer £40m+£1 for both, in exchange for Monreal! Xaka was on the left side of the 18yard box filling in again right, is that indirectly the 8th goal as a result of Nacho’s lack of engine?

    OK OK enough!

  • Brickfields Gunners

    I for one don’t think that the refs are performing better this season . But the team seem to be better in coping with their idiosyncratic decisions and really trying to overcome it.

    What I’m enjoying seeing the other teams getting screwed over with the same level of incompetence by the refs. How the Spuds get to keep all 11 players on the pitch every game still amazes me.

  • WalterBroeckx

    And meanwhile Rose can add another name in his ‘who did I injure when playing for the scum’ book. This is such a disgusting player.

  • markyb

    What I noticed were a lot of things called against Spuds at OT that would not be called anywhere else.

  • Leon

    I can’t believe that we’re still getting accusations that Joe Allen risked facial damage by deliberately ramming his head onto Xhaka’s elbow.
    It was an accident! And he (Allen) had a bump the size of a golf ball as a result.

  • Nice post Kaye.Enjoyed reading that bar the rather too much request.I hope they all bed-in if any comes eventually.

  • Tai

    Great effort Tony.

    Officiating! When will it ever be fair? Probably after the Third World War that’d most probably start from a poor officiating in a World Cup match.

    Tony please check your email.

  • Ty Bala, I tried to be honest and objective. Not sure what your critique was, please if you would be so kind.

    A point I missed something, Allen I do not suggested attempted to do harm to Xaka, by way of suggesting he used violence. I only think he had determined he would do everything to gain an advantage in that situation. He does it text, touch, manouvre to go around the player using agility, be aware that the player has a turning circle see if he makes contact as he is instinctively aware that the touch, although integral would cause the player to be second best for the next phase of control of the ball. He ducks because he needs to see if he can gain advantage from a likely contat as it is now his best, option. 1 for the team.

    Granit (much in a name) made a professional foul which was not dangerous, saw red. Yet his response to this label prior to arrival is pragmatic. Check out this turning circle, arms defensive, below shoulder height, elbows pincer, come through this then son; poor Joe, the good guy go it because a referee made a bad call and Granit has responded magnificently.

    Next time someone goes into the box, they’ll remember Allens new face, unfortunately. Granit has adapted.

    And Bayern, come on, it has the least willpower of the giants, now we need to spend, no? Forcing the hand, it is the will of the GODS. Personally, you’d rather get them a little cold then in the next round. COYG