Referees are becoming more brazen, but the media is waking up at last to the fact that something is seriously wrong

By Tony Attwood

10 years ago Alan Green on Radio 5 would criticise referees regularly – not ever suggesting bias but rather their incompetence.

5 years ago Alan Green was silenced on the subject, and even the Wiki page about him now has no mention of his numerous run-ins with refs nor the controversy surrounding his one-man crusade for better refereeing.   He never suggested refs were bent – only that they were incompetent.  The PGMO responded by suggesting that referees got 98% of decisions right, the media bought into that, and Green was told to change.

4 years ago when Untold published reviews of referees we would regularly get comments about conspiracy theories and wearing foil hats to keep out the harmful radiation, and all the work done for two seasons analysing matches across the whole Premier League on the Referee Decisions web site was ignored.

3 years ago the Telegraph was happily publishing “news” taken  from PGMO fantasy press releases about how progressive the world of refereeing in England is, and how other countries look to the PL approach with admiration.

2 years ago the mood changed a little as the media started to employ ex-referees to comment on decisions very occasionally and very mildly.

1 year ago newspapers started printing commentaries about how many points some clubs had gained and others lost through bad refereeing decisions.  Untold published its analysis that revealed that PGMO, apart from being an ultra-secret operation, was unique in Europe in being run along the lines of refereeing in Italy during its match fixing crisis – an approach Italy has now left behind as it has joined the rest of Europe.

8 months ago the Sun ran a review of refereeing in a handful of matches and agreed that if the games had been accurately refereed Arsenal would have had additional points from the games they selected.

2 months ago the Telegraph ranked some of the PL referees in a rather trivial review but still concluded that three of them were not fit for purpose and should be removed from the PL.  Unfortunately they made no mention of the fact that because the PL was so short of refs these incompetents were used over and over again.

This past week Robbie Savage was given air time on Radio 5 to rant against the notion of video referees, claiming that games would go on all night as appeal after appeal would hold up the game.  Football would be destroyed he claimed, and so this stupid innovation would never happen.

The commentary not only reflected poorly on Savage who brought no evidence to his rant, but also on the other members of the broadcasting team who failed to stop him by pointing out that the technology had already been used in a Fifa tournament just a couple of weeks before and the evidence of its use had been widely reported and admired.   The problem wasn’t so much that Savage argued against the technology but that no one on the programme knew that the tests had been going on.  If that sort of incompetence had occurred in any business, there would have been wholesale sackings.

But the commentary was also another reminder to PL refs that following the BBC’s decision to reign in comments on refereeing incompetence, by and large they are immune from criticism in the mass media.  That has boosted their confidence, I believe, and they really are now thinking they can get away with more dubious decisions per match than ever before.  Why they do it is another matter, but the fact is that they do.

However just as the refs get more emboldened so there has been the start of a backlash.  True,  TV is still deliberately giving a wholly different vision of each game from that experienced by many fans in the stadium, but some of the newspapers have now broken ranks with the broadcasters.

True also, last night when the Bournemouth keeper suddenly got booked for time wasting, TV was at a loss to explain it, since it had resolutely refused to comment on or show any of the time wasting up to that point.  The Guardian’s minute by minute commentary also just mentioned it, but gave no explanation or background.

So no change there.  But consider this post-Christmas commentary from Barney Ronay also in the Guardian.

“It was at the very least a mistake of Olympian scale, fitting the sweeping gestures, the imperial hauteur of the match official, a referee who clearly feels each football match he attends is a spectacle made up of three interlocking forces, Team A, Team B and Mike D”

It is a comment that has been repeated on numerous websites since it was first published a couple of days ago, even some of the most vile anti-Wenger sites.   The comment in the Guardian came, of course, with no questioning of the PGMO’s set up or any real background analysis, but at least it has started to float around the internet.

The same review later says, “Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s second, lashed in from an offside position…”

Regarding that, the Telegraph, so recently a supporter of PGMO continued its 180 degree change of direction vis a vis PGMO and wrote, “Lee Mason has enjoyed a fine refereeing career but he is past his sell-by-date and his decision to disallow Zlatan Ibrahimovic’s effort against Middlesbrough was further proof that he should be removed from Premier League matches on a permanent basis.”

Of course there is still the background of laughing at foreign managers who blame referees rather than accepting their sides’ failings are entirely due to the fact that they themselves are, well, foreign.   As with the report that a “sarcastic Pep Guardiola struggled to hide the strain of his turbulent start in English football on Monday as the Manchester City manager claimed his side were being routinely harshly treated by officials.”  Snigger snigger, silly foreigners.  They don’t like it up em.  Bring on Corporal Jones he’ll show them.

Thus in such circumstances, we are still getting the “evens up in the end” stories.  But the overall mood seems to be changing.  Changing slowly, and not every media outlet has caught on but it is changing.   Alan Green, we are starting to see, was just ten years ahead of his time.

Guardiola was making a point that has slowly become more accepted in many countries, and by the team doing ref reviews for Untold – that refereeing has gone its own way in England.  Guardiola’s challenging riposte, ““You are the journalist; ask the referee,” was to the point: referees don’t give interviews, but journalists should be challenging this rather than just accepting it.

Of course the journey is difficult.  Generally speaking the media takes a view of events and remains fairly consistent in following that view.  Some elements of the media step outside that view, while the majority follow the standard line.  As a way to keep it’s audience the media will then either ignore views outside its position, or be gently denigrating of alternative views, seeing them as conspiracy theories, crackpots and so on.
But quite often long we find that such held positions will ultimately become unsustainable as evidence mounts up and/or public opinion moves.  Newspapers such as the Daily Mail and Daily Express supported the fascists in the 1930s, but then as public opinion swung, they dropped their stance, and pretended it never happened.  They proclaimed there were right in the past, and they proclaim the same now – and by doing keeping up the emphasis on now, as opposed to context, it carries the audience along.
So we get the “exclusive” reports as in comments like “Today we can exclusively report an analysis which shows that the Premier League referee structure is widely seen in Europe as the pariah of top class football….”
But that is still a little way away.  For the moment the media is asking itself where it should take up its next stance.  For years we have had a view that “Our readers and viewers are not interested in all this technical stuff – they just want to watch the game.”  This is supported by Sky’s decision never to show time wasting by players, so we get the strange occurrence as we did last night of a keeper who has not been shown to be time wasting at all, suddenly being booked for time wasting.  Apparently the Sky producers think we are all so thick that we don’t think, “hang on, we haven’t seen any time wasting… what’s going on?”

But now things are changing just a bit.  The next stages (of which we are already seeing parts) run like this).

a) Some referees are just not up to the task and need to be moved on.

b) The organisation that looks after referees is not up to the task and needs to be sorted out.

c) There is corruption on a small scale.

d) There is wholesale corruption which the organisation running referees is turning a blind eye to.

e) There is wholesale corruption which the organisation running referees is part of.

In this regard we can see the media’s attitude towards PGMO as lurking a few years behind the attitude towards the FA.   The mindset behind the five stage process above runs as

a) Our readers and viewers are not interested in all this technical stuff – they just want to watch the game.

b) The FA is an organisation that looks after football and does a jolly good job, let’s pat them on the back and get back to the game.

c) There’s nothing wrong of course but maybe the organisation could modernise a little.

d) It really is moving too slowly and should show leadership.

e) They are a load of old duffers who should be forced to modernise.

f) They are corrupt, get them out and make them answer to past crimes.

It is possible that the view of the FA and of referees might change simultaneously – if so we are about to see a revolution in football reporting.  As it is, for the moment we are still getting, “Bacary Sagna has been asked to explain himself by the Football Association following a social media post which may have questioned referee Lee Mason’s integrity.”  Sagna wrote “10 against 12.. but still fighting and winning as a team”.

The change will be a slow process, but it is happening.  The media will take the credit when it happens, and really that doesn’t matter.  What we need to do is adopt the same approaches as the rest of Europe.

Untold Arsenal: Bournemouth v Arsenal

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

Bournemouth – Arsenal : 3-3 crazy match, great come back

Bournemouth v Arsenal: the team, the statistics, the styles of play, the home v away.

Bournemouth – Arsenal : 3-3 crazy match, great come back

Bournemouth v Arsenal: the team, the statistics, the styles of play, the home v away.

Bournemouth v Arsenal: the complaints, life in the old days, and who could return tonight.

Bournemouth v Arsenal 3 January 2017 – The Match Officials. Beware a return to the old ways.


New from the Arsenal History Society – all the player histories indexed.  The AHS player histories tend to be more detailed than those on the official Arsenal site – especially for players from the early part of Arsenal’s history.  Now we are undertaking the huge task of indexing the main articles.  Players with surnames A to F have been linked to their main articles and we are continuing the task day by day.

21 Replies to “Referees are becoming more brazen, but the media is waking up at last to the fact that something is seriously wrong”

  1. Pep Guardiola was ridiculed for his post match interview. But what he said was reported, and I have a feeling that more and more fans are feeling the same. Maybe we will see more petitions like the Arsenal fans’ petition saying Mike Dean should never referee another Arsenal match. A fans’ rebellion is the most likely thing to change the minds of the media.

  2. I decided to write these few words,upon reading what Pat said about the IRRELEVANT MIKE DEAN.
    He is INCOMPETENT AND ARROGANT,to say the least
    PGMO,is also something of a Mystery????????????,if nothing was done to rebut what ex-referee Mark Halsey accused her of.
    So to say the least GET RID ONCE AND FOR ALL OF MIKE DEAN

  3. Following last nights game I was left with the question “if Xhaka’s nudge was a penalty then why was Fraser’s push on Bellerin in the build up to his goal not even a foul”. There was a brief discussion but no more than that. It clearly highlighted the difference in application of the rules by a single official in a single game. Unfortunately I am not a journalist so I noted the discrepancy. I am very surprised that the assistance for Leicester last season has no mention at all in main stream media. It leaves me to wonder did Vardy not sign because he knew he would be hindered rather than helped by referees if he joined Arsenal? Keep up the good work Untold, one day they will wake up and know that you are right

  4. The refereeing in the Premier League has reached crisis point. The brazen behaviour of certain refs is a disgrace. If there is a governing body, then why has Mike Dean been allowed to continue? He is so clearly biased – having been caught on film jumping up in celebration at a spud goal and more or less high-fiving their players. Add to that how he completely ignores serious foul play and you have all the proof needed. Top that off with his unbelievable showing at the West Ham Manure game. A ridiculous sending off and then allowing an Ibrahimovic goal when there are clearly 3 players off side!

  5. For how long will these acts continue .
    for how long will the ref task to make sure a football match stay balance nd best team wins become the deciding factor of whom he wants to win .
    how xhaka was a foul nd fresar was not brought tears to my eyes, still can’t wrap my head around it coz those two decision was the deciding factor of the game.
    God bless untold

  6. Just looked at an Australian watch magazine called Revolution. It has an article about Tag Hauer. What is interesting is the promotional event has Claudio Ranieri and talks about Leicester being top of the EPL after Christmas last year. He is at the event with Mike Riley. When you see stuff like this, things start to fall into place. I wonder who from Tottenham is being sociable with the Referees this season.

  7. Another simple issue not even mentioned by Sky commentators (or anyone else) yesterday. Arsenal came back to 3-2 and when the 90 was up 6 minutes was shown as added time. We are continually reminded that the number of minutes is the MINIMUM amount of time added. Once we scored our 3rd goal we were on top and looking the most likely to win. So with a goal scored in added time Oliver should have added at least another 30 seconds making the added time a MINIMUM of 6 minutes 30 seconds. What did Oliver do? He blew the whistle a couple of seconds under 6 minutes………….anyone would think he was getting worried we might score a fourth and Mike Riley would kick his Arse n all…..

  8. A few random points, prompted by this article.

    The Guardian reporter said that the Bournemouth player “out-muscled” Bellerin. (ie he didn’t simply shove him in the back).

    When their keeper was booked for time-wasting, he seemed to indulge in a show of protest and dissent against the referee for having the temerity to do this. – this of course extended this particular period of time-wasting. An immediate second yellow would have been appropriate and would have sent a powerful message to others.

    Mike Dean has been appointed as referee for Spurs next match in the FA Cup 3rd round and this seems to have excited some concerns (not from Arsenal fans) reported in the media. Expect Spurs win, assisted by a penalty (or two) and a red card to opponents.

  9. Tony I would suggest that to increase the awareness of the problem in the areas where it really matters you send the excellent send the excellent Walter/Usama reviews of each ref performance by email to all 600odd MPs.

    I do not expect the MPs to be interested, to understand or indeed to be sympathetic to our point of view. Also, an attempt will be made to counter the valid points made by Walter/Usama with civil service gobbledygook (something which mnisters of all parties depend on) – but the one thing the can’t hide behind is deniability – and that will make them nervous!

    The FA as you know has a very tarnished reputation, the PGMO is being protected, in part by the FA – who must by answerable to the Minister of Sport. So lets increase the awareness with the legislators and pressurise them to do their job!

  10. Seriously John L, do Spurs get him again not even 14 days after his last match in charge? This is beyond ridiculous….

  11. Referee Mike Dean intentionally misreferring the PL match between West Hammers and Man Utd against West Hammers in their home match at London Stadium which led to Man Utd getting all points in that match which was widely watched across the football world has called into question the integrity and match officiating competence of ref’ Mike Dean as a honest and competent referee not capable of referring in the Premier League games anymore.

    Even the Pgmol body that employed him and sending him out weekly to referee matches in the PL cannot be exonerated of not been culpable in the conspiracy theory of match fixing being tailored in some quarters.

    With this latest glaring match fixing orchestrated by the Pgmol and perpetrated by ref’ Mike Dean at the London Stadium against West Ham, Arsenal fans have been exonerated of any wrong action for petitioning against referee Mike Dean not to referee or have a hand in any match Arsenal are playing. But the Pgmol dismissed our petition with a wave of their hands because all along, they have been the brain behind Mike Dean’s cynically referring at Stanford Bridge where he shamelessly fixed the result of the PL match between Chelsea and Arsenal to the favour of Chelsea in 2015.

    Let’s wait to see if the FA will exonerate Mike Dean of any wrong match officiating at the London Stadium by not punishing him again in the appeal West Ham have appeal to the FA against Mike Dean wrongfully red carding one their players. Or if this time the FA will take a drastic disciplinary action against Mike Dean to serve as a warning to the Pgmol to put their house in proper order.

  12. bjtgooner:

    Perhaps a better idea would be to send a copy to the Chairman of the “Corruption in Football” Committee?

    However, do not expect too much from that committee of MP’s as they already heard all about Allardyce from Greg Clarke, and that has not prevented the former England maestro from getting a job back in football has it?

    Another way, would be for the 106,000 of us who signed the petition to crowd fund a tenner each, and really make a noise. A million quid to take legal advice on the due diligence and Duty of Care of PGMOL and the FA would certainly get some mainstream headlines, if not the desired outcome.

    That’s got to be worth a tenner!

  13. @Goonermikey and @John L.
    I think Giroud too was guilty of allowing himself to be carried away by wasting the time that should been used to restart the match. But he used it celebrating his equalising goal. I think Giroud should learn not to celebrate and waste precious restarting game time in his future game for Arsenal after he has scored a crucial goal but Arsenal are still chasing a winning goal. We all saw Sanchez did not even celebrate his goal but instead took the ball to the centre for restarting the match. And Perez also had the minimal of goal celebration after he scored the 2nd goal for us.

    I agree with you John L.a. The Cherries keeper kept doing drama wasting time after he was booked for time wasting. I think not until referee will be courageous to give a 2nd yellow to a keeper that kept wasting time after been booked for time wasting will goalkeepers continue wasting time will stop.

  14. Walter, when the tinys totts new stadium is finished they will follow our lead and have some statues of people that have had a major positive effect on their club.
    The rumour is that Mike Dean is having his measurements take for his statue during his next visit there…

  15. The do seem to becoming more brazen, but note, they are brazen in favour of most of the media friendly , rich, establishment teams….this should protect them…for a while, as the wider football world is at best, uninterested in, at worst, probably quite happy that teams like Arsenal suffer from refereeing bias/corruption….afterall, they have to fit Utd back into the top four this year, or heads will role, perhaps even in the PGMOL

  16. According to the EPL website the most yellows a keeper has accrued this season is 2. IMO, it wouldn’t take much more enforcement of the time wasting regulations (even if in the 87th minute) for a few keepers to hit the magic figure of 5 and get banned for a match. Curiously, Cech is one of the keepers at 2, although his are for fouling players, I believe.

  17. I have heard comments about referees in other sports but by and large the comments have been about their abilities and their consistency in applying the rules NOT about their professionalism nor about bias. I would suggest this is also because the leagues involved go out of their way to professionalize their refereeing cohort and ensure that they get their decisions correct in the matches by using video replays and the like. Few are as brave as Rugby union to broadcast conversations of their officials but some leagues will make public comment on WRONG decisions in a timely manner (NFL – gridiron football). The NHL(ice hockey) added a referee and centralizes the video replay process to an office in Toronto to ensure the off ice officials are consistent in their interpretations.

    The one exception to this is when a player has attacked (verbally or physically) or demeaned referees publicly and then in these circumstances, miraculously, he doesn’t seem to get any calls his way.

    Sadly, until the public and the sponsors in the UK and worldwide get fed up with these issues in the Premier League and act in concert or at least in a way that hits the pocketbook it is unlikely that anything will change.

  18. John L – I’m in with the £10. The ref should not issue a second yellow but should award a penalty for ‘unsporting conduct’. The first yellow should in my opinion automatically draw a penalty. It is a foul in the penalty area after all.

  19. @Norman14

    I am happy to support any sensible measure/suggestion.

    The point about sending MPs the excellent reports by Walter/Usama match by match, week by week, is that they lose deniability – eventually they will have to start asking questions – and with the FA already in disgrace and with the PGMO unable to contradict UA reports – some of the more astute MPs may start to realise there is a problem – one which they become publically responsible for if they fail to take action.

    I have very little faith in individual MPs & less in committees – the latter are often established to rubber stamp and hence approve a disputed policy or fudge it, rather than carry out an incisive investigation.

  20. It was funny watching the FA drones attempt & fail to explain to their inquisitors why they had chosen to ignore the big stink that surrounded fat sam.

    that was in November or December, long enough for the old omertà

    pgMOB Rules (OK?) football

    Brought to you by the friends of Stuart Hall and idolisers of Alan Partridge (we all like Steve Coogan, some like Richard Keys must’ve thought his satire was real life…)

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