Refereeing in the Premier League is under investigation, and PGMO have no idea what to do.

By Tony Attwood

As I was preparing myself for another day’s publishing on Untold this morning two curious things happened.

One, not curious in itself, was that Andrew sent me his regular match preview for the weekend concerning the referee for the forthcoming Arsenal match.  The other was that the Daily Telegraph newspaper attacked PGMO and what it does in the most overt way I have yet seen.

I’ll publish Andrew’s full piece before the game in the normal way, but I want to take the opening and publish it here…

Andrew writes

Before I start on the match Officials for our game on Saturday I want to bring to your attention the latest piece of game management by the PGMO.

This coming week is matchweek 21 and Michael Oliver has been appointed to the Manchester United v Liverpool game on Sunday afternoon.  This will be the fifth time that Liverpool have had Mr Oliver this season and this most certainly isn’t healthy for the Premiership.  Our evidence shows no signs that Mr Oliver has favoured Liverpool in terms of Important Decisions in any of the three games we have reviewed.  To be in charge of a team every four weeks is just plain wrong.

Now if you are a regular reader of our referee previews and post-match commentaries you will know that this is a regular beef of ours.  By having a tiny number of referees on its roster PGMO has set itself completely outside the norm laid down by other top leagues in Europe.

There is nothing new in this point, but it certainly needs making each time it happens, and until now we have been a loan voice on this topic.   But now Keith Hackett in the Telegraph has written to say he was

“absolutely staggered to see Kevin Friend in charge of Manchester United’s win over Hull City at Old Trafford after two matches in the previous two days.

“He started off his marathon stint when he refereed Chelsea’s FA Cup win over Peterborough United on Sunday. I thought he had a very good game, as was shown by the unsuccessful appeal against his decision to send off John Terry.

“But it was a physically challenging game so I was very surprised to turn on the television on Monday evening and see that Friend was the fourth official for Cambridge United’s FA Cup match against Leeds United.

“Being a fourth official is not just about carrying the board – they have to keep an eye on the pitch for the entirety of the match, while also contending with the occupants of the technical area.

“So, how he was then given the task of travelling up to Manchester to take charge of such an important match as an EFL Cup semi-final first leg is beyond me.”

Later he goes on to make the point that “officiating three games in three nights is incredibly poor management from the Professional Game Match Officials Limited. It has displayed a lack of duty of care and been fortunate to get away with it.   Officials drive themselves to matches, so they not only have to worry about in-game pressures, but the difficulty in adequately preparing.”

Further on he points to “the risk of physical injury and the risk of mental fatigue…. It is beyond me how this was allowed to happen.”

It is a point Andrew has been making for several seasons (you may want to look back to “Why do certain clubs get the same referee so often? Referees 2015/16 Half Time Review” as one example) and is part of our overall point that PGMO does things its own way.  It not only has far fewer referees on its books than its own targets say it should have, and it has far fewer than other leagues.  And it is unquestionable because it is a highly secretive organisation.

Also it can be bizarre.   In July 2015 we published an article that said…

the PGMO constantly tell us that over 99% of referee decisions are accurate.  Indeed in 2013 PGMO claimed this for the third year running, while our figures constantly showed far lower levels of accuracy.  Yet PGMO utterly refuse to give any details of how they get their figures, and thus we are unable to compare their claims with our numbers that are much lower.

Unfortunately the page the link under the phrase “PGMO claimed this for the third year running” led to, was then chopped when the Premier League’s website moved.  Click on the link now and you get the very droll statement:

Sorry, the page you are looking for is no longer available. has a new look for the 2016/17 season. Many of the old pages exist on our new site, but it seems the page you want has been released on a free transfer.

So I went searching by typing PGMO into the search function on the PL site.  Not one single instance of the use of PGMO could be found.  As you will probably know, PGMO has no website of its own.

Thus there is silence.  Utter, stupefying silence.

What makes me mention all this is that before we started talking about the PGMO and its funny ways, no one ever mentioned them, let alone analysed their activities.   But now, we’ve got downright criticism of how they handle things, exactly along the lines that we have been talking about for years.

I don’t care a jot that the Telegraph is piggy backing on our work.  Of course it would be good to be recognised, but the main point of all this research into refereeing in the Premier League is to get change, and if the cost of that change is the Telegraph and its team pretending that they have just discovered this issue, rather than nicked it from us, I’ll take that if as a result we get change.

What is interesting is that the more we, and now the Telegraph, push and probe, the more PGMO retreats.  It doesn’t do its 98% figures any more, the old web pages are taken down, its silence is absolute.

In short it is closing in on itself, while slowly, very slowly, the media continues to stir.

When journalists do finally do their job properly and undertake a fulsome investigation into what PGMO is doing, and why it has chosen to mimic the approach to refereeing that was evolved in Italy in 2006 to accommodate corrupt practices more readily, then we shall be getting somewhere.

And I must make clear that I have never suggested that PGMO or any of its staff are corrupt.  Rather my point has always been the same.  Making PGMO incredibly secretive while following the approach of restricting the number of referees (an approach, as I say, that is not followed elsewhere) leads to curious consequences, as noted above.  Likewise the figures PGMO used to put out, appear unbelievable.

So my questions remain the same.  Why restrict the number of refs so severely? Why be so utterly secretive?  Why stop putting out the figures about 98% accuracy and remove the web page?  Why not justify them and continue publishing annual figures?

I don’t expect them to answer little Untold Arsenal.  Rather these questions just seem so utterly obvious, I think they should be answering them because it is the right thing to do.   But now, with the Telegraph shuffling along behind us, maybe there will be that bit more pressure on them.

Let’s hope so.

Untold Arsenal and the Arsenal History Society…

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

10 reasons why Arsenal signed Cohen Bramall (and why no other club bothered)

January 1937: Arsenal unbeaten as the goalkeepers change (again).

Ref Review: Arsenal – Crystal Palace: more of the same please

Football appoints new positivity czar to counter “overly negative” media and pay for football pitches in China

2016-17 Season: The half time review of referees and players, and the top 6 table.

The nine health benefits of playing football, and what to do when you get too old.

Cohen Bramall the new Bellerin (inc film), Belloti and Griezmann on the way. Plus nicked copy – an outrage.

Do Arsenal players care about the club? Are they properly prepared for each game? Here’s how you can tell.

The index of the major articles about Arsenal players is now complete.  It comes in two parts: A to K   and   L to Z        Of course there are many other sources of articles on Arsenal players but I do like to think that the articles here add a lot more detail, and have often found stories and issues that have been missed in other reports.  I do hope you will give us a try.

23 Replies to “Refereeing in the Premier League is under investigation, and PGMO have no idea what to do.”

  1. I don’t think the issue with the PIGMOB is the amount of referees on their roster (as I believe it is similar or only very slightly less than other leagues), but rather, how unevenly they are dispersed between the matches. With some referees being given a very large number of matches, whilst others only get a few. How anyone can look at how the PIGMOB conducts itself and not question it for even a second, really is beyond me.

  2. I’m sure Riley believes himself to be a hell of a lot cleverer than he actually is. The completely free ride given to the PGMO by the media will have made him (and others) extremely complacent and over wildly confident in their own agenda and abilities.

    I would like to think that Riley is now beginning to have a few sleepless nights but I suspect it will be sometime before we actually find him locked in a darkened room rocking backwards and forwards and mumbling to himself………….although when they does happen it would be fascinating if that room had bars on the windows!

  3. One question I’ve been asking for a long time is “why do 90% of referees come from the north west of England and not one from the south”I think it’s a question for ref supremo Mike Riley.

  4. Jammy J, we had the numbers on here a while back. The number of refs here is much less than most other leagues (for number of games/teams). So many of the 18 team leagues have 4/5 refs more than the 20 team PL.

  5. This coming weekend is matchweek 21 of the PL. There are 17 referees in the Select Group who are used to referee in the PL. Here is a listing of the number of games each has officiated

    Anthony Taylor – 18
    Michael Oliver – 18
    Robert Madley – 17
    Mike Dean – 16
    Mark Clattenburg – 16
    Martin Atkinson – 15
    Andre Marriner – 15
    Craig Pawson – 14
    Jonathan Moss – 14
    Neil Swarbrick – 13
    Mike Jones – 12
    Kevin Friend – 11
    Lee Mason – 10
    Paul Tierney – 7
    Roger East – 5
    Stuart Attwell – 5
    Graham Scott – 4

    Some referees are officiating nearly every week and some barely being given a game a month

  6. The four Referees that Arsenal haven’t been allocated this year are Anthony Taylor, Stuart Attwell, Paul Tierney andGraham Scott and we have had both Michael Oliver and Mark Clattenburg three times.

    Chelsea haven’t been allocated any of Kevin Friend, Lee Mason, Roger East, Stuart Attwell or Graham Scott and so far have had each of Anthony Taylor, Martin Atkinson, Andre Marriner and Jonathan Moss three times.

    Every team has had at least one referee on three occasions.

    Southampton has had 15 of the referees the most of all clubs, they haven’t seen Michael Oliver or Andre Marriner but have had Mark Clattenburg and Mike Jones three times.

  7. And according to the promises made when the PGMO was started there should be 24 FULL TIME PL REFEREES. There are only around 13 who do half of the matches…. So that is close to the half we should have to ensure the tiniest of influence from the referees on the final outcome of the league

  8. OOh !, Tony
    You mean you think there is a problem with our refereeing system OOh !
    As long as i`ve been reading Untold you`ve been highlighting such problems
    Don`t hold your breath in anticipation of solution

    Too many sticky fingers in pie to get a solution, “I`m quite happy with the way things are thank you very much”

    But, please keep on highlighting them, would be delighted to be wrong
    And with all your other articles, thanks

  9. @Andy – Yeah I remember that article and that was what I was basing my comment off. If I remember correctly, we had something like 15+ registered refs, which wasn’t too dissimilar from what the other leagues had (the German, Spanish and Italian leagues). I thought the problem was mainly down to the completely unequal game distribution, whilst the refs in other leagues officiated pretty much the exact same number of games as each other.

  10. Sorry, I didn’t read Andrews comment below. It would seem that we have 17 refs then! Which as I say, isn’t too dissimilar to what the other leagues have (if I remember correctly).

  11. This is a terrible act of showing favouritism by Pgmol to some referees above other ones in it’s rank. A few referees who apparently have no godfather at the Pgmol to help them as they barely get a handful of games to referee all season is pathetic and needs investigating. But by who? The FA?

    Can the Pgmol come out to give the reason that has made it compelling for it to be looking to be favouring some of it referees above other in it’s rank when allocating matches to them to referee in particular in the PL?

  12. I hate to be a stickler Tony but what investigation?
    Closely watched, under a microscope,increasingly talked about , or any other euphemism but nothing in your piece suggests there is an actual investigation going on, as much as I wish there was one.

  13. Surely, somebody, somewhere, has asked what is the business description for PGMOL. I’m assuming it acts as a supplier to the Football Association, and from there, we should be able to gather all the facts required to question it’s operation.

    I was having a discussion today (not football related) about the media (in general). The person who I was in conversation with came out with this:

    “The problem with the media is, that if they can’t get at the facts, they make something up. They then repeat it, over and over, and eventually, it becomes the truth”

    I think we can relate to that – especially with regards to the “speculation” around Ozil and Sanchez.

    Then my friend proffered:

    “We need to look around the edges of what is reported in the mainstream media; get behind their stories, if we want to discover the real truth”.

    Happy Hunting

  14. For the PGMOL, the ultimate parent company and controlling party, isthe Football Association, Premier League Limited and the Football League Limited.

    The principle activity of the company is the provision of referees and refereeing services to the above parties.

    According to the Articles of Association the number of directors, should be 5, changed from 4!

    The current directors were, M Foster, J Williams, M Riley and D Baily. J Williams, has now been replaced by a Mr Andrew Jeremy Ambler, in November 2016.

    Mr Mike Austin Riley, was appointed a director on the 27th March 2015, usually resident in England. For some reason, on the 1st November 2016, changed to Great Britain.

    It would seem that Mr Mike Austin Riley’s style, being more than somewhat cramped, ensurde that Mr Howard Webb has been shunted off, to FIFA?

    We assume, that the 3 other directors, are appointed by the controlling parties.

    Mr Riley’s fiefdom has now increased to a monthly average of employees. of 52. How many of these may be part-time referees, we are not told!

    Needless to say, from a pension pot of £337,791, Mr Riley will have been awarded a substantial chunk!

    Mr Riley, is in a fiefdom where no one will query the “main man”.

  15. Notoverthehill..

    “Mr Riley, is in a fiefdom where no one will query the “main man”.”

    Well, not from within, but what does “within” entail?

  16. NOTH

    Can we summarise and and conclude therefore that:

    The pgMOB answers to the rarely mentioned IFAB?

  17. I think this prominent article by Keith Hackett which raises concerns on behalf of referees as well as the games they officiate is a hopeful sign. It shows if something is right it is worth continuing to say it, as Untold has done all these years.

  18. Finsbury….the PIGMOB answer technically to the Fa and the PL respectively. However, in actual fact, they answer to no one as they are supposed to be an independent body offering services to Football.

    Jammy….I know it is very confusing as it seems 17 officials should be enough for the 10-15 games played each week BUT as you can attest by the number of assignments each referee gets, there are 13 officials who get these 10-15 games each week and the other 4 get very few. Here are some of the problems inherent in this assignment routine;

    1) Doing more than 2 games a week is very demanding, since a referee does not get to be replaced (except under exceptional situations) and that means a man who is likely 40+ is expected to run between 10-15 miles each game! A referee who gets 3 games could run more than 50 miles over one week….try doing that for fun!

    2)I can speak from experience where I was asked to do 4 games in a week and 1 on the weekend at a very high level. I was 28 at the time and in great shape but I can tell you that the weekend game was very hard for me…..and I never did that again! We are too eager to please, see point 5 for one reason.

    3)Being an assistant on the line is demanding as well because you aren’t running in a normal fashion and it is truly a stop-start experience that tires one out over 90 minutes.

    4)Referees are normally a secretive lot, preferring NOT to be mentioned or interviewed or harassed in any way because quite often said interventions are far from polite and can even turn nasty. We do our job and slink off into the sunset looking for the peace and quiet of our homes. That said, the PIGMOB have definitely taken secrecy to new heights!

    5)Referees are a political lot and ass-kissing is as inevitable in the PIGMOB as in any reward based organization. Therefore with a limited number of prestige games on offer and an even smaller number of favoured officials, Riley can reward or punish his minions as he sees fit. I saw this in the NASL and in FIFA where top assignments (European,WC, CL or South American games) were eagerly sought after and FIFA list officials were eager to please….NOT an ideal situation for Football integrity!

    6)We are supposed to be a fraternity (and now with women, an aristocracy) of like minded passionates and lovers of Football and the Laws. However because of points 2 & 5 we tend to have a lot of jealousy and discord between officials. This usually is sublimated to the Good of the Game but if Riley plays a divide and conquer philosophy, it can be very damaging to the losers or those who can’t or won’t kowtow to the powers that be.

    The PIGMOB needs a major overhaul or to be replaced in its entirety.

  19. How to orgnise some sort of “allies” from all the blogs/pages/channels/twitter etc that agree something needs changing in the ref sector and create a concentrated effort.

    Using multiple pieces/videos/articles/tweets highlighting this exact problem and asking questions and then shown by ALL blogs/pages/channels on the same day same time, or over a week or month even.

    Then the next one could be about “Why media disrespects Arsenal…”

    and so on.

  20. Omgarsenal

    What you say fits exactly with what I gleaned from reading a couple of ref autobiographies.

    I used to hold the incredibly naive view that top referees would subsume personal ambition into serving the game, happy to just do their jobs to the best of their ability and basically treating every game the same. I knew the bigger fixtures came with more scrutiny and I suppose I just thought of that as an extra challenge and one they must prepare themselves to combat (i.e human nature might push them towards favouring big clubs but, as with home crowds, the job is to fight against that and for impartiality)

    Or rather, it came as a real shock to discover how ambitious they were and how eager to progress and get the bigger fixtures; meaning, as well, as they look to get to and then stay at the top, how eager to achieve good scores from their assessors and superiors.

    It’s not as though I actually ever believed our refs to fit this apparent ideal of mine- totally selfless, ego-free, looking at all times to uphold the rules fairly in the face of all pressures- more that when I learned how things are it became apparent just how much control could be wielded over them purely by using their own ambitions to get to or stay at the top.

    Basically, all that need not be a problem if those in charge are themselves thoroughly decent, well-meaning, fair and honest individuals, with the right ideas about the game and what’s good for it.

    My view is that it is not even necessary for actual corruption to deliver results which closely resemble it. You just need to avoid best practice measures, and use self-interest ruthlessly.

  21. Tony, I am not sure if you have seen this article from the BBC: –

    Looks like an attempt to prop up the self-discrediting PGMO!

    Brown-Finnis showed her lack of knowledge of events towards the end of the article when she indicated that if the ref had been allowed to explain his decisions to AW (MC match) then AW, being better informed, would not have complained about two offside goals – it would have been sensible for Brown-Finnis to look at the relevant video before making her report – or putting her name to the report!

    At this time, when the PGMO are under a degree of scrutiny, I will suggest again – send the excellent ref reports from Walter/Usama to each and every MP – they are ultimately responsible for the mess of the FA and PGMO – deny them plausible deniability!

  22. bjtgooner, she is partly wrong because the first goal should have been cancelled for offside and even explaining that to Wenger would not make any difference in the league table….

    But the main thought in the article: “bring in the video referee” is a good one

  23. I just dont get Riley, or why he is still in post, it certainly is not because he is doing a good job.
    Maybe he is at the call of someone has some incriminating footage him in a hotel or something

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