Referees’ organisation repeats its 98% accuracy claim: but how on earth do they get that figure?

By Tony Attwood

Since our two reviews of referee decisions across the first 160 Premier League games of this season, complete with the links to video evidence the PGMO (the highly secret organisation that runs refereeing using the approach that led to the Italian refereeing scandal of 2006) has been preparing to make a riposte.

When we first ran stories about the development of video technology in European leagues, comparing this move with the total lack of action in the Premier League, the PGMO responded with two rather feeble press releases which the Daily Telegraph dutifully published.

However the Telegraph has since seen the way the wind is blowing over referees, and with other newspapers picking up on the idea that all is not well in the world of refereeing the PGMO have clearly needed another outlet for their views.

In choosing Sky Sports they have picked a safe bet.  Sky pundits only ever criticise a referee with a chuckle, along the lines that the ref got it wrong by well, we can all make mistakes, and anyway, did you see Merse drive up the motorway fast asleep?  That sort of thing.

The rest of the time, to protect its investment in PL games it not only will not hold back in challenging the competence of referees, it consistently manipulates images to change the context of the game – the obvious being in terms of time wasting, and the refusal to measure the amount of stoppage time independently of the referee, which of course they could easily do.

So Sky Sports it is for the PGMO, and the broadcaster has done the secret society proud, claiming (without any resource to the sort of video evidence that Untold provided) that “Premier League referee makes around 245 decisions per game”.

They then remove 45 technical decisions (is it a goal kick or corner, that sort of thing) and then say the rest (a nicely rounded 200 decisions) relate to judging physical contact and disciplinary actions.  According to them in around 17% of cases action is taken, and in 83% no action is taken.

And then we have it…

In total, refs make around five errors per game, meaning they are right 98 per cent of the time.

Having made the announcement (without any of the sort of detailed analysis that each of our referee reviews gives, the rest of the press release is about being fit, attitudes towards referees, the great work the PGMO (now suddenly renamed PGMOL once more) does, and how the game has changed.

But it doesn’t take a mathematical genius to realise what an absolute misuse of statistics that is, because the figures clock up events which no normal person would ever consider a “decision”.  For example, if I run a bath I test the water before I get in.  That’s a decision in PGMOL talk.  I don’t stick my hand under the hot tap while it is running, because I know that the hot water in my house is, well, not to put too fine a point on it, bloody hot.   But for PGMOL that decision not to risk a scalding, would be a “decision”.  I don’t put my hand under the tap, one more correct decision for Mr Attwood.

So the player at the start of the match kicks the ball from the centre spot.  The referee notices he has kicked it.  Not sat on it.  Not licked it with his tongue. Not picked it up and tried a drop goal in the style of rugby.  He kicks it.  Good.  That obeys the rules.  The game continues.  One correct decision.

OK those are extreme cases, but consider the average throw in.  Although some throw ins are contested, most are utterly obvious in terms of which side should take it.  And the ref gets that right.  More accurate decisions.

But that leads on to a very odd area: where should the throw in be taken from?  Watch any match and I bet you a 25p cup of coffee from a transport cafe of your choice, that almost all throw ins are taken from the wrong position.  What the referee does is allow leeway in order to avoid annoying the players and the fans, and to keep the game moving.  When the ref does point out that the player is in the wrong position then it is rare for the ref to point out exactly where the throw in should be: the referee instead waves the player back in a rather vague manner, the player moves ten paces back and then takes a nine step run up.

You can quickly see how the 98% figure could be defended.  On the basis that every event in the match is a decision, yes the referee might well get 98% right (although actually when I start thinking about Law 15, with its rule that the player must

  • throw the ball with both hands from behind and over the head from the point where it left the field of play

I quickly reach the view that 99% of throw ins are not taken from the right place.

Now ok, you can say the referee is showing a bit of common sense, and that’s fine – but once you start taking odd elements of the Laws and interpreting them with common sense rather than the letter of the law, then the statistics need to reflect this.

So what we have now is that we can see that a huge percentage of the decisions that referees take are obvious: as when it’s a goal kick because a forward shot over the bar and no defender was nearby.  No one appeals, no one sees it differently.   But it counts towards the 98%.

And then we have the decisions which are approximations to the Laws.  Personally I don’t really think it matters too much if the player is three feet from where the ball went out when he/she takes a throw in.   But once one acknowledge approximations the whole point about measuring levels of accuracy vanishes.

Then if we bring in time wasting by goalkeepers – what happens to the 98% accuracy level?

It is, in fact a propaganda exercise by PGMO(L) and as is normal with that organisation, it is handled quite ineptly.  Meanwhile Sky, like BT Sport, employ ex referees to comment on refereeing decisions primarily to uphold the quality of their product – they know people will switch off if it becomes clear that matches are not ruled with the 98% accuracy level.

But at least we can be grateful for the fact that none of the newspapers ran the story.

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28 Replies to “Referees’ organisation repeats its 98% accuracy claim: but how on earth do they get that figure?”

  1. The pgMOB could not have chosen a better moment to team up with Team Sky, amazing timing. I would like to thank them!

    The Servco inspired progress for English Football under Riley has been an easy curve to follow (bottoming out with Costa Rica and Iceland) and only a football genius could argue otherwise.

  2. More utterly misleading fake statistics from PGMO via Sky. At the moment being mid contract it suits their purposes. However I think we are rapidly approaching the point at which Sky will start to turn as well since their strategy is clearly to pull out of football over time(witness their loss of CL games) and focus on challenging and ultimately replacing the BBC. They are looking to do this through using their tame media outlets to attack BBC at every opportunity and MP led attacks while shifting the money saved from not winnning CL contract to in house programming.
    God help us.

  3. It looks to me as if this 98 per cent figure is just a total invention, a figure plucked out of the air. This is probably on the basis that if you tell a lie often enough, people will believe it. If I’m not mistaken, this is the figure PGMOL has been using for some time.

  4. We previously satirised the pgMOB calculation* but I honestly did not believe that they could be so stupid and transparent as to so blatantly expose their craven attitude towards the paying punters

    amazing stuff.

  5. The first half hour of our game with WBA was characterised by a series of blatant fouls on Ox, Theo and, especially Alexis, which were ignored by the referee. This set the context for the deliberate (and ultimately successful) attempt to put Alexis out of the game, for which a yellow card was a totally inadequate sanction. (I don’t buy the cliché that no player sets out to deliberately injure a fellow pro.- especially where Pulis teams are concerned)

    None of this has been mentioned on any mainstream media. The inference that dishonest refereeing is deliberately covered up is obvious.

  6. Perhaps all of this, the comedy maths, is a result of hiring Alan Partdrige as a consultant?

    “A-ha! Now would be the perfect time for any body associated with a sport that is worried about it’s laughable credibility to team up with Team Sky! What could go wrong?”


  7. The Gambling Arm of Murdoch-media (Skybet and Sunbet), must have commissioned this “investigation” to cover up the conflicts of interest that threaten their cashflow.

    What we need to know is this:

    “Does the income from betting on football exceed the expenditure on securing Media rights to broadcast the game?”

    If the answer to the above is “Yes” then there are indeed conflicts of interest on several levels. So, PGMOL are able to manipulate the outcomes of matches unopposed. This is because the media manage to either hide evidence, or, as in most cases, describe pictures in such a way as to produce “fake news”.

    Therefore, a dangerous, career threatening assault by one player upon another, becomes a “bit of a meaty challenge.”

    I’ve written to Damian Collins (again), regarding the potential to investigate PGMOL within the CMS remit relating to the FA.

  8. Norman14 posts

    ”Does the income from betting on football exceed the expenditure on securing Media rights to broadcast the game?”

    One of those questions that stops you in your tracks. Many thanks.

  9. Regarding the legality of throws-in, it is not only a positional laissez-faire. I’ve never seen a legal throw into the middle of the goal-mouth though referees regularly allow them. (The only legal such throw I’ve seen was on You Tube and showed an acrobatic forward somersault with the ball in hands which was then released from over the head as the thrower came upright. Never seen it in an actual first class game, though.)

  10. the refs , the fa, and the sky they have a product which they sell to the world for what…about 5-6billion.

    the product they sell is casino extraordinaire

    like most casinos…will encourage lavish spending. we do not want the card readers, system builders, mathematical oriented gamblers. We want the big fat cats with the surrounding models and cigars pissing millions on the tables. our tables. so that we all eat. the media, the refs the agents the players the managers.

    and here comes this geek….this nerd…this football oriented financially principled system builder who not only refuses to splash the money but comes to our casinos to win!! to take money away from our tables!! for what? to built his stadium? Ha.. like fuck if the house allows that.

    as if it wasnt enough that this comical figure ridiculed us in our own game in our backyards with africans and french…as if it wasnt enough that he showed us how football is really played….must we endure the prospect of him winnign again and this time with teenagers??????

    over our dead bodies…. enter dowd dean taylor fartenberg and a plethora of others in media building the narrative of soft, dotn like it up em etc etc etc ….

    thing is …what is arsenal hierarchy doing to protect their investment, their name, their brand on /off the pitch. where is a ‘dein’ type figure to walk inside that casino management and look at them as equals and throw some old school threats around?

    do we think roman abramovic came here and gave 1 billion of his money so that on pitch calls are decided by the interpretation of the ref????????

  11. 98 percent…..sounds a high number, and a benchmark statistical type thing…….but my guess, it comes right out of thin air.
    Agree with the point, what are Arsenal execs doing to counter this? It is reported Dein was rather protective of the club would get involved…..come on Ivan…..silence has its place, but discretion is not always the greater part of valour

  12. Most real statistics come with a plus or minus variable. So if we think about the margin of error; it could mean 93% or 103%. Wow! Refs making more than perfect decisions!

  13. It was sickening how SSN sucked up to Riley yesterday. I am sure the word ‘royalty’ was used..

  14. It is apparently a big thing to be “managing the game”. Let’s take time wasting. If time wasting is only done by the goalkeeper, on the 3rd occurrence, the goalkeeper should be talked to, and on the 4th booked. Doesn’t matter if that is 3 minutes into the game or not. Any further time wasting after that, is obvious evidence that the game is _not_ being managed.

    Rotational time wasting is probably as easy to see, but not quite as easy to act on. If we get to 10 instances of time wasting (by 10 or nearly 10 unique players), it is time to call the captain over and read the riot act. Next instance, gets carded. Any time wasting beyond that point, the game is _not_ being managed.

    So, how many games are “out of control”? 10%? How many bad decisions involving time wasting is that per game? 10? Just 1 game could easily be more mistakes for time wasting, than the PGMO has admitted to for all reasons all season.

  15. Nice try Mark. 🙂

    The use of +/- N assumes the probability of making a + mistake is the same as a – mistake. I.e.: that the distribution is symmetric with respect to likely deviations. When you are describing problems that are bounded, they have to become asymmetric near the end points. You would have to say something like 98 -5/+1.5.

  16. Hmm, what’s that saying? The rain in Spain falls mainly on the referees?

    A 5th division team (Fuensport) from Teruel was on the way to a match in their bus, when they happened across a car accident where people needed help. So the team stopped to provide assistance. Righting the car among the things they did.

    They arrived at the game 10 minutes before scheduled kick-off. The referee wouldn’t allow them time to warm up. They lost 0-7.

  17. Sure, referees make mistakes but overall I would say that we are probably on the better end of the debateable decisions. We think we are hard done by because we have a naturally biased view. Talk to fans of other clubs however and they will say that we are one of the few clubs that are typically favoured by the refs. It is clear to me that the decisions we disagree with stick in our mind, while those we benefit from are forgotten.

    Often there is disagreement between different people on whether a penalty/goal/red card/yellow card/foul/offside should/shouldn’t be given, even after numerous replays. With that in mind I think that in general the referees and linesmen do an excellent job. Far better than any of us could do.

    Compare the mistakes that our players make to those typically made by a referees. Now look at which of the two groups are earning millions of pounds a year.

    I don’t think there is anything fundamentally wrong with refereeing in the Premier League. I think it is sour grapes that this forum goes on about it so much.

  18. You can easily get a 98% efficiency rating if you count every moment that you DO NOT blow your whistle as a correct decision i.e. Player A is dribbling the ball with his feet, I do not blow the whistle for a handball…hence a correct decision.

  19. What was it – 77% said PGMOL were doing a good job and 12% said they were doing a bad job.

    Who the fuck, did they ask?

  20. GGG
    That’s what I suggested the last time the pgMOB put out their “numbers” (lol!). Of course I was taking the Bertie’s but it appears as if the pgMOB do not care about their own reputation. Or the sport.
    Truth is stranger then fiction where the pgMOB concerned.

    Beyond satire

  21. Danny H, you said, ” overall I would say that we are probably on the better end of the debateable decisions. overall I would say that we are probably on the better end of the debateable decisions. ”

    I am glad you have written in, because that is at the heart of the argument here. You say, “overall I would say” but you give no evidence to back that up. We have published hundreds of pages of evidence complete with videos covering 160 premier league games this season which show exactly why we have the opposite conclusion.

    Of course you might be right, but you should at least do us all the courtesy of showing us where, in detail, our analysis is wrong.

  22. Tony, tanks for ur usual enlightening posts here in UT; am sure u must hve d information regarding FIFA’s ‘ban’ of ORDATE LAMPtEY , Ghanian Fifa ref ,for awarding a non existent penalty kick against Burkina Faso for SouthAfrica ina 2018 World Cup qualifier in Nov. 2016; Fifa went on in d report to say it is keen on on combating match maniipulations nd is comitted to protecting d integrity of football tru a variety of initiatives including monitoring international betting nd a confidential reporting system with a dedicated integrity hotline nd e-mail system; (as reported in today’s edition of Sporting Life , sports tabloid in Nigeria). My question is cannt UT seize d availability of dis Fifa. Window to report PGMOL nd FA to FIFA wit all d documentary nd video evidence in UT’s possesion? I tink we shuld use dis opening to expose d hidden secrets of footballing in UK nd Europe generally; am sure Fifa will definitely be interested if protection of football Is one of its cardinal goals.

  23. austInpaul..

    Nice idea. Unfortunately, I think that a complaint would have to be made to FIFA by the FA. Unless of course, the UK government get’s it’s head out of it’s arse and starts an investigation into PGMOL. This should be a natural “addition” to the CMS investigation into the FA, but so far, calls to extend their remit have been ignored.

    Large corporations, including TV, news media and gambling, now run our game nationally, and internationally. To bust the FA would cause a massive loss of income to those companies, and in the process, take football in the UK back to the 1920’s. So the government is understandably, a bit reluctant to do anything other than nick away at the edges, concentrating a social equality within the game, ticket scams and asking the FA why Sam Allardyce was appointed as England Manager. (The response to the latter has been a continuous string of “I don’t know – it was before my time” from Greg Clarke).

    All UA can do is continue to collect “evidence” in the hope that one day, they will have the opportunity to present it to an honest enquiry.

    I’d say that’s a long way off 🙁

  24. Danny H……Walter and I, among others on this website ARE actual former or current top level referees and so we do know what we are talking about so when we say that:

    1)There is something seriously incoherent and incorrect happening in the EPL with PIGMOB officials, you can be guaranteed that we know how to identify and support this claim.

    2)If you have never officiated at a professional level, then you have no idea of how fast and difficult the game is to officiate, so a score of 98% correct decisions is technically impossible. Most officials would be pleased with a score of 75-80% and that is VERY hard to achieve at that level.

    3)During my career, and I presume Walter’s, had I regularly obtained scores like the PIGMOB officials often obtain,(40-65) my career would have been very short and sweet! I had an average score from assessors of 80% during my career in the NASL, a much easier league to officiate I might remind you.

    4)The politics at this level is so ferocious and unforgiving that ass-kissing has become an art by PIGMOB officials when dealing with Riley. That makes officials VERY vulnerable to manipulation,pressure and intimidation as well as having to live in constant fear of being demoted or ignored for games.

    5) Walter,Usama and others regularly see incredibly poor officiating and horrible decisions ,week in and week out, by not only AFC but so-called superior officials that hurt other clubs as well. There is a double standard in the EPL and Arsenal are definitely on the wrong end of it, as some other teams.

    By the way, what qualifications do you have to bin all the research,video reviews and hard work Walter,Usama and others do on this site? Please DO write an article for UA detailing your proofs, facts and supporting evidence for your claim that EPL officials are doing a great job…and IF you cannot, then please start reading UA’s reviews to enlighten yourself.

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