Only 18% of Premier League referees manage to get more major decisions right than wrong!

by The Referee Review Team

According to PGMO 98% of all decisions made by referees are correct.  Unfortunately they don’t give us access to their data to enable us to verify the point.  So we have to do our own research – which is what we did by analysing the first 160 games of the season, and supplying our analysis along with video coverage of the key incidents so you can check for yourselves.

In this article we look at some of the decisions as they relate to individual referees, players and clubs.  You can find links to the previous articles in this series, and the end of this piece.

Here is a reminder of the breakdown of Important Decisions (both correct and those we judged to be wrong) by Referee and type of decision

Ref Games All Decisions 2nd Yellow cards Red cards Pens Goals
Right Wrong R W R W R W W
Andre Marriner 12 20 24 0 7 1 7 19 9 1
Anthony Taylor 14 18 26 0 5 3 8 15 10 3
Craig Pawson 11 12 26 1 3 0 11 11 9 3
Graham Scott 3 7 8 0 0 1 4 6 3 1
Jon Moss 12 11 23 0 7 2 7 9 6 3
Kevin Friend 8 8 13 0 3 0 6 8 3 1
Lee Mason 8 8 15 1 2 0 4 7 6 3
Mark Clattenburg 11 24 23 2 7 0 9 22 6 1
Martin Atkinson 11 8 22 0 6 0 10 8 5 1
Michael Oliver 14 13 32 0 7 0 11 13 12 2
Mike Dean 12 19 26 1 5 0 9 18 8 4
Mike Jones 9 16 18 0 6 0 6 16 4 2
Neil Swarbrick 9 14 8 0 1 0 3 14 3 1
Paul Tierney 4 7 4 0 1 0 2 7 1 0
Robert Madley 13 20 32 1 4 0 15 19 12 1
Roger East 5 9 15 0 2 2 3 7 8 2
Stuart Attwell 4 7 7 0 2 0 3 7 2 0
TOTAL 160 221 322 6 68 9 118 206 107 29


Firstly the good news with referees

  1. Two referees have shown that they are capable of taking charge of matches and not making more than 1 wrong decision per game.  These are Paul Tierney and Neil Swarbrick.  Why Tierney has not been given more games is a mystery.  Neil Swarbrick is one of the older referees now 51 and at an age when he would have been retired from a number of other European leagues.
  2. There are three referees who have made more correct than incorrect decisions – Mark Clattenburg (24/23), Neil Swarbrick (14/8) and Paul Tierney (7/4).
  3. Stuart Attwell has the same number of correct as incorrect decisions (7/7) from his four games.

Now the not so good news

  1. None of the rest of the referees should be employed in the Premier League without further training and/or assistance, they all make far too many mistakes.
  2. By far the majority of the wrong decisions relate to sending off offences 66 second yellow cards and 118 straight red cards.

Some surprising facts

  1. In the 16 weeks neither Tottenham nor Manchester United had a player sent off.
  2. The 186 wrong sending off offences involved 121 players, of whom 39 were repeat offenders and six players should have been sent off four or more times.
  3. The new ruling to referees regarding a red card being mandatory for a foul against an attacking player when the ball is long gone has been applied only once against Granit Zhaka.  No similar foul has been awarded more than a yellow card and many have had no card at all.

These six serial offenders are :-

  1. Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Man United) with 6  straight red cards not given (weeks 7 twice, 8, 11, 14 and 16)
  2. Robert Snodgrass (Hull) with 2 double yellows and 2 red cards (weeks 8, 12, 14 and 16)
  3. Marcus Rojo (Man United) with one double yellow and 3 red cards (weeks 10, 13, 14 and 16)
  4. Eric lamella (Tottenham) with 2 double yellows and 2 red cards (weeks 1, 3 and 9 twice)
  5. Diego Costa (Chelsea) one double yellow and 3 red cards (weeks 1 twice, 2 and 4)
  6. Scott Arfield (Burnley) two double yellow cards and 2 red cards (weeks 9 twice, 11 and 15)

Tottenham, who didn’t have a single player sent off in the 16 week period remember, also had Wanyama, Vertonghen and Rose each with three, Alli with 2 and Dembele, Dyer, Janssen, Sissoko and Walker with one not given sending off offences.  That’s a total of 23 players in 16 weeks who should have been sent off and not one given.

Man United had Pogba and Herera with 3 not given sendings off, Rooney, Fellaini, Bailly and Darmian with two each so their total comes to 24 players in 16 weeks who should have been sent off and weren’t.

There are question marks with how wrong decisions affect teams at both the top and bottom of the current league table:

In this table we show how teams in the upper and lower parts of the league are dealt with by PGMO referees….


Wrong Decisions

For Against Nett (For-Against)
Man United 31 9 22
Leicester 21 8 13
Sunderland 19 6 13
Tottenham 25 15 10
Watford 23 14 9
Hull 15 10 5
Swansea 13 14 -1
Middlesbrough 13 15 -2
Chelsea 13 16 -3
Crystal Palace 14 21 -7
Man City 13 21 -8
Liverpool 9 21 -12
Bournemouth 9 25 -16
Arsenal 4 31 -27


At the top of the Premier League table Chelsea have a broadly neutral Nett value, Tottenham in second place have a substantial positive score of 10, then City (-8), Liverpool (-12) and Arsenal (-27) with increasingly large negative scores and United in sixth place with a massive plus score of 22.

At the bottom of the table Sunderland are bottom despite a large number of wrong Important Decisions in their favour.  Middlesbrough, Hull and Swansea are broadly neutral, Crystal Palace have a negative score.  Leicester like Sunderland have a score of +13 and Bournemouth a massive negative score of -16.

There is no immediate link between the success of teams in the league and the way they are treated by referees, but it is clear that certain teams are being hit far harder by wrong decisions from referees than other teams.

Of course there are three possible explanations.   One is that our figures are seriously wrong, and it is to counter this idea that we provided video evidence for each decision we have recorded (see the earlier articles noted below for links to all the evidence).  Until someone comes along with a detailed analysis of where we have got this wrong, this explanation seems less likely.

Second, this could be down to just plain randomness.  This however seems unlikely, given the number of years this seems to have been going on.

Third this could be down to Type II match fixing (in which a team persuades a referee to see things in their favour) and Type III match fixing (in which in order to make the match fixing much harder to spot, a team persuades a referee to act in a way that harms the rivals of the team engaged in the match fixing.

Of course we don’t have the resources that existed in Italy at the time when the Type III match fixing ring was broken there, and without any willingness on the part of anyone other than ourselves to investigate this, there seems to be little chance of finding out exactly why the accuracy rate of decisions is so varied between teams.

Some more thoughts on these figures will be published later but here are all the facts and figures, plus initial findings…

What we did – links to the original reports on the 160 games

What we discovered – referee by referee and “it all evens out in the end”

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


17 Replies to “Only 18% of Premier League referees manage to get more major decisions right than wrong!”

  1. I think the solution to curtail this unwanted showing of incompetent referring and deliberate wrong decision making by referees especially in the Premier League games and in the top domestic Cup competitions to the barest minimum more so as it’s affected Arsenal should be the introduction for official use of the Video Assistant Referees (VARs) in the 3 major competitions in England where the showing of referring incompetence and the showing of arrogant wrong decision making by referees to favour a particular team to the disadvantage of the opponent team is flagrantly done. And are more prone in happening England than in other top major Leagues and top domestic Cup competitions in Europe. Just imagine how a lineman had wrongly flagged Monreal offside yesterday in the Man City PL game at the Ems in a potentially looking attacking goalscoring ball crossing move by Monreal into the Man City box that could have resulted into a goal for Arsenal. But replays later showed Monreal was onside and even the TV commentators confirmed that. But what would the VARs had done in such an incident had me thinking? I can see it. I think this is the kind of incident the match officials can get away with wrong decision making whether delibately done or not.

    The big question now that needs answering by the FA is, when will they allowed the introduction of the VARs in England into the 3 major competitions there for official use by match officials? Next season? Delays in introducing the VARs for official use in the 3 top competitions in England is like to delay the reign of Justice and allows the evil doing by referees to continue to perverse.

  2. Excellent work, but don’t let it end here – if you do a lot of value is wasted.

    Email a copy to every MP at Westminster. I suggest this because a single email to the Minister of Sport will be quickly overlooked – so send a copy to all MPs – they then cannot claim plausible deniability.

    We should follow with each and every Ref Review & keep at the MPs until they start to take notice!

  3. Are the sins mainly of omission or commission?

    In other words are there refs who are poor because they swallow their whistle and others who are poor because they over-call? Or are they just bad?

    Next time you code this it would be interesting to also include how far the ref is from the action and whether he is unsighted. This might help with arguments in favor of a second referee.

    I think VAR should be automated for offsides just like the ball across the goal line. It should be trivial for a computer to be able to tell which team is which and track the ball throughout the game. From there it should be able to tell whether an offsides has occurred and buzz the linesman’s watch. At the same moment an official at a central location gets the still from that moment on his screen and on can talk into the game referee’s ear. For transparency the same image can go up on the scoreboard/jumbotron.

  4. Dr Duh
    “automated for offsides”
    It would be ideal to be able to track players and pinpoint their positions at any particular moment, and this can be done to a certain extent with those GPS devices they often wear, but as for automatically deciding offsides it’s going to take seriously advanced technology to determine which part of a player’s body is in an offside position (foot or hand etc), so until then the “line” across the field remains the best solution.

  5. Thanks for the great work RRT.

    I would like to get your opinion on two incidents in the City game:

    1. The yellow card to Navas in the 8th minute. Why was this not red? It was a horrible tackle, quite akin to the one that broke Coleman’s leg during the international break;
    2. The Monreal “handball”. Every pundit I heard comment about this incident seemed convinced that it was a handball. My question is, what about the kick on the arm he received from Navas before his hand connected with the ball? Should this not have been a foul for Arsenal? He made contact with Monreal without getting the ball, with a high foot. And even if this is not a foul, the kick made Monreal’s hand move towards the ball. If he did not receive the kick, he might never have touched the ball. This should be sufficient doubt not to reward a penalty. In my opinion, the call was incorrect, because we did not receive a foul. It certainly was not a penalty. Do you agree with my interpretation?

  6. And the first City goal, Aguero was seriously close to offside. This was never mentioned or even considered by anyone. I cannot find a picture of the exact moment the keeper kicked the ball. Is there any chance you will be able to review this as well?

  7. Great work, and this report deserves to go somewhere where action MIGHT be taken.

    The problem of writing to MP’s (as I have found out), is that they won’t respond if you’re not resident in their electorate. I’ve tried all sorts of tricks to get a letter to Damian Collins, but not had any success.

    I’m going to try something else – and if it works, I’ll post the outcome on UTA.

  8. JP
    I would not be at all surprised if Aguero was offside, Man City are regularly allowed to score offside goals against us with no fear of them ever being disallowed.

  9. JP – totally agree with the high foot before the ball hit Monreal’s hand. Not so sure about Agueros offside. The ball was passed via the midfield & the City player had got back to on side by that time.

    What is questionable is the crowding of the official by City players & the subsequent card to Coquelin. It is certainly not sporting conduct specially as Coquelin slid past the City player without contact.

  10. This is seriously good work.

    But the trouble is we already know all this.

    Untold has been doing this kind of analysis for years now, and I’m afraid it has changed nothing. In fact, I think it’s getting worse.

    Not only are the decisions getting worse in general, I think that this season in particular they have got significantly worse, especially for us. After a promising start for us, that I and many others here on Untold commented on, it’s been down hill all the way.

    Last weeks assault on Alexis at WBA was a particularly depressing moment for me. As I watched foul after foul after foul on him go unpunished I despaired. And as usual, all brushed aside as an irrelevance by every commentator, pundit and hack that witnessed it.

    Tony said recently that he perhaps saw light at the end of the tunnel as a couple of broadsheets had picked up on the diabolical quality of refereeing, and on the back of that had produced a couple of articles.

    I said at the time that until one of the main stream sports broadcasters or tabloids picked up on it the articles would end up in the bin in the same way all other attempts to expose this disgrace have.

    And guess what? No sooner had these deluded renegades popped there heads up above the parapets than they where shot down in flames by the SKY/PGMOL consortium coming out with this 98% bulls shit.

    And what does that tell you?

    Well for one it suggests that, yes they do see and read what the likes of Untold have to say. It suggests they have heard a few descanting voices from within.

    And guess what? They don’t like it.

    Time for some putting down and putting back in there boxes for those not prepared to ‘tow the line’ me thinks.

    So as I say, despite years of extremely credible evidence, and with hardly a word of ‘VERIFIABLE’ counter evidence, we are actually going backwards.

    Despair doesn’t even begin to describe how I feel about the state of PGMOL, Referees and there cohorts in the media.

  11. Indeed, Nitram..

    Also, because two sterling twats like Gary Neville and Jamie Carraghar are too fucking thick to learn a referee’s “job” in a couple of hours, then the refs are right – FFS!

    I mean, Neville should have asked Jones if he could learn the complete bag of tricks of a professional footballer in a couple of hours. It takes YEARS.


    How long does it take to learn to be a top referee – because we are led to believe it’s a couple of hours. Mind you, the way PGMOL operates, two hours is probably being generous!

  12. This may sound like blaspheme, but you guys have to consider putting every piece up on Twitter. I know the reaction there is sometimes stupidly negative, but pieces like this raise REAL questions that demand REAL answers, and I think Twitter might be the best way to gain traction. I could be missing it if you do, and I apologize if so, but this one of those stories that need to become viral.

  13. The most damning evidence of corruption to me (beyond the raw stats) was how, last season, Clattenburg put in his absolute worst performances yet, having previously been one of the better refs. And they weren’t just poor performances for him, but he was one of the worst referees in the league, for that season. Amazing and coincidentally (sure), this just so happened to coincide with him being given about 4 huge cup finals.

    The whole thing is absolute disgusting, but I can only imagine that it will get a lot worse, before it gets any better. I like to think that, at some point, somethings gotta give, but with how ignorant to this kind of thing the vast majority of football fans are, until their favourite pundits start telling them of corruption, then nothing will change.

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