Eight years late a TV station finally confirms the referee bias against Arsenal

By Walter Broeckx

For many years I have been spending a lot of my spare time on reviewing the referees in the PL and more specific in Arsenal matches.

I have done this on my own and I have done this with the help of other Arsenal supporting referees. And we have done this with the help of non-Arsenal supporting referees. We even did it for a long time using video evidence. But in the end I had to stop this because other things in my personal life took over and I couldn’t spend the needed time to work on it any more.

But in all those years of reviewing one thing stood out among our findings: Arsenal were unlucky when we analysed the referee decisions. If being unlucky is a one season-long thing you can reasonably call it unlucky. When it happens season after season after season then we can no longer call it a matter of luck. Then it is a form of robbery.

And as you might remember, I have written articles by the dozen about how bad the influence of the PGMO refs was for Arsenal.

Apart from the real Untolders, who actually read all that we were writing in depth, we mostly got abuse. Abuse from those Arsenal supporters who said that we did it all to keep Wenger in the saddle and to give him an easy ride.

Abuse (although in fact it was less abuse than from those so called Arsenal supporters) who didn’t agree when their team was involved in our reviews, which is a point of view that can be readily understood. But they put it down to the fact that we supported Arsenal so we are biased.

And when we pointed out that the fact that we found the biggest bias against Arsenal when non-Arsenal referees were writing the reviews, that was mostly the last time we heard anything from them.

But now suddenly I found a link to an article that appeared on the espn website with their article “Luck index smashes cliche that luck evens out over time.”

And a rather interesting article as they did something rather similar that that which we have done. They just called it the Luck Index. And by “luck” they mostly meant wrong referee decisions. Now of course with my past I don’t consider this as having much to do with luck anymore. It is more ingrained in the refereeing in the PL and has become part of the meaning of life of the PGMO.

And I could go over the whole article and point at differences between their analyses and our analyses. But I will leave that up to you. I will only headline the main results and the most interesting points. And link that with something I have said in the past as to why referees do what they do, even when they don’t want to do this deliberately.

The main results of the ESPN analysis is that Liverpool has been robbed most points and Manchester United has benefited most. And Arsenal was the team that has lost the second most points in the season 2017/2018.

We should have gained 11 points more from our away matches! And maybe if we had received better refereeing in those matches we might have been in a better mental shape when going away in some other matches where the refs maybe didn’t directly screw us, but where, because of the past, we went in the match already with a defeat in our heads before stepping on the pitch.

Now you don’t have to agree with every detail they come up with. Just as you didn’t have to agree with each decision we reviewed. But the general trend that came out of our research and that comes out of the research of ESPN is what is important.

And thus when I see Liverpool being robbed most and Arsenal being robbed second most, and add to that that Manchester United was the luckiest one when it comes to referee mistakes we come back to an article I wrote about refs being influenced by their youth experience and who they supported when being a kid.

It is no secret that Liverpool and Manchester United hate each other. Liverpool because United took their crown away of having won most leagues. And Manchester United supporters hate Arsenal supporters because they came in and had a go at them when they were the kings of England in the PL.

Each ref once was a kid who dreamed of being a professional football player. Each ref supported a team. A local team quite often, but also 99% of the kids support a big team. And if we look at the ages of the current referees in the PL we can note that most of them grew up as young adults in the era of Manchester United and Ferguson. So as a kid growing up in the area as most of the current PL referees did, the chance that they supported that winning team was rather big.

And so they might have developed a certain subconscious (or conscious in some cases) bad feeling for Liverpool and Arsenal. I haven’t checked the numbers of mistakes from Liverpool games in the years for which we did referee reviews, but I do seem to remember that they didn’t really get the rub of the green in those years. But as I don’t support Liverpool in a way I couldn’t really care about them. If they feel hard done by, they should get their own team of referees together and do their own reviews and join us in questioning what the PGMO is up to.

But now seeing those numbers come back from an unbiased source it suddenly brings back that article I wrote about refs being influenced by the teams they supported as a kid.

And it shows once again that Arsenal has been robbed. Not just last season. But in a whole load of seasons that I can see looking at all the reviews I did.

I wonder how this will develop from now on. With Wenger gone, the person who personified the hatred of Arsenal for many supporters from other clubs, we might see a difference in the mind of some people.

But as long as Riley is in charge I am not holding my breath for that to happen. I fear that Mr. Emery will find it hard at times.

For more information about the ESPN article I will also direct you to the luck index and the  adjusted league table. Not that I entirely agree with it all. http://www.espnluckindex.com/ and http://www.espnluckindex.com/adjusted-league/

The Transfer Season – the result and the aftermath



19 Replies to “Eight years late a TV station finally confirms the referee bias against Arsenal”

  1. Back in the days when Arsenal were challenging the rf,it was Arsenal against 14, Ref plus 2 lm.
    Recallthe famous incident of 2005 season when Arsenal were unbeaten in 49 games.
    Campbell tackled the ugly Brit bulldog and a penalty was given by the bald eagle.Replays had shown it was outside the box.
    Then there was the MC vs MU game. Mc were leading with 5aet. Mu scored the equalizer. To rub salt Owen scored the winner after 7 minutes aet.The ref shd have been severely reprimanded then..
    That’s why there is karma.Since 2013,Mu have not won the epl. Hopefully its the start of along barren run for payback time.

  2. head of referees is the same Riley that cost us at old trafford with Rooneys blatant dive
    amongst other decisions that the cowardly Riley made, so how he became to lead a group of
    bias officials is understandable as they voted him in. time for change

  3. Hi,

    So having “VAR” in the EPL may still not eradicate the “Ref Bias” a synonym for “Cheating” altogether, but will go someway to eradicate much of it!

  4. thanks, walter
    there was a guy who tried to do something thorough as well last year:
    i say “tried” because i think (being no twitter subscriber) he didn’t take his analysis all the way to the end of the season; but when he stopped we were already beyond the 11 points in away games mentioned by espn, which must be the reason why you partly disagree – as i do – with their (very good) job
    i like unai, i think he’s a hard worker, and i expect to be pleasantly surprised by what is going to come out from his work with the present squad; but AW’s resignation after a season when he was so blatlantly robbed (not to mention the semi-final against atletico), is a bitter pill that i still can’t swallow

  5. Your analysis is 100% corrrct. M U under Sir A F had been enjoying macimum favours.After his retirement see the condition of M U. Presently Tots is enjoying some kind of favour through some first class acting.

  6. I’m just looking forward to hearing “U Know Who’s” 160 match analysis that proves Arsenal are treated fairly by the officials.

  7. I think that is right Omar, and I suspect the delay of one year in implementing it, combined with the continuing hyper-secrecy about PGMO operations points to them taking their time to prepare for greater focus on their activity. There may be another explanation but I can’t think what it is.

  8. I don’t think the guy at ESPN really understands statistics. He talked a little about flipping a coin.

    In Perl, this is a coin toss:
    _ my $coin_flip = (irand() & 1) ? ‘heads’ : ‘tails’;

    If a trial is to flip a coin 1000 times, and we count how many heads we get, we expect the result to be “near” 500. I did that trial 100 times.

    It turns out, that the standard deviation of how many heads we observe in any given trial, is a function of the inverse square root of the number of coin flips (here 1000). Across the 100 trials, the two extrema for the number of heads divided by sqrt( 1000 ) was -1.39 and 1.30. The observed standard deviation across these 100 trials is 0.016.

    If instead of flipping a coin 1000 times, I flip it 100,000 times (100 times more), the two extremes I observed are -1.36 and 1.09. The observed standard deviation for the 100 trials was 0.0016, almost (exactly) one tenth the previous example. Which is what we expect from a process which scales with sqrt(N).

    That pages at Untold continue to alternate between a desktop CSS and a mobile CSS is annoying. If you start typing a comment in, and after a while decide to refresh the page, you lose your comment if the stylesheet flips.

  9. Gord
    I am still having the same problem with mobile/desktop display and it is really annoying.

  10. In case people want some idea on runs length, on a trial of 1000 tosses of a fair coin, we have:
    Length Number
    0 _ _ _ 25325
    1 _ _ _ 12687
    2 _ _ _ 6272
    3 _ _ _ 3196
    4 _ _ _ 1588
    5 _ _ _ 759
    6 _ _ _ 392
    7 _ _ _ 197
    8 _ _ _ 86
    9 _ _ _ 59
    10 _ _ _23
    11 _ _ _10
    12 _ _ _7
    13 _ _ _2
    14 _ _ _2

    It looks like the ratio of N to N+1 is about 2.

  11. Arsenal were not only gypped by the PIGMOB , but also by some European refs too. The most notable being Massimo Busacca for our match against Barcelona.

    I think we on Untold Arsenal called it ‘The Great Busacca Moment’ , where referee acted so swiftly and decisively in issuing a yellow card (his second) to RVP for allegedly kicking the ball away, very, very shortly after the ref had blown for an offside ; when in actuality RVP was on goal and did not hear the whistle when he took a shot.

    Apparently the whole thing took only a few seconds ! And from Busacca’s wikipedia page we learn that ….

    ‘On 8 March 2011, Busacca was the referee of the second leg of the FC Barcelona vs Arsenal FC 2010–11 UEFA Champions League round of 16 match. He was heavily criticised for his performance, influencing heavily the outcome of the game. His decision to send off Robin van Persie for shooting after not hearing an offside whistle was deemed “absolutely ridiculous”.’


    We also learn that …
    ‘it was announced on 14 July 2011 that Busacca had taken up the position of Head of Refereeing Development with FIFA, retiring from active refereeing duties in the process.’

    To most that may seem to be a promotion of sorts for services rendered , but then again we are informed that …
    ‘Busacca is a devout Catholic and was crowned Switzerland’s non-smoker of the year in 2006.’

    I may not be a saint , but stones, anyone ?

  12. Going back to my runs analysis, the first entry says a length of 0. Obviously that is an isolated win, draw or loss. Hence a length of 1, is two wins, draw or losses in a row.

    For people so inclined, you could look at runs of data for Arsenal, or other teams. As I understand things, the data for wins should approximately follow the theme here: that a run of 2 wins is about half as common as isolated wins, and a run of 3 wins about 1/2 as common as a run of 2 wins.

    When a person gets to losses, a losing streak apparently can feed on itself, so long losing streaks will be more common than they should be (compared to tossing a fair coin).

    It seems likely that the data for the Top-N will not be the same as for the rest of the pack. I suspect the data for draws will be more common than wins or losses, for games between two members of the rest of the pack.

  13. @Walter, I have a few observations which to me suggest you’re being economical with the truth while jumping on the ESPN story bandwagon. You say you can’t say much for the treatment Liverpool have gotten in these years you’ve been singing ref bias against arsenal. Well I seem to remember the time you did the reviews with “non arsenal supporting” refs, that was a comparative study comparing with other teams, so you must have the report for Liverpool. Also in the 160 game review, arsenal wasn’t the only team reviewed. The other top 6teams were. Are you dodging that aspect because your conclusion turned out to be very different from ESPN’s? Considering how you’ve been singing to us all this while that Liverpool and spurs were the refs favorites? Also, the ESPN article claims arsenal lost 8points, not 11 as you mention. And finally the ESPN article even if the figures were confirmed true only gives the circumstances for last season. If you extrapolate the same way you’ve done for arsenal, maybe Liverpool wouldn’t be the laughing stock you Dont fail to remind us that they are

  14. EMA – Except you are quite clearly accusing the writers of the referee analysis of bias.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *