Refs get a lot more right than wrong, but anyway it’s ok, they’re English.

By Tony Attwood

An interesting article in the Guardian today about making mistakes, by Daniel Taylor, which contains this line…

“The referees you see demonised on social media tend to get a lot more right than wrong,” and of course that is absolutely true.  The article goes on to say that with VAR next season things will get better, and that may well be true, although there are still voices raised against the introduction of VAR.

But every time I see one of these articles, I start to worry, for all sorts of reasons.

The article continues

“Because if you think it is easy to flag for a marginal offside decisions at full speed, keeping an eye on the ball while simultaneously monitoring the last line of defence and having the necessary skills to rule if a single body part – a foot, a knee, a shoulder or even an eyebrow – has strayed a few centimetres too far one way, you would be kidding yourself.”

Yes indeed, I would be hopeless as a linesperson.  No argument with that.  I’d be rubbish.  But of course that’s not the point.  If I was on the line for Bliggiswodge Untidy against Zerba Zonks I’d make mistakes by the billion, but almost certainly they would run at pretty much 50% for each side.

No, my worry is when it appears that the errors are not 50/50 nor anything like it.  What do we do to stop that?

But there is more.  Imagine, just for the sake of argument, a linesperson who has been bought by a club that simply wants one of the two teams playing to lose – or at least draw.   So all he/she has to do is put up a flag just once to rule out a goal.  No one, it seems, considers that.

Or if they do they say, “Well, that’s impossible to legislate for,” but it is not, because all you have to do then is to see how many mistakes of this type each linesman makes when judged by TV subsequently and remove from the game those who make more than a set minimum of one per game.

And all that means is a bit of openness – nothing else.

The article continues, “At the same time, if we are being honest about our mistakes here, I do find it rather galling that when a referee misses a red-card offence – and, by that, I mean seeing what happened but misjudging the seriousness of it – the authorities are so quick to close ranks and revert to their default setting that nothing can be changed retrospectively.”

And yes here we can be agreeing full time.  It is rather annoying.   He goes on

“It was, after all, precisely the kind of studs-up challenge that the sport wants to eliminate, we keep hearing. Yet the irony is that if the referee, Andre Marriner, said his view was blocked, or that he was looking the wrong way, Shelvey would now be eligible for a disciplinary charge and staring at a three-match suspension for violent conduct.”

True again.

But here’s another question.  How many odd decisions has each referee or linesperson made?  Do we know?  Well, only when Untold measured it and published the results.  Nothing by anyone from PGMO which remains totally silent.

And this is where my real argument is with both the authorities and the media.

Type III match fixing was proven to exist on an industrial scale in Italy, and yet, as far as I can see, no one is taking any action to ensure that it is not happening here.  But instead what we do get are articles like this one which appear to be discussing referees and their assistants, without any attempt to consider this one simple issue: what are we doing to ensure that no referee has been bought in terms of Type III match fixing?

And in case you have lost the thred, let me go back a stage.  Type III match fixing involves Team A saying to refereee Z, if you get to referee a game involving Team 1 Team 2 or Team 3, and you can see your way, by the odd decision here or there, to turn a win for Team 1, 2 or 3 into a draw, or a draw into a defeat, we’ll see you all right.

Not every match, nothing too obvious, but something that changes the result in the last minute.

Now this is not a fantasy of mine – it happened in Italy, and what worries me is that we get articles like this in the Guardian which seem to engage in a serious debate about referees – but actually have the result of suggesting that by and large everything is ok.  There might be the odd mistake, but there ain’t no match fixing here.

How do we know?   We have nothing in place to stop match fixing by top referees.

Except the wonderful belief that they are English, and the English don’t cheat.

6 Replies to “Refs get a lot more right than wrong, but anyway it’s ok, they’re English.”

  1. I think what gets me is the complete lack of scrutiny in the line “The referees you see demonised on social media tend to get a lot more right than wrong.” It’s not just the fact that they have made no attempt to reach this conclusion with any scientific attempt at providing evidence, it’s the failure to even define “a lot more”.

    Do they mean 60/40? Or maybe 70/30? Or possibly 80/20? The fact is, that even if it were 90/10, that’s still too many wrong decisions. I would say 70/30 is “a lot more” after all, it’s over twice as many decisons correct rather than incorrect. So quite frankly, the suggestion (which without evidence, I believe to be true) that refs a get “a lot more right than wrong”, may be correct but is simply not enough.

    And if we go just a small step further, maybe they get 99% of the thrown ins, goal kicks and corners right, that doesn’t help if they get 50% of the red cards, offsides and penalties wrong……………but it would probably still mean they got 98% to 99% of decisions correct. Further, even if they get get 90% of the major decisions right, which teams benefit and is the distribution reasonably even?

    The failure to investigate this matter thoroughly shows where the media stands……………….at the same trough as the authorities.

  2. Totally agree with you Mikey.

    The problem with the argument the Guardian put forward is like the Brexit “election fixing” there is no evidence to support their assertions – only hearsay. But like the Brexit assertions anything that does not fit into the medias view of the world must be wrong!

    The media as you rightly point out are at the same trough. Isn’t it strange these articles appear when, in both Scotland and England, there has been some quite shockingly bad decisions by “top referees”

    I know in my circle of friends there are more and more football fans who are saying there is something wrong with the quality of officiating in both Scottish and English football.

    It makes one wonder if it could be worse with “poor referees”

  3. The whole system of rules (“laws”), administration, training, performance management, payment of officials in England is amateurish and completely out of step with the scale and importance of the event and requires a thorough overhaul. I do not know of corruption, but think the money at stake and evidence of gambling corruption and lack of transparency makes corrupt refs more rather than less likely. From watching games, I am sure refs decision making is unacceptably influenced by extraneous factors like the media and the crowd.
    I wonder what proportion of EPL gate receipts spent on making sure the game is refereed in a fair and unbiased way?

  4. @ Les

    Football wise we’re on the same track.

    As for your odd analogy with Brexit i.e. “like the Brexit “election fixing”, there is no evidence to support their assertions”, I really don’t want to get into a debate but for the sake of clarity I don’t think it would be fair to leave people with just your side of it. I would therefore put forward the following as an alternate view.

    The Electoral Commission, stated: “We found substantial evidence that the two groups [Vote Leave and Remain] worked to a common plan, did not declare their joint working and did not adhere to the legal spending limits. These are serious breaches of the laws put in place by Parliament to ensure fairness and transparency at elections and referendums.”

    They added: “Vote Leave has resisted our investigation from the start, including contesting our right as the statutory regulator to open the investigation. It has refused to cooperate, refused our requests to put forward a representative for interview, and forced us to use our legal powers to compel it to provide evidence.

    “Nevertheless, the evidence we have found is clear and substantial, and can now be seen in our report.”

    Another Group, “Vote Leave” was also fined for breaching electoral rules as was Leave.EU (fronted by Farage at the time).

    Since none of these organisations has sought legal redress for being found guilty of these offences, I would respectfully suggest that this is because they don’t actually have a defence.

  5. @Mikey

    Just to point out that I am in the remain camp and I believe that the leave campaign was rather dubious to say the least.

    I was just saying that it appeared to me, being devils advocate, that some of the journalists were almost sneering at the people who voted leave for not beleiving in what they thought was the “right” way. Much like their attitudes to football fans who question them.

    The other thing I should have said was the assertion of Russian involvement in the brexit – for which there is not a shred of evidence. It just seems a convenient scapegoat.

    Personally i think Brexit has been an absolute disaster from start to finish and has wasted, and will waste, a tremendous amount of resources.

    I have not read the electoral commission report, just heard the highlights. It looks like I will have to read it. Thanks

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