Why won’t the media ever investigate the cause of referee errors?

by Tony Attwood

We have a national curriculum in schools in England which sets out the subjects all students have to study up to the age of 16.  In that list of subjects is “science.”

Now if you were taught science reasonably well, you might recall that included in that subject is something called “the scientific method”.  Basically this sets out the notion that there are two things worth knowing: one is what is going on, and the other is why it is going on, and from there illuminates how one goes about finding out what is happening and why it is happening.  In short it sets out the methods that distinguishes science from pure belief.

Sadly it appears that 99% of all known football journalists and commentators were asleep when this part of the curriculum was taught, and so they never realised that “why?” is just as important as “what?”  As a result the “why” question is now  more fulsomely outlawed than most obscenities, expressions of religious intolerance, and racial slurs.   Journalists don’t ask why.  Journalists, it would seem, are actively discouraged from asking “why”

The impact of this curious situation can be seen by just picking up some headlines from the last few days…

These two are currently on the Guardian’s football home page on its website, as I write this article…

23 Replies to “Why won’t the media ever investigate the cause of referee errors?”

  1. Hello Tony. Nice write up, I’m surprised though that in a matter of seconds you were able to find 4articles examining ref performance, considering the fact that you’ve claimed in the past that people had problems discussing refs. As for the why question, personally I prefer the media to tell me factual events and allow me make up my mind on the whys. Untold has always criticised the media for telling us what and how to think. So now they don’t and untold is angry? I guess with untold you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t. And concerning the 160game review, I don’t share your analysis that only few events were disputed. My opinion is that over half of the untold decisions were disputed, that’s not even considering the fact that a good chunk of dissenting comments are not published on the site.

  2. Tony now let’s break this down referees are human firstly so liable to make mistakes. That’s the easy part but add in that they are expected to make a decision on an incident from their point of view decide whether or not it’s a foul penalty etc all in a fraction of a second. Now with television replays these mistakes are highlighted far more often now.
    My questions are
    1 are the referees fit enough to be in the right place at the right time at every possible second during a match.
    2 is there a big enough pool of quality of referees for our league.
    3 are the rules of the game clear and concise or is there ambiguity in them.
    4 should there be two referees on the field of play during a match to help each other out and limit the number of incidents they miss or get wrong.

  3. Acme, I am sorry that I have not explained myself clearly in this piece. Two things I meant to make clear.
    First, in a matter of seconds I found four articles that had referee issues in the headlines, but none of them examined the issue in question – instead they merely reported the comments of the manager. My point was that the articles did not examine the referee performance. I am sorry I did not make that clear.
    Second, yes I do criticise the media for telling us what and how to think, and I feel in these articles the writers did this, by taking the complaint against the ref and then not examining it in terms of cause. In that way they are saying, by implication, “these managers are always making complaints concerning decisions that go against them, but you can bet your life that when the decision is in their favour they won’t have seen it.” It is that form of writing that I object to.
    Again I am sorry that was not clear.

  4. But surely Tony, even you can see that “examination of the issue in question” is definitely giving a verdict on the event, thus telling us what and how to think. For example, there’s a controversial penalty in a match, for example, Eduardo’s dive against Celtic. The press reporting the Celtic manager’s complaints says… “Neil Lennon fumes after arsenal win controversial penalty” in the write up they say “Neil Lennon is incensed that ref Xyz blew a penalty for an obvious dive by Eduardo… Bla Bla bla”. Now obviously Lennon comes out looking bitter, but then he indeed feels bitter about the incident, and showed it, thus creating a reportable event. Examination of the refs performance can only be done subjectively in almost all instances, subjective assessment is based on opinion, perspective etc. I don’t think they’re qualified to assess/pass judgement on referee performance and indeed controversial incidents on the pitch, so like acme, I prefer they simply report things that happen and let me make up my own mind what I think is the WHY. And if someone involved eg the manager, player, fan is gracious enough to give their opinion on the issue, then the media just report it as it is and leave me to pass my personal verdict. Thanks

  5. Since everyone is asking questions on here , let me add on to the spirit of it .

    1. How do you rate the present crop of EPL referees ?
    a) Very highly
    b) Competent
    c) Average
    d) Crap
    e) Crooked

    2. How do you rate the football media ?
    a) Very highly .
    b) Of unquestionable integrity and judgement .
    c) Average
    d) Crap
    b) Cart horses with blinkers on .

    3. How would you rate the TV football shows and their experts’ opinions ?
    a) Very Illuminating and educational.
    b) Very intelligent and in depth.
    c) Average and par for the course , most being ex-players.
    d) Crap.
    e) My mates down at the pub are more in touch with reality.

    4. Watch the following clip and answer the questions below.


    a) Was it a clear and blatant foul YES/NO
    b) Was the referee well place to see the incident ? YES/NO
    c) Was he correct in not calling a foul nor booking the offending player ? YES/NO
    d) Was the referee just following orders /the script in ignoring it ? YES/NO
    e) Should retrospective punishment have been meted ? YES/NO

  6. @Brickfeilds Gunners.
    My own answera to your 1 – 4 questions are: c Average, for questions 1 – 3. But for question 4, i did not click the website address to watch the video. Why? I just felt reluctant to click it. Maybe because I’ve been on the net for 3 hours since around 5 am browsing and head is wanting to take a short break.

  7. But that is where we disagree, and why 3 people spent such a vast amount of time analysing the 160 games and presented their findings with video evidence for others to examine. So we could see how many errors referees make (PGMO claim over 98% of decisions are correct) and if they make more against one club than another. Yes it can be argued that referee decision making is subjective, but if so, PGMO should abandon their 98% claim and come out and say it. But they don’t – they stick by their claim that decision making is objective.

  8. What made that hair pulling incident even worse, was Fellaini had his pulled by Robert Huth & Huth was banned for 3 games…. double standards!!! I cannot wait for VAR!!!

  9. @ SAA , and others , apologies , forgot to add that the clip is only 7 seconds in duration , and in no way offensive to most people’s sensitivities.

    But if you are reading and viewing the second link, you better be sitting down, as some of the comments and observations may either rile you , or cause you to shit your pants.

  10. @ acme

    “My opinion is that over half of the untold decisions were disputed”. That’s fine if that’s what you think. I don’t necessarily agree but even if I did, that still leaves have the decisions picked up in those 160 games as questionable.

    My own personal opinion is that standards differ between referees and it appears that it differs depending upon the team. Irrespective of that, the game has become so fast and as pointed out is subject to vast numbers of replays. So why keep defending the referees when they get a decision wrong? Deal with the modern game in a modern way. But the authorities choose not to…….hence the question WHY!

    Even with VAR, in last night’s televised game we saw a VAR decision late on where a Chelsea player was having his shirt pulled in the area as the ball came in, the defenders arms around him and the commentators saying it “clearly wasn’t a penalty” and “he went down easily”. The rules clearly state that pulling a shirt is a foul but apparently that counts for nothing. What should have happened is that the commentators should have said, “he may have gone down easily but the defender clearly pulled his shirt so it was a foul, WHY didn’t the ref give a penalty and why when the VAR ref saw this in slow motion did he not give a penalty?”. Whether they believed he went down “too easily” or not, his shirt was being pulled. It is not for them to interpret rules that are clear in order to suit themselves. This is indefensible.

  11. Sue

    “What made that hair pulling incident even worse, was Fellaini had his pulled by Robert Huth & Huth was banned for 3 games…. double standards!!! I cannot wait for VAR!!!”

    I hope your expectations are met but what makes you think the double standards will cease?

    My opinion, and I said this way back when VAR was first discussed, is that we will get screwed even more.

    If there is a hint a penalty against us was missed by the referee VAR will be all over it, the commentators will be shouting their indignation till it does get looked at, similarly if we get a penalty that looks anything like soft.

    Conversely if we have a shout that the referee misses what do you think will happen? Do you think VAR will look at it? Do you think the commentators will even mention it ? How many times do we not even get a replay when WE need it? How often is the microscope out if they think we transgressed?

    Last night the commentators were so far up Uniteds arse it was embarrasing. Keown may as well of gone and stuck his tongue straight down the back of Solskjaer’s pants, it was sickening.

    United under Solskjaer are seriously back in favour and Chelsea are seriously out of favour. If that incident was the other way round, or against us, it would of been a penalty, of that I have no doubt.

    VAR will not change this selective blindness or piecemeal interpretation of the laws of the game.

    Mark my words it will just make things worse for us.

  12. Tony-
    I’d rather see a second referee on the pitch than an expansion of VAR. I’ve posted this on other threads here as have other Untolders. North American hockey uses 2 referees to cover a playing surface of 200′ x 85′. And there are 2 ‘linesmen’ as well. Four officials on the ice. Worldwide, we use 1 referee on the pitch and 3 ‘officials’ off pitch on a playing surface more than twice as large. I don’t understand why this idea hasn’t more traction. Turning to VAR for more than goal line decisions will slow the game, like American football which is almost unwatchable due to the number of times decisions are reviewed. Really an excuse for more adverts IMO. One would think the FA and, especially, the PGMO would be in favor of adding more referees unless they feel that with more refs they’d have less control over on-pitch decisions.
    Human error is in fact ‘human’ and video replays are often inconclusive. Don’t slow down the beautiful game. If for no other reason, I’d like to see Mike Dean’s face if the second referee calls something he ‘missed’. My guess …priceless. Like his jumping for joy after the Spurs goal, lol.

  13. Nitram
    I’ve always thought United were (& still are!) the PL’s darlings with regards to decisions. I do however think Liverpool aren’t far behind as they’re getting a lot of things going their way too as they all love Klopp because he hugs his players 😄
    We’re hardly ever on the end of a good/right decision! How many penalties should Laca have had??!!! I just thought VAR would help with all these dodgy calls…. we’ll have to wait & see… surely it can’t get any worse though!!

  14. Sue

    “I just thought VAR would help with all these dodgy calls….”

    I’m sure it will, but only with the dodgy ones they want it to deal with.

    “… surely it can’t get any worse though!!”

    I wouldn’t put any money on that if I were you sue !!

    I do love your optimism though.

    Unfortunately I’m just a cynical old b*****d.

  15. No I won’t be putting any money on it Nitram, especially if Mike Dean & Michael Oliver have anything to do with It 😀

  16. Or Martin Atkinson or Andre Marriner or Lee Mason or Jon Moss or Lee Probert or Anthony Taylor or Paul Tierney or……..well you get the picture !!!

  17. Human error! If human error were acceptable in a court of Law, there would be several criminals getting away with murder.

    The basics of select officials stinks when it is not transparent & specific. The PGMOL have neither published nor qualified their methods of selection. Their organisation appears to be racial in its reflection of ethnic diversity. Their organisation does not report to the paying public on a match by match basis.

    The use of radio communication between officials during matches, must be broadcast to the public to allow for transparency. Rugby does it, why can’t football.

    In my view the whole organisation stinks of corruption.

  18. I believe there has been an anti Arsenal bias for many years.

    Although subjective the match reviews carried out by Untold using both Arsenal and non Arsenal affiliated current and ex referees support that summation.

    Even if you want to suggest influence through association the bias was so pronounced as to be irrefutable.

    And even if the reviews are subjective, the Penalty and red/yellow card statistics are not, and they mirrored the degree of anti Arsenal bias in the reviews almost exactly.

    Statistics on all these aspects have bee done to death here on untold.

    To me the evidence is irrefutable, but what chance have you got when people even dismiss the penalty and card stats on basis of ‘The way you play’ or ‘the way you tackle’ as if that can apply to hundreds of different players over many years.

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