We get every statistic imaginable about players, but why no stats about referees?

By Tony Attwood

There is an interesting paragraph in a report on the Tottenham v Arsenal match in the Daily Telegraph website that says

“There were a number of contentious incidents with replays showing Harry Kane was offside in the moments before Skhodran Mustafi barged him over for Spurs’ second half penalty. The referee Taylor may well have judged that the foul took precedence over the offside call.”

I do hope someone can help me out on this, as I am not a referee, so can find on occasion my understanding of the rules and laws of the game are not what I have often thought.

But my understanding is that the order of events on the pitch is the determining factor in making referee decisions.   Thus if a player is offside, and then a foul is comitted after that, it is the offside which has to be dealt with by the award of a free kick.   If the subsequent foul is of such a serious nature that for example a yellow card has to be given to the player committing the foul, that can still be given, but it does not mean that the offside is ignored.

If that is not so, as the Telegraph suggests, then there is a problem, because it suggests that all sorts of incidents can be ignored, even though they involve the laws of the game, because of later incidents.  Which raises the question, how much later?

If this is indeed the case then I do need to revise my reading of the game and I can only apologise for years of misunderstandings.

But based on my current understanding of the situation, the offside came first, and that should have been called and the game stopped.   Then any other issue could have been dealt with, before Arsenal got the normal free kick which is awarded after an offside.

And if my reading of the rules is right, I wonder what the Telegraph is playing at.  Here they have a professional journalist writing on the web site of a long running publication with something that is completely wrong, which is rather different from me writing on Untold – a blog run by a group of friends – and making a mistake (which of course has often happened, given that we don’t have proof-readers and paid researchers to help sort things out.)

The Telegraph comment, right or wrong, also raises the issue of why mainstream publications still refuse to deal fully with refereeing issues, and indeed how they choose their headlines (as well of course as refusing point blank to ask “why?” in response to most issues).

Given that it appeared to me that the Tottenham goal yesterday was preceded by a number of players being offside one might have thought that the headline “Referee and assistant make multiple error over Tottenham goal” would have been reasonable, but no, I didn’t find that.

We might also have expected a few headlines asking why VAR is not used in the Premier League when it is in so many other competitions.   And indeed Sky did oblige with the headline

Video: Emery: Refs need help from VAR

But it was Give me Sport, seemingly alone, that picked up on the fact that Vertonghen was clearly inside the penalty area when the penalty was taken, and according to the laws of the game, that means that the penalty should have been retaken and Vertonghen either warned or given a yellow card.

But no – not only did the referee not take any action, and not only did the assistant seemingly fail to notice, but also the rest of the media chose to ignore that fact, perhaps because it was just a little bit too inconvenient for their agenda of not criticising referees.

However this is what the media does.  It does join together as a unity to ignore certain issues, or to treat them in a specific way, that does influence public opinion, and so we continue as before.  English refereeing is the best in the world.  We know it is because… well, no one criticises English referees.

Rather the people who do criticise referees find themselves criticised, either on the grounds that referees make lots of decisions and will always get some wrong, or because it all evens out in the end (which clearly the statistics we have gathered across the years show does not happen), or because we are only complaining because it is Arsenal.

All three excuses are poor in my view – referees could get more decisions right by using VAR and by having open debates about the errors on TV.   After all we get details of how many times a player has kicked a ball, why not statistics about how many mistakes a referee has made, and which team he has favoured?  It might help us understand what is happening a little more clearly.

27 Replies to “We get every statistic imaginable about players, but why no stats about referees?”

  1. Good article 👍
    Far too many mistakes (costly mistakes) are being made… these refs are just not doing their jobs properly, the sooner VAR comes in the better. Ref Watch tomorrow on Sky will be interesting… I wonder if all of their mistakes will even be mentioned??? I won’t hold my breath!!
    Robbed… totally robbed.. I’m still devastated

  2. In addition to Vertongen encroaching, he was able to block a goal-bound immediately after, which he would most probably have not been able to do had he not encroached.

    So his breach of the rules ending also with a distinct advantage.

    I would not mind so much if the referees’ mistakes evened themselves out, but we seem to complain about it almost every week.

  3. Tony’s analysis, as usual, is completely correct. Actually the Telegraph journalist, Chief Sports Writer Sam Wallace, went even further later in his report, arguing that ‘the foul took precedence (over the offside) under the laws of the game’. He obviously hasn’t read the Laws of the Game recently. Law 11 concerning offside makes no mention of fouls taking precedence over offside. It is obvious that the game has to be officiated chronologically. If for example the referee awards a penalty for a trip in the penalty area and then the player who has been fouled strikes his opponent, the violent conduct does not take precedence over the penalty. The penalty kick is still awarded but the aggressor is sent off. Kane’s goal should first have been disallowed for offside. If the referee then wished to take action over Mustafi’s push, he could have issued him with a warning or a card.

  4. English refs are so good, the World Cup didn’t want them, brilliantly highlighted into the public domain by Mr Wenger , I am sure he paid for that comment as well in one way or another

  5. To my knowledge, that is the first time I’ve ever seen a ref warn about time wasting in the 1st half. The amount of times it is done to us the whole game! With no consequential bookings until the 80th odd min. The disgust i feel i can’t express sufficiently.

  6. Given Kane’s incident in his previous match in which he aggressively pushed his head towards an opponent (and anyone who suggests that wasn’t the case, ask yourself if a bloke came up to you in the street and did what Kane did would you think it not aggressive?) he shouldn’t even of been on the field in the first place as he should of received a red card.

    The offside ?

    Why didn’t Rose see red for a studs up challenge on Leno?

    The kick back on Kos ?

    Vertonghen encroaching?

    Yes our penalty was soft. Could of gone either way. It’s an I’ve seen em given type of penalty, especially against us.

    The reason being it was subjective, which the offside, studs up, kick back and encroachment clearly are not.

    Yet our own fans come on here straining every sinew in an attempt to justify just about every bad call the ref made against us as well as everyone made in Spurs favour. It beggars belief.

    And what’s more it’s the same old names time and time again.

    Look I know on occasion posters can look at things with rose tinted glasses but surely as Arsenal fans on occasion a little bias is inevitable, but it is at least understandable.

    On the other hand what is not understandable is why supposed Arsenal fans are clearly biased AGAINST Arsenal.

  7. The PL have confirmed the goal should not have stood, via Mark Halsey 👇

    Others were trying to push argument Kane was stood in an offside position and therefore a foul on him should be penalised.. well he wasn’t just stood there but was challenging for the ball, so was actively interfering with play.

    The media, as a certain jambug would say, is the major culprit here; they whitewash all the officials mistakes. For instance Sanchez kicking out has not been mentioned at all.

  8. Al


    If it was Arsenal that had gotten away with the offside, the Rose lunge, the Vertonghen encroachment and the Sanchez kick, the media would be having a field day.

    They would be all over it, firstly in an attempt to get the Sanchez kick looked at and our player retrospectively judged and banned.

    And secondly, at least getting it over to all and sundry, especially the referees, just exactly how much Arsenal got away with.

    In other words Lads, Arsenal are due some pay back.

  9. I think including the number and importance of referee’s errors with other match statistics would be brilliant. Unfortunately I can’t see it being adopted other than recording the number of decisions changed once VAR is brought in for all premiership games.

    Despite the result, our performance was good yesterday. I had thought that St. Totteringham’s Day had been postponed until next season. Now I’m quietly confident of reaching it by the end of April 2019.

  10. I would be intrigued to know whether, if PEA had scored the penalty would Taylor have disallowed it for encroachment and required it to be taken again?

  11. to be fair: MOTD highlighted the Kane offside and Vertongens Encroachment. Surprise surprise… The 3 of them even concurred that the Arsenal deserved the win!? More surprise! I guess they are reading untold more often or they anticipating VAR, that will also put punditry under more scrutiny

  12. rondejonge @2:21
    Thanks, I was going to make the same point.
    And Tony, I’m looking at the media reaction to yesterday’s match as real progress. When was the last time any call that went against AFC criticised or even mentioned. Usually it’s applauded and even justified by the media. could this be the start of something? I doubt it but one can always have hope.

  13. Thanks lads for that.

    As rule I don’t watch motd, and even if I do I don’t listen to any pre or post match comments and often as not the commentary either.

    Let’s hope it is a change of approach, though somehow I doubt it will last.

    At the moment, as far as some are concerned I suppose it’s still Emery’s honeymoon period.

    My colleague said motd even said Southamtpon should of had a penalty at it.

    Will wonders never cease.

    Still, I’ll give it a while yet before my viewing habits change.

  14. There seems to be an attempt by some of the media to vindicate the award of the penalty against Arsenal by quoting the law which appears to suggest that Kane’s attempt to play the ball occured before the offside decision and was therefore correct. This despite just about every ex ref agreeing that the penalty was wrongly awarded. Surely the way the offside law is applied nowadays means that a player who is in offside position when the ball is played becomes active as soon as he makes a move in an attempt to play the ball, therefore as soon as Kane moved toward the ball he became active and should therefore have been flagged offside. We regularly see players flagged for doing this, why is yesterdays example any different.

  15. I haven’t seen MOTD but did they cover the Sanchez kick/stamp on the goal line?

    It was caught on camera as it was shown on Star Sports in India.

    Ollie Hackney
    03/03/2019 at 10:34 am spot on mate. The special anti Arsenal treatment dished out goes into every crevice of officiating.

  16. I see Pochettino is bemoaning the terrible treatment Spurs are getting from the referees. He seems to think they were hard done to by Taylor yesterday. Lets be honest, in fact Spurs are a bunch of cheating bastards as far as I can see. Sly elbows, trips, bodychecks etc usualy done after the ball has gone so not usually seen by the ref. I won’t even mention the more blatant dirty fouls we saw yesterday which they specialize in and of course the persistent diving. And yet they get away with most of it.
    Hard done by Pochettino? You couldn’t make it up!!!

  17. Mick Hazel

    The thing is Mick, like Fergie before him, he knows that whatever he says, no matter how ludicrously far fetched, the media will treat it as fact and give him their full support, as with all their ‘pets’.

    If you’re not one of the ‘pets’ your words will be either ignored, twisted or ridiculed, as was almost always the case when Wenger even hinted at the mere thought of Arsenal being unfarely treated.

    Anyone out of favour and or not following their agenda receives similar levels of contempt.

    Remember when Benetez had the audacity to suggest United were favoured by referees ?

    He was slaughtered.

  18. The telegraph and professional journalist – bit of an oxymoron if you ask me.

    On the other hand he may be talking about PIGMOBs interpreation of the rules and we should watch games with that in mind. Really? – I already do that

    Still it will be interesting seeing certain incidents take precedence over others. I am thinking of a ball going out of play by a striker and then a goal is scored and the ref gives it. After all that is what he is saying – the goal should take precedence over the goal kick.

    I think he was still p***ed when he wrote the article. As you say Tony there is NOTHING in the rules which says later decisions take precedence over earlier ones.

    Refs cant change a free kick call as they can in Rugby because the rules expressly forbid it.

  19. I guess after a job successfully well done of robbing Arsenal of the full 3 points , all the apologists and spin doctors can then turn around to appear to be magnanimous and righteous in their very ‘kind’ comments , knowing full well that it counts for nothing .
    We were cheated . No doubt in my mind . And it will go on.
    And like Tony and others often like to mentioned , the question of ‘why’ is never addressed . Why are English officials so fucking poor ?
    Just proud of the way we played , and cannot truly fault any of our players .
    Up the Gunners !

  20. The FA website deems to promote ‘fairness’ but week after week they allow the insidious PGMOL to continue their reign of bias. More seriously, I worry for the Arsenal players against Man Utd next weekend as they face the prospect of serious injury without any protection from the Refs. Rob Holding was the last casualty – he hasn’t played since September as a result of Rashford’s assault – a late challenge which of course went totally unpunished. At least Torreira is safe following his absurd red card.

  21. remember when Koscielny was scythed in the box while being offside and a penalty was given?
    i think it was against Burnley
    did anyone from the media came out to say that he was fouled before offside? no! they all said it was a wrongly awarded penalty

    same story about last year totts penalties at anfield, everyone was trying to justify dubious (if not plain wrong) decisions in favor of the vagrants

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