When the media comments on a referee BEFORE a match maybe things are changing

By Tony Attwood

The Guardian newspaper, in common with other British newspapers, is not known for criticising referees, obeying, as it does, the dictates of PGMO that commentary on referee errors should be kept to a minimum and always considered as individual referee mistakes.   Analyses of how many “errors” referees make, and what types of error these are are no more allowed than are any analyses of how different clubs are affected by dubious referee decisions.

As for a discussion on the entire notion of different types of match fixing, well, that is simply not within several light years of the agenda.

Which is why it was with total shock and amazement that, as I approach the end of my time in Australia visiting my daughter, I read, within the Guardian’s regular “things to watch out for” column concerning this weekend’s games, the headline “All’s not well with Attwell.”

They refer of course to the PGMO employee.

So out of the usual is this commentary that I feel I really have to repeat it in full.   It doesn’t relate to Arsenal’s game with Newcastle, but it does indicate that it is just possible that the Guardian is going to break away from the shackles of what can and can’t be said about referees.

Here is the commentary in full.  It relates to Manchester Utd 2 Watford 1 on 30 March and was written of course prior to the game…

“This will be the fourth time this season Stuart Attwell has refereed Manchester United, and the fourth time in history he has refereed Watford. There is nothing coincidental about this: he is probably fairly popular at Old Trafford, having given United a penalty on three of the past four occasions he has officiated their matches. The first time he refereed a Watford game, nearly 11 years ago, he awarded an infamous “ghost goal” to Reading. He has returned to Vicarage Road once since – five years ago. He wasn’t well received and hasn’t been asked back, and last officiated a Watford match in December 2014. As a result it is more than usually important that at key moments on Saturday he must be certain, and he must be right. Any game-changing decision in United’s favour that turns out to have been incorrect will surely prevent him from ever refereeing Watford games again. Will he be able to put this history to the back of his mind?”

My point is not to relate this preview to what happened in the match – but rather to point out that it was published at all.   The publication of a preview which focuses on the historic behaviour of a referee is very rare indeed.  Let us hope that this was not a one off.

Meanwhile looking at our game against Newcastle, the word is that Aaron Ramsey, Granit Xhaka and Nacho Monreal are all getting back to fitness.   Monreal didn’t go on the hot weather trip, Ramsey didn’t play for Wales and Xhaka, having scored for Switzerland went off with 11 minutes left.

Looking forward to the Newcastle game, a possible team we might see could be…


Sokratis, Koscielny, Monreal,

Maitland-Niles, Xhaka, Ramsey, Kolasinac,

Ozil, Lacazette, Aubameyang

More anon, if I find myself in a place with internet connection!

25 Replies to “When the media comments on a referee BEFORE a match maybe things are changing”

  1. Tony, It is No Secret that EPL Referees are Corrupt; the reason why not a single English Referee was selected to officiate in the FIFA World Cup in Russia 2018. EPL Refs are not only corrupt they are Also RACISTS: when Black players have followed protocol and complained to the match referee during the game of a racial abuse, the ref has given a Yellow Card to the complainant, the Black Victim! thus promoting Racism

  2. “obeying, as it does, the dictates of PGMO that commentary on referee errors should be kept to a minimum and always considered as individual referee mistakes”

    Of course you have no evidence for this allegation. But it seems nowadays every month or two you find articles that make you believe the media commentary on refs is changing. However you seem sufficiently surprised each time like its the first

  3. good one Tony!
    for me the football commentary from the Guardian is becoming more and more clickbait from cynical reporters specialising in riling up supporters in the queest for clicks, comments and controversy. (Wenger has been and still is good for clicks and controversy so lets hammer the guy) thats why I read more untold than the ‘official’ journos. I reckon Guardian sees this in their visitor numbers on the site. They probably go down cause people are not stupid. Cynical as the media works they say: mmm Blogs like untold are quite the succes with their stories. We see more traffic going to those blogs. Eih, lets copy some of that!

  4. @Tom P

    If you so dislike what Tony has to say why do you feel the need to read everything he writes and serially contradict it? It does get tedious.

    @ Tony

    I see there is an article on the BBC website arguing how hard done referees which also includes the argument that even with VAR a roomful of referees would be 50/50 on a handball decision. Getting their justification in first, I’d say.

  5. Arsenal playing at home in the Emirates Stadium tomorrow in Monday night’s match in the PL will undoubtedly beat Newcastle United. And it’s not because Arsenal are in dear need or desperate to beat them so as to climb back to 4th or even move up to 3rd in the table depending on what happens between Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur this evening at Anfield. But it’s because Arsenal are more than capable of beating Newcastle. More so, as the Gunners are currently some steps ahead of the Magipies in the game and are also in position and positioned to beat them. Therefore, I strongly believe the Gunners will not only beat the Magipies, but will beat them resoundingly well by 3 goals to nil. Notwithstanding, the Gunners should not take their beating the Magipies for granted to consequently become complacent in the game. But they SHOULD play the match in serious business like mode from the beginning of the match to the very end of it. The Gunners SHOULD not for any reason of momentary loss of concentration in the game by them accidentally concede any ground in the game to the Magipies to exploit it to cause any damage against Arsenal in the match. Almiron, Rodon and Perez could be dangerous in the game for Newcastle. Therefore, the Gunners SHOULD mark them out of the game completely to neutralise any danger that Newcastle could pose against Arsenal in the match.

  6. Off topic but Arsenal Women have just qualified for Europe next season. A hard fought one nil against Birmingham sees us guaranteed to finish mo lower than second place in the WSL. Two more wins will see us wrap up the Championship before our last match of the season at home to likely second place Man City.

    Birmingham should have had a player sent off in the first minute for a dreadful late, high and dangerous challenge on Katie McCabe who, fortunately, was able to continue. She got her revenge in the end though scoring the only goal of the match deep in the second half.

    With ground improvement works ongoing at Borehamwood the capacity is restricted to 2,200 for both of our remaining women’s home games and you can’t buy them on the gate so if you want to go along you will need to book via Arsenal.com and I would suggest you do so sooner rather than later

    All being well we should be able to provide the odd travelogue as next year’s Champions League unfolds.

    Well done to the Women. Nor three nil to the Arsenal this weekend with the earlier wins for the U23s and U18s. Just the men to go now


  7. Thanks for that report Andrew. It’s nice to hear that the women did well, and that all the teams have been doing well this weekend.

    PGMO looks to be up to old tricks.

    Cardiff is one of the most kicked teams in the league, and Chel$ea is undercautioned. Cardiff leading from a 46th minute goal. At 79 minutes, Cardiff’s Arter requires treatment, and in fact needs to be substituted. Five minutes later, Chel$ea have pulled even. Chel$ea were almost twice as many fouls as Cardiff at that point; game currently sitting at 2 yellows to Cardiff and 3 to Chel$ea.

    Game to be extended by 7 (?) minutes, and it seems Cardiff have had another player in for treatment.

    I was thinking that PGMO had directed a draw for a result, but Chel$ea score again from open play. If PGMO want the draw, I suspect they will need to give Cardiff a penalty now.

  8. PGMOL get another result with an off side equaliser for Chelsea. Apparently it was a good yard off side, but selective vision as it is cannot see – just as Tom P is selectively dim.

  9. What a shocker from the officials today… poor Neil Warnock & Cardiff… very costly errors
    I wonder if Anthony Taylor will have a shocker tomorrow… I won’t hold my breath!!

  10. As Andrew mentioned, the U18s won versus Swansea. Get a look at the scoreline!


    Thanks for explaining how Chel$ea managed to score Menace.

    In the later game, we are 30 minutes in; and neither medja darling team has done any fouling to speak. The pool have committed 1 foul and the spuds have 2 fouls. The spuds being one of the 2 dirtiest teams in the EPL (ManU the other). No treatments as of yet.

  11. Sue, CL qualification is said to be worth £40m and relegation/ promotion to the PL £100m. Today’s rotten refereeing potentially earning/ costing the two teams £140m. As you say costly errors for someone.

  12. The season is butchered by rescheduling, but my model for 3-6 teams is:

    Arsenal 60+16.3… = 76
    Chel$ea 60 + 12.6…. = 73
    ManU 61 + 13.0… = 74
    Spuds 61 + 15.6… = 76

    So, the spuds are ahead of us by an expected 0.3 points or so. Will St.Totteringham provide us some cheer this year?

  13. The Pool v Spuds game was the most select officiating ever. Hugs & amorous grabs were just not seen as fouls. The PGMOL official is certainly past his use by date. Having made human errors like a goal given when the ball missed, he still qualifies in Rileys pets. The level of selective vision & subsequent choice of card is truly entertaining.

    I will be at the Ems tomorrow to see the corrupt officiate yet again. Despite it all, my passion for the beautiful game still drives me to watch. This might be the final straw but hope springs eternal. Something might just change the FA & its PGMOL brotherhood of sporting terror may just shut down and allow sport the freedom & honesty it deserves.

  14. @mikey, its because I fundamentally disagree with Tony on his referee vendetta. I think the refs are doing a good job. Even better than Walter and co (who have the benefit of video replays). So whenever I have the opportunity to attack/counter his attack on the refs, I try to make it count.

  15. TomP

    You’ve got to be kidding. The refs are doing a good job? No matter club you follow (clearly not AFC which begs the question -why are you here? Ever read the banner on the Masthead? Too complicated for you?) if you watch the EPL week in week out, you’ll see egregious calls and non-calls in almost every match . The PGMOL doesn’t even have enough referees to avoid the hint of partiality. Ask Neil Warnock if he thinks the refs are doing a good job. Doesn’t manage Arsenal and didn’t play AFC today, as far as I can tell. You either have blinders on or your head’s up your arse because you’re just too blind to see.

  16. César Azpilicueta was a yard offside when he headed an equaliser six minutes from time, prompting Warnock to say the Premier League had the “worst officials” and matches were being decided by “who you get in the middle and who has a flag”.

  17. I wonder if TomP will still be saying the refs are doing a good job, if we get a dodgy decision go against us tonight, or in fact any of our last remaining games! And the way things are going, I certainly wouldn’t bet against that happening!!

    Andrew… that is a lot of money!

  18. apart from ghost goals (no longer possible with the goalline technology I think) we have a bad history with most refs. I wonder why the media amlost never report on them before the match…

  19. I’ve tried debating with TomP.

    My advice is don’t waste your breath.

    He believes the money you spend on players has nothing to do with winning trophies.

    Now we hear he believes the referees are doing a good job.

    If Tony said the grass was green he’d disagree.

    Honestly the guy is laughable.

  20. It appears that classifying a team as Top-N (or Rest Of The Pack) is better done on the basis of goal difference. But I also believe that it is a long term philosophy thing. Leeds, Newcastle (and others) have arguments for being Top-N in the past; approximately 2000 and slightly past for Leeds and/or Newcastle.

    The spuds and Chel$ea had a good year or two, a bad year, a good year, ….on their transition to Top-N. But the interruptions of a “bad” year become fewer and/or less severe as time went on. Leeds, Newcastle or others only presented an argument for a few years at most, and then largely went away.

    If there is a Top-N group in the league, you might think that a consequence of this is that the league would hand out more points because more games would end as one team wins and the other loses (3 points handed out) as opposed to a draw (only 2 points handed out). If that effect is present, it is subtle.

    Prior to 2009/10, we seem to have a Top-4 league, and the sum of the goal difference for the Top-4 tends to be around 150. That season was the first for Abu Dhabi owning Man$ity. It is possible they used enough money to buy immediate “membership” in the Top-N club, it is more likely that it would take more than 1 year (in this circumstance, 2). The spuds had a goal difference of 0 that year, which is not arguably Top-N on an single, isolated year. In the data I’ve compiled, Top-4 runs from 179 to 122 for sum of goal difference. I didn’t go back to the origin of the EPL.

    On the transition to Top-6, we are seeing sum of goal differences between 157 and 251 (ignoring the Leicester year). With a Top-6, it is becoming somewhat rare to see any of the Top-6 significantly below +20 for a goal difference; as well as it becoming rare to see any ROTP team have a goal difference significantly higher than +10. If there are more than one ROTP team above the lowest placed Top-N team; we typically see some of them with a negative goal difference.

    In the Leicester year, we have Leicester obtaining 10 points more than second place Arsenal as well as having the second best goal difference at +32 (the spuds were at +34). Chelsea was the lowest ranked Top-6 team that year, with 50 points and a goal difference of +6 (also lowest among the Top-6).

    It isn’t solely that Leicester was “gifted” about +20 on goal difference; the ROTP had two other teams above Chelsea in the standings. Soton had 63 points for +18 and WHam had 62 points for +14. It would appear that the gift while concentrated at Leicester, was a goal difference gift of +55 (or so)

    The sum of the Top-6 goal difference was 126 that year; so there is a “loss” of about 25-35 on goal difference to the Top-6 that year.

    If we define the points gap as the lowest ranked Top-N team points minus the highest ranked ROTP points, we have: 9, 8, -31, 2, 8, -2, -13, 4, -1, -13. The most recent of those -13 events is 2011/12; where Liverpool only managed 52 points and a goal difference of +7 (Newcastle was 65 at +5, Everton was 56 at +10 and Fulham were 52 at -3). The earlier of those -13 events was 2008/09; with Man$ity at 50 points with +8 (and the spuds at 51 with 0). The ROTP intrustion was Everton at 63 with +18, AVilla at 62 with +6, Fulham at 53 with +5 and WHam at 51 with -3.

    If you say the first year of the Top-6 is instead 2009/10; the lowest ranked Top4 team in 2008/09 was Arsenal at 72 points with +31, and the points gap switches from -13 to +13.

    If you have a Top-4 with a sum of GD of 150; they are averaging +37 (or so) against the ROTP. To move to a Top-6, they are “extracting” another 70-80 GD from the ROTP. More goals shipped, fewer points. The relegation line will move down. Historically teams were safe at 40 points. It seems like the relegation zone has moved closer to 35 points. If a team has a goal difference below -20; they are in strong danger of relegation.

    With games remaining, Burnley are at -22 (Cardiff is at -31) and the sum of the Top-6 is pretty close to +200.

  21. I see that, according to the Guardian, whether a ref is appon=inted for a match seems to depend on whether he receives an invitation from the home team.

    If that was true, then would we get any ref for our home games?

  22. @nitram, Same here. Wouldn’t waste my time debating with you either. However, I think you might need to go back and Check, I’m certain you’ll find out its Tony who wrote articles claiming money spent on players didn’t count, and you’ll find people like jamburg calling him out on that. The only time TomP is involved in that debate is when Tony suddenly changes tune and starts accusing man city, Liverpool, Chelsea of buying the league and then going on to claim its the media that wants us to believe money wasn’t involved.

  23. TomP

    No rebuttal re my post earlier in the thread? I guess you agree with my assessment.

  24. @GS72
    I judge d refs based on human standards. None of us is perfect, the refs aren’t, you aren’t, I definitely am not. But generally I think they’re doing a good job. After untolds 160 match review, I got an even higher impression of the work PL refs do, because even with the benefit of video replays, I and I believe experienced refs like Dermot Gallagher seemed to agree more with the on field refs, than Walter’s team. It’s however a personal opinion. Of course VAR should only make things even better, so I eagerly await next season.

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