It’s not a question of if the ref was bent; it is far more serious than that.

By Tony Attwood

If you’ve been on this site before, you’ll know that several of us who write articles here feel there is something wrong with refereeing, and that Arsenal are on the receiving end of dubious decisions a disproportionate number of times.

Many people have read the 2016/17 review of refereeing that we undertook in which we took the first 160 games of that Premier League season, analysing each one in terms of refereeing decisions, and providing the articles complete with video evidence.   That report showed a large number of referee errors, with the range of errors was not evenly distributed, and although some who oppose our work have suggested that some of our views on refereeing decisions are wrong, no one else has actually undertaken their own review of a similar number of games or presented a consistent array of evidence for more than a few games.   Ours appears to be the only in-depth study.

But still the argument goes on – mostly from people who write in with two or three line comments, making the point that we are just trying to excuse the failure of the club by blaming the refs.   Their argument is either that Arsenal is treated no different than other teams, or that the view from the PGMO (the body that runs Premier League referees) that referees in the Premier League get over 99% of decisions correct, is justified.

However such arguments fail to understand a fundamental point within the articles we have published in the past.  And that is that the PGMO takes, and has taken, a range of decisions that are quite different from those taken by refereeing bodies in the rest of Europe.  Those decisions have never been justified by PGMO, and yet all have the effect of making it very hard to present evidence and information concerning the bias or lack of bias of referees.

In short PGMO has worked consistently to ensure that the debate is stopped and as far as I know, no other country in Europe has acted in the same way.   And our twofold question quite simply is this: “Why does PGMO act so utterly differently from the way the rest of Europe acts, and why does the mainstream media not raise the question of why this is so?”

Below I want to sketch out some of the ways in which PGMO has set up a system that makes it easy for anyone engaged in match fixing to fix matches using a system known as Type III match fixing, and then repeat the question, “why is the PGMO acting in this way?”    And my point is not that referees or PGMO is corrupt, but that they are acting strangely and it would be interesting to know why.

So, here are the ways in which PGMO differs from the rest of Europe overall.  Not from every other country on every point, but overall.

But first, in case you have not seen it before, here is an explanation of Type III match fixing.

In this a rich owner of a club goes to a number of referees and says they will be rewarded if a rival club is disadvantage in matches NOT involving the rich owner’s club.  So, if there is a case of a foul that could lead to a yellow card or not, if should be a yellow.  If there is a dubious penalty call, if it is against one of these nominated teams, then it should be awarded.   And so on.

It Italy when the approach flourished, Juventus and other teams were accused of using the system, and here we might see it as the owner of Juventus saying to referees, “if you are refereeing AC Milan, Inter Milan, or Napoli, and there is an incident that might award them a penalty, which could see them win the match, it would be helpful if you did not give it.  And incidentally the 18 bedroom villa on the lakes with full staff, drinks and food, will be available for your family for the month of June…”

So we come to the questions.

  1.  One way to hinder such corruption is to ensure that each referee only works with each team twice.  That doesn’t stop corruption but it reduces the chances of it happening.  But in the PL some referees handle the same club half a dozen times in a season, giving them lots of chance to influence results.  Why?  It doesn’t mean there is match fixing but it increases the risk of match fixing.
  2. In some countries referees can be interviewed in the media – sometimes straight after a game.  In the PL it is not only forbidden but referees are offered additional payments if they sign non-disclosure agreements which apply after their tenure is over.  Why is the PL so different?
  3. One way to stop anything dubious happening is to introduce VAR, which was introduced for virtually every major league except the PL.   Why was it ok for everyone else, but it was delayed in England?
  4. In earlier times some radio journalists were famous for their criticism of referees.  Then it suddenly stopped.  The only explanation we’ve found is that part of the contract that gives broadcast rights to radio stations stipulates that the referee is not criticised, beyond the occasional, “I think the ref may have got that one wrong,” and no more.  Why is this?
  5. We know for sure that the TV contracts contain regulations about the stations not showing certain events.  Why is this?  Surely if it is felt that should the case the exact details of the contract should be revealed so that the viewer knows what is being removed.  Why is this not done – or better, why not abandon the censored approach?
  6. Apart from Untold’s 160 game review, there are few analyses of referee acuracy with video evidence, showing exactly what events occurred and which ones can be seen in retrospect to be wrong.  Why is this?
  7. As long ago as the 1970s, national newspapers in Britain were suggesting that TV broadcasters were editing football matches that were shown, in order to make them seem more entertaining than they were in reality.  That would be natural for TV stations to do, to encourage their audience, so what is done to eliminate this and ensure the coverage is fair?
  8. Why won’t PGMO engage in a debate on these matters with organisations that have no vested interest in talking up the quality of football (ie not those that are licensed by the Leagues or FA to broadcast or report on games)?

There are more questions, but those will do.  And as I say in the headline – the utter and absolute refusal of PGMO to answer these questions tells us that there is indeed something seriously wrong.   It is not that I expect them to talk to Untold, but there are many others who are raising questions – and the refusal even to entertain the notion that there is an issue to be debated is the fundamental problem.

There was something terribly wrong with Italian football, and part of the reason that it took so long to be debated was that the culture of debate and questioning by football journalists was abandoned.   That in itself does not suggest there must be something wrong, but it is highly indicative.

It is not helpful to have subjects banned, as they currently are – but if PGMO wants to ban some debate, surely it ought to come clean about it.

40 Replies to “It’s not a question of if the ref was bent; it is far more serious than that.”

  1. Th referee ignored a studs on chest attack on Torreira. Two fouls in quick succession were ignored & when possession was quickly lost the idiot referee gave a soft free kick to Leicester. AMN should not have been sent off. A number of other challenges by the home team ignored. Think of the Cardiff Chelsea game a couple of weeks ago and West ham were also ripped of at yernited. Maybe its time to get rid of the useless fu**ing idiots (referees and linesman) who ref our game and bring in quality professionals from Europe. Problem with this is 17.4million morons voted for Brexit therefore a possible restriction of movement of ‘labour’.

  2. So we’re just going to ignore the fact that Arsenal are just totally shit and inept? Most of that squad are embarrassing and totally gutless. No fight, no desire, no quality and NO LEADERSHIP! Leno and Torreira are about the only two players that tried to reduce the damage, but most of this squad need replacing.
    Yes the red card was harsh, but we were awful even before we went down to 10 men and would’ve lcomfortably lost anyway, just like against Wolves & Palace. We got favourable decisions in the game against Watford, but still only just hung on to win against 10 men.

  3. Well Geoff, the article was quite long in itself, and most articles on this blog do tend to deal with one topic rather than embracing all topics at once. But if you wish to argue this point, I think you ought to incorporate the strange effect of how we had such an excellent run for a while in the league, and why until the Palace game we had such a terrific home form. Without taking those into account it is hard to see through your argument to the end. But if we are to talk about the game, we need to consider the tactics of playing for an hour with ten men.

  4. @ Geoff

    Absurd. Nobody is ignoring that. That is discussed elsewhere.

    What did Tony say at the beginning? “But still the argument goes on – mostly from people who write in with two or three line comments, making the point that we are just trying to excuse the failure of the club by blaming the refs.”

    You bring nothing to the debate except to demonstrate exactly what has been said, so don’t bother.

    Tony everything you raise is valid. The PGMO/media fear of engaging in the debate raises many questions.

    I posted on social media immediately after the extraordinarily soft sending off of Ainsley yesterday that it’s strange how in the last few games decisions have shown a tendency to favour Man U (a team we all know Mike Riley loves). I suggest Chelsea should be concerned. So what did we see in the Man U Chelsea game. A clear elbow to the face of a Chelsea player completely unpunished and Rojo, having only been on the pitch a few minutes, with a potential leg breaking studs up challenge (for the umpteenth time in his career) merely getting a yellow card.

    I have no doubt that the authorities (and Riley in particular) want Man U in the Champions League and the media will be behind that.

    I will happily bet that the elbow does not even get looked at again and if it does, it will go unpunished. The absuedity of the rules are that neither Ainsley’s of Rojo’s yellows can be looked at again by someone with a bit of neutrality. It stinks.

  5. The thing about ‘Untold’s 160 games review’ is that although it was a very worthy exercise it was of match hi lights, not complete games (this was confirmed by co-ordinator Aman at the time), and as such cannot be regarded as definitive.
    I’m not suggesting that there is nothing wrong with the officiating of Premier League games, but that an independent review of full matches by professionals including ex players, referees, journalists & sport lawyers.

  6. Geoff,
    the sending off from Deeney was completely down to an assistant referee who told the ref what he had seen. The ref wanted to ignore the elbow at first. I do think that not all assistant referees “know” what Riley wants.
    The pattern I have found after looking at referees over the many seasons we have done is that as long as Arsenal is no real danger for some favourable teams it will get a more level handed refereeing. But as soon as Arsenal looks to take up a place in the CL or heaven forbid come close to winning the league (2007/2008 and the Leicester year) we will get the decisions against us. Why? Only God and Mike know….

  7. Masterstroke,

    we did a season reviewing the matches with different refereees supporting other teams. We did the reviews that season by looking at the whole match. We found the same numbers, the same pattern. Mind you we didn’t get to do 100% of the matches that season. The reports have been on line for a long long time. But a server problem has caused Tony to take them off line I thought. It was on the website refereedecisions. But no longer available. They were not supported with video evidence visible on the site.

  8. After years spent being a ref on Hackney Marshes where believe me it’s tough. So called footballers with hangovers from Saturday night with tackles so late the game had been over ten minutes before it landed
    But never felt it was nessasary to carry red and yellow cards.Agree or not cards are there to help bad refs make bad decisions.
    A yellow for kicking ball away or removing a shirt or nearly taking a mans head off, not what you consistent.
    Good refs don’t need cards just common sense.

  9. By their own admission PGMO themselves admit that bias amongst referees is possible.
    Otherwise why would they not allow certain refs officiate in matches in which they support or come from the locality of one of the participating teams. EG Dean cannot do Liverpool games.

  10. So we’re blaming the poor officiating in the Prem on Brexit?! Jeez, I’ve heard it all now!

    And in fairness, the ref did go over and book Ricardo after play finally stopped. Of course no one is debating that the AMN sending off was soft, but Maddison did con the ref with the awful play acting, so along with the suspension being rescinded they need to look at players cheating the officials too.

    Sorry Mickey, I didn’t know there was a minimum number of lines/words you had to write to qualify for a response on a forum?

    Tony, I think it was probably team selection that got us beat against Palace. Jenkinson, Mustafi, Mavropanos have not played together at all and are not the standard of Arsenal FC. You only had to witness the collective and individual mistakes in the game to notice that.
    Plus we know playing Elneny & Guendouzi together gives us nothing in the centre of midfield (see Everton away for further evidence) and I suspect many of the players have one eye on the Europa League.
    Missing Ramsey is also a key factor as he is one of the only talented midfielders we have that gives 110% and that little bit of quality every game. Shame he’s going to Juve.

    The squad is just not good enough and I’d say along with Cech & Ramsey leaving, Ospina, Jenkinson, Lichtsteiner, Mustafi, Koscielny, Monreal, Elneny, Iwobi, Miki, Xhaka & Ozil all need to be moved on. Give some of the youngsters a chance such as Baku, Nelson, Smith-Rowe, Medley, Jules, Bielik & Nwakali a chance as they can’t be any worse. With Bellerin, Holding & Welbeck coming back, 3 or 4 solid quality signings could change things quickly.

    The referees don’t always favour Manure, like Riley does, (not forgetting the worst officiating ever witnessed when they beat us 2-0 to end our 49 game unbeaten run), as otherwise they’d be finishing a lot higher than 6th. Plus it’s fair to say the media & the officials disliked Mourinho with a passion when he was there, and that did show when they thought everyone was against them in the last couple of seasons. I’m not saying we haven’t been on the end of bad officiating, but we have had some favourable decisions too and I believe over the season it evens itself out. You should try being Cardiff, then you’d know about decisions going against you!

  11. Geoff, Cardiff or any other team going down. In our reviews over the years we usually found that most of the time they also got a big number of bad decisions going against them. Big team bias exists. But when it comes to bias Arsenal are not a big team….

  12. Yes that wouldn’t surprise me. Hopefully VAR will clear up a lot of these things from next season. I know a lot will still get missed, but let’s hope fair play and officiating does actually start to even out more accurately next season.

  13. Walter
    First, apologies to Anam (who does the some stats on Arseblog) for suggesting that he co-ordinated the match reviews, when it was in fact Usama Zaka, who was once a prolific commenter & writer on this blog.
    He said in a reply to someone who challenged the accuracy of the reviews that they were sourced from European TV football hi-lights shows, and that it was an impossible task for the very small reviews team to cover all matches 100%.

  14. I am not sure we ever suggested the reviews were complete, but rather that they were the most comprehensive anyone had ever done, and thus were the best evidence available. There are two approaches one can take: one is to use the best evidence available and draw conclusions from that, the other is to say evidence is not worth looking at, unless it is 100% complete.
    Sadly, little evidence is 100% complete. For example opinion polls before an election sample a fraction of 1% of the populace, and admittedly don’t always get the prediction right, but they do get the results right far more often than they don’t – so they are still helpful indicators.
    We have long been suggesting that it would be in the interests of all of us for PGMO to provide a similar service to the one our team provided, so that we could have clear indicators of the accuracy of the refs, but they continue to stay in retreat in their tower of secrecy.

  15. If a player slides in to make a tackle and mistimes it, or the player he is tackling is too fast for him and he catches the player, it is a foul and frequently a card.

    So, when the Fallaini clone mistimes his tackled and ended up with his boot in Terreira’s chest, should that not have been a foul as well? Is that not dangerous play, as was the incident against the scum a few weeks ago when Leno received a boot in his chest and nothing was awarded?

    Was there also not another incident when a Leicester player caught Terreira’s leg the same?

    Is not the “problem” the inconsistency in the same match between one decision and another similar one?

    The “problem” is surely insufficient training, as is the ref’s frequent inability to tell genuine injury from a “Rivilino” type one. Why can a ref, or his assistant, not spot when a player is rolling around holding a different limb or part of a limb that was the subject of the contact?

    Could it be that the game is so fast and so riddled with playacting that one ref is not enough?

    Maybe the time has come to have 2 as they have in other sports?

    However, PGML would have to admit that there are mistakes, which, of course, they will not do.

    However, despite the above, I agree we were awful yesterday and would, most likely have lost even with AMN on the pitch.

  16. People sometimes prefer to be naive rather than accepting that the truth is not like it was presented to them.

    Premier League is the biggest business in the world. It features players paid five-diget amounts per week that can’t pass the ball further than six yards (see Burnley v City). It features players that admit they go tough on the opponents (namely Arsenal) waiting for their response. It features referees that have had their red card decisions overturned in at least three occasions in the last six years. It used to feature referees that had admitted they had used one set of rules for European games and the other one for domestic competitions without consequences. It features journalists who can’t make a proper analysis of data or write an article that deserves to be considered an opinion. It features managers who publicly admit that cheating is a part of the tactic without consequences.

    Nobody will ever allow that business to be under investigation because everyone involved would lose a lot of money.

  17. Josif

    All the many factors can be considered re refereeing. You’ve hit the nail on the head. The bottom line is…the bottom line. It’s about the money. Look no further. Tony cites Type III match fixing in Serie A. It was about money. Always will be.

  18. A few years back Michael Oliver was a promising referee. In position, in control, he really looked a comer. Along the way, I think, the powers that be (Mike Riley) had a word with him. Play along and you’ll be the top official with the top assignments. Don’t and you’ll carry the board for Kevin Friend for the rest of your short career. Completely not fact based, just my fevered imagination.

  19. I wonder how long the Wonga will compensate them for never having the chance to Ref at World Cups, Euros and last 16 or beyond of the Champions League if Riley has his way with PIGMOB VAR. They must be being well compensated.

  20. Gooner72

    Exactly what I thought.

    If I recall correctly he was in charge of a particular feisty affair up at OT some 5 or 6 years ago, maybe even more.

    United were up to their usual antics but Oliver was having non of it putting in a sterlingly even handed performance.

    Partly thanks to him Uniteds dark arts were thwarted and we emerged victorious.

    His stoic performance under immense duress was duly noted on untold, it seems it may of also been noted by a certain Mike Riley.

  21. @Gooner72, there was a FA cup tie at Old Trafford that he refereed very early in his career. An extraordinary performance where he played it with an absolutely straight bat. Our players were astonished, united’s were imploding with rage, and I fecking loved it. We won and it was great, a one gift from god I’m assuming

  22. You’re nails on about that game at Old Trafford. Actually it was not that long ago (2015 during our second FA Cup winning run). I still remember Di Maria rightly getting send off after a dive (first yellow) then grabbing Oliver shirt in dissent (second yellow). Also gave a another yellow to Januzaj for a dive in the box the last minute of the game.

    Like Clattenburg, he clearly showed early that he had the talent to be a world-class referee. But then they got caught in the PGMO corruption machine, and they had to play by the (Mike Riley) rules…

    Remember Clattenburg awful performance in a Tottenham/Chelsea brawl in 2016 where both teams should probably have received 3 or 4 red cards, and Clattenburg failed to send off a single player. Instead of sanctioning him, the FA rewarded Clattenburg by giving him the FA Cup final and lobbying the UEFA for both the Champions League and Euro finals.

    Euro final where he played a important role in the result, as a free kick given against Koscielny (seems like the Arsenal bias still works outside the UK) for a Eder handball, directly played a role in the winning goal scored two minutes later (because both the wrongly yellow card given to Koscielny and the fact that Lloris injured himself hitting the post on the free kick)

  23. I’m writing from France and after the Leicester game a French article said that anyway the boss of the referees hate Arsenal. What you say is well known even abroad even from professional journalists…

  24. Tony, your article would have been really indicting if you could provide evidence
    1. Where’s the evidence that in other European leagues a ref does a team twice at most?
    2.true in some leagues refs also sit at the post match briefing and can answer questions, but is that a common feature in most other European leagues?
    3. Yes VAR is a bit late(by 1 season when compared with the majority). The EPL gave its reasons for that. The decision wasn’t made by pgmo, but but the clubs (arsenal included). But that is even beside the point, VAR will be here next season.
    4,5 &7 – where’s your evidence for these accusations?
    6. There are loads of ref analysis on blogs and the media. I particular love ref watch on sky sports, there’s you’re the ref
    8. For there to be a debate, there has to be official complaints. Pgmo isn’t supposed to debate with itself.
    Of course I’m not saying all is well with Reffing and the pgmo. I’m only saying you sound like you’re giving the dog a bad name so you can kill it.

  25. The Arsenal Board should use all available Information to high light and confront Mike Reilly, the FA. No club should allow this type of victimisation of Their players and 2 The staggering financial Loses due to the obvious corruption that has occurred In almost every Arsenal Match . Long passed the time for Arsenal F C to stand for their Rights.

  26. @Tony we’re all angry with the refereeing in the EPL, but this article sounds like a lot Of conjecture from a sore loser. Points 4,5,7 need evidence to be believed. You also didn’t give us any evidence that points 1 &2 are practiced in majority of European leagues. Walter tells us refs in the Dutch and I guesse Belgian or German leagues face the press after the matches, but I doubt its a common practice elsewhere.
    Point 3, VAR implementation or not has never been a decision of the pgmo. And its coming next by the way. Point 8, unless official stakeholders complain how can there be a debate?

  27. In reply to the comments about evidence, true I didn’t publish evidence this time, but we have touched on these cases before. But irrespective of evidence or not across all the cases, one could simply point to the fact that criticism of the refereeing system for not restricting referees to two games per club, is not made within the game, and this is a logical safety measure.
    It is rather like having brakes on a car. You don’t actually need evidence of a car crash involving a car that could not stop, to realise the having a stopping system is a good idea. The same is true with all these suggestions. With or without the evidence it is logical to have a debate and illogical to stop the debate.
    And in england we have no debate.

  28. I’ve answered some of this in my reply to another comment, but the comment “For there to be a debate, there has to be official complaints” which has been made a number of times on this site, is not necessarily the case. Because all the parties involved sign up to a silence agreement doesn’t mean we can’t debate the point. The tragedy is that the one man who used to step aside the agreement – Alan Green commenting on Radio 5, is now mostly silent on the topic. One might wonder why.

  29. Geoff – you may be absolutely right on most of what you stated but ‘it all evens out in the end ‘ is a load of bollocks.

    Incidentally RMN was sent off by a corrupt official who coulld probably be racist in his decision making. RMN did not make contact for the second yellow but Oliver deemed his tackle to sufficient to warrant a yellow. Watch MOTD & see what a pundit who I consider anti Arsenal had to say about cheating {with TV evidence) that the FA will probably ignore.

    The FA & their selective visioned cheats are corrupt & nothing in our wonderful system can stop them.

  30. @Tony, I doubt there’s any league where number 1 is practiced. I could do a research, but I fear my findings will not favor your argument at all. Remember the points Scott makes is not that its not desirable, but rather that you can’t say pgmo runs things different from other leagues. So if we find that in the other leagues refs also do more than 2matches for teams, then it means pgmo doesn’t do it differently. It also may mean that though desirable, that point may not be feasible.
    Also concerning the request for evidence of what you accuse the media of, I read untold a lot and I doubt you’ve ever presented evidence for that. when you initially published the article making that claim, you were asked for evidence. I believe (I might be mistaken) your response was that you have sources but can’t name them so as to maintain their anonymity. You know that can’t pass for evidence.

  31. Gord – it was men against boys, and did the boys show up the men!! The problem was that several elbow and shoulder charges in the backs of these young players went unpunished by the official. In fact the official only carded one player for a sliding tackle that caught a spud.

    The treatment was for Vertongen injured by a team mates elbow. The injury had Vertongen leave the field after a long span of attention, to be assessed and change his blood stained clothing. The Official was unusual in that he stopped the game to enquire about the assessment before allowing Vertongen on the field of play. It was obvious that the spuds had not checked any aspect of concussion but wanted to push the player on despite that. The consequenses could have been dire as Vertongen lost balance and was semi concious when he was helped off the field. It is something UEFA & FA should investigate and punish Spurs for lack of care.

  32. Thanks Menace.

    😈 Mike Riley was probably already on the phone, trying to stave off any investigation.

  33. OT: The N Most Annoying People to Find at an Arsenal Game

    N to be determined by counting the reasons.

    1. Ex EPL Referees who claim to be experts because they are no longer employed by the EPL. They have all been trained and chosen by the same methods. Most non-Caucasian referees get ignored (in the news today) – most anti-Arsenal referees are trained, chosen and groomed to be in the EPL.

    2. Current EPL Referees. Mostly the same reason.

    3. Journalists. They wouldn’t know the truth if they tripped over it. And since they are typically bombed out of their skulls on whiskey; they fall and form a tripping hazard for anyone else.

    On to you. 🙂

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