Why do Liverpool keep getting the same referees?

A second article following on from this is now published – see link at end of this piece.

by Andrew Crawshaw.

You will be aware that Untold has held strong views about the PGMO, how they keep appointing the same referees over and over again and how they continually fail to have sufficient referees for the PL.

So far this season the PGMO have utilised all the 17 referees on their ‘Select list’ and, in addition, four more have done one game each.  Of those on the Select list eight have done 20 games or more whilst three have done fewer than 10 games.  It looks to me like there are only eight referees really trusted.  If the other nine are allowed to do games for some teams why not all of them?

But either they are competent or not, and surely all of the teams in the PL deserve an equal standard of refereeing.  I am sick to death of seeing Atkinson, Dean, Kavanagh, Tierney and Attwell.  I wouldn’t mind too much if I felt they were all 100% competent but they all show that they are at best erratic and at worst downright strange in their decision making.

It’s not only Arsenal that is affected by repeat refereeing though.

The runaway leaders Liverpool have only seen 11 referees.  Anthony Taylor has done most matches with  (plus another 2 as Video Referee).  To date no other club has had a referee six times.  Paul Tierney has been involved the most (9 matches) if we include his appearances as fourth official as well as Video referee – he has been involved in 30% of the Liverpool games.  Oliver, Taylor and Moss have also been involved in over a quarter of their games with six, Marriner and Pawson have been involved in over a fifth of Liverpool’s games.

Liverpool As Referee As 4th Official As Video ref Total Involvement Involvement % of games played
Michael Oliver 6 0 2 8 27.6%
Anthony Taylor 4 3 1 8 27.6%
Paul Tierney 2 1 6 9 31.0%
Craig Pawson 1 1 4 6 20.7%
Martin Atkinson 3 0 1 4 13.8%
Chris Kavanagh 3 0 1 4 13.8%
Jon Moss 3 4 1 8 27.6%
Andre Marriner 3 1 3 7 24.1%

Sheffield United have had the joint most referees with 16, they also have the fewest serial visitors with two, but even with them things are odd.  They have had both David Coote (total 11 matches in the PL) and Simon Hooper (9 matches) on four occasions – 40% of the total games the two of them have been in charge of.

As we keep saying the numbers don’t give a lot of confidence that match fixing in the PL can’t occur.  The practices in place don’t appear to be sufficient to preclude the possibility of outside influences affecting results.

Here are the total matches allocated to each of the PL referees this season:

Games including matchweek 29


Martin Atkinson 25
Anthony Taylor 23
Michael Oliver 23
Mike Dean 22
Paul Tierney 20
Kevin Friend 20
Chris Kavanagh 20
Jonathan Moss 20
Andre Marriner 17
Craig Pawson 15
Graham Scott 15
Stuart Attwell 15
Lee Mason 13
David Coote 11
Simon Hooper 9
Peter Bankes 7
Andy Madley 9
Oliver Langford 1
Robert Jones 1
Darren England 1
Tim Robinson 1

The next question to ask is “is this situation common across the other European Leagues?”  With a little digging and using data readily available on the internet here are comparable figures for total games across the other 4 major European leagues:-

Germany – Bundesliga

Referees Total games (to 23/2/20)
Dr. Felix Brych 12
Tobias Stieler 12
Markus Schmidt 11
Felix Zwayer 11
Daniel Siebert 11
Marco Fritz 11
Manuel Gräfe 10
Deniz Aytekin 10
Bastian Dankert 10
Harm Osmers 10
Sascha Stegemann 10
Christian Dingert 9
Frank Willenborg 9
Benjamin Cortus 9
Sven Jablonski 9
Patrick Ittrich 8
Daniel Schlager 8
Martin Petersen 7
Guido Winkmann 6
Dr. Robert Kampka 6
Robert Hartmann 6
Robert Schröder 6
Sören Storks 5
Tobias Welz 4
Bibiana Steinhaus 4

So in a smaller league, we have 25 referees used, one female (Bibiana Steinhaus), none more than 12 times and none  fewer than four.

Spain – La Liga

Referees Total games (to 23/2/20)
Antonio Miguel Matéu Lahoz 14
Estrada Fernández 14
Mario Melero López 14
Jesús Gil Manzano 14
Adrián Cordero Vega 14
Guillermo Cuadra Fernández 14
Javier Alberola Rojas 14
Juan Martínez Munuera 13
Medié Jiménez 13
César Soto Grado 13
José María Sánchez Martínez 13
Valentin Pizarro Gomez 13
Pablo González Fuertes 13
José Luis Munuera Montero 13
Carlos Del Cerro Grande 12
Eduardo Prieto Iglesias 12
González González 11
Santiago Jaime Latre 11
De Burgos Bengoetxea 11
Andrés Hernández 7
Alejandro Hernández 6

21 referees, all engaged in between 14 and 6 matches

Italy – Serie A

Referee Total games (to 23/2/20)
Maurizio Mariani 14
Rosario Abisso 13
Federico La Penna 13
Davide Massa 13
Marco Di Bello 12
Daniele Doveri 12
Daniele Orsato 12
Gianluca Rocchi 12
Gianpaolo Calvarese 11
Daniele Chiffi 11
Piero Giacomelli 11
Marco Guida 11
Fabio Maresca 11
Fabrizio Pasqua 11
Marco Piccinini 11
Michael Fabbri 10
Antonio Giua 10
Massimiliano Irrati 10
Luca Pairetto 10
Paolo Valeri 10
Gianluca Manganiello 9
Eugenio Abbattista 2
Juan Luca Sacchi 2
Manuel Volpi 2
Gianluca Aureliano 1
Giovanni Ayroldi 1
Francesco Fourneau 1
Livio Marinelli 1
Alessandro Prontera 1
Riccardo Ros 1
Simone Sozza 1

21 referees with between 14 and 9 matches with a further10 used for either 1 or 2 matches each

Finally France – Ligue 1

Name Matches to date
Antony Gautier 16
Hakim Ben El Hadj 15
Ruddy Buquet 15
Willy Delajod 15
Johan Hamel 14
Frank Schneider 14
Jérôme Brisard 13
Amaury Delerue 13
Mikael Lesage 13
François Letexier 13
Karim Abed 12
Florent Batta 12
Thomas Leonard 12
Jérémy Stinat 12
Clément Turpin 12
Eric Wattellier 12
Benoît Bastien 11
Jérémie Pignard 11
Olivier Thual 11
Stéphanie Frappart 10
Benoît Millot 9
Jérôme Miguelgorry 4
Alain Bieri 1

23 Referees in total, one female (Stéphanie Frappart) and Alain Bieri is Swiss not French.  With he and Migulgorry excepted all between 16 and 9 games.

So we can clearly see that the UK pattern of refereeing is out of kilter with all of the other major leagues in Europe.  Our busiest referee has done 25 matches as against 16 in France, 14 in Spain and Italy and 12 in Germany.

All of the other leagues have more referees and the individual workload is far more evenly spread between them than is the case in England.

The more one looks at the data the odder it appears.

In the next article we’ll break down these figures to show just how far away from the approach of the other major football leagues in Europe, the Premier League has stayed, and what this says about corruption among referees in the Premier League.

This theme continues in our next article to be published later today, “Is Premier League refereeing different from the other major European leagues? YES!!! “

Part two of this article is now published

Part 2: Is Premier League refereeing very different from other major European leagues? YES!

Meanwhile you might enjoy…

How the media tells us what is news, what is not, and how to think



21 Replies to “Why do Liverpool keep getting the same referees?”

  1. I believe there is a saying in football that if your good enough your old enough , how can a referee become good enough if your not given the chance .
    Older referees will have to retire before the younger ones get a chance .
    Did PGMO scrap the retirement age 47/48 and then make it a fitness requirement once you hit that age , so as an example Moss as an elite referee is never going to pack it in until he is more incompetent than he already is and forced out ha ha .
    I can’t see how he would complete a bleep test .

  2. Just pondering the league table. I know Arsenal have an absolutely abysmal defence that should all be sold (despite the fact that half of them have been injured for most of the season). I know that because the media and the “experts” tell me so………follow by the AAA sheep. So I ask a question. Why have Chelski and the Spuds both conceded about 10% more goals than us and not been bashed for it? Funny that………

  3. Know they have their own issues, but wonder why the world / European governing bodies are not looking into our refereeing issues a little more, perhaps a job for Mr Wenger!

  4. The popular belief amongst the media and public at large is that bias and corruption are simply not an issue in this country. Its not even worth discussing, we are above such things, it is not British and only the foreigners indulge in such terrible things.
    The ridiculous thing is though that PGMOL themselves admit (though not openly) that bias could be a possibility by the simple fact that they bar some of their refs from officiating in games of teams from their own locality, or teams they atre know to support. Dean for example who is from the Wirral does not do Liverpool matches.
    So PGMOL actually agree that corruption, for that is what bias is, is a possibility in the Premier League. And yet they do not have the sense to see that the ridiculous way that they operate and allocate their officials to games as shown by Andrew in this fantastic article leaves themselves open to accusations of the possibility of bias.
    Or maybe they just don’t care, safe in the knowledge that our pathetic media will not rock the boat and do not have the wit or the balls or the desire to challenge what is going on.

  5. Mick,

    if yu look at where the 17 referees come from, you will discover that, unless I am right, NONE are from London or anyplace south of it.
    So yes, they put up, as a fig leaf on a naked statue, the fact that this Dean guy does not ref Liverpool…yet all these northern guys referee southern or London teams. And I do remember a few years ago one of them living around the block fomr a Manchester stadium I believe, refereeing that team.

    Let’s just imagine that at the next world cup no referee comes from Europe ? or that in the CL no referee comes from any of the big leagues. Do you believe the media would not start screaming bloddy murder ?

    But then, british media is bloddy useless in general terms and totally useless when it comes to football. So what do you expect ?

  6. The PGMOL are certainly biased, at the very best. How so many laughed about Fergie time, and the Utd managers power to select and ban refs from OT, that to me at least comes under matchfixing, and the PGMOL were guilty.In making a man like Riley their head , may have sent out potential messages to wider forces of corruption, which may, or may not be in play, nothing has been proven, yet.
    Have long suspected that if there is corruption, Mike Riley is nothing more than a “useful idiot” for powers above him, a yes man, compromised from the Fergie era and who knows, maybe elsewhere, a weak man who will do exactly what those above him, whoever they may be instruct. Which is why he remains in post , seemingly out of control and unaccountable.
    But also a man who will bear the brunt, if/when go wrong, and any wrongdoings , if there are any, get exposed.
    Mike Riley is many things, but whatever he is or isn’t doing at the moment is unlikely to be at his own bidding. If he is doing nothing wrong, he could easily be more open, communicative and accountable and maybe prove to the world he is doing nothing wrong, maybe even explain why Arsenal are only ever given certain refs, as it seems are Liverpool. But Riley, open, communicative, accountable, a bit like expecting Trump to be humble.
    If there is something wrong with this league, the media are certainly passive or even complicit for now, but that could change with events, we all know how fickle the English media are, especially given a witchhunt of someone or something that once held their silence.

  7. I’ve said it a million times, Riley, and in his wake the referees are run by the media.

    They follow whatever agenda the media lay down.

    I’ll give a couple of recent examples of how they referee certain teams in a certain way, because they know what is expected of them, and as a result what they will get away with, or even praised for, despite the two polar opposite ways two very similar incidents were refereed.

    Torreira gets his ankle broken with a foul that was clearly outside the laws of the game, as it was made with excessive force and was likely to cause injury. This is clearly described as a foul and a yellow card in the laws of the game. The fact it resulted in broken ankle is surely proof that that is exactly what it was.

    But no foul was given. No card was issued, just as Dean knew was expected of him when it comes to Arsenal, and hey presto !

    The commentators and media were in total agreement with him. apparently it was a perfectly legitimate tackle, hence, no criticising of the referee, or the perpetrator. Indeed quiet the opposite, as Dean was praised for his decision, as was the player for his ‘tackle. Some media drainpipes went further and suggested Torreira actually broke his own ankle.

    So a bad foul and a very poor decision are praised. Nothing to see here. It’s Arsenal. Job done.

    Yesterday Lallana put in a very similar challange. I say similar, but lets get this straight, it was nothing like as bad as the one on Torriera yet it was correctly called a foul and he was booked.

    Now spot the difference. This is what Carragher said about that incident:

    “You cant make tackles like that nowadays. That will always be a foul and a booking, even if you get the ball”

    Again the referee was praised.

    So how can both Dean and Moss be right? 2 polar opposite reactions to 2 very similar incidents, the worst of which broke an ankle and didn’t even warrant a free kick, the other hardly touched the opponent but was still deemed worthy
    of a yellow card?

    The answer is they cant and these guys KNOW that. They know that ‘tackle’ on Torreira was bad, yet they are prepared to defend it simply because he plays for Arsenal. Its a disgrace.

    My point is, as long as the referee does what the media agenda requires of him he will be praised, whether it was a correct call, with regards to the laws of the game, or not.

    Also yesterday we had Mane taking a dive Tom Daley would of been proud of, and not a dickie bird. Not from the referee. Not from the commentators. Again, nothing to see here, this is LiVARpool after all. No action from the referee is exactly what is expected of him.

    Remember Saka I think it was against Villa earlier in the year. He was actually caught but still got booked for a dive, quite rightly so apparently, as this was something he would have to get out of his game. All praise the referee.

    Both referees did exactly what was expected of them.

    Overlook any ‘accidental’ tumbles from the angels of the North, but be sure to clamp down on those diving little cheats from North London.

    Yep, the referees know exactly how they are supposed to referee each and every team in order to garner praise and adulation from their lords and masters in the media, but woe betide any failure to tow the line and heaven help them.

    Whether you agree with my reasoning behind this refereeing inconsistency/bias is un important, but how anyone can deny it’s existence is beyond me.

    And one final point.

    How about the polar opposite ways Dier and Xhaka were treated by the media following their spats with supporter/s.

  8. Mandy Dodd that is interesting – especially as he says

    I’ve had an extra day to think about this. My conclusion is that they are now so bad that it’s impossible to ignore them. Honestly, I hate saying that, but after another shambles, both on the pitch and in the VAR bunker last weekend, how can anyone disagree?

    We have an unexpected ally.

  9. Mandy Dodd and Tony

    That is an amazing article, and yes it is quit nice to know that there is at least somebody ‘within the game’ so to speak, that sees what we see regarding the dire state of affairs we are in with regards to Riley, the PGMO and our referees.

    But don’t you think it is telling that despite some of the diabolical VAR decisions we’ve had go against us this season, that not one of our miscarriages was mentioned ?

    Not only that but Keys goes back over historical testimony and experiences with regards to Rileys incompetence as a referee, yet he very tellingly fails to mention Rileys shameful performance at OT, a match at which he was the link man in the studio.

    Despite that being one of the worst refereeing performances of all time, it was very shortly followed by his promotion to head of the PGMOL.

    Given Keys contempt for Riley as a referee, Surely a performance of that level of ineptitude, followed by a promotion, is something Keys would of been acutely aware of, yet not a mention. Funny that.

    So yes, an ally of sorts, but still the Arsenal bias seeps through.

  10. OT: Chel$ea 2 0 Everton HT

    Friend is the PGMO twit. Fouls are 3:4 and no cards. No treatments.

    OT: Chel$ea 4 0 Everton FT

    Fouls end 8:10, cards end 1:2. No treatments.

    OT: ManUre 1 0 Man$ity HT

    Dean is the PGMO twit. Fouls are 5:6 and cards are 1:2. Treatment inflicted by ManUre on Man$ity at 33m, which seems to involved with a free kick.

    OT: ManUre 1 0 Man$ity FT

    Fouls are 10:10 and cards are 2:3. Man$ity inflict a treatment at 49m, Sargeant Dean Schultz seemingly sees NOTHING! Man$ity inflict a treatment at 73m. Sargeant Schultz sees NOTHING! Man$ity inflict a treatment at 90m, unknown if Sargeant Schultz seen anything.


    Looking at Andrew’s data (I hope he doesn’t mind). I am stepping through Spain (21 referees) in the debugger. If we compare referee X and referee Y, the first thing we have to do is to not allow X and Y to refer to the same referee. Our outer loop goes over all 21 referees, making sure we don’t have the same referee listed twice. We want to calculate the ratio of appearances of X and Y. If the appearances by X and Y are the same, the ratio is 1. In all other cases, either the appearances by X or Y is larger, and we calculate the larger divided by the smaller. This way we don’t overcount. And we save all those ratios by referee.

    We loop 21 times, but save data 20 times. And we do this 20 times, so 420 ratios.

    Smallest ratio is 1, largest is 2.333. 420 ratios.
    _Mode involving 1 about 224 – median 1.07692.
    _Mode with median of 1.182, about 128
    _Mode with median of 2.000, about 68
    80 percentile in 1.273 bin, 90 percentile lies in the 2.000 bin and the 95 percentile in the 2.167 bin.

    Smallest ratio is 1, largest is 3.000. 600 ratios.
    _Mode involving 1 – median 1 about 70
    _Mode with median 1.100 about 106
    _Mode with median 1.222 about 98
    _Mode with median 1.333 about 53
    _Mode with median 1.500 about 77
    _Mode with median 1.667 about 48
    _Mode with median 1.833 about 82
    _Mode with median 2.250 about 26
    _Mode with median 2.625 about 48
    80 percentile lies in 1.833 bin, 90 percentile lies in the 2.25 bin and 95 percentile in the 2.500 bin.

    Smallest ratio is 1, largest is 14. Number of ratios is 930.
    _Mode involving 1 with median 1.000, about 131
    _Mode with median 1.095 about 167
    _DoubleMode with median 1.211 about 169
    _Mode with median 2, about 43
    _Mode with median 5.5, about 123
    _Mode with median 10, about 297
    80 percentile lies in the 11 bin, 90 percentile in the 12 bin and 95 percentile in the 13 bin

    Smallest ratio is 1 and largest is 16. Number of ratios is 506.
    _Mode involving 1 with median 1, about 59.
    _Mode with median 1.0833, about 122.
    _Mode with median 1.167, about 92.
    _Mode with median 1.250, about 63.
    _Mode with median 1.333, about 56.
    noise from 1.42 to 16.
    80 percentile lies in the 1.5 bin, 90 percentile is in the 3.75 bin, and 95 percentile in the 12 bin.

    Smallest ratio is 1 and largest is 25. Number of ratios is 410.
    _Mode involving 1 with median 1.000, about 38.
    _Mode with median 1.150, about 51.
    _Wide mode with median 1.333, about 57.
    _Wide mode with median 1.571, about 67.
    _Wide mode with median 2.222, about 55.
    noise from 2.44 to about 12
    _Wide mode with median 20
    80 percentile lies in the 15 bin, 90 percentile in 20 bin and 95 percentile in 23 bin.

    I am expecting some fairly well structured grouping of appearance ratios at low values of the appearance ratio, and then something at high ratios indicating some measure of training (referees that don’t appear often). If noth much training is happening, you could see statistical noise in the high ratios as well.

    Spain has 3 well resolved modes, with most of the data close to 1. There is no “noisy region”. Largest mode contains 1.000, and so most of the Spanish referees are in this core group.

    Germany has no noisy region, and is composed of well defined modes. They seem to have 2 or 3 sets of “experience” levels in their people. Germany has 9 modes.

    France does have a noisy region. Most of their referees seem to be about the same, with perhaps two groups of referees that have nearly the same experience.

    Italy is the only country in the above, which has had corruption cases in the courts. It has a much larger range of appearance ratios, and large modes can be anywhere (almost). Italy has more than 20% of the appearance ratios at large values.

    And then we have England. It is even more spread out than Italy, and has appearance ratios of to 25. The 80 percentile point in Italy is in the 11 bin. 80 percentile in England is at 15. All the modes are about the same size, with the mode involving 1.000 among the smaller ones.

    To me, the appearance ratios for English referees shows much more in common with Italy, than any of the other countries.

  11. Agree Nitram, certainly worth a mention.
    Keys is far from perfect, but a man with his knowledge, his contacts at the very top ( or some would say depths) of the game, he is a good man to be highlighting these issues.
    A shame newspapers don’t follow , perhaps they are not allowed?

  12. Mandy, Tony,

    I’ve been watching the odd beIN Sports program excerpts on YouTube over the last few months, and they have made some interesting comments about PL refereeing, including bad decisions taken against Arsenal.

    I checked some of the other blog entries on the website from Mandy’s link and there are some interesting comments like “keeping powder dry” and “that’s for later”.

  13. Mr Attwood,can we have a comparison of refeering schedule for league winners in d last 3 seasons? It will assist in let us know if PGMO has been assisting winners through officiating,as it’s being asked now why Liverpool is getting the same refeers over ND over again.

  14. We have been publishing these as we go along each season. If I have time I’ll pull them together, but my time is completely filled up running Untold and keeping tabs on and publishing the research we are running already. There’s only a small number of volunteers here.
    But I would argue that the key point is numbers: if one wants to make sure the league is fairly refereed, ensure that each major club only gets the same referee twice in a season, and never more.

  15. I beg to differ with Tony. The only way to get a league that is fairly refereed is to disband PGMOL and to have a list of available referees from the FA & UEFA and select a group of 90 by ballot. Get them on contract and allocate from them by ballot ensuring that each official does not officiate the same team more than twice in any competition. Each match would require 6 officials – 4 on the field and 2 on VAR. Broadcast the radio communication to ensure transparency.

  16. Menace

    I think that is the perfect solution and have been suggesting something along those lines for years, and reiterated such an idea just the other day.

    Such a system would:

    -Virtually eliminate any chance of historical or emotional bias.

    -Eliminate any chance of local or even regional bias.

    -Significantly reduce the possibility of corruption, especially type 3 match fixing

    -Eliminate the possibility of over familiarity, and the player preconceptions that entails.

    -Give referees protection from media agendas.

    These are just some of the advantages to this system.

    It would take away virtually all the power and influence from the malignant forces of both the media and the PGMO.

    Which is exactly why it will never happen.

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