The revelation that has scuppered PGMO once and for all

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By Tony Attwood

The PGMO – the ultra-secretive refereeing organisation that runs the Premier League – have maintained the view throughout their existence that their referees get things right.  No matter how much the crowd bays its disapproval, no matter that Fifa doesn’t want PGMO officials at the world cup, the PGMO referees have an astonishingly high level of accuracy in their decision making.  Or that’s what they say.

They have never told us how they know this, but tell us they have. In March 2017 we reported on a Sky Sports survey that claimed that “Premier League referee makes around 245 decisions per game”.  Sky Sports then concluded PGMO was right – in total, refs make around five errors per game, meaning they are right 98 per cent of the time.

Another interesting statistic, but one that is far less open to debate, is the fact that on average, Premier League teams consistently win on average around 46.2 percent of home games, while the draw occurs around 27.5 percent  of the time and the away team are victorious in 26.3 percent of games.

Now why is that?

It could be because of the home team not having had to travel, their familiarity with their surroundings, the effect on the players of being urged on by the crowd, the effect on the away team of being booed by the crowd, or the effect of the crowd on the referees.

But at last we can reduce these options because in the Bundesliga since its reopening for a series of ghost games only 18.5 percent of games have been won by the home team while the away team has won in 44.5 percent of the cases.

And just to make sure that this can’t simply be a coincidence Professor James Reade of the University of Reading and a team of research colleagues, has added to earlier research from Spain about home and away match results.

In fact he has examined the influence of the crowd on the outcome of 192 ghost games in Europe since 2002.  And the results are quite clear….

Without fans home team wins less often

With fans, the home teams he found were 45.8 percent victorious, (it is 46.2 percent in the Premier League, so his starting point shows how consistent this figure is across countries.

But in ghost games he found the result to be a home win in only 36.0 percent of the cases. Without fans, the away team wins 33.5 percent of the time. In short the home advantage no longer exists.

Now those figures could be due to referees being influenced or not influenced by a crowd, or to the players being influenced or not influenced by the crowd.  But now the figures go further…

Without fans, away players are punished more mildly

First comes the fact that if there are no fans in the stadium, the referee distributes fewer yellow cards.  And second, we can see that the away team in particular benefit from this.  Away teams get 16.7 percent fewer yellows in ghost games than in games with fans.   That clearly suggests that referees are influenced by the crowd into being stronger in their punishment of the away side when there is a crowd present.  And that influence shows that referees are being inaccurate.

In other words we now clearly have a factor in which the crowd, rather than the game, seems to be influencing the referees.  It is of course possible to argue that with a crowd present away players are far more aggressive and so deserve more yellow cards, but that seems a very unlikely explanation.  Why would an away player, knowing, as he must do, that away teams get more yellow cards than home teams, be more aggressive and commit more fouls away from home?  It is much more likely that he would be more cautious in order to avoid the yellow cards.

However although it is just about possible to argue that away players become more aggressive in front of a crowd, but are less aggressive with no crowd present, this argument was contradicted by the findings from Ignacio Palacios-Huerta, Professor of Management, Economics and Strategy at the London School of Economics, which we covered last week in our article on Crowdless Stadia Stats.   His research showed that the home crowd influences everything from the amount of time added on for stoppages.

How referees are influenced by the crowd 

We have also reported in the same article on the Guardian’s research in which 40 qualified referees considered 47 incidents from the Liverpool v Leicester game. Half watched with crowd noise, half without any crowd noise.  The referees viewing the game with the crowd noise awarded more than 15% extra fouls committed against the home team compared with those watching in silence.

In many ways we should not be surprised that fans influence players.  Research from the ghost matches in Germany shows that players stay down injured for shorter periods than they do in matches with fans present, and are less likely to miss a penalty, adding to the fact that the fans do make a difference.

But overall the case is clear: away teams are more successful in ghost games than in full stadia. Also because they get fewer yellow cards and less often miss a penalty.

The 98 percent accuracy claim is false.  So why did PGMO make it?

So the PGMO figures of 98 percent accuracy now look more stupid than ever.   Of course the evidence from Germany is still only based on 192 games but the fact that it reveals the same findings as the experiment of showing referees video games with and without the sound, and the earlier evidence from Spain, suggests that broadcasters and reporters have been suckered into believing that referees are accurate when they are not.  It has been a hugely successful propaganda exercise by PGMO which the hapless media has bought into.

This evidence is not definitive in relation to referees deliberately fixing matches, of course.   But there are another two points which are of enormous significance.

In claiming their 98 percent accuracy the PGMO must either have done no research and just made the numbers up, or must have known that they were inaccurate.

And now that the media know the whole 98 percent story was a gigantic con trick, what will they do about it?

You perhaps won’t be surprised to know that after 12 years of battling away at this topic, we are not going to let it go now.

The great refereeing scandal


6 Replies to “The revelation that has scuppered PGMO once and for all”

  1. Sorry if I’m boring people with this but I think it needs highlighting at every opportunity.

    Whilst I don’t doubt the your research or conclusions, the question still remains that this bias towards the home club (which I don’t think any of us is surprised about) does not actually occur at the Emirates. In fact quite the opposite. At home Arsenal have indeed been called for fewer fouls than the opposition 175 – 206 (possibly because we actually commit fewer) but that is where it ends. When the cards are dished out, we actually get more than the opposition 36 – 30. So Arsenal commit fewer fouls but on average get a card for every 4.9 fouls, whilst the opposition commit more fouls yet only receive a card every 6.9 fouls. That makes us 41% more likely to be carded at home than the opposition. Not exactly what I’d call an advantage!

    But if you consider the numbers above i.e. the opposition would get fewer 16.7% fewer cards without the crowd, that would then bring the away team cards at the Emirates down to 25 and their fouls per card average up to 8.2. This would then make Arsenal some 70% more likely to be carded at home than the away team. That is nothing less than stunning and could never be explained away as a minor deviation or a bit of bad luck or any other excuse the authorities or the media might choose to throw at us. And for those who resort to the old “it all evens out in the end”, can you imagine the absolute outrage there would be if Arsenal actually got anywhere near that level of bias in their favour. It simply wouldn’t happen.

  2. I agree with your point Mikey – but it does seem to me that there are two issues here. One relates to the way certain clubs are treated by refs, and the other by the fact that PGMO’s statements are simply made-up nonsense, which the press gulp down and regurgitate wholesale.

    I’m tending to deal with them separately because I am still working on the relationship between the two. The most obvious answer to that issue is that the 98% figure and other nonsense is there not just to give general credibility to the PGMO employees, but also to cover up what goes on when specific action is taken wholesale against specific teams.

    By keeping the notion that refs are fair and that fans just complain about their own team being unreasonably treated by the ref, then the media is less inclined to consider the oddities – such as Liverpool so often getting the same referee.

    What I think we need to do is to work on undermining the credibility of PGMO and its referees first, and thus say “look they are lying through their teeth with their stats, so now, what else are they up to.

    At least that’s the route I am currently taking in my pieces.

  3. Mikey,
    one set of rules for everyone, one set of rules for The Arsenal…. simple…

  4. @ Tony

    I’m 100% in agreement with you about the incompetence issue. I merely wanted to highlight that the level of “incompetence” seems to be “even greater” when it comes to Arsenal’s home games and strangely, overwhelmingly in favour of our opponents. I’m surprised people haven’t suggested something far worse than mere incompetence……..I’m sure it’s just a matter of time before our sharp witted friends in the media are up in arms about how “unlucky” we are!!

  5. Sharpe witted and media ? Hmmm I think not,
    unless it’s anti Arsenal then being sharp witted is an art form
    PGMO secret society are on a par with the Masons,Cosa Nostra
    and the ku Klux Klan… possibly worse !

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