“Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities”
By Tony Attwood
I don’t normally quote Voltaire on Untold, not indeed do I normally quote 18th century French philosophers in general, but when considering the situation regarding refereeing in the Premier League it is a case of desperate situations…
We know from experimentation conducted by academics that referees are influenced by crowd noise, coming to different decisions when watching TV footage with crowd noise from when they watch without.
We know that PGMO claim PL referees are 98% accurate in their decision making, which given the way they are influenced by crowd noise cannot be true since the research shows they are influenced by crowd noise.
Now using figures from Who Scored we can see that:
The top five referees in the Premier League in terms of games refereed (Atkinson, Oliver, Taylor, Dean, Tierney) have between them refereed 113 games this season. In the Bundesliga the five most active referees have between them refereed 70 games.
There are two implications in this. First if there is a referee who is biased or simply not very accurate in his decision making, the fewer games he takes the better. So keeping the number of games per referee down is always going to be a good move when considering the integrity of the game. And the more times a referee sees a particular club, the more familiar he can become with the players – which is self evidently not a good thing.
But maybe it is the Germans being a bit odd, not giving their top referees enough to do. But no, in Spain the top five referees in terms of appearance have between them taken 72 games this season. Very similar indeed to the Germans.
In the top Italian league the number of games taken by the five most employed referees is 65. Even lower than Germany and Spain. In France the number is higher – it is 90 – but still not up to the Premier League level.
But is there anything wrong with referees undertaking lots of games?
Of course if they are fit, they can certainly oversee games regularly, so that is not a problem. Rather keeping the number of games they do down ensures that if there were to be a rotten apple in the barrel or an incompetent on the pitch, that referee’s influence would be limited.
In the Premier League Atkinson has taken 25 games. In Italy the number of games taken by the most active referee is 14 – almost half. In La Liga it is 15. As it is in the Bundesliga. In France it is 16.
So the other four big time leagues in Europe have their top referees doing between 14 and 16 games thus far, while Atkinson is undertaking 25 games.
Now the Premier League website does give us the total number of games referees have taken, but noticeably it does not tell us which clubs each referee has overseen. We have to work that one out ourselves. Interestingly Soccerbase, normally a very helpful website, doesn’t like to tell us that either. I wonder why.
However we do have on the Untold (unpaid) team, Andrew, who very kindly keeps a refereeing record for Untold. His last report on this was on March 8 when he revealed
|Liverpool||As Referee||As 4th Official||As Video ref||Total Involvement||Involvement % of games played|
So here we have two issues in the Premier League. First, there is a much smaller number of referees than in other leagues. That seems foolish or a doorway to corruption. But if that number of refs is what we have to have, surely they ought to be spread out between the clubs evenly, rather than having the same referee overseeing the same club so often.
Now let’s turn this upside down and ask two questions….
- What is the benefit of the richest football league in the world using far fewer referees than other leagues?
- What is the benefit of the richest football league in the world allowing the same referee to be involved in over a quarter of the matches Liverpool play?
Or we can turn it around and ask of the other major leagues in Europe, what benefit do they find in restricting the number of times a referee can be involved with a particular team?
The answer to the final question is obvious: it makes corruption harder, and given that we know that referees are influenced by the crowd, moving the referees around more will probably reduce that impact, which we now know from the ghost games experience and the silent video test, is quite strong.
We could also ask, why does the English media fail to engage in this issue at all? The only answer there that I can think of is that they are complicit in what is going on, agreeing not to mention this difficult facts in return for access to press passes. Why else would they refuse to touch the topic? It would after all fill up quite a few column inches.
But then as Voltaire says, “Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities”
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