We must be clear; it is the referees who have been giving clubs the advantage

By Iver Number

This season there have been 48 games played in the Premier League.  Of those 22 have been away wins, 17 have been home wins and 9 have been draws.

In 2018/19 – the last season without any corona virus interruption, 128 games out of 380 were away wins.

Looking at both sets of figures we can see that in 2018/19, 33.7% of games ended as away wins.  But this season we can see 45.8% of games have ended as away wins.  The question is why.

On 14 June this year Untold published the article “Without crowds, away teams do much better,” and we analysed the data for the period before the corona virus took the crowds away, and then after.

On 16 August this year the Guardian published the article “How the home team advantage is lost when no one’s watching”. It reach the same conclusion.  Take the fans away and that old home advantage simply vanishes.

Both Untold and the Guardian looked at why this is happening and we each found serious academic research papers which rather than just hypothosise as to why this was happening, came up with clear analyses which gave clear answers.   Between ourselves, the Guardian and Untold have found research papers explaining what is going on, conducted by the London School of Economics and Reading University, both of which studies reach the same conclusion – that referees are influenced by crowd noise.

And this conclusion was not just supposition; the LSE research went so far as to have professional referees watch televised matches with the crowd sound on, and with no sound on.  With the crowd sound on the referees were much more favourable to the home side.

So our years of our own research, particularly undertaken by Walter and his team, were justified.  We have the data, we have the evidence, referees are biased.  They might be influenced by other factors as well, but we now know absolutely for sure that they are influenced by the crowd.  From that we could predict that the propensity for home wins would decline without the crowd.   And that has happened.

However the journalists have left it there.   They have not then asked, how could the PGMO have presented research that showed an accuracy rate of 98.5% for referee decision making?

The PGMO never explained how they got that figure, nor how they later reduced it in order to suggest that VAR would add another couple of percent to their accuracy figures.  Yet this is now important because these figures show it is clear  that referee inaccuracy has been rampant.

Given that PGMO have given us no other explanation, the notion that they just made the 98.5% accuracy rate up is the most likely explanation.  Which makes us wonder – why did they feel the need to make this number up?   Why did they feel the need to lie?

After all, they had the media with them most of the time.  TV and radio commentators and newspaper reporters weren’t saying “the referee got that wrong.”   That was left to Untold Arsenal.  We even did our own massive research programme (160 games) to prove how wrong PGMO was.

But what is most worrying is that most publications have not picked up on the fact that the change in result patterns is due to referees being affected by crowd noise.  The Athletic for example noted that the number of home wins is down when there is no crowd there, without relating this at all to the influence of the crowd on the referee, which has been proven in the academic studies.

So is this how PGMO get out of their hole – by suggesting that the change in results is due to the impact of the crowd on the players?

That is absolutely not what the research shows.  What is clearly found in the academic research is that referees are influenced by crowd noise and so are biased towards the home team as a result.

I don’t know if the writers of the Athletic simply haven’t read the research, or whether this is stage 1 of PGMO Fights Back, but if it is the latter, we must resist this with all our might.  We said for years and years there was something terribly wrong with Premier League refereeing, and the research has shown us that was true, and why.  We must not let PGMO wheedle its way out of this by suggesting it was the influence of the crowd on the players.

6 Replies to “We must be clear; it is the referees who have been giving clubs the advantage”

  1. the premier league is fooling itself if it thinks it can survive ref bias forever. when a tipping point is reached, soccer fans will find some other league to watch.

  2. I’ve said this before that the referees association back in 1988 knew crowd noise influenced referees decision .
    In 1988 I was taking a FA coaching badge and we had a lecture by a league referee and during the lecture we approached the subject of what could influence referees decisions when we were told of the experiment they carried out where 30 referees watched the same game , 15 watched with no sound and the other 15 with crowd noise . As we all know now the crowd noise did influence decision which leaned very much towards the home team .
    I don’t know if anything was ever done to combat this bias in referees making decisions but have always heard that the crowd can be your twelfth man

  3. We could learn a thing or two from ICC.

    The ICC Rules allow players to request a review of any decision by an on-field umpire regarding a potential dismissal within 15 seconds of the decision being made. The third umpire is then required to review footage and other available information to provide the on-field umpire with any “points of fact” relevant to the decision. The third umpire must answer any questions posed by the on-field umpire with a “high degree of confidence”. The Rules outline what a “high degree of confidence”.

  4. That referees are influenced by crowd noise is plain common sense, but always good to have some academics tell us what we already know.
    That doesn’t mean they are biased, or engaging in organised bias, or biased against Arsenal, if by ‘bias’ we mean acting other than fairly.
    What VAR has highlighted is the appalling standard of UK refereeing in the PL. Hardly a game goes by (it seems) without VAR changing at least one key decision. So, being human and being fans of Arsenal, maybe we have simply interpreted appalling refereeing as ‘bias ‘against Arsenal.

  5. If crowd noise by home fans made refs biased, that would mean refs are biased towards arsenal 19 times every EPL season, same as with every other team, so cancels out.
    However like someone earlier said, it’s common sense, we always knew crowd noise influenced refs and the players. That’s what the phrase “the 12th Man” is about

  6. Df what you say is true but it is only part of the story. The fact is PGMO said repeatedly before the research into the effect on referees was published that their refs were over 98% accurate. This could not have been true and must have been a made up number. That is what undermines the complete credibility of PGMO. We were always suspicious about the referee figures because our research analysing 160 games using video evidence didn’t show anything like this.
    So the point is, if PGMO can make up a number like 98.5% accuracy when in fact they were being very inaccurate due to crowd noise, what else are they making up?

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