by Tony Attwood
The Observer newspaper yesterday published one of the most atrociously misleading pieces of PGMO propaganda yet seen.
The article published on 6 December 2020 is headlined:
Sing when you’re winning? Home support doesn’t really help football teams
The evidence offered in the article shows nothing of the kind, and it is obviously misleading, yet it was written by a serious and well-known journalist. As a result the possibility that it was produced in order to mislead and deflect research into the PGMO is something that must be considered.
It is of course possible that it has been produced as a result of sloppy journalism, or it could be a left over from a previous era (given that it uses research that is now so old that when one follows the link the paper supplies to its original running of the story one gets a warning of how old it is) and used as a filler on a slow news day. We have no way of knowing.
And it should not be assumed that Jamie Doward the author is to blame. He has (his blurb assures us) worked for the Observer for nearly twenty years as a business reporter, the Home Affairs editor, the Religious Affairs correspondent, the Social Affairs Editor, the diarist and the Senior Reporter. Not so much on football it seems, but still he clearly must know really fake news when asked to write about it.
Just look at the headline
“As fans return to the Premier League, a study finds empty stadiums affect the number of bookings, not the frequency of home wins”.
But for anyone with the time to read on, and follow the links that take us back to the original research, it is clear that the data was taken from the Reading University research undertaken across 23 different leagues across the whole of Europe.
The generalisation from this data from different leagues at once puts it outside of our own area of interest in which we argue with a wide array of data that there is something seriously wrong with refereeing in the PGMO run Premier League. But the paper’s headline tries to suggest it is relevant to the Premier League.
It does this by not making it at all clear that this data is from across Europe. And yet they say that “In the Premier League and Championship, games played in empty stadiums saw the proportion of home victories drop from 43.4% before the pandemic to 42.0%.” That is utterly untrue.
It takes barely five minutes to total up the figures for the Premier League as of this weekend, and compare it with the league table up to 31 October 2019 (when all teams had played five games at home) and see the numbers.
Indeed we have to ask, why go back and quote a piece of research that is a year old, and which has been debated endlessly in the past, when it takes but five minutes to do the research for this season and compare it with this stage last season? Why create such a misleading fake story – unless it was to show that there has been no change in the Premier League results? And why do that?
The only reason can be to stop people realising that the level of home wins is down to the referees.
I have taken the figures up to 31 October last season, as this was the moment when 100 games had been played in the Premier League and compared that with the nearest datapoint – when 106 games had been played in the league this season – the end of play on 6 December 2020.
|Percentages of results 2019/2020 (crowds present)||43%||29%||28%|
|Percentages of results 2020/2021 (empty stadia)||37%||20%||43%|
|Difference between the two sets of games||-6%||-9%||+15%|
What we can see is that far from the proportion of home victories having gone down by a mere 1.3% as the Observer says, they have actually dropped by 6%. What’s more because the level of draws has also declined by 9% (not mentioned in the Observer report) the level of away wins is up by 15%.
In short while at this stage last season the percentage of home wins was 43%, now the number of away wins is 43%.
We know why this is – it is fully explained in the London School of Economics research, which shows that referees are influenced by home crowd noise – which proves that the PGMO claim to 98% accuracy pre-pandemic was a total fabrication.
What we don’t know is why the Observer ran this false story now.
To be clear the figures are misleading because the assume that all leagues in different countries work in the same way – something which assumes there is nothing amiss with refereeing in any particular league. Given that referees in each league are subject to very different rules and regulations (for example, how often they are allowed to ref the same club) there is no justification for this.
So why did Jamie Doward write an article which uses old data from across Europe when it has long been clear that refereeing matters in the Premier League are utterly different from those elsewhere?
Maybe it was just sloppy journalism. Maybe the Observer sports desk didn’t have anything else to put in, and said to an office junior “Find us something to slip in here sharpish”. Or maybe PGMO said to the Observer, “those annoying bastards at Untold Arsenal are still talking about the LSE research which shows definitively that referees are influenced wholesale by the crowd, and presenting contemporary figures to show that referees have been far more inaccurate over time than we’ve ever admitted. Publish something that stops that will you?”
The Observer deliberately using old and irrelevant data in this way is worrying. If it was a slip, they will undoubtedly apologise and present contemporary data related just to the Premier League. If they don’t then we may take it that PGMO is seriously having a bash at fighting back against our revelations.
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