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Why do PGMO employ so few (if any) non-white referees in the Premier League?

By Tony Attwood

When I say “so few” in the headline above, I have to admit I am not sure if there are any non-white referees or assistants working in the Premier League.  Maybe that speaks to my lack of observational powers, or maybe I have just come to accept the fact that footballers come from different ethnicities but referees and assistants don’t.

And indeed it took a comment on this site from Menace about the lack of non-white officials, to bring the matter home to me.

So I looked the matter up and found this comment: “It is 11 years since Uriah Rennie took charge of his last Premier League game before retiring and there has been no BAME referee in England’s top flight since. Not one of 72 referees on the 2018-19 National List — from where all League referees are drawn — was black or Asian.”

The Football Association has recently made all the noises one would expect about working with the government and social media to wipe out racist abuse.  Yet it was only three months ago that the FA chairman and Fifa vice president Greg Clarke was forced to resign after making a series of unacceptable statements in talking to a UK parliamentary committee about diversity issues.

So while the Football Association endlessly vows to work with government and social media platforms to get rid of racist abuse it is hard to believe that they are fit to do so, if the Premier League can’t find a single non-white referee.

But let’s consider racism for a moment – and I take up this point following a comment by Menace.   In the UK’s population as a whole something around 11% of the people are from BAME communities.

In the Premier League there are 19 active referees and 22 assistant referees, making a total of 41 officials. If they represented the national community then maybe four of those would be from the BAME communities, but none are.

This becomes something of an issue given that around 35% of Arsenal’s first team squad are from BAME communities.   So to be representative of the community as a whole there should be four or five non-white referees and assistant referees at the very least.

Of course people should have their job on merit, but also we do have a racism and discrimination problem and at all levels of our society, from senior staff being sacked for using inappropriate language through to a lack of equality in PGMO.  As such the football world is just making matters worse for itself.

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Thus the FA might say, “We are united with all of football in our abhorrence of any racist abuse. This is not acceptable in any part of society. We will continue to work with the rest of the game, the government and social media platforms to remove this – and all elements of – discrimination from our sport,” but the history of the FA as a failing organisation, and the history of PGMO as a secretive all-white organisation does not give us any confidence in its ability to do anything at all.

The problem is of course the highly secretive PGMO, in running refereeing in the Premier League,  always considers itself a world apart and they carry the media with them, for one never hears nor sees the media ever wanting to criticise PGMO.  Indeed so successful is PGMO in managing its secrecy that the media barely recognises the existence of the ultra secretive group which ultimately determines how football is played in the Premier League.

An article in the Sunday Times 18 months ago suggested that the issue is referee assessors, “most being white, older and apparently biased.”

But PGMO is all-powerful; they can do whatever they want since no one controls their activities.  So their failure to address this issue of a balance in its membership, is however no surprise in that they have failed to deal even with the issue of the geographic imbalance of their staff, something that one might have thought would be even simpler to deal with.

But it is also the failure of the British media to consider the secrecy and workings of PGMO that is part of the problem, and the media must share much of the blame with PGMO for the current state of affairs.  Only when issues relating to PGMO are discussed by the media, rather than being left to a handful of blogs such as Untold Arsenal, are we likely to see any progress.

I’m sorry we’ve not addressed this before: after all I pride myself that Untold is a campaigning blog.  But now it has come up, let’s see if we can’t get the media to take up the point.  They won’t ever acknowledge us of course, but that’s neither here nor there.  If we can get them to note the PGMO’s apparently racist approach to refereeing, maybe something might be changed.

 

14 comments to Why do PGMO employ so few (if any) non-white referees in the Premier League?

  • Laos Gooner

    “Of course people should have their job on merit” Could be a very difficult sentence for the pigmob. I can not think of many of the current crop of piggies who would still be employed if the Premier league and the Sweet FA took that sentiment on board. As you say above until mentioned this was not a problem I was aware of. I will not be holding my breath waiting to see what action will be taken to address this issue though.

  • markyb

    How the hell are the likes of Fatty Moss, Dean and Atkinson still going? Not just White Refs but Northern White Refs at that.

  • Nitram

    They also employ very few referees from the South of the country.

    They also employ very few female referees.

    They also employ very few referees with a disability.

    They also employ very few (at least openly) Gay or Trans referees.

    They also employ very few Muslim, or Jewish referees.

    This may be nothing to do with colour, or ethnicity, or religion, or sexual orientation or anything else.

    It seems to me to be simply down to the way football has evolved over the years with it’s core administration and attitudes emanating from the predominantly white/straight/male industrial, predominantly Northern, heart of the country.

    The football media also seems to be, by and large, dominated by a similar demographic.

    I don’t think this is necessary about the ‘exclusion’ of any particular group, be it on the basis of colour creed or anything else, but more to do with simply an attempt at maintaining the Status Quo of a ‘Northern Powerhouse’ that is both running and reporting on the game so predominantly.

    It is a demographic that is entrenched in the game and I doubt it’s unique to this country.

    Or maybe it is.

    Does anyone know how the administrative, refereeing and media demographic plays out across the other leagues in Europe or the World ?

    Have Spain, France Germany for example all got much broader colour, ethnic, religious, sexual demographics within football across all levels ?

    Do the J league, the Asian leagues, the South American leagues all have this broad, ethnic, cultural, sexual, demographic we are all seeking ?

    My point is, this is a far broader issue than just inferring that the premier league per se, is racist. I don’t believe it is. At least no more racist than it is ‘Southernist’ or ‘sexist’ or homophobic’ And even if they are all of those I doubt very much they are the only ones.

    Or maybe they are ?

    Maybe it is just us but somehow I doubt it.

    Personally I think this is more about entrenchment. The desire to maintain a comfortable and agenda driven Status Que rather than a systemic attempt to exclude any one individual group, be it on either ethnic, cultural or sexual grounds. I believe it happens all over the World.

    Maybe I’m wrong.

  • Mikey

    Some years ago I had dealings with a local authority which didn’t monitor the ethnicity of people on their housing waiting list. My point was that if they didn’t monitor this, they would be unable to adapt their strategies to take account of demographics and also that they would not be able to ensure that accommodation was being allocated fairly. Their response was, “we don’t need to monitor ethnicity because we’re not racist”. Of course this was completely nonsensical since without evidence they could not have known this, it was just a claim……a bit like getting 98% of decisions correct!

    I wouldn’t be at all surprised if the PGMO reacted similarly and claim it’s sheer coincidence that all their referees are white, male and largely from the north.

    I mean given they are clearly perfect in everything they do, how could they be doing anything wrong in terms of equality!!

  • Nitram

    Mikey

    I think, if I understand you correctly, I agree.

    This is more about what they DO want rather than what they DON’T want.

    Put simply, they don’t reject, pass over, a Black or Gay because they are black or gay. It’s just they want to employ people from a certain demographic because they have a vision or put another way, an agenda of how they see the game should be played.

    In a way it is a form of positive discrimination in favour of the ‘tough up North’ ‘lets get in their faces’ type mind set that the premier league seems to favour so much.

    Anyone, and that seems to include those Southern softies, that doesn’t fit this profile, doesn’t get a look in.

    So as I say, personally I don’t think it’s racism, sexism or any other ism, but simply a desire to see the game is played, administered and of course refereed in a certain way.

    But as I say, I doubt very much that we are unique in doing this, even if others desired outcome is somewhat different.

  • mick shelley

    Does anybody know how much longer Riley could be kept on by PGMOB.
    Is he on a fixed term contract.
    Is there a finite time which when reached means he automatically steps down.
    Or is it up to Riley himself to decide if and when he gives up the post.
    If not then who decides if he should go or stay.
    When he goes who elects his replacement.
    Is he accountable to any one person or any other body. eg The FA.
    Is there any way of finding out any of the above given the PGMOB have no website and are shrouded in secrecy.

  • porter

    Referees get promoted through the system by people already entrenched in the system . Therefor unless Rennie had been appointed to be an assesor on his retirement his legacy is unlikely to be followed up .
    The I and the Independent had a go at this last year but as it was not taken up by other outlets it’s all gone quiet again . They used an analogy of breaking the glass ceiling but surmised that instead of other Bame referees charging through the gap it was rebuilt and made stronger .
    https://inews.co.uk/sport/football/premier-league/uriah-rennie-referee-premier-league-441893
    and
    https://www.independent.co.uk/sport/football/premier-league/uriah-rennie-referee-black-premier-league-bame-a9560121.html

    Until the PGMOL is broken up and subdivided Riley will cling on and ignore anything that doesn’t suit his agenda which although many find that suspect with no evidence or scrutiny is difficult to prove.

  • Wildphil

    I have looked across the 19 PGMO refs and also the 21 Select EFL referees and established their regional affinity. I have tables for these. The summary table below clearly backs up all previous discussion on Untold.
    The biggest issues are that In the 40 top referees there is not one from the London region and that the Northwest accounts for 35% of these refs that is 14, 9 more than expected on a fair population share.
    As Nitram points out this historical bias towards the North in football is well documented and clearly persists to this day.
    I do not believe that there is not a top class ref in the whole of London.
    Likewise I do not believe that there is not a top class non-white ref in the whole of England.
    In any other industry this would be clear grounds for discrimination on several fronts.
    Is it any wonder that the clear referee bias I have both witnessed and this site has documented so well for many years now continues unabated.

    Region Population Pop % PGMO Refs Expected by pop % Select Refs Expected by pop Total Refs Expected by pop Discrepancy %
    South East 9,180,135 16.3 1 3 5 5 3 6 7 -1 15
    London 8,961,989 15.9 0 3 0 0 3 0 6 -6 0
    North West 7,341,196 13.0 7 2 37 7 3 14 5 9 35
    East of England 6,236,072 11.1 0 2 0 1 2 1 4 -3 2.5
    West Midlands 5,934,037 10.5 2 2 11 2 2 4 4 0 10
    South West 5,624,696 10.0 1 2 5 0 2 1 4 -3 2.5
    Yorkshire/Hum 5,502,967 9.8 4 2 21 0 2 4 4 0 10
    East Midlands 4,835,928 8.6 2 2 11 3 2 5 3 2 12.5
    North East 2,669,941 4.7 2 1 11 3 1 5 2 3 12.5
    England 56,286,961 19 19 19 100 20 20 40 40 0 100

  • Nitram

    Wildphil

    “In any other industry this would be clear grounds for discrimination on several fronts”.

    Other businesses are endlessly challenged in the media, and rightly so, for their lack of diversity, yet absolutely nothing is ever said about the PGMOL, who employ one of the narrowest demographics you are ever likely to see.

  • Nitram

    Wilphil

    Sorry, meant to say spot on.

  • Menace

    The PGMOL is a Limited company set up to ensure that the legal and financial liability is limited. The FA are the responsible organisation that have contracted the PGMOL to officiate the game in England. The PGMOL claim to be a select group of referees chosen to officiate the professional game. Their selection process has not been published or publicly verified. They appoint officials without any published system for matches in the EPL, including the VAR officials. This means they have total control of the football matches including any results that they might wish to happen. The chief of this group is none other than the Mike Riley who openly allowed the Manchester United team to foul and simulate ‘football’ and stop Arsenal from going on to 50 undefeated matches.

    The FA are the organisation that is ultimately racist and obviously pretending to be honourable by taking the knee and ‘supporting’ BLM without any explanation of what this means to them.
    Until the FA openly announce why and how they have chosen PGMOL to officiate in the game without any competition or reporting structure, the game can be considered corrupt.

    Referee Rennie was a top level referee until he red carded the England captain Alan Shearer, following which he disappeared from TV and top level football.

  • Mikey

    @ Menace

    Just on the Shearer point (and apologies to those who’ve heard this before). In his heyday, Shearer managed to commit the most fouls of any premiership player two seasons running (and if memory serves me correctly many of those were for use of the elbow). Number of yellow cards he received? Absolutely ZERO. Tell me that wasn’t biased or corrupt!

  • porter

    Mikey , That’s the England captain effect. which is alive and well at the moment.
    How many cards has Kane got for diving , backing in etc.?

  • Menace

    The England captain was also our own Tony Adams who had his fair share of cards. How Kane gets away with his fouls is testament to the corrupt officiating of football in England.

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