Hiding the problem of refereeing is destroying the credibility of the Premier League

By Tony Attwood

Previously in this series:

This article concludes the series.

We have seen that there are significant questions to be asked about refereeing in the Premier League.  We can also note each day that issues relating to refereeing are not raised by the media in England at all.

The response to this second point is generally that there are no articles or commentaries in the media because there is nothing to discuss.  And yet refereeing in the PL is organised in a very different way from refereeing in other major leagues, with fewer referees and absolute secrecy.  

In short, refereeing is part of a football match, so why is there no debate about referees?  In the UK we question the ability and honesty of everyone from our politicians to professional footballers, from entertainers, to the medics who suggest we should all have a coronavirus vaccine.

Not every questioning is essential (I’ve had my first coronavirus jab, and I think people who are rejecting it are foolish, but its a democratic country so they can do that if they want).  We question court verdicts (that’s why we have a court of appeal), we question why the road outside is dug up one week by the gas board, resurfaced and then dug up again two weeks later by the water board.

But we don’t question, on a regular basis, the referees.  We don’t have newspapers and websites publishing weekly error analyses of referees.   And why not?

Referee X made 85 decisions in the match.  69 were obvious and no one would challenge them, but 16 were questionable.  Of these, TV replays show six were right, five were wrong, and five were disputed even with the benefit of action replays.

Why don’t we get that data after a match?

Because we are told that we are only complaining about the referee because Arsenal are losing.  And that is classic gaslighting – when one side does not bother with proper evidence, but simply states opinions and turns them into “facts” without any evidence.

We also see find gaslighting when newspapers present incomplete sets of data – for example by saying “this is the 100th yellow card Arsenal has had in the past three years,” without stating how many cards other clubs have had.

Thus when a fan says, “I am always nervous when we sign a new player, as we make so many mistakes,” that again is gaslighting, because there is no proper comparison with any other clubs.  How often do they get it wrong?  What great mistakes do they make?  The fan doesn’t know because he or she only thinks about Arsenal.  So yes, we are quite capable to confusing ourselves!

Now when I raise this issue in debates I am often told, “it happens to every club Arsenal is no different.”  But that is no answer – because the lack of debate about referees is clearly wrong, and saying it is wrong in the case of all clubs is no excuse.  This is a multi-billion pound industry after all.

The clue to just how serious this is in football is the utter and absolute failure of the media to consider refereeing as an issue seriously.  They won’t publish mistake tables for referees.  They won’t publish statistics that suggest something odd is going on which needs investigating (like one club putting in 50% more tackles than any other, while only picking up the same number of yellow cards as everyone else).

They don’t even question why some clubs get the same referee 10 times or more in a season.  Stopping that would be an obvious precaution against any referee who has been corrupted.  And maybe that doesn’t ever happen in England, but it has happened in many other countries, so why not take a simple precaution?

These are simply not issues, they don’t exist.

So we live on with a comparatively low number of referees, research that shows that referees are seriously influenced by the crowd (which explains why results in empty stadia are different), in which there is a geographic imbalance among the referees we do have, in which referees are required to sign a lifetime secrecy agreement when they join PGMO, in which PGMO is so secretive it doesn’t even have a website, in which UK websites refuse to discuss issues relating to referees, in which the one commentator who seriously would criticise referees, Alan Greene, suddenly stopped doing so, and was ultimately replaced.

Even if you don’t accept there is anything wrong with refereeing, there is still a question to answer: why is so much of refereeing in England so secretive?  Why are there no statistics about refereeing in the media, as there are about players?

The media silence is the biggest chunk of evidence we have that something is seriously, seriously wrong.

If you have been reading this series on referees thank you.  Untold will return to its normal range of topics now, but an index to the whole series will be found on the home page of the site.

8 Replies to “Hiding the problem of refereeing is destroying the credibility of the Premier League”

  1. Fully agree, the silence is damning. I wonder why there is no great exclusive with a TV documentary about an undercover investigation, say a Panorama special. Would that not be a huge boost to someone’s career? Would that not elevate their status from reporter to Journalist? Do any writers really exist or is football news generated by A.I.bots?
    Great series of articles, I hope it inspire the mainstream to ask the questions with a publish and be damned attitude.

  2. Cognitive dissonance? You quite rightly question the PGMOL but when someone dares questions a coronavirus jab they’re foolish. To conclude, You are the fool, sir for coronavirus is defined in medical encyclopedia’s as the common cold and: you have form for with your anti-City bias and drivel.

  3. Kenward: it is of course true that one can write a million words and have the greatest clarity of thought and expression and still not be understood; and I certainly don’t have the greatest clarity of thought and expression.
    But the people who dispute the wisdom of coronavirus vaccines by and large and ignoring scientific research, and yes, that I think is foolish. Not that they themselves are foolish, but in the act of ignoring the scientific method, yes I think they are.
    But to take the definition of the coronavirus as a common cold, that is rather odd.
    You are welcome to your views, as in the case of the virus they don’t cause me any problems.

  4. Kenward , try to keep up .
    Your dictionary is probably a few years old and went to print long before this strain of the virus mutated and appeared.
    We all know that influenza is a form of corona virus but not this one which is more virulent and many times more dangerous.
    There is no problem with Tony saying that he thinks anti-vaccers are foolish , he is an analytical person and wants to see spread sheets and comparison charts on everything and as most informed opinion is that the vaccine programme should bring the virus under control and that, with annual top ups , or even combined with the usual flu jab that most people take , it can be contained.
    The PGMOL however is a different thing to a virus although some might say that it works in a similar pernicious way affecting it’s immediate surroundings and mutating to protect itself.
    Just as the virus has affected it’s immediate surrounds , so does the PGMOL and as such deserves some form of control being developed to contain it.
    All football supporters have a bias but just because I watch one team with a partisan outlook, does not mean that when I watch other teams in other matches I do not see , sometimes appreciate , the things that happen or throw my hands up in frustration at the lack of consistency shown by the third team on the pitch .
    I don’t need a chart to tell me that Salah dived , or that rules are broken daily and that the Referees seem to punish one group but not the other . However one thing that VAR has done is bring referees and Stockley Park in particular into a scrutiny that they have not faced before as the in house pundits are second guessing the decisions made from afar.
    Is a pundits opinion any less valuable than a disperate person in a galaxy far away or mine or yours for that . I can see a blatant foul also I can see a potentially career ending tackle , I can see that people dive . So can you , so can Tony , so can Journalists , so can pundits but why is it only a few of us asking why the PGMOL seemingly can’t.

  5. Is it not time to see if it can be arranged by UEFA, that the VAR operator for every area and set of matches, should be from another country. Can you imagine a referee from Spain, Italy, France not looking at these decisions and changing them?? Walter how feasible is it or can FIFA and Mr Wenger not be asked about changes to rules that will benefit the game…

  6. Dawie Van Tonder

    Unfortunately the Laws(rules) of the game are not really the problem, it is the application of those Laws(rules) that is the problem. For example, a good rule applied wrongly or inconsistently is likely to cause far more unrest than a poor rule applied fairly and impartially.

    It’s like VAR, which as a ‘tool’ or an ‘aid’ is actually a good idea. It works in other sports perfectly well. The problem with VAR, as with referees is in it’s inconsistency, an inconsistency mind you, that despite their protestations, the media actually want.

    Subjectivity and ambiguity are gifts from the Gods for those who wish to bend and manipulate rules to suit their agendas.

  7. Nitram I agree, but when you gave good referees from another country in charge of VAR it will automatically remove 1 of the tools from PGMOL to influence results the way they do….

  8. Dawie Van Tonder

    It would indeed which is why it will never happen.

    I have actually advocated on here a few times that there should be an elite pool of referees that are randomly selected to referee over the 5 major leagues of Europe, possibly more, and should never referee in their own country and only referee the same team a maximum of say 3 times a season.

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