Revealed: PL referees are not 98% accurate but actually just 75% accurate

By Tony Attwood

Although the media didn’t note it at the time, because they never note anything that is not sanctioned by PGMO, the introduction of VAR gave us one of the more amusing moments from PGMO’s history.

It was Sky Sports, one of the most solid upholders of PGMO’s god-like status, who in a notorious report told us that “In total, refs make around five errors per game, meaning they are right 98 per cent of the time.

“The number of decisions referees have to make has increased by around three per cent in each of the last two seasons, and that is only likely to go up in the coming years as discussion around rule changes intensifies.

“The assistant referee makes on average 50 decisions each game; 45 of these are pure offside judgements, with four of these resulting in offside flags. Their accuracy? Again, a staggering 98 per cent.”

A similar claim was made for refereeing assistants.

However it was Tomkins Times (a brilliant Liverpool supporting blog) who in 2018 pointed out in relation to any reports on PL referee accuracy that, “Interestingly, the amount of information seems to reduce over time in the reports,” until ultimately, “the whole thing disappeared from the reports themselves.”

They also noted that, “when looking at the apparent research done by the PGMOL there is zero method in the public arena. Are these figures based on all games? Have they been extrapolated based on the study of one match? If the figures do exist, why not publish them for all to see? Mainly so they can be verified by external judges. Finally, are you counting “non-visible” decisions just to increase the accuracy and massage the figures?”

Valid questions indeed, and ones that were never answered by the ultra-secretive PGMO who have, seemingly actually increased their secrecy level, year by year.  Nor have they ever been raised by the media.

The Tomkins Times however then did some research into the research and found the Mallo et al (2012) report which examined 380 foul play incidents and 165 offside situations in the 2009 Confederations Cup.

The error percentage for the referees when indicating the incidents averaged 14%. The lowest error percentage occurred in the central area of the field, where the collaboration of the assistant referee is limited, and was achieved when indicating the incidents from a distance of 11–15 m, whereas this percentage peaked (23%) in the last 15-min match period. The error rate for the assistant referees was 13%.

They also found Helsen et al (2007) and Catteeuw et al (2010) which looked at offsides, across two World Cups and one season of Premier League football. Their results should have been similar to those quoted by PGMO, but what they found was that “the error percentage was 26.2%. During the first 15 min match period, there were significantly more errors (38.5%) than during any other 15 min interval. (Helsen 2007)”

Overall they concluded that “the standard of offside side accuracy is in fact better in the Premier League than international tournaments, improving from one in four incorrect decisions to one in six. However, a figure of calling 82.5% of offside decisions correct is very different to the 99% given by the PGMOL.”

Other research cited in this excellent report shows further discrepancies with the PGMO results, and they offer an explanation as to why…

“it seems like the PGMOL inflated their own figures by including literally every decision (active or not) taken by an official, even if they are 100% obvious what the decision is. For example, Player A kicks the ball out of play. If you asked 100 random people off the street who kicked it out and which team get the throw-in, 100 people would confirm the correct decision. Crucially, the vast majority of decisions are like this, based on the PGMOL’s parameters. However, once you dig down and present a panel of independent officials with a big enough sample of decisions, and break those down by difficulty, then you can see the results are very, very different. In fact, in the above study they found referees only managed to get 36% of the tough decisions correct.”

After a huge amount of detailed reporting of serious academic research the site concludes with the less than academic comment that, “The headline to this article could easily be: Ninety-Eight Percent of Statements by the PGMOL are Bullshit.”

Concerning PGMO they explain why this is.

“They rarely make statements; those they make are presented in glossy end-of-reason reports with no method, no link to the research and no chance to challenge any of it; the figures they quote are massaged by questionable methodology; and most importantly of all, none of the research they have ‘published’ tallies with that presented by numerous academic studies. The open access studies found that only 36% of ‘difficult’ decisions were accurate, compared to the 94% of ‘major’ decisions made in the Premier League.

“Across the rest of the research accuracy figures ranged from 55% to 85%, and intuitively that feels to me more realistic. Accuracy will fluctuate across individual referees, and will also fluctuate depending on the volume of difficult decisions that occur in particular matches….

“And thus we can conclude with a high degree of certainty that the 98% accuracy figure I initially quoted was, in fact, absolute codswallop.”

Which raises two questions:

a) Why is PGMO making up these figures?

b) How are they getting away with it?

The answers are: a) PGMO are making up these figures to protect themselves, boost their status, and to stop people questioning PGMO.

b) They are getting away with it by having secured total compliance with their requirement for secrecy and no comment from the media, and by encouraging (or at least sitting back and observing) the use of gaslighting techniques, which we discussed earlier (see below).

These you may recall allow the person being questioned to dismiss the questions are irrelevant, unworthy and pointless – exactly what happens all the time when Untold Arsenal ever questions what is going on in terms of referees.

These figures above are not dissimilar to those found with our own survey of 160 PL games with video evidence. 

In a sense perhaps PGMO is not to blame – after all if I had a great money-making scheme that was not actually illegal, I wouldn’t want to publicise that it was based on misleading information.  It is the broadcast, print and online media that is to blame for endlessly deflecting the discussion on referees by the use of the gaslighting techniques. They are to blame wholly, totally and absolutely.  .

For our introductory discussion of the psychological activity known as gaslighting please see here.

9 Replies to “Revealed: PL referees are not 98% accurate but actually just 75% accurate”

  1. Tony

    “It is the broadcast, print and online media that is to blame for endlessly deflecting the discussion on referees by the use of the gaslighting techniques. They are to blame wholly, totally and absolutely.”

    I have been banging on about this for over a decade. The media are the self appointed judge Jury and executioner of the PGMO, the referees, and ultimately the authorities than run the game in England.

    They choose who they want to do well and who they don’t. The referees oblige accordingly.

    Anyone with half an eye can see how poor, inconsistent and biased they are yet the media constantly allow them to use their outlets to perpetrate myths such as the one that showed how they get 103% of their decisions correct, without a question.

    When I used to read, listen, watch the media I lost count of the times the old ‘we’ve got the best referees in the World’ chestnut was repeated. Or how many times when a Greek or Polish or whatever referee was on duty we were informed how they shouldn’t be allowed to referee at ‘this’ level, as if they usually officiated in a country that still played the game with an inflated pigs bladder.

    This jingoistic, self congratulatory attitude is all part of why we now in fact have some of the worst refereeing in the World.

    You’d of thought they’d of took the hint at the last World Cup as to how our referees were perceived throughout the game.

  2. @Nitram and Tony I agree totally with your points.

    I watch any game these days and if the accuracy of the officiating is approaching 80% correct then I am lucky, 90% is really good. It appears to me that 60% is about what I can expect.

    But the accuracy is not the problem as Nitram points out it is the inconsistency and bias in the decisions that really annoy me. I dont mind if the ref blows up every infringement but they dont – it is normally only one team that gets this treatment.

    I also get fed up with hearing from commentators, in all countries, that so and so is known for diving so the ref will not give him a penalty even though he has been put out of the game in an incident. Then there are other players who seem to be able to commit as many fouls as they want before any action is taken against them. Once again these players are called “competetive” – no they are cheats!

    As you have mentioned before the amount of foul throws at the top level of the game is amazing – but refs only pick up ones against certain sides.

    There appear to be rules that are completely ignored – the 10 yard rule at free kicks and time wasting springs to mind. Why bother if you are not going to enforce them. The biggest laugh was the change to allow subs to leave the pitch anywhere – what an absolute waste of a rule change! I should think that rule change saves about 3 minutes playing time added up over a season!

    I dont know what the answer is but the way the game is going I can see fans walk away fed up with what are obviously rigged games.

    The authorities haven’t even got the good grace to replay games where there has been a crass wrong decision – I remember Young Boys against Cluj in the Europa League this season, where a team lost a chance of prize money due to a refereeing blunder. To me this kind of “mistake” just makes the whole tournament lose any integrity it had.

    Sorry if I dont sound optimistic. But as I have said before all I want is fairness and a level playing field.

  3. Les Williams

    “But as I have said before all I want is fairness and a level playing field”.

    Me too. We get people coming here accusing me/us of just whinging about the refs simply to cover up for Arsenals deficiency’s, but that simply isn’t true.

    I’ve been an Arsenal fan since the 60’s and followed them the length and breadth from the mid 70’s through to 1990 when I moved abroad for a while.

    We had some good times but for a lot of that time we were distinctly average and at times down right poor. Yes referees made bad decisions but I never ever felt WE were being screwed. I knew when we were good and when we were bad.

    Today it is different. We get screwed.

  4. I agree with everybody so far and as I’ve said before, incompetent referees I can live with provided they make poor decisions for all which then do actually even out over the season. They don’t.

    And as Nitram has said on this and previous threads, the media controls it all. His example the other day that what is a “dirty tackle” by one side, is “full blooded” by another. One player dives whilst another was “touched so was entitled to go down”.

    I too started out in the schoolboy enclosure at Highbury in 1960’s and over a couple of decades was fortunate enough to witness some wonderful achievements. And, although you wouldn’t know it if you listen to young Arsenal fans nowadays, I also witnessed some genuinely appalling Arsenal teams and results to match. Like Nitram, I too never felt that we were being screwed or that other teams were getting favours. Today is indeed different.

  5. The sad thing is that my friends and family that supports Pool, this year talks only about the poor decisions they have received starting with Van Dijk at Everton. I just refer them to the fact that England had zero (0) or none of their refs at the previous world cup, which they have to admit was mentioned many times before, including last year when the were delirious with their side. They even admitted to Salah having dives at times to win penalties! I predicted that Klopp would not win anything this year and they were horrified.
    Of course this year they bang on about the quality of refs and how they feel screwed by PGMO, but my standard reply is “Welcome to reality” which is not appreciated. I keep smiling when they refer to Hurricane when Spurs play, but divers in EPL are NOT punished, even though the media admits it too. Hearing Sky pundits going on about winning your team an advantage with a dive, shows the lack of morals that pervades the media.

  6. Mikes & Nitram
    I agree with all the points you make and have put a few thoughts together which are a bit random but here goes .
    I started going to Highbury in the very late 1950’s we lived off the Old Kent Road
    There was no football on television you saw any incidence once there wasn’t 25 cameras picking up anything untoward , but we know that dark arts went on . We had to wait for the Saturday evening papers and the Sundays papers to read match reports and not people’s opinions , the game was never analysed like it is today with so many people involved and making a living from it .

    Of course there were strange decisions in every game back then but they were accepted because they could not be proved wrong or right , today every decision is analysed to prove or disprove an incident , has the media or is it football that has gone too far with this simple game .
    Is all this about money and media who dictate and who is allowed to win , in 1960’s and the 1970’s a different team won the 1st division every season until Liverpool had a good run and because of that good run they were able to buy the best players which kept the run going , did we think then that referees and the media dictated how things went then ?
    I think things started to go strange for Arsenal when GG as manager started to have success and carried on with AW a southern team breaking the northern teams dominance , in that run of approx 30 years there have been many strange incidences which effected Arsenal .

  7. Steve Vallins

    You make some interesting observations.

    “Of course there were strange decisions in every game back then but they were accepted because they could not be proved wrong or right, today every decision is analysed to prove or disprove an incident, has the media or is it football that has gone too far with this simple game”.

    I think the point you make about how the media coverage grew is critical. When we all just saw the incident once, live and in real time, including the ‘reporter’, all of our opinions, including the ‘reporters’ were pretty superfluous. The decision had been made, correctly or incorrectly. All we could do was whinge and whine about it down the pub Saturday night, then forget it. A reporter banging on about something 99.9% of people didn’t see or ultimately care about was pretty pointless. In other words a match day reporter had hardly any, if any, influence at all on fans, and certainly not on the referees.

    But once it became a mass media product in which every little incident is replayed again and again, the ‘Pundits’ and ‘Medias’ opinions became ever more influential, especially as they had effectively also become their paymasters.

    Referees and their bosses now started to worry more about how they were judged by x y or z on a Sunday afternoon, or on the radio and in the red tops on Monday morning, than whether or not they actually applied the rules to the strict letter of the law. They knew their every decision would be scrutinized to the enth degree, and if you didn’t come up to muster you could be in big trouble. A decision the ‘panel’ liked, no matter how errant it may seem to you or I, could earn you lavish praise and untold Kudos. A decision they didn’t like, could, as we have seen happen, earn you a spell in the stiffs, or The Championship as some might prefer to call it. And believe it or not referees are only human. What would you do? Give that 50/50 penalty against United and earn the wrath of Fergie and his myriad of friends in the media, or err on the side of caution and wave play on? I wonder?

    You ask “Is all this about money and media who dictate and who is allowed to win”?

    Yes it is, without a shadow of a doubt.

  8. @Dawie – I remember reading an article where UEFA said they wanted people to “talk about” games the next day when UCL games are on – Does this mean that they are uninterested in the sport, just the social media and mainstream media responses?

    I am just asking for a Friend (sarcasm)!

  9. I think it may have started in 1998/1999 – the season after we won our second double. Until that time foreign coaches/managers, and to a lesser degree, players were treated as a novelty by the football establishment, particularly the media. After we won that double, the knives came out.

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