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.
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