Burnley v Arsenal. Is it really that easy to influence a referee? Seemingly yes.

Is it really that easy to influence a referee?

That is the headline over an article in the Athletic.  I’ve reprinted the opening below, but in essence it leads with the referee showing how he stops himself being influenced by players, or anyone else.

“I always had techniques,” says Steve Bennett. “If I was going to show a red card, I always used to say to myself, ‘It’s a red card. Do it, do it, do it, do it’. Because players will always try to convince you otherwise.”

Bennett, who took charge of more than 250 Premier League matches, is considering the question of whether it is possible to influence referees, and remembering all the little mechanisms that he had in place to help him stop that from happening, to keep his head clear when the temperature was rising all around and to shut out the background noise on and off the pitch.

“I never used to buy newspapers and I very rarely turned on the radio when I was driving home after a match,” he says. “Everybody is different in their (mental) make-up but you’ve got to be very strong-willed to be a referee. You’ve got to be, ‘I’m focused on the game, I’m not going to let other things have any influence on what I do.


The implication as you can see is that no, it is not that easy to influence a referee.   But if you read the comments after the Burnley v Arsenal game article today, on this site, you’ll see a number of people of a different opinion.

And what is interesting is that the Athletic article takes the notion of influence in a particular way – the players trying to influence the referee.  They don’t and won’t consider other possibilities.  Such as the referee being influenced by the crowd.  Or habit.  Or bias.  Or bribery.

But we know from serious academic research that crowds can and do influence referees.  In fact there are so many articles now listed on the topic on our home page I suspect we are putting people off reading any of them.

As for habit, our six part series on “gaslighting” suggests that if this is not happening in refereeing, that is the one part of society that is not being influenced from without.  Which would be very strange.  (For the gaslighting series, see the home page of  this site, where there is a full index.

However let my try and summarise some of the other issues…

1. The influence of  the crowd

This now cannot be denied, as it was the subject of incredibly detailed academic research.  We covered it at … Crowdless stadia stats reveal fallacy of PGMO claims about referee accuracy

In essence the research proves that referees are influenced by crowds; they are nowhere near as independent as they like to believe.  If you want to go further then Without crowds away teams do so much better might be of interest

2.  PGMO referees are not as good as they think they are.

We don’t know why, but this is certainly what the figures suggest.

Now the normal response to this from other football fans is that we are only saying this because Arsenal lose.  But in fact we are not the only people saying this.

3.  Newspapers will not entertain the story that anything is wrong

We’ve covered this quite often.

Reality is elsewhere. Why certain stories are never covered by football journalists

What made the Observer newspaper publish its false away wins story?

4.  There is something fishy at PGMO

The figures that PGMO put out about referee accuracy are wrong – and we are not the only ones who say this.

PGMO claim that their referees are 98% accurate in their decision making, but to get that figure they count every decision.  For example a player kicks off at the start of  the game by, well, kicking the ball.  Yep that’s ok, and the referee let’s the game proceed.  That is one decision correct.

An attacker kicks the ball over the cross bar and almost out of the ground.  Goal kick to the defending team.  Yes, another correct decision.  That adds  to the 98%.

This is nonsense statistics, because these decisions are obvious.  Of course everyone gets them right.  I could get them right and I am not trained as a referee.  If you want to read this story, and our praise for a Liverpool supporting blog that is as concerned about PGMO as we are see here.

5.  So why is nothing being done?

Because the British media invests millions of pounds in televising football, and a wholesale suggestion that the matches are not as straight as we would like to think they are, would destroy that investment.

Hence it is not a subject to be mentioned.



3 Replies to “Burnley v Arsenal. Is it really that easy to influence a referee? Seemingly yes.”

  1. Well … yes, refereeing was outrageously biased against us, as always; and yes, there were those misses, as well as that blunder.
    But: maybe just maybe, if our state-of-the-art headcoach, just for once, picked Pépé RW – Saka N10 – Auba LW / Laca CF together from the start, we’d create more than enough to end up winning such games.
    Lehmann lately said about Arteta something like “it’s very much all about him, isn’t it?”. I didn’t pay too much attention, then, but let’s face it: in attack, the manager is obviously dead set on implementing this weird creation of his, with Auba (who scores 90% of his goals from the left) somewhere between left-wing and CF, Odegaard (0 goal so far) somewhere between N10 and CF, Willian (0 goal so far) somewhere between LW and N10; while our best G/A provider (Laca) as well as a £72m lad who seems to have, at long last, found his feet (Pépé), are condemned to watch three quarters of the games from the stands; so much so that, just as Jens, I do have a feeling Arteta is concerned about being regarded as some kind of “innovator supreme” first and foremost, and doesn’t care too much about Arsenal ludicrously dropping points as a consequence of his “innovations”.

  2. You know it’s an absolute stonewall penalty when even Lineker is prepared to say so on MOTD!

  3. Mikey

    Honestly Mikey I can’t see how anybody can deny it.

    What I want to hear is somebody to have the balls to call out the PGMOL for trying to justify it with this ‘proximity’ bo££ocks.

    They are an absolute sham.

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