By Tony Attwood
It is not surprising that we have started to get a few comments made attempting to denounce or undermine the thesis developed on these pages that there is something amiss with the refereeing of Premier League games.
The tactic normally used is one in which just one element of our argument about referees is considered, a weakness is spotted within it, and that, it is suggested, explains why the debate should be swept aside.
Now, as far as I recall, we’ve never said that our concerns about the refereeing of Arsenal games should be taken as the truth just on our say so, which is why we come at the issue from a number of different directions.
Yet in arguments against our approach, one particular aspect of our research is cited and a problem with it is suggested, while the other approaches are ignored.
And yet it is precisely because there are so many different issues that we constantly continue to feel that there is something wrong. I’ll briefly try and summarise the various approaches we have taken.
1: Tackles fouls and yellows.
This is the current approach we are exploring, showing that the way clubs are treated by referees in terms of the number of tackles in relation to fouls, and each in relation to yellow cards, varies enormously from club to club.
2: The sudden changes in the style of play of Leicester after publicity
We first looked at tackles, fouls and yellow cards two seasons ago in relation to the extraordinarily high number of tackles Leicester put in, and how comparatively few were penalised as fouls. Within a couple of weeks of that groundbreaking article Leicester’s numbers changed dramatically, as if the referees had worked up to the situation. It was very odd. A coincidence perhaps.
Following this up, last season we noticed another quirk in Leicester’s statistics – the number of penalties they were awarded, which was for a while way above anything ever seen before in the League. If it had continued they would have created a new all-time record for penalties. We wrote it up, and again within weeks the numbers changed; the penalties stopped. A coincidence perhaps
3: The home and away bias
No one quite knew why home clubs won more matches than away clubs – maybe it was the travel, the unfamiliarity of the ground, the abuse from home fans… But there was a chance to study this during the pandemic when matches were played in empty stadia – at which time home wins reduced while away wins went up – so much so that away wins were then the most common results.
A team of referees under the guidance of academics from the University of London and a club director, intrigued by these changing figures, undertook a series of experiments which showed just how much referees were influenced by the home crowd. Home teams win more games than away teams because referees are influenced by the home crowd. The research proves it.
Which completely undermined the PGMO claim that their referees were 98% accurate. They couldn’t be, because they were subject to home bias.
4: The appointment of refs who give cards to Arsenal
At the end of last season we looked at the referees who had overseen Arsenal games and how many times each one had taken an Arsenal game. We also looked at how many cards each referee handed out. Refs who handed out multiple cards against Arsenal players in a match were much more likely to be given a second, third, fourth or fifth Arsenal match, than those who gave zero or one card.
5: The difference from Europe
Refereeing in England is quite different in many other countries, where (for example) in some locations referees are interviewed on TV immediately after a game. There are many other differences, especially the number of times a referee can oversee a match involving the same team. In some countries that limit is twice. Such things are unthinkable in England: there is no limit and five games is not unknown.
6: The secrecy and lack of publicity and engagement from PGMO
There is no inherent reason why the body that organises refereeing in England (PGMO) should be as hyper-secretive as it is – but it chooses to be. It doesn’t happen in other countries, so why in England?
7: The lack of enquiry from the media when they look into everything else
Those six points before this seventh issue, suggest that there is something odd about the way refereeing is undertaken in England, and this is the sort of thing that normally the media in England would seize upon. That is not to say something is wrong, but normally one would find a few “Inside the hyper-secretive world of…” type articles. But in England there is nothing. No enquiry, no consideration of what is going on.
Worse the one commentator who would criticise referees (Alan Greene) was then sacked by the BBC. Now there are no commentator’s who hold referees to account..
For all those reasons it seems to me that someone somewhere ought to be inquiring into the way in which refereeing in the Premier League works. It may not find anything very exciting (although the six previous points give plenty of scope for exploration) but at least we might learn why refereeing in England is so different from everywhere else – and why no one has thought it worth while to investigate before.
The proof that something is seriously wrong with football refereeing and reporting
- The curious case of how the media treats Man C and how it treats Arsenal
- Arsenal in mega crisis
- How one journalist decided to turn the truth about Arsenal upside down.
- Arsenal’s results are on track for top four finishes – from next season.
- This is Arsenal’s worst position for over a quarter of a century
- If the media lie and bully about the news, what do you think they do about football?
- Arsenal’s financial woes and the media’s call for more spending.
- Womens Champions League Arsenal Women v Juventus – the match preview
- It never rains but the journalists want Arsenal to drown in a mess of their own making
- Back to the football: Watford video and Arsenal v Lyon 8 December preview
- The 40 players coming to Arsenal and the 6 most predicted for this January
- Gabriel injury: why no replacement is needed