By Tony Attwood
You may have noticed that over time I have often made the suggestion that in the Premier League no club should get the same referee more than twice in a season.
And if you take the time to read the comments made on Untold you might have noticed that this has been a bit of a topic of debate. I claimed that in some other leagues this is “twice only” rule was applied but now having been challenged on the issue, I find I can’t prove that. I thought I could, but the documentation isn’t where I thought it would be.
So I remain with the notion that having each referee only twice in a season would be a good idea, in order to reduce chances of bias, but not one that has been implemented. Yet the evidence from the lock down period suggests that this is indeed urgently required, since the research there from a team at the London School of Economics showed that in the Premier League, referees are unduly influenced by the home crowd. This in turn explains why the number of home wins declined so dramatically during the no-crowd period.
Where there is bias, as the LSE research showed, the bias from each referee is likely to be different, so rotating referees will ensure that no club benefits or is unduly penalised by having the same referee over and over again.
No one else has taken up this idea, but looking again at the evidence, after I was accused of deliberately trying to mislead the Untold readership, it struck me that this balance could be very easily achieved, by the resources that PGMO have already to hand.
And if that is the case, the question really does rise up: as it is so easy to do, why on earth is PGMO not doing it? Why give Arsenal the same referee five times in a season, when there is every opportunity to ensure Arsenal only has him twice.
Doing this would in a single move reduce the concerns people have about referee bias, and would not cost PGMO a penny.
Of course I should have seen this before, but clearly I am getting a bit dopey in my old age (I blame lockdowns but that might just be an excuse) but the data was on this site all the time…
After the end of last season we did this analysis for matches where we had kept the details of the referee
|Referee||Games||Fouls awarded against Arsenal per game||Yellow cards against Arsenal per game|
|Average||1.24 cards per game|
The point about this was to show the variation between the number of fouls awarded against Arsenal in a match, noting that some of these extremes were more likely to be examples of referee bias than actual foul play, given that when we measured the number of tackles per game, through last season they were fairly consistent match by match.
Besides which, last season was the season Arsenal reduced their tackling, fouling and yellow card, rate dramatically.
So if we take the list of referees whose work we analysed and use them all twice, that gives us 28 games for the season. Just five more referees are needed for each referee to take an Arsenal game only twice. Or if PGMO is so inclined, they could introduce one or two newcomers and they could have Arsenal once in the season.
Really that is all that is needed. Five more referees to get two Arsenal games each, and all the others reduced to two games maximum.
Now I know there is a potential disaster in this because it could mean that we would get Dean and Moss twice, rather than once each (which was a blessing). But it would stop us getting Oliver five times, and Pawson would have come down to two games.
So there it is – the solution is simple. Five more PGMO referees.
There are currently 22 referees working for PGMO in the Premier League and three of these are clearly still being tested out (Brooks, Harrington, and Salisbury). So there are already enough referees to give us what we seek – no referee more than twice in a season.
Which raises the rather interesting question. If it is that easy to achieve, why don’t they do it? Why allow us to have one referee five times last season?
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