More evidence to suggest PGMO is not acting fair with Arsenal

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
1.Michael Oliver 5 11.60 1.40
2.Martin Atkinson 4 7.75 1.00
3.Chris Kavanagh 3 11.33 1.67
4.Craig Pawson 3 9.33 2.33
5.Andre Marriner 3 10.67 1.67
6.Paul Tierney 2 8.00 1.00
7.Anthony Taylor 1 8.00 0.00
8.Jonathan Moss 1 11.00 2.00
9.Kevin Friend 1 6.00 2.00
10.Graham Scott 1 5.00 2.00
11.David Coote 1 9.00 0.00
12.Stuart Attwell 1 8.00 0.00
13.Lee Mason 1 3.00 0.00
14.Mike Dean 1 12.00 3.00
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?

20 Replies to “More evidence to suggest PGMO is not acting fair with Arsenal”

  1. Amazing job, Tony.
    Not exactly anger-quelling stuff after yesterday’s horror show, but amazing job nevertheless

  2. There is a large article from 2016 that compares referee numbers and distribution in the PL and makes comparison to all the other European major leagues. It’s a long and tedious read to be honest and it doesn’t suggest that continental referees never referee a team more than twice but it does show the way our referees are organised is an outlier among the elite leagues, showing how the PL ref match distribution variance is similar to that of Calciopoli Italy of 2005/06.

    The article is headed:

    Referee Match Distribution: Is the Premier League the same as other top European leagues?

    And it concludes with:


    1) The PL ref match distribution variance is similar to Calciopoli Italy of 2005/06 and France Ligue 1*.

    *France Ligue 1 full time referees may have been skewed due to injury/retirement as the two lowest full time refs in France (W. Bien and A. Delerue) had officiated 16-19 matches in the prior 4 seasons. Bien has not officiated since December 2015. *

    2) The PL ref match distribution was significantly different than 3 other top European football leagues (Spain, Germany, and Italy).

    3) The PL (14) had fewer full time referees than all comparative European leagues: Spain La Liga (20), Italy Serie A (22), German Bundesliga (19), France Ligue 1(21), as well as Calciopoli Italy (21).

    4) The PL average (mean) of games officiated was higher than every other top European league.

    Fewer refs doing more games with unequal distribution among the officials than other European leagues, the Premier League truly stands out on their own.

    i.e. The PL had 11 referees that officiated more matches than ALL other European leagues (France- Benoit Millot [23])
    5) Steps for PL referee match distribution improvement:

    Increase number of full time referees (14) similar to other European leagues (19 – 22)
    Most importantly, distribute matches more evenly among full time referees similar to other top leagues(i.e. Spain, Italy, and Germany, NOT Calciopoli Italy).
    An equal distribution of matches among a greater number of referees will help reduce referee fatigue and errors throughout the season.

    *This article is not implying that referee corruption similar to Calciopoli Italy 2005/06 is happening in the current Premier League, but stating simply that steps should be taken to bring referee match distribution similar to all other top European leagues.*

    And this is a very pertinent comment from the article:


    30 May 2016 at 2:19 PM

    Great article, Jerry. This is the thing that needs to be fixed first, before implementing video refereeing, in my opinion. If the pgmob structure remains unchanged, then the effectiveness of video refereeing will be severely undermined; it’ll only work on clear cut things like off sides but remain ineffective on more important things like yellow or red card tackles etc. Just implementing a rule that says no ref shall do one team more than two times per season can dramatically change things in the PL. Add an equal geographical dispersion to the equation and we’re talking. Video refereeing will be the icing on the cake. Of course with other leagues video refereeing will be the most important change as they don’t suffer the same ills as the PL with regards to referee appointments.

    Within the article there is also a link to an ex referees Jeff Winters question and answer session. What he has to say about Mike Riley and his referees is very telling. It seems nothing has changed in 6 years:

    This was Jeff’s reply to a question posed about poor refereeing:

    “Mike Riley has always been a weak man; he was a functional referee, to the book but lacked any charisma or personality. He was an ideal choice to be the Ref’s manager because he would do as he was told and not stir any waves. Just what the authorities wanted.

    In much the same way as a Clough, Allardyce or Redknapp was never ever going to manage the England team then a Poll, Halsey or Winter was never going to manage the Refs.

    I don’t know what is going on at present. There is a total lack of confidence with some Refs and some are clearly not up to the standard on current form. It’s embarrassing to hear Riley spout rubbish when he should be helping and managing the group more effectively.

    Hackett was part of the system that helped create the current situation so it’s somewhat strange that he now is slagging off Refs that he was instrumental in promoting and managing. In my day there were 10-12 Refs who could be trusted to officiate any of our highest profile games now it’s half that number. We have two Refs in their mid fifties with no one deemed good enough to replace them.

    There hasn’t been any real forward planning in the last 15 years and now we are paying the price. I don’t see any solution on the horizon and the FA /PGMOL just won’t support the officials and be positive in strong refereeing as they are scared to upset the big clubs.

    Refs will never be popular, it goes with the territory and they are human so will always make mistakes. Their job is all the more difficult with players out to win at all costs and constantly conning and cheating throughout games. That us where the authorities must step in. It’s not rocket science, retrospective bans for diving. Treat the on field cheats are firmly a they do the tweeters and the Refs’ jobs will become easier.

    I have long advocated for sin bins to mete out instant punishments, independent timekeeping and ten yard advancements for dissent. All would help the game and officials. It won’t eradicate all the wrongs but it would be a massive step in the right direction.

    Refereeing isn’t totally impossible in the current climate it just requires strong characters who officiate fairly within the laws of the game to be backed up by the authorities. It’s no different to the law of the land, the role of the policeman is pointless unless the courts deal with offenders in a manner that not only punishes but also acts as a deterrent. Football has created a cosy, jobs for the boys regime in refereeing and the high salaries that they are on means that no one wants to rock the boat and jeopardize their careers and incomes.

    I’m often asked if I miss refereeing, of course I miss the involvement of match days, the training and banter and being fit enough to keep up with play. The politics etc I am well rid of. To be honest with every word you say being monitored, the art of man management is a thing of the past. Myself and others like me wouldn’t last five minutes in the modern game.

    Having been part of the profession for 25 years it saddens me to see what has been allowed to happen. Perhaps Howard Webb might be allowed to have more influence as he has the respect of the referees but unfortunately those above him have the power and they don’t want radical thinking that might upset the precious big clubs. Sadly It will get worse before it gets better.

    Best wishes

    Jeff Winter

    Haven’t found anything about interviews yet.

  3. Mane should have been sent off for the blatant deliberate elbow in the first minute. Taylor clearly saw it, but only gave a yellow. A clear and obvious mistake, so where was VAR?

    Arsenal players have given red cards for much more minor offences. In fact I cannot recall an Arsenal player ever committing such a blatant act of violence. The Chelsea player was lucky to escape serious injury.

    An assault in the early part of the game is, of course, a regular Mane practice. He usually gets away with no card at all.

  4. Guys,

    I’ll keep on banging that drum. What you are seeing are FIIs in their glory. F…..g Incompentent Idiots.
    From the referees to the management above them. A management team that is unable to cout to TWO. Referees unable to take TWO identical decisions in a same situation.
    I mean, we are talking binary numbering here. On/Off, Yes/No, Black/White.
    Referees, encouraged by the myth of 99% correct decision their management is propagating to all and sundry with no evidence based research, who end up believing the total BS crap they are fed by their managers, like it happens in any sect promoting the world is flat or Elvis lives.

    A management team unable to find referees anywhere south of England and unable to have a team sufficient to cover for a whole season. A management team incapable of any sort of analysis – which when you’ve figured out they cannot count to TWO makes sense.

    The love of the game ? The role of the referee in creating a level playing field ? The referee being perfect when no one sees him – No f…..g way !!! They want to be the center of attention not for quality of work, but just to be at the center of attention.
    A management team unable to ‘export’ it’s star referees with 99% correct decisions outside of England. Referees so imbued no one outside of England wants them.

    FII – keep repeating it !!! make it viral !!! #FII

  5. I think 8n a few years time it will be proven that some referees were bribed. There is so much money being spent by firstly Chelsea and now Man City and if you look back how many decisions they have both been given it just makes me mad. Maybe an independent review is needed.

  6. Thanks Tony for referring me to this article, nothing quite as refreshing as an accurate read. However I still have another contribution to make. Reading the article it still sounds like it’s only the EPL falling short of this desirable goal of a ref not doing more than 2 matches per team per season. All recommendations are directed at the pgmol which I suggest shouldn’t be. Secondly, doesn’t the fact that all the other leagues including the serie A that makes use of over 40refs, still fall short of this desirable standard suggest that there are challenges ref organizations face that we are not privy to? If the EPL needed just 5 more refs to achieve this, why does the serie A with its more than double the number of EPL refs still have refs doing teams more than twice in a season? I hope you see what I’m getting at

  7. In summery, we all know referees and VAR are crap. We saw it as plain as day yesterday. We see it every week. Yet we still have on MOTD, Gary Lineker, Ian Wright and Martin Keown telling us everything is OK. They got EVERY decision correct. No question.

    We have a big article in Th Mail on Sunday telling us every decision was correct, when quite clearly it wasn’t.

    I fear whilst heads are so buried in the sand, or more accurately buried up the butt holes of the PGMOL, then we have no hope.

  8. @ mick shelley

    …….and of course, Hackett and Halsey are far more qualified in research and statistics than academics at the LSE, so all we need to see is their evidence………

  9. Personally I’ve always thought they referee more in accordance with what will get them the least criticism, or most praise, whatever way you want to look at it, from their judge jury and executioner, the media.

    I have no doubt the home crowd has an impact, but not as much as keeping the media happy, and in it’s wake, their job.

    Both the referee and the VAR man knew that screwing Arsenal on Saturday was never going to get them in any real trouble. The safe option is always to side against Arsenal.

    I concede that yes, we have a little more media sympathy than in recent years, mainly on the back of the good will towards our young players, but the overriding train of thought is still anything against Arsenal is okay, and by and large not likely to cause you any trouble.

    When I ran the line for my own team in front of 10 people, 2 dogs and a cow on a Sunday morning I found it intimidating at times.

    Guess why ? Because I’m human.

    Those 2 numpty’s denying they were influenced is to deny they are human.

    Come to think of it they may have a point.

  10. Bias in favour of home crowds is a common, but not a universal factor. Exceptions include any fixtures at the Emirates and any Man United away matches.

  11. @mick shelley,

    this is just confirming my opinion. Arrogant incompetent idiots, mismanaged, with absolutely no quality control on the performance. Kind of like in a stalinist sect where the one and only motto is : 99% correct and any dissenting opinion gets squashed.

    Any humans errs many times a day. Even in the moon space race there were errors, and this in a organisation that was managing errors transparently and looking for solutions first and foremost.

    Visibly referees in the PL are so stupid they are not human anymore… ;=) FII F…..g Incompetent Idiots – I should add an A for Arrogant

  12. Indeed Mick – refuted by him saying ““I can only speak for myself in those situations…” whereas the LSE research had a team referees looking at multiple games some with the crowd noise, some without.

  13. And just to prove your point again Tony, Oliver has been named as ref for the game on Thursday v Liverpool!

  14. ukp

    Actually it was I who found and directed you to that article, but never mind.

    Anyway, I do see your point, which is why I took the time to try and find that article because as memory served no league was restricting referees to 2 matches per club.

    What my memory did recall was how different the EPL was to the rest of Europe, which is what this article showed.

    It’s conclusion is basically that the fewer referees you have and the more times they referee the same team, the easier it would be, if the desire was there, to corrupt referees into influencing the outcome of matches, as was the case with Calciopoli.

    The obvious conclusion to draw from the article is that the way the referees are set up in the EPL is far from ideal and is far to close to that of Calciopoli for comfort.

    Knowing the inherent dangers of such a set up the big question is Why?

    And why is a question that nobody, especially the complicit, compliant media ever want to ask. Which is why Tony does.

    So Okay, Tony’s claim that the rest of Europe restrict their referees to 2 matches per team per season may be an inaccurate recollection, as it seems that at this stage that is just an ideal, an aim. But the fact remains the way our referees are organised differs greatly from the other big leagues in Europe in a way that ignores historical dangers and puts it’s integrity in doubt and it’s paranoia, secrecy and lies just make matters worse.

    All that being said I don’t believe any of that is behind how poorly our referees and VAR perform.

    My theory is, as I touched on above and have done lengthy posts on many times before, so I wont bore everyone stupid again, is that basically they referee at the behest of the media, as opposed in accordance with the laws of the game.

    Either way and whatever the reason, our referees are crap and VAR, rather than improve matters has in my opinion just made it worse, at least for Arsenal it has, as I said it would way back when it’s introduction was first muted.

    As for whether continental referees talk to the media, I haven’t managed to find anything about that……yet !

  15. Ukp

    And in case you have missed it Walter has posted a couple of links in an earlier article showing how referees do interact with the public, via the media and other outlets, to talk about decisions.

    The research and in depth analysis Tony, Andrew and Walter wave done exposing the incompetence, bias and plain cheating of the PGMOL and their puppets in black is actually quite remarkable.

    When you add to that additional contributions from regulars such as myself the evidence is damning.

    People like yourself do come here and question, which is good, because very very rarely do they manage to counter the multitude of accusations that are aimed at the PGMOL and the referees, because 99% of what is said is backed by evidence in the way of statistics.

    Yes people come here and say we are paranoid, it all evens out etc. etc. but they vary rarely back their claim up with any evidence.

    My opinion is that The PGMOL is a disgrace, our referees are poor, the use of VAR is flawed in the extreme, and this site has produced tons of evidence to confirm that that is the case.

    And still they sit on MOTD and claim all is well.

  16. @Nitram, I’m sorry I didn’t know you directed me to this article, I honestly didn’t see it. However, Tony in one of his responses to me did ask me to look out for this article, indeed he said my comment was the/a motivation for this piece. About the article I believe you refer to that claimed to prove the EPL was organized differently from the other leagues in Europe, I read it years ago when it was posted, and I noticed as did some other commenters that there seemed to be some hanky panky hidden in plenty statistical jargons leading to that conclusion. I usually don’t just read articles and take them as gospel truth, I check the figures claimed and deductions made. For example when Proudkev posted his factually inaccurate article, quite a number of untolders took the article as fact and started blasting the EPL until the factual errors were pointed out by a poster. I didn’t comment on the article claiming EPL reffing was organized differently then as I haven’t commented on your rehash of it now because I’m not a mathematician/statistician. However it does feel strange that 2 leagues (EPL and la Liga I believe) had similar ref numbers and match distribution… However after some statistical abracadabra, we get a conclusion that EPL refereeing is run in a statistically significantly different way. It really didn’t make sense to me. I had intended to run the raw data by a statistician friend of mine, but eventually decided to let it go. I might not be a statistician but common sense does tell me that you shouldn’t have similar raw data from 2 places and come out with very different conclusions on both, however instead of arguing, I just disregarded the article. However now you have brought it back up, I’ll find time to look through it again. Maybe this time my understanding will be more inspired.

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