“Mistakes are made, but officials are not biased”. The proof that they are.

By Tony Attwood

“Mike Dean is one of the worst referees in the history of world football, to me, and one of the worst men to have ever lived.”

That is how the daily article emailed from The Athletic begins.  The article then goes on the list a few of Dean’s errors, before saying, “Dean, in short, is biased against his club, in the same way that Stuart Attwell is biased against Arsenal for not giving a penalty against Manchester City on Saturday. Actually, it turns out via a little bit of research that Dean is biased against Arsenal as well, and Leeds too.”

It then points subscribers to the article, “All of us fans are bonded in our blindness towards refereeing decisions. Mistakes are made but officials are not biased, writes Stuart James”  But of course there is no evidence of this. Just assertion.

So let me offer an alternative viewpoint from the “they are doing a difficult job well” vs “they are corrupt” argument, which is how the debate seems to be going.  Six questions answered.

1: Is PGMO the right sort of organisation to run refereeing?

PGMO is, as far as I can tell, an independent body.  The nearest you’ll find to a PGMO website is this page which really tells you very little.   For example there is nothing about who PGMO is answerable to, largely because it isn’t answerable to anyone.   Rather like the FA, it just is.

So PGMO decides how many referees it wants, it decides how many times each referee will oversee a match involving the same club, it decides if the referees are fit for purpose, it decides if referees should be able to talk to the media, who should drive the referee away from the ground…

Thus there is a legitimate question about the PGMO itself – which is (as far as I know) never asked by the media: is it actually fit for purpose?

2: Is there evidence that referees are biased?

Absolutely, and it is damning.  The research involved showing top level referees videos of Premier League matches, half the referees having the actual crowd noise from the game through headsets, half wearing headsets with no crowd noise.   At each major decision the video was stopped and the referee had to note his decision.   The decisions of referees with the crowd noise was clearly biased toward the home crowd, even down to how much time was to be added on at the end of a game.  For the refs with no crowd noise there was no bias.

This research involved academics who are used to complex research projects, professional referees, and a club director who is also an academic and was peer reviewed to the normal academic standards.

3.  Does referee bias show in practice?

Yes.  Throughout the history of the league, home teams have won more games than away teams.  In the season without crowds, away teams won more games than home teams.  Here are the figures for the Premier League…

Season Home percentage of points Away percentage of points
2018/19 57% 43%
2019/20 58% 42%
2020/21 44% 56%

The only explanation for this with supporting evidence is that revealed in point 2 above – referees are influenced to a small but measurable degree, by the crowd.

4: So what’s the conclusion?

We cannot conclude that referees are corrupt, but we can conclude that they are not the 98% accurate machines that PGMO and their media lapdogs have portrayed them as.   They make mistakes and these errors are not evenly divided between clubs.  Therefore logically work should be ongoing to make referees less bias prone.

But this cannot happen, because PGMO is in constant and absolute denial that there is bias, and their lapdogs in the media accept this as absolute.  Indeed we might be better off asking: why does the media insist on letting PGMO get away with this?  That’s actually quite an important question.

5: Any other problems?

Yes, plenty – but here is just one for the moment.  It seems very likely (not proven but very likely) that because of the tiny number of referees, and the fact that they all work together for one isolated and  remote organisation which never engages with the public, they have their own perception of clubs, which influences their decision making.  Maybe not by much, but to a degree.  For example, “Team V is always whinging and whining.”  “Team W is honest and honourable, clean and exciting.”  “Team X are timewasters.”  “Team Y will pull every trick in the book.”  “Team Z is managed by a man who is too clever by half.  Cut them down to size.”  The word spreads.

6.  Any other evidence?

There is of course the case of the 12 match ban Arsene Wenger got from PGMO in 2000; a ban which was thrown out on appeal.  It is one of the most ludicrous and shameful actions by PGMO, but of course all now forgotten – except not by the Arsenal History Society.  You can read the story here.

Then there was our series of referee reviews – the most in-depth reviews ever carried out by anyone, as far as we know.    Our team of reviewers produced “160 games analysed” – the level of referee error is stunning.

So it continues, and I haven’t even started on Gaslighting – which explains why the media do not and will not engage in this subject.   All the articles are still on this site…

Gaslighting: how refereeing in the Premier League is manipulated, and why the media never speak about it.


29 Replies to ““Mistakes are made, but officials are not biased”. The proof that they are.”

  1. Although Arsenal lost the game against Manchester City, good signs are that the team is moving on the right path. HOWEVER, the coach needs to address Xaka problems. He plays well but must watch his antics. Arsenal needs three players. A quality ready made striker, an attacking defensive midfielder and a quality back up defender for Gabriel.

  2. There shouldn’t be any English referees. better to get them from Upper Volta, at least its a step uop.

    In another article… ” “There’s a full house, 22 cameras and referees in communication with the VAR guy. All these people and he thinks he will get away with scuffing the penalty spot. ”

    My answer to that is why not? the stupid fu**ers missed a blatant penalty for Arsenal

    They analyze offside to get a correct decision. WHY NOT EVERYTHING ELSE. At least we wont feel cheated by the dumb ba****d VAR

  3. The PGMO sometimes do not allow certain of their refs to officiate in matches involving certain teams. This is due to geographical reasons and/or know support of a particular ref for a particular team. Thus Mike Dean is never selected to ref matches involving Liverpool as he comes from that area.
    Surely this in itself is an admission by PGMO that bias or favouritism is a real and present possibility within their ranks, so how can they conversely claim their refs are not biased.

  4. Further to the discussion of the possible bias of PGMO referees, I would like to recommend the following piece of recent research finding from Norway. The full research report can be found at


    “Front. Sports Act. Living, 27 February 2020 | https://doi.org/10.3389/fspor.2020.00019

    The research finding concluded the following from the research data

    “The study objective was to investigate whether NPL(Norwegian Premier League) referees may be biased by team success when making penalty decisions. The results support the hypothesis that there is a referee bias in favor of successful teams, with the evidence indicating that successful teams are more likely to receive an incorrect penalty compared with their opponents, and that successful teams are less likely to be denied a penalty they should have been awarded.”

    Thus, there is a very strong suggestion that the actual match referees were strongly influenced by the nature of the two teams playing each other. The team that was viewed as being more successful within the Norwegian Premier League received more penalties from incorrect decisions than their opponents and that their opponents were also not awarded the same number of justifiable penalties compared to these successful teams.

    This research is based on the use of an Expert Panel (4 Norwegian professional referees) watching muted video recordings of penalty incidents and comparing the outcome to that of the actual referees’ decisions.

    Whilst this research is based on observations in Norway, the findings are very suggestive and might well mirror such observations that have been highlighted in the English Premier League. Such research findings should not be ignored and can further be added to that research concerning English Premier League referee decision making and crowd noise influence.

    In a previous article, Nitram observes that referees are human and thus subject to possible error. This is a very important observation of referees because humans have different belief systems and such belief systems may well influence observations and decision making.
    There is a strong suggestion that during the recent Arsenal/Manchester City match, the match officials refused a penalty for Arsenal which video evidence suggested should have been awarded. Such an outcome correlates with the Norwegian finding perhaps.
    The point for me is that this research suggests that no matter how well an English referee organisation (PGMO) believes its professionalism and training is, belief systems may well influence decision making from its referees, leading to bias! My conclusion it has to be said but ………..

  5. Dear Mick Shelley

    I used to believe the same thing about selection of referees but Mike Dean was the official for the Liverpool/Newcastle match and I believe he was also officiating at the first Everton home game in 2021. Perhaps being a Tranmere Rovers supporter and coming from the Wirral, he is no longer considered possibly biased!

    The PGMO does whatever the PGMO does with little transparency and certainly little monitoring from the FA, Premier League and Premier clubs themselves, including the Arsenal management!.

  6. An attacking defensive midfielder is an interesting concept . We want a decent holding midfielder not an idiot like Xhaka.
    Re the article’s main point I accept a high degree of referee error. The standard is poor, the pressure and scrutiny enormous . But bias ? Certainly I think there are examples like Riley towards Manchester United in the Ferguson era which occurred because little men allowed themselves to be bullied by SAF .
    I reject the concept of systematic, deliberate bias but unconscious bias definitely exists and we suffer from it disproportionately, eg our 100 red cards when we are one of the cleanest teams in the league .

  7. @ mick shelley – who was the match official in charge of Everton v Arsenal 6th Dec 2021 at Goodison Road
    Walton, LIVERPOOL?

  8. Not really within the context of your article, BUT as a ref. I`d like to ask you a few questions on the mess of refereeing against City
    The Odegard issue was clearly a minimum of asking VAR. Having seen the replay it was clearly a penalty, but additional to that The City keeper hit Odegard with his studs.
    Is that an automatic Red Card ? and is it the obligation of the 4th official to draw the Ref`s attention?
    Their penalty was clearly a penalty, no need for a review, so why did the ref miss it? this from an Arsenal supporter (me)
    The Odegard issue was probably the cause for Gabriel to overstep the mark with the penalty spot, but the 2nd yellow was over the top, caution yes!
    On the penalty spot, the penalty was taken “off” the spot, is this allowable, should the kick be taken again ?

    Frustrating, Arsenal were superb, end up losing and lose Gabriel

  9. I need no further conviction on how hugely corrupt English football is, English Referees are the most corrupt in the world , also English VAR as immensely corrupt and influenced by certain corrupt groups.
    I don’t need anyone to convince me because the facts speak for itself

  10. Arsenal management really need to get the players some training in how to react to adverse events. Sure, tempers flare.
    But too many yellow cards are given out for stupid stuff that is the result of players reacting to what they perceive (and mostly they are right) as injustice, incompetence, bias.

    Don’t get mad, get even is the matra. Meltdowns like the 10 minutes against Citeh are not something that players should not fall prey of.
    They need to get their act together, and learn how to get up and go for more.

    As much as I find the incompetence of english referees totally unacceptable, I feel the arsenal players lack maturity in handling the situation and arr petrol to the fire pretty much every time.
    Just mobbibg the referee, even if all teams do it, is something they should NEVER do. Just gives them the perfect opportunity to hand out a yellow that turns into a red for any stupid foul later on.
    I just don’t understand why and how this has not been addressed earlier. It just gives any opponent a very powerful weapon against Arsenal : just make them blow their top…. and you’ll win the game.
    We’ve seen that so many times in the past 2 decades, have we not ? Did it change ? Did Arsenal learn how to deal with it ? My answer is no.

    This needs to stop. And it will bring in a few more points per season as did the change in tacking strategy. And, the best, is that it just depends on the players.

  11. Chris

    As much as I understand what you are saying it comes to something when we have to not only adjust how we play the game, in regards to cutting down on tackling to accommodate biased referee, we know have to behave in an angelic way in the face of devilment, because again we have to face bias refereeing.

    I pointed out over recent weeks at least 4 mass brawls. None of which resulted in anything more than at most 1 yellow card, zero post match ridicule from the pundits or media, and certainly no post match punishment for players or Club alike.

    I saw a Spurs player spit at an opponent. Pictures were not faked. I posted a link to the MOTD highlights that clearly showed he spat. It was completely ignored by MOTD and the mass media.

    During one of the brawls I pointed out how the commentators where laughing and saying how it’s understandable behavior given how passions are high.

    As usual whenever we get ‘involved’ it’s shameful, unacceptable, and we get everything we ask for.

    Again the double standards applied by referees, and then in their wake by the media, is an absolute joke, and as much as I know what you are saying, I refuse to condemn our players on the basis that they have to play and behave in a different way to everyone else simply to avoid the inherent bias of our bent referees.

    One minute we get endless criticism from the likes of Roy Keene and co about being soft, gutless, without passion, yet the second we show it we get the ultimate punishments from the idiot in black and criticism from the likes of Roy Keene and co for being ill disciplined.

    It’s a joke and I simply will not criticize our boys who have to perform in the face of this disgraceful situation.

  12. VAR has proven that referees make clear and obvious errors on big decisions in most matches. Before VAR we suspected this, but consoled ourselves that “things even out over the season”.
    Some time ago Untold did an analysis of how many points each team won/lost as a result of VAR intervention. Which is pretty objective It would be interesting to see this regularly updated. This would show the impact of VAR on the league table, which is all that really matters I suppose.

  13. Dublin Gooner

    Not sure Untold did the analysis themselves or sourced it from elsewhere, but whoever did it I’m pretty sure it showed we were harshly treated. Not the only ones, but like yellow and red cards, penalties for and against, yes others get harshly treated, and we are not always the most wronged, but we are often as not there or there abouts, and this has been the case for years now, oddly enough since Riley took over the control of referees.

  14. The really frightening thing, is that I have been reading Tony`s comments on refs for about 15 years (most of which I agree)
    But, nothing has changed
    It really can`t be that those in charge of football haven`t heard of the Internet and columns like Tony`s
    No matter how much evidence is provided on the Ref`s theme, zero changes
    My mind goes back to Riley reffing Man U/Arsenal, when Freddie was body checked by Ferdinand (last player)
    All he got was a leg slapping
    Same game, Rooney dived against Sol, got a penalty and went round the penalty area boasting “he didn’t touch me!
    Riley didn`t blink an eye, Fergie did though when it was full of Pizza

  15. terry white

    The worst assault was the one by RVN on Ashley Cole that happened right under the referee and linesmen’s nose, and he didn’t even get booked. I think he received a retrospective red card but what good did that do us ?

    As you suggest Ferdinand should also have received a red for his ‘last man’ foul on Freddy.

    That was the infamous game 49, or the ‘Battle of the Buffet’ as it became known as. It was a disgraceful performance from Man Utd, that I have heard Neville laughing about since, that incredibly was out shamed by the most disgraceful piece of refereeing you will ever see from Riley, who soon after this was promoted to the head of referees.

    Seeing what he allowed to happen that day it is no surprise that we have been treated as we have by the incompetents under his command since his appointment.

    I did a big post some years ago that shows a clear and significant change in how we are refereed regarding cards and penalties that occurred almost to the day he took charge of The PGMOL.

    Getting on for almost 20 years later, watching that match, it’s impact doesn’t lessen.

  16. @Nitram,

    I agree with all you write.
    But still, if Arsenal is your kid and the referee the teacher…. you’d maybe go spek to the teacher, but I’d tell my kid to shut up and prove how good he is in his papers, not how angry he acts.

    These clubs are multi-million pounds organisations and they don’t have a psychological unit ? Or motivational unit if psy is a word that comes with negatives.

    The players have shown they can learn not to tackle (at their salary levels, you’d expect that), they can and have to learn how to keep mental control of themselves and of games. Yes there is so much crap going on. Yes it is unfair. So what ? It’s like bad weather. They’ve got to weather the storm and come out all guns blazing.

    As long as the owners don’t protect them, as long as they don’t find a way to stop the crap, it is the reality they have to face and the sooner the better.

    Arsenal need to get their act together and not give referees the easy way out. Refusing a penalty, giving one when all and sundry can see it is bollocks will at some point have an impact. getting a yellow or a red for reasons unknown will not be remembered and as it is not visible (the smirk, the words, whatever), it stays private and just costs Arsenal.

  17. Chris

    As I say, I know what you are saying, and as pathetic as it is it may well be the only answer. If the lads can do it, all well and good. If on occasion the frustration of constantly playing on a sloping pitch gets to them I refuse to judge them too harshly.

    Talking of Old Toilet as I was, nice to see United drop 3 home points against Wolves.

  18. Instead of writing here .
    Why not inundate them here.
    The more letters the better

    No e Mail address though.

    Professional game match officials ltd
    HA9 OWS

  19. im fed up with bent refs,cant we on this page start one of those petitions to go in front of parliament to make them answerable to the public,after all its a multi million pound industry.we only need 100,000 likeminded gooners to sign……..

  20. I don’t usually watch the after match chit chat (or b******s as I prefer to call it) but as United were terrible and would obviously get a bit of stick I thought I’d have a listen. You know just for a laugh. And as expected Paul Ince and Jamie Redknapp gave them the stick I expected, but they were very poor and deserved it.

    But that’s not why I’m commenting.

    It was the efforts they went to to avoid mentioning Arsenal or Arteta at any cost. Yes we got endless references to Man City and Liverpool, understandable of course. Chelsea got plenty of mentions. And Spurs got plenty of mentions. Why? How wonderful Conte has done. What ? And how Pochettino is such a great manager and fit for United, you know despite winning less trophies in 5 years at Spurs than Arteta managed in 5 Months at Arsenal.

    But no, despite Arsenal being just 1 point behind Liverpool and 10 ahead of Spurs over the last 12 months, and sitting 4th at the moment and despite losing, outplaying Man city in their last outing, not a single mention.

    Look, I know it’s not much but honestly it’s as if it’s illegal to even suggest that perhaps Arsenal are a very good team.

    Just seemed a bit pathetic really.

  21. Can I ask those of you who believe English referees to be corrupt if this is because they are making money on the outcome of games? Is there any evidence of this? Don’t you think there would be if large amounts of money are being earned through corrupt officiating ? So no it’s not obvious .
    Secondly if money isn’t being earned in what sense are they corrupt ? Are they just favouring the teams they like more? I think you’d have real trouble getting a court to take you seriously and I was a Chairman of the. Enchnin a magistrate’s court fir fifteen years so have some experience of the law.
    Referees are not corrupt they are just useless

  22. Bertie Mee

    “I reject the concept of systematic, deliberate bias but unconscious bias definitely exist”

    As far as I can see you have just ‘chosen’ to reject the concept of ‘deliberate’ bias and see it as ‘unconscious’ bias simply because that’s what you want to see it as. That at the end of the day though, is just your opinion isn’t it ? No more, no less.

    My opinion on the other hand, is that the bias that you agree exists, is anything but unconscious, and I have on many many occasions given an explanation as to why.

    So, as such and in the spirit of fair play, I would be interested to hear your explanations as to why you are so certain that this bias we both agree exists is unconscious ? As well as who it is unconsciously in favour of ? Who it is unconsciously against ? And most interestingly, why it exists at all ?

    Again, and for the record, I have never said referees are corrupt, take bribes or favours, or anything of the sort, but as I say I have explained my reasoning behind the bias we both agree exists, many many times.

    This site has provided tons of statistical data over many years that strongly suggests, it doesn’t prove I agree, but strongly suggests that the bias of which we speak is anything but random, is anything but ‘unconscious’.

    I look forward to seeing you provide similar data to support your theory that it is an unconscious bias as you maintain.

  23. Frustrated gooner

    I feel for you, I really do.

    I’ve been posting here for close to 15 years. I have seen countless articles, with reams of statistics that show referees are definitely not impartial, are probably bias, could be cheats and may even be corrupt.

    Whether they are biased, cheats, corrupt or simply following the behest of the media is a mute point.

    My theory, for what it is worth, is that they simply follow the line of least resistance. In other words they favour the clubs that they feel will afford them the most praise, and more importantly get them the least criticism, from who I believe are in reality their lords and masters, the media. Why do they do this ? Because despite suggestions to the contrary they are only human. Why would you be an outlier ? Why would you do what you know will get you endlessly criticized ? Why would you ultimately put your job at risk ?

    We all see on a daily basis, including from last weekend, how no matter how errant a ref is in his dealings with our players he will be supported by the media, almost to a man.

    Conversely we have all seen how a referee that is deemed by the media to of favoured us, is put through the ringer.

    Is it surprising then they err on the side of caution and tend to find against us in their decision making ?

    The problem is every fan of every club thinks the same about their club.

    The difference is we have here on Untold, supported our theories with statistics, data and evidence, including a ground breaking 160+ match review of referees performance, evaluated by ex current and referees, both affiliated with Arsenal and not.

    As you can see above, despite all that, people regularly come here and simply say the bias doesn’t exist, or if it does, it isn’t deliberate, and is the same for everyone, when untold has clearly shown that isn’t the case.

    In other words frustrated, you cannot win.

    I doubt, despite hundreds of posts on the subject, neither I, any of the other regulars or Tony, Andrew and Walter have changed a single mind.

    Evidence or not. Proof or not. Statistics or not. People are so entrenched they will never be convinced.

    As you can see, it doesn’t stop Me, Tony or the others from making ourselves heard, but I’m afraid you’ll just have to get used to being ‘frustrated’ !!

    Welcome to the club.

  24. Mike Dean will probably be the referee for the LCSF 2nd leg at Anfield next week so don’t have nightmares…

    Mind you if the rumours of Liverpool not being able to fulfil this Thursdays fixture comes to pass does the 2nd leg then become the 1st leg and the 1st leg become the 2nd leg?

  25. Let’s put this to bed. The bias exists, and I don’t think there is anything unconscious about it. Using my “back of the matchbox” reckoner I would estimate that we are unfairly targetted by referees in every match, and receive more unjust decisions than any other club in the PL, this season and every season.

    My “ballpark” guess is that we are suffering with the consequences of bad decisions in 80% of our games and this figure is increasing every season since 2002-2003 (the Allardyce/Bolton era)

    There is a petition on change.org:-


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