By Tony Attwood
The Premier League official referees index does not indicate which FA Association the referees on the Premier League’s books are associated with. Indeed in the officially published logs there is no record of where the referee has come from at all.
Which is an interesting oversight, because I am sure many fans would quite like to know where the referee comes from when they are watching a game. Indeed back in the old days we were told which town or city the referee called home.
Now of course, I am sure PGMO, if they ever deigned to speak to anyone (which of course they don’t) would say that it is ludicrous to suggest that referees are biased toward clubs from the home town or region, so there is no need to let us know what’s what.
But of course that is not the point, because there is a growing perception that there is something seriously wrong with refereeing in the Premier League. The PGMO says not a word, and instructs the mainstream media never to discuss such matters. The mainstream media, in terms of its football coverage, plays the role of lapdogs, rolls over and says nothing at all.
However if one wishes to go looking the data is available, and all we need to do is pull it together from various sources to see if there is indeed any regional bias in the selection of referees.
Of course we can expect the mainstream media to back up the Premier League in claiming that the referee’s regional origins of his FA Affiliation, is of no consequence. The referees are all professional, neutral and doing a fine job, we are told.
Which is ok until one begins to think that they are not doing such a fine job after all. Because at that point, the whole thing starts to break down. Especially when one does take a look at where the referees do have their place of origin.
Below is a list of all the referees who have, at the time of writing, been recorded by PGMO as having undertaken 10 Premier League games or more this season.
We’ve already made the point of the phenomenal variation there is between referees in terms of cards given out, the likes of Tierney and Pawson giving out around twice as many cards as Moss and Atkinson.
In short, how many cards a club gets owes as much to which referee the club gets as to how many fouls it commits. But is there any regional bias as well.
|Referee||Matches||Red cards||Yellow cards||Football Association Affiliation|
|Jonathan Moss||18||4||38||West Riding of Yorkshire|
|Michael Oliver||18||2||57||Co Durham|
|Martin Atkinson||16||2||36||West Riding of Yorkshire|
*Not revealed on Premier League official index of referees – home town used instead
So let’s consider overall the areas from which the referees who oversee Premier League games come from…
The north (Lancashire, Cheshire, West Riding, Co Durham, Sheffield, Manchester, Doncaster, Huddersfield): 10
The Midlands (Birmingham, Leicestershire): 3
The south west (Wiltshire): 1
The south east (London, Sussex, Essex, Middlesex, Suffolk, Northamptonshire, Bedfordshire, Surrey, Buckinghamshire, Hampshire, Isle of Wight, Berkshire, Oxfordshire, Cambridgeshire, Hertfordshire, Dorset, Northamptonshire….): 0
So let’s compare where the refs come from and where the clubs come from. The figures relate to the current season: 2021/22
|Region||Refs with over 10 PL games||Clubs|
|South and South East||0||11|
|North, North East, North West||10||6|
Quite clearly there is not even the slightest attempt to balance the referees’ points of origin with the clubs.
Now this is not to say that referees are inherently biased toward clubs in their area and I doubt that many would argue that they demand the same percentage of referees per region as there are clubs, but when we find such a disparity we might begin to wonder why.
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